Category Archives: blog

BCS Birmingham Branch Committee Summer Barbecue

Last Sunday I hosted a barbecue for the Committee of the BCS Birmingham Branch and thought I’d share a few of the photo’s that we took with you.

After the Branch Committee’s request for new Committee member applicants I’m very pleased to say we had five people come along and take up new positions on the Committee. We’re fortunate to be joined by Martin Froggatt, Rob Gilliam, Steve Harris, Dawn Peers and Hugo Russell, and most welcome they are too!

This bring the size of the Committee back up to a healthy twelve members, which is excellent, however we on the Committee thought that it would be good idea to hold a small event to help everyone get to know each other, and hopefully build a sense of camaraderie, outside of the usual Committee meetings and BCS Birmingham Branch events (one of which is on Tuesday the 15th evening). I was happy to host and for my part I wanted to say ‘thank you’ to the long serving members of the Committee for all of their dedication (as well as a couple of long serving ex-Committee members too).

We’ve also recently started to reboot the Branches approach to social networking technologies and will be refreshing the BCS Birmingham Branch facebook page, please consider joining if your a BCS member and either associated with or interested in the Birmingham Branch.

And here’s those photos I mentioned, as you can see we all had an excellent time, and as Peter Crouch had to say “Thanks also for posting Donna’s photos on the Web, now everyone can see what the Birmingham Committee does on a Sunday afternoon!”.

September 2009 blog catch up

Apologies to all my blog readers I’ve been lax of late and haven’t posted a great deal recently, and I’m afraid that in an attempt to clear down all the draft blog entries I have prior to the transition and acquisition (of Sun by Oracle, of course) I’ll be posting a number of blog entries in quick succession, some of which I expect may need expanding upon in the future.

Topics I have to complete include part three of my provisioning article series, a number of posts on Google and the Google architecture, a number of posts on UK Government messaging systems, specifically DIS, a number of posts on the continuing issues with the economy and innovation and science spending in the UK, as well as a few others.

On the economy side, I was hoping to follow up my articles “DBERR’s views on the future growth of the UK economy ‘New Industry, New Jobs’” and “Industry contributions to the UK economy and investment in R&D; by industry” with pieces which might include looking at:

  1. ‘innovation’ investment in the UK versus the UK’s place in the World Wide league tables
  2. UK versus US stimulation packages
  3. Services Sciences and Web Sciences
  4. the state of UK Manufacturing and “Robot”isation in the UK
  5. a review of the recent ‘Digital Britain’ report
  6. possibly a comparison of R&D; spending and focus in the UK versus other nations (European comparison might be the most pointed)

But for now I’ll see how I get on!

Disqus and Twitter integration to get even more improvements

You’d imagine Twitter integration in Disqus couldn’t get any better, however speaking with Daniel Ha at Disqus I hear even more improvements are on the way.

If you haven’t seen how Disqus integrates with Twitter (and incidentally what Disqus integration looks like with, or any other Apache Roller Weblogger based blog system) have a look at this blog entry which has generated a few traditional comments, but quite a few tweets, and see how Disqus displays them all as part of that conversation too:

You’ll need to scroll down to the bottom of the page, but as you can see Disqus has captured a lot of the tweets and retweets about the article, which I think is pretty cool. Disqus also does the same for Facebook and a host of other social networking platforms as well.

Talking to Daniel he said that tweet and social networking metrics and “count” was on the way as well as other advancements, so I am firmly looking forward to those when they arrive.

The great thing about Disqus is that it is firmly becoming a conversation catcher and conversation engine, which is really what I want, to capture disparate conversations about what I write in an aggregate manner.

