Category Archives: work

Innovation@Sun blog design and functionality update

Recently I helped update Hal Stern’s Innovation@Sun blog on behalf of Hal and Marianne Salciccia, the blog administrator.

Checkout the new design over at

At first glance you might be mistaken to think that aesthetically not a great deal has changed, however Marianne and I did a great deal of work on the site under Hal’s direction (mainly, “Yea, I like that, go with it”, after he saw the staging site we put together).

So what has changed? Well it’s still got the same great content and articles about innovation and innovators at Sun, we just marshalled the content a little better, provided more in site functionality and better meta-data support for all those web robots and crawlers that consume sites ready for inclusion in search engines.

I haven’t listed out all of the changes to the Innovation@Sun site that Marianne and I made, because that would make a rather dull and long list, however I have included the review of the original site that I did for Marianne, along with the suggestions I made, almost all of which were implemented.

Probably shows a little of how I think and break problems down too…

I’ve broken the recommendations into three primary areas: Aesthetic, Functional and Non-Functional, you’ll get the idea.


1) Aesthetic i.e. Look and Feel / Design

1.1) First off I like the design of the site, especially the left and right bordering panels, but they aren’t particularly balanced, so perhaps more content on the right hand side to balance this out.

1.2) Secondly if I scroll down by pages all content in the right hand bordering panel is used up in the first page, and all content in the left hand bordering panel is used up in the second page. However the number of posts you have on the site means that it will continue to scroll down for circa 17 pages of blog entries. This means for the majority of entries on the page there is no supporting information to contextualise it (unless you scroll up). Solutions could be move to a single border (not recommended for now), more content down the borders, and less entries per page. I recommend the latter two options, more content down the borders and fewer entries per page (if your going to have fewer entries per page we need to improve how people can find older content too, more on this below).

1.3) Third, less is more, avoid clutter, and minimize, minimize, minimize; check out my blog at which is actually an interpretation of Tim Caynes Sun Blog, you see I’m a technologist, got a graphic designer, but I do know when to get inspiration and help from other people.

1.4) Fourth, given the images on the banner I think it might be nice to link to those innovations, although this is a nice to have, rather than anything else.

1.5) Fifth, I’d look at how the post bodies are arranged them selves, and look at formulating a standard template model for the posts layout. The Innovation@Sun blog seems to contain one to four types of content per post (supporting text, optional supporting image, optional blog radio control, links). Personally I’d go with a model of Blog Radio control top right floating object, people will soon learn it’s always there, supporting text top left and under the blog radio control, any image on the bottom left hand side, followed by links / podcast links. I think this would provide a much easier to read page and thus one people may stay on a little longer and read other articles.


2) Functional i.e. How the site ‘works’

2.1) Jakob Nielsen, ex-Sun staff member, Sun Distinguished Engineer and proclaimed web usability expert first published a list of the top ten web design mistakes in 1996

For the most part, his original list of mistakes are still problematic today, he has also published a list of top ten “new” web design mistakes in 1999 followed by 2002, 2003 and 2005 too.

As well as the top ten good deeds designers can implement in their web pages

All of these are valuable and relevant sources of good design and functionality information, have a look if you get chance.

2.2) Remove “Blah words” – redundant repetitive text – get rid of it, for instance the calendar used on the site has no entries for this month and so is a ‘dead’ calendar which doesn’t link to anything. Furthermore lots of dates and times for the entries themselves, none of which matters a great deal, because no.1 is the content.

2.3) Next, blog post title doesn’t link top the article, they should, it’s the number one way people link to the article, plus allows to display article with comments and other data and meta data.

2.4) Current navigation to old articles (“Recent Shows” on the left hand side) link to dates and not titles, this should be changed, so that Recent Shows links to the articles themselves.

