You are here

Move of www.inf to new technology

Project ID: 
Current stage: 

Description: Project 93 – "Future Direction for the main Informatics web..." has gone beyond its original remit, which was to investigate possible routes we could go down to improve the current web site. This project retrospectively covers what actual steps have now already been taken following that initial investigation, and what still needs to be done.

Deliverables: * Robust infrastructure for content remaining within Informatics.

* For content on Polopoly we will need to maintain local technical documentation on what we are providing in the way of DB content that is being proxied to Polopoly.

* Assuming we make the switch of the first batch of content to Polopoly, we will provide information on the (no doubt) complicated redirects forwarding old URLs to new Polopoly content.

* For Polopoly content authors, local guidance on the basics of how it works (IS run proper training, and provide documentation and support).

* For Plone, local guides/training on how best to use the Institute In A Box web site template.


Customer: The School of Informatics.

Case statement: At the time project 93 was started (2008), the University Website
Project (to move all University pages to a new content management
system called Polopoly) was in its early stages, and was not (at that
time) suitable for our needs. There were a few technical things we
needed that it did not support. Project 8 had resulted in a commodity
Plone service for research groups, and project 97 had identified a
need for an Informatics "skin" to use in Plone. This skin was
developed as part of project 93 with a view to migrating www.inf to
it. Before we got to this point, project 93 should have been re-scoped
or stopped and new project(s) started to track the progress of the new
WCMS and any migration to Polopoly, this didn't happen.

What happened was that we continued developing the Institute In A
Box Theme for Plone, and recently (due to improvements in the Polopoly
system) have migrated about 100 pages of content (not yet live) to

All this implementation has been recorded against project 93, which
has never officially gone past the "evaluation" stage. Hence the
decision to windup project 93, and instead track the actual work being
done again this new project, which would almost go straight to the
"implementation" stage.


Status: Work that is already being done and assigned to project 93, would better be assigned to this project.

Timescales: Hope to have initial Informatics content in Polopoly within a few weeks to a month.

For the other parts - unknown at this time.

Priority: High.

Time: 4 weeks FTE (as a rough estimate)



Resources: We already have one new web server hardware for the local WCMS. We may need another machine for off site redundancy.

Some amount of CO effort.

There has already been PhD effort used to migrating the initial www.inf content to Polopoly. Once that's complete it is expected that affected stake holders, eg Gradschool, will maintain/develop their content.

Plan: In this project we plan to record the work already done in transitioning Informatics web content to the new technology (both Plone and Polopoly). And what still needs to be done. For example we need help from the RAT unit to aid with generation of some new DB feeds that we can proxy into Polopoly.

As so much time has passed since we originally looked at moving to Polopoly (and ruling it out), the Polopoly service now meets some of our original requirements, and is more flexible that it once was. The UWP team are willing, and encourage, external collaboration to keep improving the service. Once we do go live with our initial content we’ll want to review how that went and if we (to make more use of central services), should continue to migrate more content.

Again going back to our choice of Plone, as so much time has passed, I think we should at least consider the option of supporting another WCMS. Last year I did a quick survey of what other schools around the University were using, there is a small clustering of Drupal and MySource Matrix users (which there wasn’t previously) and we are the only people using Plone. Within Informatics ourselves, some research people (AIAI) are running their own Drupal sites. For these reasons (and the steep learning curve that we’ve still to climbed for Plone), I think we should at least consider supporting another WCMS.

For ww.inf content that doesn’t move to Polopoly, we need to state where it will stay, and how that data will be managed, served, and made resilient against hardware failure. We have an outstanding action to detail our plans on off site duplication. This project would detail those plans.


Dependencies: Access to Informatics DB to produce the data we want to proxy into Polopoly, or give RAT unit details of what we need, and ask them to produce the conduits/data.

Support from UWP to give required access to Polopoly content providers

Risks: Currently we have started moving some www.inf content in to Plone, mainly ISS/IGS content. Should we decide that Polopoly is now suitable for this content, we will have to reimplement that content. There would not be a practical migration path to do things automatically from Plone (or probably any other WCMS) into Polopoly.



Proposed date Achieved date Name Description
2012-03-06 2010-12-30 gen 1.0 produce plan of action for the www.inf service, backups, off-site resilience. DR plan, live mirror produced and Dev. meeting informed.
2012-03-06 2011-01-30 gen 2.0 start to implement agreed www.inf resilience plans, and add further milestones to enumerate the various steps to complete. Not sure if things were "agreed", but DR plan published and implemented.
2010-09-21 2010-09-09 gen 3.0 check/discuss if we should reconsider Drupal/MySource Matrix to leverage local knowledge. Meeting arranged to make a final decision on the 9th of sept.
Had this meeting and an subsquent one. Drupal looks likely, but we'll try it out on the Documentation web site/project before finally committing.
2012-03-27 2011-03-30 gen 4.0 Plone performance improvements.
Not going to happen unless it becomes an issue, concentrate on Drupal.
2010-09-15 2010-06-30 gen 5.0 Investigate intermittent HTTPS mis-caching problems. This has started, and we believe it is an apache problem. An updated apache has been installed. Won't resolve this until we know if its made a difference.
The new apache hasn't solved the problem. A new milestone, gen 5.1 to track the next attempt to solve.
2010-04-05 2010-03-19 pol 1.0 Decide on the final content for first phase of move to Polopoly
2010-04-29 2010-03-19 pol 2.0 Get that final content ready for previewing by stake holders.
2010-05-17 2010-03-19 pol 3.0 Any final tweaks/changes as a result of that preview.
2012-05-30 2010-12-19 pol 4.0 Stake holders need to agree their responsibilities for keeping their content up to date. Restart this process. Too much time has passed. We want to produce a list of fairly coarse top level-ish polopoly URLs and a have a name/unit against each one to indicate who's responsible for it. This is now listed on the project web page on the wiki.
2012-05-08 2010-12-30 plone 1.0 setup plone instance on current www.inf hardware (wafer). Proper headers and factored out plone-server.h. Will be live after next stable release.
2010-12-07 2010-12-30 plone 2.0 move iss, pgrguide, and probably institute sites to plone on wafer. Done, see
2012-03-26 2010-12-30 plone 3.0 Upgrade plone to latest version, improved Help Center and collage products. This is not likely to happen. Concentrating on Drupal. If it does, it will be part of the SL6 upgrade.
2012-05-07 2011-02-28 gen 2.8 complete agreed www.inf resilience plans
2010-06-01 2010-06-15 pol 4.5 Produce documention of what we've done for polop and how it works. At URL, covers the technical stuff.
2010-05-27 2010-05-26 pol 5.0 First phase goes live, with redirects from www.inf to new location/content
2011-03-21 2010-12-01 gen 5.1 New apache didn't solve HTTPS miscaches. Some anecdotal evidence that the HTTPS URLs are not affected by the problem. Do some further investigation to try and pin point the cause.

Turned out to be a bug in Zope, which they now know about the patch hasn't been applied, but setting threads=1 in the zope.conf also seems to have stopped the problem.

2010-11-24 2010-11-30 era 1.0 Add link to staff individual page with link to ERA, Publications Repository, publications. Probably do via a CGI to start with as proof of concept. Done, see as an example.