Tech Events in the North West

A colleague just asked me about BarCamps in the North West and I got a bit carried away in the reply, covering a whole host of tech activity happening in Liverpool and beyond. Here’s an edited version of my email:

  • BarCamp Blackpool is typically early summer so it’ll probably be in June or July and the couple I’ve been to have been very good events. Manchester ran last November so I’m guessing they won’t be doing another until the Autumn; Liverpool have tended to run a touch less frequently.
  • Ignite Liverpool – Short Pecha Kucha style presentations showcasing things people are passionate about. There was one of these last Thursday but they are pretty regular in Liverpool and may be some in other cities.
  • GeekUp – much smaller events – usually just a single talk followed by drinks/chat. Liverpool events tend to happen at the DoES Liverpool co-working space
  • DoES Liverpool – all sorts of events happen at their rooms in the Gostins buildings. Maker Night takes place in their workshop and I think they even have a sewing club.
  • TEDxLiverpool – independently organised versions of the TED events and the Liverpool/Manchester/Newcastle ones are very good (organised by Herb Kim). 15 speakers for £10 for students is a bargain.
  • Social Media Café Liverpool – another good, friendly event with more of a focus on social media but many of the topics are broader than that. Next event seems to be 29 May.
  • SWIG – Liverpool WordPress group is on hiatus at the moment but I’m hoping it will make a reappearance at some point.
  • OggCamp – a bit like BarCamps but slightly more geeky, if that’s possible! A few of them have happened in Liverpool but I’m not sure if they move around.
  • PHPNW – first Tuesday of the month in Manchester – seems to be more detail on Twitter (@phpnw) than their website. They also run an annual conference which is very good.

Many of the events are listed at http://bit.ly/livedigital which is maintained by Neil Morrin.

Week(s) Notes: 4 April 2014

Okay, so I lied and we’ve been awful at keeping on top of the week notes but here goes with an overview of what we’ve been up to since last time.

  • Dozens of updates to our digital signage across campus.
  • One of the screens in the GeoSciences building now has Department of Geography specific content to welcome visitors through the door.
  • The Creative Edge video wall has featured a tribute to Stuart Hall plus hosted content
  • Set up an environment to internally host a web service from the Department of Computing, complete with git hooks for easy deployment.
  • Supporting promotion of the National Student Survey – if you’re a final year student it’s not too late to have your say!
  • A few maintenance updates to our PC Availability service and looking at some of the reporting work done last summer.
  • Discussions about the English & History website and how it will fit into our new WordPress theme.
  • Student (and some staff profiles) are now hosted in WordPress. While not actively linked to you can explore them all on the profile wall.
  • Profiles are also available via oEmbed allowing really easy reuse of content across sites. See how they look on the Law and Criminology student profiles page.
  • Undergraduate and Postgraduate subject pages are now in WordPress incorporating embedded videos (as a slider for Teacher Training and Health) and a profiles slider.
  • Completed the upgrade to FontAwesome 4.0.3 – a painful process when most references to the old icon- classes are trapped in serialized WordPress tables. Only made possible by the fantastic Search-Replace-DB by Interconnect/IT.
  • Added a widget area to our content page templates. These will allow the easy creation of sub homepages comprising rows of 1-4 widgets at the top of any given page.
  • The above designs are a prerequisite for moving large sites such as the Faculties of Education and Health & Social Care over to the new theme. This work has now begun in earnest!
  • Website updates and migrations for Admission, External Examiners, Inclusive Services and probably others I’ve forgotten.
  • Spring cleaning some of our older sites with a purge of old code that’s no longer used and tracking down the cause of various 500 errors that trigger alerts each time their URL is hit.
  • Learning Services moved to new theme (it’s a big, high traffic site so deserves a mention on its own).
  • The annual cloning and publishing of new course “presentations” has been completed with colleagues from Corporate Comms. 2015 is now live!
  • The homepage now features full width slides allowing us to better highlight Edge Hill’s stunning campus.
  • Improved the print stylesheet for our site.

Finally the raw stats:

  • JIRA – Created: 199; Resolved: 192
  • RMS – Created: 154; Cleared: 159

That’s all for this week term- we’ll try to be back next Friday with a regular amount of updates.

IMG_20140207_120734

Week Notes: 7 February 2014

We’ve been slacking with the Week Notes during January but now we’re back! Here’s what we’ve been up to in the last week.

  • Following its launch before Christmas, the University Homepage is getting further updates to increase the impact of the feature stories and allow better discovery of content in the “cards”.
  • Over the last month we’ve been frantically upgrading departmental sites – a fairly straightforward job for those on our old “Child of Twenty Twelve” theme but requiring more work for sites moving from our older Twenty Ten based theme. Hold tight if we’ve not got around to your site yet!
  • Profiles are dangerously close to being served up from WordPress – demonstration to colleagues next week will finalise what more needs to be done.
  • The video wall in Creative Edge won an award for our supplier PureAV. We now have a number of video sources hooked up to the screen and will be working with colleagues across the university to push even great content out through it.
  • JIRA – Created: 18; Resolved: 23
  • RMS – Created: 27; Cleared: 36

I’ll leave you with the latest game from UsVsTh3mWhich 8-bit computer are you?

