All 27 entries tagged BlogBuilder

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Image improvements

Small update to BlogBuilder today:

  • Uploading zip files with images in should be considerably faster now
  • We now resize images down to a max of 1280px height and width when they are uploaded
  • We are now using a higher quality image algorithm so there should be less resizing artifacts from now on. This will slightly improve images already uploaded because it uses a better rendering algorithm, but the biggest improvement will be seen in freshly uploaded images as they will get saved at a better quality and larger size

If anyone has any feedback, please comment here as we'd like to hear if this does indeed improve matters.


Performance issues

It's not been a fun day today. Partly related to the massive code changes we've made to blogs recently, we've had some nasty performance problems today.

Hopefully the bugs with the release and the performance issues are now resolved. Unfortunately my task today was made harder by some very bad timing. At around the same time, we had 4 search engines indexing blogs and a huge number of images requests coming from external sites. This made diagnosing the performance problems all the more difficult. As a temporary measure, I've had to block the search engine crawlers and requests for our images that are from non-Warwick pages.

What this means is that until we lift this restriction (which will hopefully be very soon), you won't be able to see images from your galleries embedded in non-Warwick pages and our latest content won't show up in the search engines quite so quickly.

To give an idea of the size of this problem, here are some stats:

  • 160,000 requests for user uploaded images a day
  • Only 6% are requested from on campus!
  • Only 60% of images are embedded in Warwick pages, the other 40% are linked to from other websites
  • Our top external referrers are myspace.com and Google images
  • Top 5 image searches in the first few days of Feb: kate beckinsale, arctic monkeys, evolution motorcycle trousers,hell, mafia
  • 30% of all images requets are for images from just 10 blogs
  • The top 2 individual images alone count for 7% of all image hits (we have almost 80,000 images)
  • In the first week or so of Feb we served out 1.3m images which is 33GB of data

Now then, as you can imagine, that's a fair few hits. The problem I have with it is that the performance for our staff and students is degraded because of a massive number of external requests. I like the fact that Warwick Blogs rates highly in Google…but with that ranking comes a lot of unwanted traffic.

Obviously we'll try and resolve the performance issues and try and allow these requests to start flowing again. The problem is that we are not just serving images statically as we are doing single sign-on checks and permission checking and resizing of images on the fly. These are all problems that can be fixed and optimised, but it just goes to show that with systems like this, you never can tell where the bottlenecks will be until you hit them.


BlogBuilder update

We did a deploy of BlogBuilder today that has changed a lot of backend code. It is unlikely that you'll notice any change (except hopefully a performance improvement), but if you do notice any problems please let us know by commenting here. These changes were very wide ranging and there could well be unexpected behaviour hiding away somewhere.

BB improvements

A new version of Blogbuilder was released this afternoon with a few improvements that hopefully everyone will like…

  • As you may have noticed, the home page now displays one of 9 random styles when you go to it (designed by Hannah)
  • The auto-tagging feature has been improved to be more specific about which entries it tags, and you can now delete or edit auto-tags on entries. If you have an entry that was accidentally tagged twice, you can now delete one (or both) of them – and this won't happen in future.
  • External trackbacks now work again
  • There's been a few more improvements to the "insert an image" popup dialog on the create an entry page
  • The latest discussions algorithm has been improved to hopefully keep the front page updating more often with new topics – thanks to Colin for some help with the equations involved

Any feedback or comments are always welcome


Blogbuilder Update

Blogbuilder was updated this afternoon with a few nice new things that people may have noticed:

Galleries
  • Galleries have been made slightly prettier
  • In JavaScript enabled browsers, clicking on an image now brings it up on an overlay on the screen, to allow for a better experience. The icons on the image (for logged in users) allow for modification of the image as before
  • You can now sort galleries by date
Other
  • The "insert an image" popup when creating an entry has been improved so that thumbnailed images act the same way as gallery images
  • If you write entries about certain topics, it may be auto tagged.
  • At the bottom of entries and comments, if they were posted today or yesterday, they say "Today" or "Yesterday" as opposed to the date

Comments and problems to the usual place, as always.


Blogbuilder Update

There has been a small update to Blogbuilder this morning that sees some slight changes and improvements, as below:

  • The "Insert an image" popup when you click the link next to the box on the create an entry screen has been revamped to make it easier and less complicated
  • The "latest discussions" list now has the number of different contributors to the discussion on the tooltip. You can also see this for comments on all entries now (just the number of different logged in users)
  • We are working on tweaking the topics that reach "People are currently discussing…" in order to make it so that the list updates more frequently and more new entries appear on there
  • You can now see the IP address of comments on entries on your blog
  • There has been a lot of help added for gallery and image tasks

If you have any comments, please post them below.


