Team Twitter


Clock number 5Nearly everyone in Web Services has a Twitter account.

Many of the team have a Delicious account for storing all our bookmarks there’s even a team one.

We needed  a way to comunicate useful information from the team without it getting lost in the clutter of our personal posts.  We needed a team identity on Twitter.


Most people have heard of twitter (its so mainstream, even the BBC now offer a #hashtag at the beginning of some of their programmes if you want to get in on the discussion) but if you haven’t heard of Delicious, it’s a social bookmarking site. It saves your bookmarks to a website, so as long as you have a connection to the web, you’ll have access to your bookmarks no matter what browser or device you’re working from. It’s social, because you can network with other users and push links to those who you might think would be interested them.

We push links to the ehu.webteam account that we think the team might find interesting or useful. Pushing a link is easy (in this case I’m using the Firefox plugin):

FireFox plugin


The link will be stored in the inbox of the ehu.webteam delicious account. Everything in delicious has an rss feed, including inboxes, so we can pull that feed into anything we like, even a twitter account. Pulling an rss feed into a twitter account is easy too. Just create an account at and add your feeds:


Twitter Feed

As we also blog, so it made a lot of sense to add the feed from that too.

Finally we created our twitter account under the rocking title of @EHUWebServices. We’re using a HAL9000 image for our avatar, but we’ll change that if you have a better idea.

Christmas question: Why was the computer in 2001 a Space Odyssey called HAL?  Google Caesar cipher for a clue if you don’t want to go straight to the answer!

So now we have a twitter account for Web Services which automatically displays any worthy links spotted by team members and all of our blog posts. Follow us its good stuff!

WordPress MU 2.9.1

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

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=""></param>
<param name="allowFullScreen" value="true"></param>
<param name="flashvars" value=" psychology%2Fxml%2Fembed"></param>
<embed src="" type="application/x-shockwave-flash" allowfullscreen="true" width="425" height="339" flashvars=" psychology%2Fxml%2Fembed"></embed>

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:

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

125 by 125

Do you ever have really great ideas that on second thoughts are incredibly stupid?  Yeah, I have them all the time but usually I’m sensible enough not to tell anyone about them.  A month ago I was caught out by an email from Corporate Marketing Communications and Student Recruitment asking what people are doing for the anniversary celebrations.  I had a flash of inspiration and fired off a reply:

I’ll do something with Twitter or a blog for 125, maybe similar to the 365 projects that people do – one photo per day for 125 days.

It was that quick.  Fast forward 30 days and I’m starting to think that was a really, really stupid suggestion.  Writing 25 posts across the whole team has been difficult enough so what am I playing at committing to posting every day for four months?!

If I’m going to have any chance of making this work I’m going to a) need help and b) make it simple, so give me your ideas, people!  My initial thought was to raid the archives, take a load of photos and just post them rather than having to write lots for each day – that way I could spend an hour or two every couple of weeks and schedule ahead.  I could also broaden it out and persuade other people to blog or highlights from some of the 125 events happening on campus.

Picking things that might be of interest is also important – I’m not doing this for myself – so what would you like to see?  Post your comments below!

Happy 2nd Birthday Web Services Blog

Happy Birthday

Today is the second birthday of the Web Services blog! Is it really a year since the last birthday and two years since Alison’s first post?!  Yes, it really is.

The frequency of posts has dropped off in the last year – we’ve crept up to 201 posts – but we’ve still covered a lot. Here’s a few of the bigger topics:

So a busy year, and that barely compares to what’s coming up.  We’re in the middle of redeveloping Faculty and Department websites, starting with the Department of Magic.  In the last few months we have given GO a facelift, ready for new features and integration of the staff intranet.

Interesting times ahead, so keep reading for the next year in the life of the Web Services blog.

Twitter Part 1: What are you doing?

I’ve been threatening promising to blog again about Twitter. I’ve posted before introducing Twitter so this time I’ll go into a bit more detail about some uses that maybe aren’t immediately apparent.

When I was writing this I thought I’ll ask my followers for a bit of help:

Drafting a blog post about Twitter for @edgehill Web Services blog. Can anyone suggest good “getting started” pages to link to?

Within minutes a few suggestions came in to show Twitter in Plain English by Common Craft:

I included this last time I blogged about Twitter but it shows really clearly how to get started – just sign up, search for a few people, start “following” them and answer the question “What are you doing?”

Another suggestion led me to a great series of posts over on Search Engine Guide by Jennifer Laycock titled From Twits to Tweeple, Why I Embraced Twitter and You Should Too which introduces Twitter and is much more instructional than I’m going to be so check that out as well.

Here’s my thoughts on getting started with Twitter:

Dive right in. I think it’s important to start tweeting right away. You could try to grow your network first, “lurking” while you get to know people, but as ProBlogger Darren Rowse puts it:

Your Tweets are your best advertisement for people to follow you – if you don’t have any (or many) what reason do people have to follow you?

Follow the leader. When you first sign up for Twitter, the empty list can be a bit underwhelming so you need to do something about that and start following people. You might already know a couple of people who use Twitter (me for example!), or search for people you think might use it. This can be a bit hit and miss so you might want to grow your own network. Start by looking at who your friends follow. Likewise, if someone starts following you, then follow them back (providing they don’t look like spammers – thousands of “friends” but few followers). Soon you should start getting a steady stream of tweets from your friends.

Get interactive. Twitter is more than just about posting your status and watching what other people say, it’s more conversational than that. Pretty soon you’ll start to notice tweets cotaining @ signs. These are messages aimed at a particular user and show up in a special area for that user. To aim one at me, for example you’d include @MikeNolan – it doesn’t matter where in the message it goes. These are often called “replies” and they link to the last tweet from the target user, but often messages don’t relate to that message.

Replies are public so they’re a great way of finding people who are of interest – look out for people your friends are talking to. Twitter can also send direct messages which are private, but this is only possible if you both follow each other.

A quick aside on the nature of “friendship”… I came across this amusing tweet:

Twitter says I have close to 200 friends. Yet not one of you slack ass [expletive removed] has shown up to help us move. Some “friends” you are!

That’s enough to get you going with Twitter. Next time I’m going to go into more detail about using Twitter in different situations.

Two hundred words

Leeds Met UniversityOften people think that blogging can be a bit of a chore – requiring hours to draft and edit each post to ensure that it’s word perfect – but that needn’t be the case. I’m often guilty of writing long, verbose posts, and they certainly have their place – to explain our thinking behind what we do on the web or go into more depth on certain subjects which may be of interest to specific groups of readers – but shorter posts are equally valid.

This was brought home to me when colleagues returned from a trip to Leeds Met a couple of weeks ago and mentioned that their VC, Professor Simon Lee, writes a daily blog. VC Reflects has been running for nearly five years and is a fantastic insight into what’s going on in the University. It’s not a true blog – you can’t comment on posts or subscribe to an RSS feed – but as far as regularly communicating with University stakeholders, it’s fantastic!

So if you’re thinking about starting to blog but don’t want to get bogged down writing long posts then don’t worry – you can even get away with writing just two hundred words.

Happy Birthday Web Services blog!

Today, exactly a year has passed since Alison’s first post on the Edge Hill University Web Services blog:

As we’ve spent the last couple of years talking about blogs, showing people how to use them and advocating their usefulness we thought it was about time we started our own!

It’s been a busy year with developments on GO last summer, and most recently a brand new design for the corporate website.

There have been changes in the team with Alison moving to the University of Bath in January (and they’ve recently started blogging too), Andy Davies starting in November last year and yesterday Steve Daniels joined us to work with the Faculty of Health on an extranet project.

We said from the start that we’d try to cover a wide variety of subjects and just looking at the tag cloud shows some of the key issues we’ve considered over the last year. From social networking to symfony, we’ve tried to balance some fairly techie topics with things that might be more broadly interesting – let us know how you think we’re doing and what you’d like to see in future.

Everyone likes statistics, so I’ve been digging and come up with a few numbers:

  • 141 posts
  • Over 10,000 comments
  • 276 non-spam comments – thanks Akismet!
  • Over 33,000 page views
  • 60+ subscribers to our feed

Thank you to everyone who’s taken the time to read and comment here – I hope you’ve found our blog useful and interesting and it’s great to get feedback.

Creative Commons Licence by robokowOne final thing… this entry is my one hundredth post – you’d think I’d planned it – so Happy Birthday blog, and here’s to the next twelve months and 100 posts!

Who you calling a Twitt?!

TwitterIt’s a year since the last SXSW and the explosion of the Twitter craze. So fast was the rise of the microblogging platform that it struggled to cope with both the hype and the server load.

But as the dust settled, people have started to realise it can be used for more than talking about your cat and for many it’s become a key way of communicating with colleagues and friends.

If you haven’t come across Twitter – or maybe just don’t “get it” – check out this video from Common Craft:

Don’t forget you can integrate Twitter with your IM system of choice including our very own

A blogging community

We’re frequently asked about our stance on blogs for Edge Hill staff and students and if we have plans to do roll these out site wide in the near future. The answer is yes but we have some work to do before than happens.

At present we’re looking at the whole web infrastructure and we plan to make some significant changes to the way in which we manage our servers and services by the summer. Once this is in place we’ll look to roll out a more robust blogging platform that can support a blogging community at Edge Hill. In the meantime we’ve set up and we’ve got a number of bloggers already using the service. We’re particularly keen to set up blogs for our research active academics so if you’re interested please get in touch with us.