Monthly Archives: August 2007

Case Conference Presentation

In July I delivered a presentation at the IWMW in York entitled “Let the students do the talking…” and yesterday I travelled to Edinburgh to deliver a varient of this at the annual CASE Conference.

I was slightly anxious about telling Marketing and PR people to put everything in the hands of the students but was delighted at the positive response I had to what I had to say.

After speaking with colleagues who attended the full event it seems the Web 2.0 buzz has well and truly captured the imagination of those in the Marketing and PR world and people do seem read and willing to embrace the online trends and work with them.

I believe my slides will be available on the CASE Conference website shortly but for anyone who wishes to see them they’re on slideshare too.

One thing that I have taken away from both conferences is that our ‘hybrid’ approach to a Web Service (with my own role informally split between IT Services and Corporate Marketing) is quite unique but it’s really worked for us and has allowed us to develop services from different perspectives.

Better Blog Day 11: Dig Into Your Blog’s Statistics

I’m going to skip day 10 – declutter your sidebar – as it’s fairly clean as it is and I like how the IT Services blogs, and some of the other University blogs, have the same theme with a consistent layout, albeit with different colour schemes and graphics.

So today I’m looking at stats using Google Analytics and other tools.

Top Posts

  1. Web development with symfony
  2. Go PHP5!
  3. Facebook Applications
  4. The Paris Hilton effect…
  5. Jobs Website Live

Interesting that three of the top five are tagged symfony – the project website syndicates blog posts related to the framework leading to a boost in traffic.

Referrals

The number one source of referrals to our blog is, unsurprisingly, our own website, the latest posts feed on the homepage of the intranet accounts for about 30% of visitors. Number two is the symfony website and the peaks in traffic are clearly visible. Google is next up with people clicking through from Google Reader. Technorati follows with a variety of queries including tags such as IWMW and direct from the blog info page. Finally is my own website (Edge Hill University is not responsible for content of external websites etc etc…!)

Search Engines

Across the whole blogs.edgehill.ac.uk domain because it’s more interesting (and easier to work out):

  1. Google – by far, with half the top ten searches for people.
  2. Ask – very bizarre series of searches for “paul cheeseman core services” over a three week period. Deeply worrying, but excellent page/visit and average time on site!.
  3. Yahoo – interesting range of searches, just not many of them.
  4. AOL – someone’s been searching for “ceremonial mace makers“.
  5. Live – must try harder.

Bounce Rates

The bounce rate is the percentage of users who don’t click any further links after arriving at a site (lower is better). Overall across blogs.edgehill.ac.uk it’s 53.5% – Web Services is slightly lower.

Feeds

We don’t currently have good stats for feed usage but looking at the raw log files, about 15 people are subscribed using Google Reader, half a dozen using Bloglines plus a variety of other services. Now that FeedBurner allows you to use your own domain maybe it’s time to sign up and pipe some feeds through it and find out how many people are reading that way – I suspect it’s a significant number.

Better Blog Day 7: Plan Your Next Week’s Posting Schedule

Continuing the ProBlogger plan to a better blog, day 7 (yes, I know I’m not doing them in the right order) is to plan your blogging schedule for the next week.

As a team blog, posts can be a bit sporadic at times but with 77 posts over the last four months we’ve got a fairly decent post rate. Content wise we cover a mix of web/tech news from around the web, issues within the University, reports from conferences and our thoughts on projects within the team. Personally I don’t currently plan ahead very much – I have a few rough ideas for themes such as a series of posts reviewing the feeds I subscribe to and of course the current 31 days to a better blog series – but on the whole I blog about whatever I’m up to or happen to come across on the superinterweb.

So what’s the benefits of planning ahead? Putting it the other way, Darren Rowse explains the problems of not planning:

  • Sporadic Posting Frequency – some days when I sat down to write – nothing came. On these days I would quite often not post anything.
  • Post Quality Varied – on days when I was on fire I could pump out a great quality post – while on other days when I was struggling I would often feel the pressure to post something – so would end up posting rubbishy posts.
  • Productivity Decreased – posting this way meant that I was spending more time blogging for less results. It took me away from other activities that I wanted to spend time on.
  • Lack of Momentum – from day to day posts were not really relating to each other. I found readers complaining that I was all over the place.

I can see some elements of that in our blog – we sometimes go quite a while without any posts and it would be nice to have a more related posts. So I’m going to attempt to do a couple of weeks of planned posts to see what comes out of it. It it works then hopefully I’ll spend less time staring at a blank page wondering what to write and come out with more interesting content!

Day 9 doesn’t really apply to our blog – I don’t think plastering the site with adverts would go down too well! Some more of the next few days don’t look too useful so I’ll pick and choose a few.

Resize Magic

Coming from a programming rather than design background, I always like seeing technical solutions for design related problems. Often automating is not as good as doing things manually – optimising JPEGs to minimise the size while not noticeably reducing quality is never perfect when you do batch conversions – but solutions like the one shown in this video are pretty cool.

Via TechCrunch and The Guardian

Better Blog Day 8: Comment on a Blog that you’ve never Commented on Before

Well I thought today’s task was going to be really easy – I’ve just been forced to comment on my Dad’s new website for Southport Table Tennis Club but that doesn’t count:

Go on a blog hunt today to see how many new blogs you can find in your niche.

I think it’s a bit off topic! But as Brian Kelly has pointed out, there’s not a whole lot of blogging going on in our niche. There’s a bit more across the pond – College Web Guy and collegewebeditor.com are a good read – but it would be nice to see more. So any web teams out there – practice what you preach and set up a blog!

Better Blog Day 6: Email an Old Timer Reader

Today’s ProBlogger challenge is to email an old timer reader.

I did a quick scan through the comments to see who’s been reading and while we’ve had 123 comments, outside a core group of regulars it’s difficult to know who actually reads religiously and who just dropped by one time because they were searching for pictures of Paris Hilton.

Roy, Al the Tog, Brian: You Have Mail!

Better Blog Day 5: Conduct an About Page Audit

Today’s task is to conduct an about page audit:

One of the key pages on a blog is the about page. This page is often used by new readers to a blog to gather information about you and your blog and based upon what they find on this page they could be making a decision as to whether they’ll subscribe to your blog or not.

I’ve made a few changes adding a bit of information about the purpose of the blog but it would be useful to make some more changes. ProBlogger has a load of tips about creating an about page so we should follow some of them through.

Short and sweet today.

The Devil’s Buttermilk

CafetiereNo, not Guinness but the drink that makes a large proportion of IT Services tick – coffee! But there’s a problem; the coffee machine in the SIC has broken after several years of faithful service it’s given up the ghost. So for the last couple of weeks there has been discussion about what to get to replace it. While Paul Cheeseman has a dream of buying a large commercial coffee machine (“with the two jugs”) it’s maybe a bit too big.

So looking for alternatives we had the idea of investing in cafetieres. I found a nice looking stainless steel dual walled one so I’m going to order one for the office – if it doesn’t work out then I’ll pay for it myself and take it home!

If anyone has any recommendations then post a comment and save us from caffeine-free agony!

Better Blog Day 4: Interlinking Posts

Today’s task is to link blog posts together so that users can find information more easily.

As you add more and more content to your blog there will be more and more opportunity to link your posts together so that readers can view more pages of your blog. It’s also won’t hurt the search engine ranking of those posts that you interlink as internal links count in SEO (not as much as an incoming link from an external site – but it still helps).

While we’re pretty good at linking new posts to older ones – and hence creating a trackback on that post – there might be other things of interest that aren’t directly linked. The manual way seems a little bit too much like hard work right now and the plugin suggested (once I found it – the link was dead) doesn’t seem to play nicely with WordPress MU so I went looking for other alternatives.

We already have a way of linking posts by topic – we use tags – so it makes sense to use that somehow when deciding what posts are “related”. A quick search found the UTW Related Posts widget which does pretty much what I was looking for -picks out a number of posts and puts them in a list. It’s written as a widget so at the moment it has to appear in the sidebar but maybe that’s something we can take a look at when developing the blog system in the future.

If you’ve got an Edge Hill blog then you can install it too – just install it from the Plugins menu and add it to your sidebar. It required UTW to be installed and working first.