I grew up in a BBC Model B house and the quiz got close saying I was a BBC Master – I think it was my Dad “organising Scout jumble sales” which gave it away!

Bonus Week Notes: 23 December

It might be the last working day of the year for Web Services but we’ve pushed a few things live:

  • New mega menu navigation now contains a “social media” link.
  • Scroll indicator on the homepage to encourage discovery of all our great content.
  • The Study homepage is now powered by WordPress as is every page linked directly from it – we’ll be rolling out across Undergraduate and Postgraduate sites over the coming months ahead of a full review of our online prospectus.
  • We’ve made some minor improvements to the responsive site navigation. This is the main prerequisite for us switching other sites into the new theme which we’ll be doing early in the new year.

We’re now going to step away from the svn commit to avoid breaking anything else!

Have a great Christmas and a fantastic New Year!

Week Notes: 20 December 2013

This week we have mostly been launching this:

New Edge Hill University homepage
New Edge Hill University homepage

We’ll blog more about it after the Christmas break but a few interesting points below:

  • New server build to support the new WordPress powered homepage.
  • Varnish caching layer to make page serve times fly!
  • New Faculty of Arts and Sciences website.
  • Lots of support to departments updating their staff profiles.
  • Discussions about promotion of the National Student Survey.
  • Meeting with Learning Services to look at moving their site to new WordPress theme.
  • Meeting with Media about their website.
  • Meeting with Performing Arts about their website. (Can you see a pattern yet?!)
  • Probably some other things I’ve forgotten about following the IT Services meal out yesterday.
  • JIRA – Created: 29; Resolved: 32
  • RMS – Created: 15; Cleared: 18

This will be the last Friday week notes of 2013 – please let us know in the comments if you’ve found them useful.

I’ll leave you with a look at where we’ve come from:

IMG_20131209_205224

Week Notes: 13 December

  • WordPress 3.8 is now running on both blogs.edgehill.ac.uk and the Corporate Website. There are lots of new features covered in the video below but if you’re an editor and want the old colour scheme back then get choose light from the edit profile page.
  • Updated the Web Services blog to the latest Twenty Fourteen theme – hope you like reading our posts!
  • Testing JS Hacks on Blackboard to more closely integrate with other staff- and student-facing services under the GO banner.
  • Sport website now in the new WordPress theme.
  • YouTube Live streaming of the December Graduation ceremonies went very well. There’s a short write up about it.
  • Updated the spam sales calls page for Corporate Communications. Four years ago I attempted a similar thing but it’s not always been successful – I get as many sales emails and calls as ever and I’m sorry to say I’m no better at telling companies when we’re not interested.
  • New homepage and theme developments ahead of a lunch before the end of term:
    • Reviewed and updated the contents of the mega menus.
    • Updated slide designs
    • Steve Johnson has done some great work on new Undergraduate, Postgraduate and Study homepages in the new design – these will launch alongside the new homepage.
    • Upgraded to the latest version of FontAwesome. This is incredibly painful when the use of many icons are stored in (serialized) database rows.
    • Lots of optimisation to attempt to improve the page load time.
  • JIRA – Created: 49; Resolved: 42
  • RMS – Created: 27; Closed: 31

That’s all for this week but check out a couple of festive microsites that other Universities have released:

Maybe we’ll join them next year when we’re not trying to launch a new homepage!

Nursing Students waving their caps in a blur

YouTube Live Streaming Graduation Ceremonies

Last Saturday saw the campus taken over for Edge Hill’s winter Graduation ceremonies and I was there to see the Real Jenny Barrett graduate.

Nursing Students waving their caps in a blur
Nursing Students waving their caps in a blur

We’ve been streaming graduation ceremonies live online since Summer 2008 – I blogged about the use of eStream at the time – and the system has worked very well and allowed us to both stream to people watching at home and keep an archive of past ceremonies.

As I said in the previous post we were particularly pleased with the quality of video compared to other platforms such as YouTube and hosting ourselves offered more flexibility for embedding in our site.

But that was then and this is now and as you would expect, cloud services have upped their game.  YouTube now supports full HD, videos are available on a range of platforms from mobiles and tablets to TVs as well as watching on the YouTube website or embedding into our site. Combine this with the additional visibility that publishing to YouTube gives us as students share videos with friends.

So for the last couple of years we’ve been using a hybrid of live streaming with eStream and a Flash Media Server hosted in-house and uploading the archived footage to YouTube. Patiently we’ve been waiting while Google first launched streaming for some major events, then last year introduced Hangouts On Air but with a “Google+” DOG burnt into the corner of the video.

Finally in August, Google lowered the subscriber threshold for enabling live streaming to below the level that Edge Hill’s account has and we gained access to the fancy “Live events” screens:

Create a new event - YouTube

 

Technically the process is very similar to what we had previously: a PC in the control room captures the mixed video output from a Tricaster, encodes it using Flash Media Live Encoder but instead of pushing to our own Flash streaming server, the feed is sent to YouTube who handle transcoding and sending out to viewers.

