X Close

Digital Presence Blog



Archive for the 'web applications' Category

Why did we choose Silva!?

23 September 2011

A question often asked of us here in Web Services!  The choice was ultimately made by me and Neil Martin, we were the two Web Support Officers at the time but our choice was severely limited.

The Content Management System Project Group (CMSPG) was set up in April 2002 to look into the options available for a CMS.  Very early on in the process that group settled on Zope as the framework for the future development of the CMS.  I was initially unimpressed by Zope on my first dealings with it.

Several other universities had already started using Zope but with different CMS built on top of it.  In November 2003 I organised a Zope users meeting at the UCL and we had visitors from Bristol, Birkbeck, Oxford Brookes, ICH and others.  They were using different CMSs including Zope’s Content Management Framework (CMF), Plone and EasyPublisher.  In February 2004 I demoed some of the options for Zope to Information Systems (IS).  To say they weren’t impressed is an understatement!  Just after that meeting Neil discovered that his former employers, Luton University were using a Zope based CMS that we hadn’t heard off, Silva.  I quickly installed it and we arranged to go visit them.

Compared to other CMS on offer Silva provided out-of-the-box organisational workflow which compared favourably to the community based alternatives where we would have had to develop the workflows separately which was something that would have been difficult to achieve quickly given our, then, limited Zope, Python skills.  The templating system was also very simple compared to the others and Neil and I could reproduce UCL templating very quickly.  It was also easier to build simple tools into it for template menuing etc.  It was the obvious choice for us.

IS signed up Debs Pollard in late May 2004 to give us sysadmin support for the CMS and we finally started up the live service in early 2005.  Jon Bowlas joined up shortly after as our Silva Developer and we made great progress after that.

There are now around 540 sites in Silva and we have some promising new developments on the way for 2012!  More on that in an bit.

Google Earth API

NickDawe4 June 2008

Many web developers are now familiar with Google’s Maps API – a javascript API that allows developers to embed Google maps applications into web pages. Personally I’m already a big fan of this. For instance, ‘contact-us’ pages can be made far more helpful by not only including each staff member’s address, but also graphical maps and/or directions on how to get to these locations.

Google have now integrated a number of their other applications, such as Google Mars and Google Moon. Recently they’ve also built an API for their Google Earth application, which can again be used in a Google Maps environment.

Google Earth is already a very powerful application, but the potential to manipulate it using other Google applications and APIs could have endless (and fun) possibilities. See Google’s Monster Milktruck for one example…

Google Earth Monster Milktruck screenshot

How could UCL web developers take advantage of this? As Google Earth continues to develop (especially with growing numbers of 3D models appearing inside), perhaps tours of the campus could be given? Or perhaps interactive presentations showing UCL’s international work?

There must be hundreds of other possibilities – do share them if you have any more ideas!

For more information, see

Adding a UCL theme to your blog

NickDawe27 March 2008

[EDIT – This post is now out of date. If you would like to use a UCL branded blog, please visit blogs.ucl.ac.uk for details]

We’re finding that an increasing number of UCL website administrators are looking for ways to incorporate the existing UCL website design/layout into their WordPress blogs.

Rather than trying to edit the default WordPress themes that are present immediately after an installation, UCL Web Services have produced a basic UCL WordPress theme. It meets corporate identity standards, and can easily be edited further if necessary.




NickDawe12 March 2008

If you haven’t already encountered Slideshare, it’s an incredibly useful web application that displays Powerpoint presentations over the web. No technical expertise is needed, apart from following a few simple instructions, and the results are potentially powerful, such as…

  • Synchronised audio to go with slides
  • Giving the user easy control over the presentation
  • Sharing and promoting the presentation across the web to individuals and social websites.

See below for an example…

WS Example

View SlideShare presentation or Upload your own.

To display a Slideshare presentation on your UCL website…

  • Go to http://www.slideshare.net/upload
  • Click browse and select files and follow the instructions
  • You’ll then see a note saying, “Your slideshow “WS Example” is being converted and will be published shortly. You can see its current status here.” Click on ‘here’, and you’ll be taken to a ‘My Slideshows’ page.
  • Click on the image of your presentation and you should see it appear on a new page.
  • If you want to embed this into your website, simply copy the code on the right hand side of the page (‘Embed in your blog’) and paste into your site’s HTML.