Category Archives: Blogs

WordPress 3.3

We’ve just upgraded WordPress to version 3.3 on the blogs.edgehill.ac.uk site. Take a look at some of the new features:

If everything goes well we will be upgrading WordPress-powered sites on the corporate website early in the new year, ignoring this helpful advice from Twitter 🙂

https://twitter.com/lgladdy/statuses/146142135954051072

Web Services Top Ten of 2010

At the end of the year it’s always nice to look back at some of the things we’ve done and this year we’ll do it by looking back at the top ten blog posts from the year.

  1. Confluence Design Templates
    One of last year’s 25 days posts which has had over 1000 views.
  2. Higher Education homepages in the snow
    This last week isn’t the only snow we’ve had this year and in January I had a look at what various universities were doing.
  3. Chill out at Edge Hill
    Some nice photos from the snow.
  4. ERROR 2013 (HY000): Lost connection to MySQL server during query
  5. Google Street View
  6. Street View trike on campus
  7. The imagery that Google took still isn’t live but hopefully it will be online soon.
  8. How to skin a wiki
  9. Google Apps Mail
  10. data.ac.uk
    As I mentioned earlier this month, 2010 was a big year for open data and we’ll see in the next year how it pans out.
  11. 10 PRINT “Hello World”; 20 GOTO 10

The next 12 months will see some big changes to the website and we’ll be keeping everyone up to date through the Web Services blog, but first a few days’ break!

No number today because as I write the Flickr search engine is down!

Protect your digital identity and information on social networks

Sites like Facebook, Twitter, MySpace , LinkedIn, Orkut, Zorpia, Flicker, twicpic, yfrog and YouTube.etc, are social media sites designed to share information such as who and where you are and what you are doing, photos and video. This is a comical example of how information is shared using social media sites to tell the Digital Story of the Nativity.

Social media sites are a great way to connect to close friends and family, or even re-connect with old classmates and old co-workers. Also it can be a great way to find and connect to new groups with interests common to your own.

With just a few clicks people can access messages, know where their contacts are, what are they doing. All this makes for an entertaining experience network. The speed and immediacy that characterizes them are useful to inform and share content, true, but it can also jeopardize your own job or worse and compromise your privacy and security. Also the content posted on the site stays on the server even after you disable your account and is searchable.

The trouble starts when it becomes an addiction, if people spend too much time discussing everything that happens in their lives without taking the necessary steps to protect what is shared. It is logical to enjoy safely social media sites, which have the ability to control how visible your information and pictures are on the site as well as any search engines who parses that data.

Below is a series of recommendations to protect the identity information in digital networks and it is up to you to decide how visible you want your contact and profile information, videos, photos, and other posts need to be, and take the time to set the appropriate controls within the media site in question. For each one of us it is important to have a good view of what is published and learn to manage and protect our identity.

Although this presentation is from last year some of the information is still relevant

Exposure Level

The search is an important aspect of social networks. It is up to the users if they want to be seen by all members of a network or just want to be seen only by their contacts.

It should make a conscious choice and set the profile, rather than leave it to the default settings, they usually allow some of the profile information such as name and main photo to be found on page and through Internet search engines.

Personal Data
Be cautious about posting and sharing personal information. Do not reveal passwords, keys, date of birth, home address, phone number and place of birth. Do not put your full resume online, if you must, remove it when you find a job. Protect the answers to secret questions that make social networks. The combination of that publicly available information and your public post about hanging out with friends on Saturday night across town could be enough for someone to take advantage of the situation and break into your house.

Information Policy
Generally every page has a link that explains how to use the information by users and gives tips for safe keeping. Note that when entering a network, it is giving license or right to use any information that is on these sites.

Privacy
All sites have a link to a “Privacy” page that explains how your information is used and provides tips on staying safe. Determine how visible the information is that you post on social networks and search engines (profile, photos, videos and posts.) Each page allows you to select privacy settings, read them and adjust by trial the level of control and privacy you want.

