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Showing posts from April, 2012

Automatically Creating Google Homework Sites

We had an interesting Google Sites idea for teaching get floated yesterday....
Q. Could you automatically create a Google Site for a list of students that only they and their tutor can see? Also, at a given time could the students' permission be changed from "writer" to "reader" when the deadline had arrived? It'd be good if you could use a Template Site so that the site could be set up with the right pages and prompts to begin with.
With the GData API it is possible. Here's an example python script that shows how... First, load the libraries. You may need to download these if you don't have them already.

import gdata.sites.client
from time import sleep

I then created lots of stub functions in the hope that I could better understand how the API works. The problem ( for me ) here was that ...

a. This code uses a now old fashioned means of connecting to the API. If this was going to be "real code" we…

Application Building For The Rest Of Us?

I meet lots of people at the University who want technology to help them with their work. With some people it's often a case of introducing them to something we already offer and/or guiding them through doing things a new way.

But often what people really want is bespoke custom software development. They don't want an off-the-shelf technology, because in many cases, it just isn't a good enough fit. They don't want a wiki or a blog but instead they might need a simple web app that does a simple thing.

The Problem With Custom Development I'm a big fan of the idea of everyone being able to make their own software, not because I want everyone to become geeks, but instead I want making software to become easy enough for everyone to be able to do it.
One of the problems with developments is knowing where to start. At the moment the University offers a MySQL, CGI and PHP service which allows you to work within certain parameters. With these tools you could, in theory…

Scraping The Festival of Ideas, June 2012

I noticed something on Twitter about the University's Festival of Ideas and thought I'd take a look at the events listing. Not long ago, the Web Office used to put microformat information in web pages so that I could easily add events to my calendar... Either they've stopped doing that, or it's stopped working, so I thought how easy would it be to grab the events listed and add them to my (or a separate calendar).

In order to do this, I'd need to...

Scrape the HTML from the web page and find the event dataConnect to Google Calendar and add the events found

Because I like programming in python, the first thing I did was to go get the latest copy of BeautifulSoup, which is a library that is unbelievably handy for scraping data out of HTML and also Google GData which lets me talk to Google Calendar.

I so I began...

import urllib, urlparse, gdata, time, datetime
from bs4 import BeautifulSoup
import atom
import gdata.calendar
import gdata.calendar.service

... and loaded the …

The Blogger vs Wordpress debate

I have had four people THIS WEEK (and it's only Wednesday) come to me to ask about the University of York's blogging options... that we don't have.

The Social Policy Research Unit wanted to start blogging this week, so I showed them Blogger. Within minutes they'd created a blog, mimicked their dept's colours and added the logo and started adding content. Interestingly, to me, they're using tags/labels to manage the main navigation.

Wordpress. We Simply Don't Have The Manpower There are two compelling arguments FOR Wordpress. People know, use and like it and from a branding perspective - it is easy to create "York Blogs" with a locked down design created by the Web Office.
We have been looking at both internally hosted Wordpress and buying a Wordpress service from The result of this seems to be that we don't have the man power to host Wordpress ourselves ( and also back it up, running a development/test version AND keep…

Just a test.

Nothing to see here move along please. Although do come back. You never know.

This blog is an experiment to see how, using minimal intervention, a York brand echo can be achieved. After attempting to hide the "Next Blog" link in the navbar and failed, I have simply hidden the navbar. I did make it fade out and fade in when your mouse went to the top of the screen, but having a random "Next Blog" link is simply not acceptable. Come on Google, sort this out!

I have attempted to replicate the IT Services colours, but how close to the real site this blog SHOULD be is moot.

The aim here is just to see if all of this is possible.