OMAC Buzz Words

17Tuesday saw the first meeting of OMAC – the Online Marketing and Communications project that will, over the coming months, address a wide variety of issues with our main external website. As Roy will explain in a post on Monday, part of this involves opening up the website to more contributors which means a whole world of terminology for users to learn.

A few of these came up in the first meeting so let’s go over them!


These are keywords attached to bits of information to aid navigation, categorisation of searching across a set of documents. We’ve been using tags on our website for several years and they’re pretty embedded into the site from videos and courses to news and events, everything is tagged. We also use tags to link parts of the site together. For example a department will list all news stories with a particular tag.

Andy Davies wrote a pretty comprehensive post about tags including an explanation of tag clouds and machine or triple tags.

Vanity URLs

I don’t think this term came up in this week’s OMAC meeting but it’s one of my biggest regrets from my time working at Edge Hill. Wikipedia defines Vanity URLs like this:

A vanity URL is a URL or domain name, created to point to something to which it is related and indicated in the name of the URL. In many cases this is done by a company to point to a specific product or advertising campaign microsite. In theory, vanity URLs are creatively linked to something making them easier to remember than a more random link.

In our case, the term more typically refers to a short web address. For department sites, it’s the address their site is accessible at, for example – while others may be created for a specific event or course and redirect deep into the site.

Read more about how our URLs are structured in this series of posts.

Creeping Personalisation

Another term I introduced to Edge Hill and cringe whenever I hear it, creeping personalisation refers to the practice of building up a profile of a user in a piecemeal way. It may be that to register users only need enter their name and an email address and as they start to use the site extra information is collected.

Mega Menus

I covered this pretty thoroughly last year. but it’s something we’re moving forward with testing.

Mega or “Fat” Footers

At the other end of the page is a trend towards having larger footers able to provide more structure to links within them, perhaps with more overtly useful information than the types of link currently present.

The web is full of buzz words and odd terminology but we’re always here to guide users around what they need to know.

More about OMAC soon!

Flickring candles

Sep 15 (9) by theloushe.If you’re planning on taking a few snaps this Christmas with that new camera/phone, here’s a little bit of fun you can have with them…

Flickr is probably the best known on line photo managment and sharing site.  It’s free to sign up for an account, and you can start uploading digital photos within minutes.  There are limits for the free account (Only the 200 most recent uploads are shown, with limits on how much can be uploaded per month) but upgrading to the Pro account is only US$24.00 annually.  Whilst primarily for photos, since April 2008 video uloads of not more than 90 seconds are allowed.

Besides being able to upload photos, tagging plays a big part in bringing related photographs and their owners closer together.   Early subscribers also began to use tagging to geolocate their photographs, using longitude and latitude values.  Flickr has made geotagging much easier by offering a “add to your map” link which uses a draggable map to automatically generate your geotags without having to know the longitude and latitude of the location.


A very mature  api has seen some useful third party applications.  Suggestify (currently in Alpha release), uses geotags and flickr‘s api to enable subscribers to suggest the geolocation of a photograph not owned by themselves. 


Suggestify then “tries” to post a comment on that photo with a link to the Suggestify site where the suggestion is stored. The owner can either opt out or accept and the photo is geotagged.

Daily Shoot

If you twitter (oh yes), try following @dailyshootdailyshoot posts a daily assignment which is easy enough for anybody to have a go at.  There is a flickr group for assignments – an easy way to view other entries.


Noticings is a game based on flicker, geotagging and spotting stuff first. If you notice something out of the ordinary, snap away, upload to flickr, geotag it and then tag with “noticings”. Points are awarded on a number of criteria:


Noticings keeps a record of your scores so that you can see how you’re getting on. It also has a superfluas twitter account: @noticings. The Flickr code team are particularly excited about this one.

Anybody know any better ones?

Faded tag cloud

It’s been a little while since I posted anything techie, and a while since I posted anything that might be of use to the symfony community so I’m going to post about the exciting topic of tag clouds!

Andy has posted about tags before so read that for more information about the concepts. We’ve had tag clouds on the site since March but with the latest designs Sam wanted something a bit more stylish. Someone came across a site with a faded tag cloud where colour rather than size determined the weight of the tag so Sam built that into the new designs.

We use a symfony plugin catchily called sfPropelActAsTaggableBehaviorPlugin which allows us to add tags to any object taken from the database (e.g. courses, events, news articles). The plugin also has some functions to output tag clouds for different types of objects and it’s this we used on the old site.

For the faded tag cloud I was planning to implement it from scratch but then wondered if it was possible to do something with the existing taggable behaviour plugin. It was, and here’s how!

Firstly we modify the output of the getPopulars() function to sort by weight:

$c = new Criteria();
$c->add(TagPeer::IS_TRIPLE, false);
$c->add(TaggingPeer::TAGGABLE_MODEL, 'newsArticle');
$c->setLimit(isset($this->limit) ? $this->limit : 30);
$this->tags = TagPeer::getPopulars($c);

Then in the template we simply output the tag cloud as normal:

<?php use_helper('Tags'); ?>
<?php echo tag_cloud($tags, '@news_tag?tags=%s'); ?>

This will produce a cloud where the size determines weight of tag with the largest at the top, which isn’t what we want, but the clever stuff can be done with CSS. The plugin produces an unordered list with <big> and <small> tags used to change the size of the tags. We use the following CSS to remove the font size styling and apply color (sic) to the text:

ul.tag-cloud li big big,
ul.tag-cloud li big,
ul.tag-cloud li,
ul.tag-cloud li small,
ul.tag-cloud li small small{font-size: 103%}
ul.tag-cloud li big big a {color: #EFEFEF}
ul.tag-cloud li big a {color: #BFBFBF}
ul.tag-cloud li a {color: #8F8F8F}
ul.tag-cloud li small a {color: #5F5F5F}
ul.tag-cloud li small small a {color: #3F3F3F}
ul.tag-cloud li a:hover{ color:#fa0}

That’s about it – a nice easy way to produce good looking tag clouds thanks to the wonders of symfony and CSS.