Twitter Safety
There is an option that messages, pictures and videos that can only be seen by their followers, for this you must change the default settings of Twitter.
Think twice before posting or even clicking on a post. Consider what could happen if a post becomes widely known and how that may reflect both on you (as the poster) or your family, friend or workplace. i.e. Jason Manford quits The One Show over sex messages

With a little effort and some common sense you can enjoy and safely participate in social media sites. Ultimately though, it’s up to you to manage your digital identity. You must use good judgment about what you post and learn how you protect your personal data and reputation from the digital networks.

Happy Christmas.

Go Success

Go was launched roughly three years ago and the overall aim was to make everything more accessible and easier for students. Specifically access to their Mail, File Storage, Discussion, Community, Library and Blackboard.

I would say over all Go has been a fabulous success, we have developed it a great deal over the past three years, improving it in ways more specific to certain groups of students. For example Health, Business School and Performing Arts students can all log into Go and see a taylor made area that allows them to submit assignments, get module updates and notifications about their course. Who’d of thought from this very first version we’d end up with something so dynamic.

The ‘news‘ area is split into four sections: general, support, learning and social. It serves to inform both staff and students of up and coming events; serious and fun alike and health and safety issues. It’s regulary updated to keep interest and to get out as much information as possible, too as many users as possible.

There are ‘panels‘ that can be moved around the page or removed completley, it’s up to you! In particular the ‘student learning‘ panel and the ‘student support‘ panel, they provide important information such as Term Dates and Exam Timetables.

Learning Services have created a video called ‘Learning Services 2010: Introduction to the Go Portal‘, it takes you through Go step by step: http://www.edgehill.ac.uk/study/accommodation/video/learning-services-2010-introduction-to-the-go-portal. It’s a very useful way to introduce you to Go, so if you are a student or a member of staff and you haven’t used Go, what are you waiting for!

Edit your videos online!

The production of video has become very fashionable on our Corporate site and there are a lot preparation, recording and technical aspects to consider before creating and publishing the videos.

So I invite you to discover a series of free services to create online videos, editing in different formats or develop through images and sound. Free video editing software is an easy and convenient way to edit your videos, and is great for beginners.

Be aware that most of the free video editing programs have limited editing features, but it is good to know that at least there are some alternatives on the web and they are useful for people that do not have video editing tools to work.

Youtube Video Editor:

YouTube Editor

YouTube Editor


YouTube Video Editor is a free tool in your YouTube Account which allows you to edit, combine various clips and produce an entirely new, edited video without worrying about file formats.

The editor that offers YouTube is in an area called TestTube. This requires users to use the tools and share their options about the service. Take a look at the tutorial here.

JayCut

JayCut


JayCut is an excellent free online video editing tool that people can use to make their own movies and video clips without investing in expensive software and equipment. It offers a number of features, though overall it’s a pretty basic editing platform. But what it does, it does really well, making it simple to edit and share your online videos. The program gives editors multiple tracks to work with and various effects, titles and transitions.

For aspiring filmmakers and businesses alike, JayCut offers all the tools necessary to take those edited videos and create powerful campaigns aimed at engaging audiences and promoting new services.
Cons:

  • Uploading uncompressed video footage can take a long time.
  • Jaycut offers only a very limited selection of video effects.

Movie Masher

Moviemasher

Movie Masher

Allows you to sequence and trim clips, add effects, transitions, titles. The Movie Masher is a free open source online video editor that provides advanced multi-track audio and video editing for your web site, with custom transitions, titling, effects and filters. It offers a wide-range of video editing tools, flash tools, XML code snippets that will help you to remix and reshuffle videos for your website. It is simple to use, all you have to do is just drag and drop the video bits and the tools do it all.

Movie Masher allows you to design and customise videos to suit your taste and gives full control in editing videos via its tools. There is no doubt that this website with its innovative set of tools and widgets, takes desktop video editing to the internet platform.