Colleagues in Learning Services were manning the desks but from a viewer’s perspective it went very well. The public feed ends up with about a 30 second delay from live after it’s been through YouTube’s processing but as long as people sat in the audience aren’t trying to tune in that’s not noticeable.  The feed resolution is comparable to what we had previously but at 480p it seems subjectively better quality and on mobile devices it looks great.

December ceremonies have historically had lower live stream views than the summer ones (fewer people on campus) but we had up to 61 concurrent connections watching for an average of 17 minutes:

Graduation Statistics

You’ll see we ran a single stream all day rather than individual events. This made it easier to manage from the control room as FMLE could be set up once and run all day but it means that the individual ceremonies must be uploaded again for the archive – it’s not possible to use YouTube’s online editing tools for videos over 2 hours long.

Overall I’m very happy with how it went. We’ve purchased a new video capture device which unfortunately we couldn’t get to work in time but that will offer additional future proofing and the ability to stream at up to 1080p!

Update: it looks like now all YouTube users of good standing will be able to stream through both YouTube live and Hangouts On Air.

Week Notes: 29 November

  • This week’s new homepage developments:
    • Refactoring have some of the site works, in particular to simplify how JavaScript and CSS interact to style the page.
    • Switching the responsive navigation from jPanelMenu to Sidr allowing the contents of the menu to be dynamically extracted from existing elements on the page rather than replicated in the HTML.
    • Started building a staging homepage. This will be a copy of the homepage and a new plugin for WordPress enabling the publishing of settings, widgets, pages and media to the live site, plus the ability to save draft versions and roll back changes.
  • Edge Hill Central for iOS has been released to the App Store and should be available to download within the next 24 hours.
  • Had discussions with colleagues from Student Recruitment about the next steps for Getting Started for new students.
  • Testing new hardware for streaming next weekend’s Graduation via YouTube Live – more information about this next week!
  • Discussions with Finance and Learning Services about how to raise the profile of Online Payments such as printer credits and library fines.
  • Migrated to new theme:
  • Working on several new WordPress sites for English as a Foreign Language and the Faculty of Education’s
  • UK-China Conference.
  • Set up a new live chat session for Student Recruitment and the Faculty of Education to run next week
  • JIRA – Created: 27; Resolved: 28
  • RMS – Created: 20; Closed: 18

Publishing early as I’m taking a few hours flexi but I’m sure loads more will happen on Friday afternoon!

Favourite discovery of the week was that the awesome isitchristmas.com now forces you to connect via SSL:

Week Notes: 22 November

  • This week saw many in Corporate Communications and Student Recruitment get their first look at the new homepage design at Tuesday’s super-Edmon meeting.
  • CAKE conference holding website and discussions about developments for the full site next year.
  • Websites migrated to TwentyTwelve child theme:
  • We now force users logging into and editing our WordPress sites (including the corporate website, blogs and online.edgehill.ac.uk) to connect via SSL. This follows Durham enabling SSL for all connections last month (subscription to JISCMAIL WEB-SUPPORT list required to view). This isn’t something we currently force – though sites are available through SSL – but we’re considering the implications of switching it on.
  • Added oEmbed provider support to our News website. Now you can get some embeddable content directly from edgehill.ac.uk/news/*. We plan to extend this to other types of content such as events, profiles etc.
  • Edge Hill Central app has been submitted to the iOS App Store – subject to Apple’s approval it will be available shortly.
  • Continued auditing our sites and cleared out a number of dead ones including the public Web Services page!
  • JIRA – Created: 23; Resolved: 26
  • RMS – Created: 10; Cleared: 10

That’s all for this week but if you have a Windows ME related crisis over the weekend then fear not – I’ve got you covered!

Week Notes: 15 November

  • Steve Daniels and I attended the Percona Live London conference on Tuesday. Steve has a bit of a write up.
  • Jenny Jordan and I represented IT Services at the first meeting of the Student Affairs Committee. There’s always work going on across the University to improve the student experience and some of the changes in our department can play an important part in that.
  • We’ve been building some additional functionality for the new homepage ahead of it going live in the next couple of weeks. One feature we hope not to use is the ability to push alert notices onto the homepage – think “escaped monkey on campus”, or more likely “campus still open despite the snow” – and what was previously a frantic hack to the homepage will be possible with just a few clicks.
  • Delivered Wiki and WordPress training for two Graduate Trainees working in Corporate Communications and Student Recruitment.
  • Alumni website is now in WordPress with a new homepage design.
  • As always, there’s lots to do ahead of tomorrow’s Open Day and this time we’ve been pushing content out to selected screens across campus plus getting some Media students’ work up on the new video wall in Creative Edge.
  • JIRA – Created: 20; Resolved: 20
  • RMS – Created: 11; Cleared: 12

Congratulations to Alison Kerwin (formerly of this parish) and her team at the University of York on the launch of their homepage redesign.

University of York

Suppose I should get the beers in ready for when ours goes live!

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