2.5) Better Achieve / Old Article retrieval needed, recommend the work I did on creating a “Roller Weblogger Achieve Menu” which creates a year / month achieve list making legacy content very easy to find, and putting it in either the left or right hand border, here’s more info

2.6) You may also want to improve the next / previous function and make it much more obvious and easy for the reader to find (making access to old articles easier to find too of course). Another one of the standard roller weblogger functions I replaced: the next / previous function. Basically I wanted this to be a little more informative, and host it as a menu list in the sidebar. Here’s my article on how to do that “Roller Weblogger alternative Next Previous function” available

2.7) You may want to try using a third party comment system, which can increase the number of people seeing your comments, have a look at “Integrating Disqus and Roller Weblogger on” which you might like

2.8) Do you have lots of blog postings, possibly over a number of years? And do you suspect that despite embedding search and tag clouds into your blog that your readers are still not finding content related to that they enjoy? In fact do you have evidence of that very problem from your web analytics data but don’t know what to do about it? Yes? So did I, so I created this roller weblogger code to generate a list of the most related blog entries based upon tag and category relationships. This is my favorite and most productive functional enhancement to Roller. The article “Roller Weblogger Related Entries and Blog Post code” describes it in detail and shows an example, it really is good,

2.9) Tag display on individual articles, with links to other appropriate content aggregators. I would produce tag links to at least four popular tag destinations, your blog,, technorati and It also ensures that the links are marked as tags, so that crawlers that look for and index tags and tag data will pick them up (microformat and semantic web focused applications, like the ‘Operator’ plug in for Firefox also pick them up of course). Article “Roller Weblogger blog post tag link code for, technorati and” over at

2.10) Twitter integration

2.11) Flickr Integration


3) Non-Functional i.e. technology behind the site

3.1) Remember that good site design for attracting traffic is about designing the site for human and non-human visitors; a large number of your visitors will be web spiders and crawlers indexing your site for search engines, blog catalogs, directories and the like. So it’s important that as well as your human visitors you also design your site to be easily and throughly consumed and interpreted by these electronic visitors. My article “make Google notice your Blog” has lots of background info that can help here

3.2) My biggest problem with the Innovation@Sun site is it’s lack of semantic / meta data embedded within the main and other pages, this is a significant issue when looking at how this page relates to other sites on the web. The main page should have tag meta data at the very least. You could achieve this with a tag cloud, but frankly tag clouds are becoming rather ‘de rigueur’ and common place. Whether you want a tag cloud or not we should look at generating tag data for every page. For instance if you run a semantic / meta data analyzer on my site you’ll see there is a large amount of machine only readable data, all of which helps spiders index my site the way I want them to.

3.3) Make sure every article has tags and tag data and it is human readable once on the article only page (see 2.9 above which we could double to do this, also ensuring the sites above index it well too).

3.4) Standardise on tags, both format and content. I recommend that you standardize on a Tag format that is search engine friendly. 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). My article “Tic, Tag, Tow” here should help. Basically use tags which are already being used by the Sun blkogging community, this will also generate pages which display your content vis the main Sun Blogs interface.

3.6) 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.

3.7) 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, see my article “Free XML-RPC blog ping site submitter: “Blog Ping”” for more information

3.8) 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.
* Improving site analytics and getting better visibility of visitor interaction with the site and using this to plan the next round of enhancements.


And don’t forget you can become a fan of the Facebook Fan Page and follow Innovation@Sun on Twitter too @InnovatingatSun.

Elephant in the room

Or is that “Elephant on the table” I’m never quite sure which of the two you should use, but whichever is the case you’ll be unsurprised to know that it turns out for regulatory and legislative reasons we as individuals should demonstrate caution and discretion about blogging about ‘you know what’ or writing about ‘you know who’ or ‘them’ either. So there we go, that’s why there’s less of ‘that sort of thing’ than you’d probably like.

In the absence of opinion pieces coming out of the community it’s best to stick with the official updates which can be found below.

Oracle Corporation set to aquire Sun Microsystems

The Wall Street Journal has just broken the news that Sun is to be acquired by Oracle over at This time it’s much more than a rumor or conjecture as both Sun and Oracle are announcing the news as well… …..

Cloud Computing interest growing; on the ground and from research

We already have a number of customers in the UK building out private clouds (and even more building public clouds), but who’ll be the first to go public with a successful implementation?

Plus interest in building private clouds continues to grow in recent analysis from

Interest in cloud computing services among our readers was much higher than we anticipated. Out of almost 500 respondents, 155 companies said that a reduction in IT budget made cloud services more attractive, while a third said they were researching the topic and needed to know more. Roughly 30% of respondents said building a private or internal cloud versus tapping into a public cloud like Amazon was more compelling to their organization. About 13% said public cloud services were more compelling, 24% said neither was interesting right now and 31% said they didn’t know. Improving IT efficiency was the biggest driver for building a private cloud infrastructure, but ironically, 45% of readers said that keeping existing operations running prevented them from moving to a private cloud.