Photobucket

photobucket

Photobucket allows you to upload, manipulate, share photos and videos for free. You can access the service from mobile phones (iPhone, Android and Blackberry) and it is a service that lets you organise your photo albums, edit and create videos. Also you can keep track of statistics of your material created and shared across the services. Photobucket is easy to use, popular and provides a good sense of community.

Avidemux:

avidemux


Avidemux is a free option and open source for basic video editing, it supports formats: avi, mpeg, mp4 and asf. It is available to install on Linux, Windows, Mac OSX. In the tool room will find a Wiki with documentation and a forum where you can participate with the community by sharing your experience with the tool and doubts.

Despite not being the most powerful video-editing software available, Avidemux does have its share of features. It works comfortably with most video formats, handles subtitles and audio editing, converts between different video formats – and all this from a graphical interface. One of its highlights is that a whole project – including all options, preferences, and everything else – can be saved into one project file – pretty neat.

Most of the free video editing programs have limited editing features, so after a while you may want to look at the mid-level digital video software or the top professional video editing programs. I hope these free tools for creating online video bring something to your productivity and work quality. Do not forget to share your experience with them and if you know similar tools do not hesitate to share in the comments.

We’re back, ready for Round Two!

Number OneA year ago the Web Services team stared blogging every day during Advent and the pain of that followed by blogging every day for 125 days apparently hasn’t put me off trying it again.

I have no idea where we’ll go with it but last year we covered everything from open data to environmental issues. I’ve got a few ideas for things to blog about but I’ll be writing fewer posts this month so there should be a bit more variety.

So subscribe to the feed or sign up keep an eye on GO for new posts and let us have your feedback in the comments!

Student Life

The latest batch of student bloggers have just started writing for Hi and this year a few new things are being introduced. Most notably they’re also making use of Twitter. It’s still early days but it’s a great insight into student life at Edge Hill. Over the coming months we’ll be making more use of this “student life” content not just in Hi but in parts of our corporate website, possibly embedding a Twitter widget:

If you use Twitter you can follow these students on @edgehill’s “Student Life” list.

WordCamp UK

Following Hacks meet Hackers on Friday I decided that two conferences in a week wasn’t enough and headed into Manchester to WordCamp UK at MMU’s Business School. It was a full weekend event including socials in the evening but prior commitments meant I could only go for the day.  In case the name doesn’t give it away, WordCamps are conferences about WordPress and happen all over the world.

The first session was introductions to find out who was there. With a couple of hundred (I’d guess) this took a while but I was impressed with the diversity of uses in the room. Lots of web developers as you’d expect but also bloggers and it was nice to see a couple of other universities in the room.

Other sessions I attended…

Core PluginsPeter Westwood

Also known as Canonical plugins, it’s proposed that these will allow extra support for key features that aren’t part of the core WordPress code.  Currently two core plugins are under development:

  • Health Check: this will scan your WordPress install and tell you if there’s anything wrong, for example executable files or out of date PHP versions.
  • Post-by-Email: currently part of the core but badly out of date, the hope is to get the community to support it and take advantage of some extra development that has been done for other plugins.

Managing multiple WordPress instances – John Adams

John Adams just-in-time session planning :)

John showed us the just-in-time approach to session planning, also known as winging it, after forgetting he’d agreed to run this session.  It actually turned out well and some good discussion over ways of managing multiple blogs.  It seems Edge Hill had one of the larger installations, albeit as part of two WordPress MU instances but it’s a problem for everyone.

We’re certainly not alone in struggling with a development/testing/staging/live strategy for WordPress but Shaun Hare from Nottingham University suggested it is possible so we should probably pick their brains about it sometime!

Beyond Blogging – Kieran O’Shea

Kieran O'Shea: Beyond Blogging

Kieran highlighted a couple of plugins he’s developed to take a blog a little further:

  • Calendar: provides embeddable calendar that can show in a post, page or sidebar widget.
  • Social View: a new plugin that takes feeds from other websites – currently YouTube, Flickr and Twitter – and converts them to blog posts but makes them look a little prettier.

WordPress and more in Big MediaDave Coveney of Interconnect IT

WordPress in Big Media with @davecoveney

Final session of the day for me was Liverpool’s own Dave Coveney presenting a session about how the media can use WordPress.  He was followed by a chap from the Telegraph going into a little more detail about their blogging platform with some impressive usage statistics.  If you didn’t think that WordPress was a serious system you should now!

WordPress MU 2.9.1

We’ve just upgraded to the latest version of WordPress MU – the system that powered blogs.edgehill.ac.uk. You can see that latest features in this video:

http://wordpress.tv/2009/12/21/introducing-wordpress-2-9-%E2%80%93-carmen/

That video was embedded using one of the coolest new features in WordPress 2.9.1 – oEmbed. oEmbed is a way of websites sharing information about how content should be included in a page. Instead of having to copy any paste complicated HTML such as this:

<object width="425" height="339">
<param name="movie" value="http://www.edgehill.ac.uk/swf/flvplayer/player_flv_maxi.swf"></param>
<param name="allowFullScreen" value="true"></param>
<param name="flashvars" value="configxml=http%3A%2F%2Fwww.edgehill.ac.uk%2Fvideo%2F psychology%2Fxml%2Fembed"></param>
<embed src="http://www.edgehill.ac.uk/swf/flvplayer/player_flv_maxi.swf" type="application/x-shockwave-flash" allowfullscreen="true" width="425" height="339" flashvars="configxml=http%3A%2F%2Fwww.edgehill.ac.uk%2Fvideo%2F psychology%2Fxml%2Fembed"></embed>
</object>

We can instead just paste the URL onto a blank line in the post. oEmbed is supported right now by many popular websites such as Flickr and YouTube. We’ve also added oEmbed support to our own video streaming platform. Since we’re not one of the popular video sharing sites embedding our videos doesn’t work out of the box with WordPress but we’ve enabled it for our site. Here’s what it will look like:

http://www.edgehill.ac.uk/video/psychology

Implementing oEmbed was fairly easy so keep an eye out for it on other content we publish.

Top 10 of 2009

It’s that time of year where you have to post an annual wrap-up of the previous year’s posts.

10. Google Apps Mail – POP/IMAP/iPhone

Just sneaking into the top ten is Steve’s introduction to some of the ways to access email for users of the new Google powered email.

9. New Departmental Sites

Sam introduces a summer’s worth of hard work (not so much from me – I was driving across America!)

8. Create a better search engine than Google

A post from late 2008 writing up a presentation I gave at BarCamp Liverpool and repeated at IWMW 2009.

7. Twouble with Twitters

An attempt to balance out #2 in the list by taking a sideswipe at those who are maybe a little too addicted 🙂

6. Argleton goes national!

A write up of some of the early coverage of the Argleton meme.

5. Rise of the Mega Menu

Coming soon to a website or portal near you – still a few things to iron out but we hope you’ll like what we do.

4. Roy Bayfield at the TV advert filming

Live on the set of the forthcoming TV advert and testing out the new Flip Camera we’ve got.

3. Browser stats

Everyone loves web stats, okay maybe it’s just me! Six months on and Internet Explorer has dropped to 76.9%, Firefox down a little to 13.5%, Opera has held steady while Webkit-based browsers, Safari and Chrome, have jumped to 5.6% and 3.6% respectively.  Breaking down IE shows IE6 use continues to fall (down to under 11%) while IE8 usage has trebled.  There’s hope for a standards-based-browser future yet!

2. What should @edgehill do on Twitter?

Little did I know when I wrote this post that it would unleash such a debate!  Ironically we’ve just had the 2’ of snow that benefitted Bath’s uptake so we’ll see whether usage grows!

1. Google Renames Village

And in at #1 is a little post I fired out about a typo on a map 🙂

Tags

As well as individual posts, a number of tag pages that rank pretty highly including “symfony”, “argleton”, “google maps”, “twiterdeck” and “facebook”.