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    For years many developers have paid little or no attention to page load times and optimization. Network speeds kept constantly increasing and sites became more complex which means more code got loaded etc. This trend finally started to change a couple of years ago. One reason could be seen in the rise of mobile internet which is still not as fast as cable connections and has a different pricing model attached to it (e.g. data plans that charge for transmitted data). It suddenly became important to reduce unnecessary bloated code and become more efficient. Moreover, speed is now seen as an important usability factor for users and has implications for conversions and to some extend on Search Engine Optimization. Read more

    As part of my continuous learning efforts I am taking a course at UBC Continuing Studies with the title “Social Media Governance” (SMG). This topic is of personal interest to me and at the same time has much relevance for my job. In 2009, I wrote Social Media Guidelines for UBC Graduate Programs as part of the Graduate Recruitment Initiative of the Faculty of Graduate Studies. Since then I have been a member of 2 groups at UBC that discuss social media usage at the university. Part of the discussion is the development of university-wide social media guidelines. UBC started to use a wiki to crowd-source these guidelines which I think was a really smart idea by my colleague Adrian. Read more

    I am a devoted Drupal fan and I try to follow developments for Drupal as much as I can. There is actually too much development happening to try it all out and to stay on top of it all, but I still want to share a couple of items I think could be relevant for UBC. I will mention a couple of developments in

    • Voice over IP Services
    • Distributions
    • Ease of use
    • Video
    • Content Aggregation

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    Take a look at the UBC Place and Promise consultation documents. The documents make a lot of references to engagement with students, volunteering etc. I believe that we can learn a lot from several trends that already exist and apply it to the success of the strategic plan. Let’s just think about:

    • Personal brand
    • Gameification
    • Location-based services Read more

    I recently presented to the UBC Communication Cardinals about Search Engine Optimization. I knew before the presentation that I was overly ambitious to try tackling all the topics I wanted to discuss in just 90 minutes. I probably would have needed the whole morning to really get into the topic, including demonstrating tools such as Google Webmastertools. Consequently, I did not get to the important topic of International SEO. Here is the promised follow-up…

    SEO is already a complex topic that needs to be optimized across a variety of areas such as content creation (e.g. placement of keywords), CMS configuration (e.g. URL alias rewrite rules, metatags, redirects), server optimization (e.g. speed through various caches), page design, usability aspects and so on. But it is going to get a lot more complicated. UBC has ambitious internationalization goals which means that it will be important to make sure that our content performs well internationally to achieve the best possible organic search results. We want international media to pick up on our news releases, the academic community to find out about our research findings and prospective students to realize that we might have to offer programs for them.

    What are the additional difficulties?

    The typical assumption is that well optimized content will perform equally on a global scale. When I speak to colleagues about SEO, often the first comment is that their site is ranked on the first results page for their desired keyword, ie. no action is required. However, they have tested it only on their own computer at their own location and in their own language. In reality though, search results might be personalized and localized. Read more

    UBC Events is a great tool which lets event providers (UBC units, student associations etc.) publish their events into a central events calendar. It comes with tagging and various feeds that allow you to aggregate the content or publish content automatically on your own blog or website. The simplest use case is that you would like to follow a specific event provider or all events within a certain category. UBC Events works great for that!

    Our requirement was a little more complex and unfortunately could not yet be met out of the box through UBC Events itself, at least I did not find the solution. However, with a powerful CMS such as Drupal, the functionality can easily be extended to meet other needs.
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    It was time to create a Facebook page for our Faculty. I will basically just give a recollection of my first steps developing on Facebook and what I learned throughout this process. You can see the first results at
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    The UBC web infrastructure is decentralized and web properties are managed within individual units which consist of faculties, departments, programs, research centres, administrative units etc. It is estimates that more than 1400 websites exist under the UBC domain. Many more sites might reside outside this domain despite an affiliation with UBC. Sites can be hosted on UBC infrastructure or externally. Despite this fragmented landscape we all share some common goals:

    • Building websites that support UBC’s and unit goals, such as student recruitment, community engagement, knowledge dissemination or donor relations
    • Optimizing sites for conversions and retention
    • Improving the user experience and increasing satisfaction with our UBC web experience.

    The question is if optimization of individual websites will lead to the best results or if we should incorporate a more holistic approach to evaluate and analyze user behaviour and experience within our overall domain and network of sites? Read more

    When I started at UBC at the end of 2008, I was surprised about the absence of really good videos about UBC. But as it turned out, that assessment wasn’t correct at all. The more people I met and the more I learned about the organization, the more obvious it became that we had some good videos, but we (as in all of us at UBC) did just not publish them very well. Some videos only existed on DVDs and were played at fairs and other videos were hosted on a local webserver and streamed only on a single website that made it hard to find it – if you did not happen to specifically search all UBC sites for videos. We essentially missed out on a lot of traffic that sites like YouTube offered. Read more

    For years I had planned to explore Yahoo Pipes. It looks incredibly promising, but as so often I have not come around to spend much time with the tool. Today I intend to change this. Let’s build our first few pipes for UBC.

    What are Pipes?

    Essentially, Yahoo Pipes allows you to build data mashups in a graphial interface without any programming knowledge. It can work with a variety of source data, take user input, perform operations such as sorting, filtering etc. and output the new data in several different output formats, including badges or feeds (RSS, JSON, XML).

    Read more

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