With the economy and budget constraints on everyone’s minds, the lack of clarity about the cost of cloud computing came out as the biggest barrier to adoption among our readers. Unknown management and support headaches was the next biggest turnoff, followed closely by concerns about security and reliability. Respondents also worry about getting locked into a cloud provider and how the move to cloud services would affect their staffing.

In regards to the inhibitors above we at Sun UK can definitely help when it comes to understanding costs involved and implications for management and support, as well as approaches to security of the service. Engineering for reliability is something were very proud of at Sun and have significant experience, and part of the answer to staff skills portability is to ensure you adopt open and accessible cloud implementations which engender low costs of entry and low costs of exit.

Get in touch if you’d like to know more:

Sun joins the BCS Group Membership Scheme

Sun recently joined the BCS Group Membership Scheme and the BCS kindly produced a press release to accompany the occasion: “Sun Microsystems signs up for BCS Group Membership Scheme“.

I’m very glad that we’ve joined the scheme, for a number of reasons, primarily because it’s a great opportunity for staff enrichment and career enhancement. We’ve already had a number of individuals go forward for Charted IT Professional (CITP); interest and take up has been extremely good too.

Having spent sixteen years in the IT industry I feel that is important that we, as an industry, are promoted and represented by strong industry bodies, and reciprocally that we support them in turn; and personally I am a keen supporter of the “Professionalism in IT” agenda.

The press release has been getting some good exposure and has been picked up by, TMCnet, Computerworld UK, M2, and even got a mention at the Parliamentary IT Commission (PITCOM) website.

There may well be more now if you Google about it.

If you have any questions you’d like to ask me about the scheme, whether your from Sun or another organisation, your welcome to get in touch.

Last years photos from Sun’s Customer Engineering Conference 2007 (CEC 2007)

Found these the other day, posted up to Flickr…

New Sun and SCC Partner Website

Check out the new Sun / SCC partner website here:

Specialist Computer Centres (SCC) are one of Sun’s main partner organisations in the UK and you can learn more about them, and Sun UK’s reseller partners here:

This has been out a little while now, but I wanted to make sure I brought it to your attention. There’s no nepotism here, even if SCC are based in Tyseley, Birmingham, and I once lived opposite the Greet Inn pub (not only sadly closed, but flattened as well), just round the corner to the SCC headquarters.

SCC’s main web page is here:

And SCC Exchange, SCC’s direct retail site “exclusively aimed at small to mid-size businesses and public sector organisations”, where you can also get Sun kit from, is here:

Congratulations to Peter Ryan newly appointed EVP for Sun’s Global Sales and Services organisation

Congratulations to Peter Ryan, newly promoted EVP for Sun’s Global Sales and Services organisation (GSS). Peter has recently led the combined AMER Sales organisation (AMER stands for ‘Americas’) over the last year and a half, and prior to that he very successfully led the EMEA Sales organisation as EVP for the region.

Having worked with Peter during his tenure as EMEA EVP I’m sure he’ll be looking at fresh ways to engage with our customers, as he is immensely customer focused, with a real thirst for his role. Peter’s remit will also be covering a newly created Sun Business Unit, that of ‘Emerging Markets’, predominately made up the fast growing ‘BRICA’ countries (Brazil, Russia, India, China and Africa).

Good luck in the new role Peter, I’m sure you’re more than up to it !

Of course all the very best of luck to Don Grantham, who is moving on to new opportunities.

Congratulations to Shez Rawsthorne-Houghton newly appointed CTO for Sun’s Global Services Practice

The title of the post says it all: here’s all the very best to Shez Rawsthorne-Houghton who’s recently been appointed CTO for Sun’s Global Services Practice. …..

WebMission08: Twenty UK web2.0 Startups “face-to-face” networking across Silicon Valley

Just been listening to BlogTalk Radio, who’ve kindly been hosting a number of slots for us on our Sun Startup Essentials programme in conjunction with WebMission08.

Web Mission 2008 sees twenty UK web2.0 startups traveling to San Francisco and exploring new opportunities for growth with key people across Silicon Valley.

Sun are a key Technology partner for the event and it is being covered by Sun’s local expert on Startups (based in the UK and beyond), Stewart Townsend.

More on the UK Startups page, hosted by Stewart, here: