A few years ago we had a visit from the Google Street View trike and a year later the imagery was published. Quite a lot has changed on campus since then: the Hub, under construction in Autumn 2010 is now a hive of activity; BioSciences has had a growth spurt and (more than!) a lick of paint; and the entire Eastern Campus including Creative Edge, brand new halls and a lake (with a beach!) have sprung up from nowhere! So last summer we figured our Beautiful Campus could do with another visit from Google and booked them in for Freshers Week last September. The new imagery is now live on Google Maps so take a look around.
Here’s a few of my highlights but leave a comment if you find something interesting!
Eastern Campus Beach
Crossing the bridge
This time the man from Google came with a Street View Trekker instead of the trike so was able to get to even more places!
The new and the old
How many can you find?!
Down the stairs
Wouldn’t be Edge Hill without a few ducks!
Rain forest or rock garden?
The 2010 imagery hasn’t been completely replaced so there’s a few places where they visited originally that haven’t changed including this shot from behind the swimming pool.
We’ve just launched a new beta version of the corporate website site search engine which will in the coming weeks replace the existing site search.
The new system is powered by Google Site Search – a version of the search engine that restricts results to a given set of pages. Currently it is available for site-wide searches before we extend it to power our main course search engine.
For web applications to spring even farther ahead of traditional software, our teams need to make use of new capabilities available in modern browsers. For example, desktop notifications for Gmail and drag-and-drop file upload in Google Docs require advanced browsers that support HTML5. Older browsers just don’t have the chops to provide you with the same high-quality experience.
For this reason, soon Google Apps will only support modern browsers. Beginning August 1st, we’ll support the current and prior major release of Chrome, Firefox, Internet Explorer and Safari on a rolling basis. Each time a new version is released, we’ll begin supporting the update and stop supporting the third-oldest version.
As of August 1st, we will discontinue support for the following browsers and their predecessors: Firefox 3.5, Internet Explorer 7, and Safari 3. In these older browsers you may have trouble using certain features in Gmail, Google Calendar, Google Talk, Google Docs and Google Sites, and eventually these apps may stop working entirely.
This came at an interesting time for us as we were readying to launch our new website design. We’ve been forced to make decisions about which browser versions to support and which to ditch. Unlike Google, we’re still supporting Internet Explorer 7, though some subtle design elements may not work, but we too have the problem of not being able to take advantage of features in more modern browsers.
IE7 is five years old yet is still being used by over 20% of visitors to GO. Some of these will be machines on campus and colleagues are working to upgrade these but others are beyond our direct control.
We will however no longer support IE6. Use of this is around 2.5% yet to develop for it would consume a disproportionate amount of time. It’s also 10 years old and even Microsoft want rid of it!
More generally we’ve seen use of Internet Explorer drop by around 15% since January 2010 while Chrome is up by 10% and Safari up by 4%. Firefox and Opera have both maintained their position.
The adoption of modern browsers is important for the web to keep developing. Just as things start to go wrong if you don’t service or MOT your car, when using an out of date web browser, not everything will function as designed and there are potential security risks too. So I’d encourage everyone to make sure they’re running the latest version of a browser – then we can start to innovate rather than always struggling to cater for the lowest denominator.
Yesterday I noticed Google’s latest incremental feature on their search results page. It’s not long since they launched full results search as you type and now highlighting a search result pops up a thumbnail preview of the page.
This means people will be able to judge the contents of a site before they even get there making it even more important that we make an impression, and now in a small image where text can’t be easily read.
It does however provide an opportunity to show that there is extra content if we were to push “below the fold”, that is make our homepage longer so that not all the content appeared without scrolling.
Technically it’s quite an interesting implementation. They’re using data URLs to put the image content into a single request and long pages are broken into several sections each up to 405 pixels high.
Most of the campus was covered today in just an hour or so but it’ll be somewhere between a couple of weeks and six months until it’s live on the website. Until then you can check out a (very) short video of the trike on campus:
The two of them were to travel up from London the following Friday and wanted “Mister” Roy Bayfield and I to show them the way to Argleton. How could I refuse? I rejigged some plans and worked out I could just make it back from Liverpool to the Stanley Arms in time to meet them.
The interview went fine – we led the way down the road to the field labelled “Argleton”, discussed how it was found and a couple of hypotheses with the landowner and Steve Punt then headed back to the Stanley to consume a pint of the specially brewed Argleton Ale.
The beer tasted a little like it hadn’t been allowed to settle and I’ve not seen it since so maybe it didn’t really exist.
The episode finally aired last Saturday and although I’m currently on holiday in Crete, I managed to listen again to the show.
It’s the first time I’ve heard the show and was pretty impressed. The show told the full story of Argleton from visiting the location to following up leads at the British Library, with cartography experts and even managed to secure an interview with Google and TeleAtlas.
It’s worth listening in, if only to hear my 15 seconds of fame but there’s a couple of interesting points. Firstly was the guy when asked “so computers can’t tell the difference between virtual and reality” responded “correct – do we?” and secondly the new information offered by Google and TeleAtlas. Namely that they can’t track down how Argleton (or Mawdesky or the other errors in West Lancashire) were added.
The cynic in me might suspect that their data source was slightly dubious but I’ve no proof.
Anyway, back to my bottle of Mythos and the barbecue!
Obviously this isn’t the case so why are Google showing them on the map? The addresses of the shops match Dorothy Perkins and Burtons – both other brands in Arcadia Group, owners of Topshop – but that doesn’t explain why they’re there. As with Argleton, it may well be another case of Google mining data from whatever sources they can get their hands on and forget the accuracy. I’ve reported the problem to Google, let’s see if they fix it.
Flickr recently started previewing their new photo pages. They’re quite nice but it does something that’s been driving me mad and I can’t work out how it’s doing it. It only happens in Google Chrome 5 and I’ve only seen it in a few places.
Take a look at this screen capture of Flickr’s new lightbox view. Note how the URL updates each time I click through to a new view. Nothing surprising there until you realise it’s not doing a full refresh of the page and is actually an Ajax call back to the server. (You may want to hit the full screen button, bottom right.)
Contrast that with what happens in Firefox – it’s still doing Ajax calls to make flicking between photos quick but the URL changes after the fragment