If you are interested in integrating Disqus with your Sun blog or any other Apache Roller Weblogger based blog, I have a tutorial and overview over here, along with the code and code examples you need to use:

Web analytics used here at the eclectic blog

Thought you might be interested in the the web analytics used on this blog; in total there are five pieces of technology collecting data and then used for performing web analysis here. They are:

  1. SiteCatalyst / Omniture – – Sun standard, embedded in (and monitors all Sun websites), produces the page hits total
  2. SiteMeter – – you can access my results yourself by simply clicking on the SiteMeter logo on this page and here’s the link:
  3. StatCounter
  4. Google Analytics
  5. ClustrMaps – – simple location counter displayed as a informative graphic here’s the link to my hit counter:

Why use more than one? Frankly web analytics is more than a shaky area, none of them ever seem to catch all hits just as I’d like, nor measure them in a similar fashion, so I use differing web analytic software to ‘triangulate’ the best view possible (for instance one will count some spiders traffic as hits, whilst another won’t, frankly I want to know the difference between humans and the web crawlers, etc.). Furthermore some have functionality which the others don’t and some produce quick to see ‘snapshots’ whilst others produce detailed ‘drill-downs’.

For instance Sun’s web analytics is the same as the corporate one, so it’s enterprise grade and highly flexible, sadly this means it’s extremely large scale and quite hard to manipulate because the amount of configuration you have to do is just horrendous (but it can give you the most detail).

So SiteCatalyst / Omniture is too much hassle to produce quick updates and ClustrMaps is really eye candy for users, therefore I only really use SiteMeter for quick updates without logging in, and StatCounter and Google Analytics for more detailed, but quickly available, reports on what constitutes readers favourite articles and pages.

For 2 to 5 above you’ll need to sign up for online accounts and add the tracking code yourself, this isn’t too hard, it just takes a little time.

For 1 it’s already there on all the Sun websites and blogs, however you need to request access to the corporate Omniture / SiteCatalyst web analytics system to get access if you are a Sun blogger, then you have to learn how to use it, then you need to use something else as well (see problems I describe above, because you might prefer a quick info ‘fix’).

Most of all this is about personal preference, and what works for you; for about two years after starting blogging I was a data demon, wanting to understand and interpret the stats, and now, well I’m a little more relaxed.

Is syndication and responses a measure of blogging success?

Given that today marks the 5th year of (or just “bsc” to us Sun bloggers), and that it was this month two years ago that I published my first blog article (entitled “And finally“, an opinion piece on Gartner’s top ten predictions from 2007), I thought it would be nice to explore what “success” was in terms of blogging.

The most obvious indicator is large and regular readership, but I can’t imagine that that is all there is to it. The next most obvious criteria might be opinion setting, but measuring this seems troublesome and unscientific at that moment (until at least further semantic web infrastructure is in place to better relate meme flow across the Internet, although saying that Autonomy have an excellent visual analysis tool which is an early leading example in this field, the problem with this current non-semantic web model is that you have to generate meta-data by supposition, some of which is irregular at best).

Inward and outbound links are a major contributing factor in the calculation of Google’s “PageRank” algorithm, but I expect this to change significantly in the next few years as two things occur, increasingly effective “Search Engine Optimization” (SEO) techniques which will require modification to Google’s rating criteria, and the rise of the semantic web as increasing amounts of meta-data is included with unstructured data across the Internet, driving up implicit relationships between information.

And that leaves me with syndication and pieces written in response to your articles. Frankly I’m not sure that you can qualify syndication as a measure of success of your blog, but I do think it’s a good indicator of how far your message is being spread. I’m still uncomfortable with this, as I would prefer something more Empirical, however I think it may be about the best ‘soft’ indicator we have at the moment.

So using syndication of, and responses to, my articles, as a potential leading indicator, I correlated the following list. Historically I would have used Technorati to generate this information, but Technorati is suffering from some real issues lately, it’s page layout has become befuddled, and worst of all it’s not capturing (even remotely) the responses to my articles, subsequently I used Google Analytics’ “Referring Sites” breakdown instead (the list below isn’t remotely exhaustive, so if there is anything missing you’d like me to add let me know).

Make Google notice your Blog

Posted this in response to an internal email titled “What makes Google notice a blog?”, it’s pretty universal and applicable to most search engines so I thought I’d share it as a blog article.

Here’s a few suggestions, hope they help. Wayne.

1) You may want to write your blog in a manner which is spider, as well as human, friendly.