05 vs 04

Now that the first term is over and done, it's interesting (well, to me, anyway) to compare what happened in Warwick Blogs in autumn term 05 versus 04. If there were many fewer entries or comments this year as opposed to last year, that would suggest that there was something of a novelty effect which was wearing off. If there was growth, that might suggest that there is a something of more lasting interest and use going on here.

So what do the numbers look like? Courtesy of Kieran's magic SQL fingers, like this:-

Autumn 04Autumn 05
New blogs2,3151,026
Posts11,44412,704
Authors1,6401,275
Comments21,89324,365
Commenters2,8193,080
Images17,40720,070
Page impressions1.2 million2.9 million

So what to make of it? Well, the number of new blogs being less is not surprising; last year nobody had a blog, so there was a bigger population to draw from. What interests me the most is that although posts and comments and the number of people posting and commenting have remained broadly constant, increasing only slightly, the number of people reading Warwick Blogs - the page impressions - has more than doubled. Who are all these silent readers? Where do they come from? In part, of course, they come from Google; as the corpus of WB has grown, so there is more chance that some arbitrary Google search will return a result within WB, luring the unwary googler into our evil lair. But it also looks as if more people find it a worthwhile destination for its own sake this year than last year, which is nice.

One other interesting quirk which isn't in the table; the page impressions don't count requests for images from galleries. Those requests run at about 2.5 times the page impressions rate; so we serve about a million pages a month, but we serve 2.5 million images from galleries in the same period. That was mildly startling to me, although it turns out that Google is once again partly to blame; Google Images just loves the 70,000-odd images that Warwick people have uploaded into their galleries. That's quite pleasing in a way, though I was less sure whether I should be pleased when it was pointed out to me that the top request from Google Images comes from a search for girls kissing, where WB scores an impressive fourth place result. Hmm.


BlogBuilder update

Follow-up to Modifying image tags from Blogbuilder news

A new version of BlogBuilder was released and deployed this morning, with the following changes and improvements:

  • You can now access your blog in any case – so, for example, you've been forced to give out your blog name in lowercase in the past (blogs.warwick.ac.uk/mmannion) but now you can give it out in any arrangement (blogs.warwick.ac.uk/MMannion, blogs.warwick.ac.uk/mMannion) and it should work
  • When you click on the "Create entry" hyperlink directly it should take you to a screen that allows you to select from the full range of options for creating an entry. This is mainly for users who don't have JavaScript browsers and so cannot see the dropdown
  • There has been a minor tweak where you can still access the dropdown box even when you increase the text size
  • You can now tab out of the "Tags" field on the edit entry page, and you should also now see multi-word (with underscore) tags in the suggestions
  • The "Edit tags" screen (see previous entry) now includes tags from images.
  • You can now select as many tags to see on the sidebar as you want (from Admin -> Appearance)
  • Users who aren't logged in have to answer the anti-spam question to send emails to you through your blog

And an update on the problems we've been having with Favourites – we still haven't worked out what the problem is, but we're working on it. It seems to have occurred since we upgraded BlogBuilder to use Java 5 and the latest version of JBoss, which doesn't explain why this is happening, sorry.


Modifying image tags

A lot of bloggers who use BlogBuilder regularly may have come across the feature to "Edit your tags" (by clicking Admin from your blog and then Edit your tags from the menu). This allows you to change the name of any of your tags, or to add synonyms where you can add an extra tag to one or more tag (for example, you may want to add the synonym "humour" to all entries you have tagged "funny", "limerick" or "joke").

Currently, this only works for entries, but we're working on making it so that you can do it for images as well – how this can be done is something that we'd like the community to comment on.

Would you:

  • Put image tags on the same page, so that images and entries with the same tags are grouped together; or
  • Put image tags seperately underneath your entry tags

This implicitly has a second question, if you have, say, 100 entries tagged "Humour" and 50 images tagged "Humour", would you always want a change to one to affect the other? Would you expect that if you changed your entry tag to "Funny" that your images would automatically change to "Funny" too? The tags system at the moment implicitly links from entries tagged something to images tagged the same thing, but it would be interesting to see opinions on this.


Tagging fiction

We've had a few enquiries recently from people wanting to know if there is any way to find all the fictional writing on WB, and all the poetry. The answer is that it ought to be possible via tagging, and indeed this seems to work pretty well for poetry; if I view all entries tagged poetry then there are 292 of them which seems like a pretty good result.

Strangely, though, the same approach doesn't work for fiction; there are only five entries tagged as fiction, and 19 tagged story, though the actual number of such entries is much larger. It seems like something of a missed opportunity for fiction authors if people who want to browse this type of content can't easily do so. Could people writing (or who have written) fiction of various sorts consider tagging such entries "fiction"? It seems as if it would be a win for both authors and readers.


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