Include meta-data and micro-format information, such as tags; don’t forget that key words in headers will increase the ‘value’ of that key word (for many search engines); always make sure that “SCRIPT” HTML segments are followed by “NOSCRIPT” segments (most spiders don’t “do” JavaScript, specifically Google’s; lean web page code that is easy for spiders to ‘consume’.

Re: Tags / Meta-Data / Micro-Formats – I use the Operator plug in / add on for Firefox, this informs the user about semantic data embedded in a viewed web page.

Re: Keyword Analysis – I use the SeoQuake plug in / add on for Firefox, which allows me to do dynamic keyword (and related key word) analysis.

Here’s an article I wrote on Tag format standardization, I recommend that you standardize on a Tag format that is Search engine friendly: ‘Tic, Tag, Toe‘. Don’t over tag nor under tag, but try and match your articles tags with other similar articles, try and join in with the subject matter’s folksonomy if at all possible (i.e. the tags people are using when talking about that subject matter, technorati and delicious are both good examples).

As well as embedding all the tags for all of the articles on the front page (have a look in Operator if you decide to use it or another semantic data ‘explorer’) I also embed tags to major blog directories and social bookmarking sites on the individual page for each entry, here’s an article which demonstrates this: ‘Roller Weblogger blog post tag link code for, technorati and‘. I’ve superseded this code now, with a nicer layout and having added more blog directories / social bookmarking sites, you can see the example at the end of the page for any given blog article I’ve written, give me a shout if you’d like the newer code.

2) Google’s PageRank algorithms work on links, inbound, outbound, number, and the PageRank of those inbound and outbound links.

Link to sources, get inbound links from sources / reciprocal links if possible.

Don’t forget to trackback articles that you reference, if the trackback fails try leaving a comment with a link to the article that references it.

3) Make sure you let sites such as Google know you’ve updated your site and that you’d like it re-“spider”ed, indexed and advertised.

This is done by “blog pinging” search engines and blog directories so that they are informed that your site has been updated and to send over there spiders when they get chance (most search engines / blog directories want to do this quite quickly as they want to be first with any potentially newsworthy content that draws traffic).

Personally I wanted a more granular level of control over this than offered with the standard blog ping functionality embedded in roller and so I wrote my own stand alone version: ‘Free XML-RPC blog ping site submitter: “Blog Ping”‘.

4) Other things to consider…

PageRank of your site and individual pages; how well does your article compete with articles of a similar nature.

Have pages been bookmarked in del.ici.ous, technorati, etc., i.e. are they being shared.

P.S. This article doesn’t mention quality of written articles, cadence of posts, timeliness of posts to current events, etc., as it focuses purely on the current electronic mechanisms for getting noticed by a search engine like Google and not the related, but extremely important, human and social element that gains you readership.

Apologies to Alec Muffett

I’ve wanted to apologise to Alec Muffett for some time about a blog post I wrote back in January ’08. Called “Links for DD-MM-YYYY Not Likely” it questioned the effectiveness of “Links for” type posts to connect with your readership in a meaningful way; as well as being a response to Alec’s post “A disappointed (occasional) reader…“.

This has become especially ironic as eight months later I followed up with “Setting up blog posting on“, a post showing in detail how to configure delicious, the online bookmark system, to post entries to Roller Weblogger (and specifically the implementation powering the Sun blog server). To top it all I’ve become a regular provider of “Links for” posts since then too.

Furthermore I’ve found the “Links for” type post a useful way to communicate in a conversational manner with my readers. It allows me to post short opinion based entries to my blog, giving me a chance to have my say when circumstances wouldn’t or shouldn’t allow a longer blog post, as well as improving the overall cadence of updates, which has suffered when I’ve been time constrained.

I actually gave Alec a call a couple of months ago and apologised in person; I wrote this blog post after being reminded by Carolyn’s comment that I had a responsibility to put things straight online too.

Thanks to Tim Caynes

Thanks to Tim Caynes I have a brand new look and feel on the blog; thankfully this is much more minimalist and I’m hoping easier to navigate for you. …..