unreasonable behaviour leads to edubuzz / Bloglines split

Sadly, it’s time for eduBuzz and Bloglines to have at least a trial separation, if not a permanent split.

Feed aggregators like Bloglines are a good thing, making it easy for people to keep an eye on lots of blogs. But if their attention brings the site down in the process, that’s not so good. That’s more like a Denial of Service attack, as Matt has observed.

Unfortunately we’ve reached the point where we have no choice but to block the Bloglines crawler. It’s imposing such an excessive load on the site, at such regular intervals, that the service to school users is being unacceptably degraded. Often it’s so been bad that the only way out has been to power cycle the server, and that has led to more time wasted repairing damaged database tables. Our record to date is 77 concurrent connections. A bit of research has shown that, with work, our server could be configured to throttle back these connections. But scrabbling up that learning curve isn’t the most productive use of our time.

For reasons best known to Bloglines, these connections arrive mob-handed. Maybe if they trickled away in the background things would be fine? We’ve tried contacting Bloglines, but, like others before us, have found they don’t respond to emails. James Farmer got a response from a helpful Bloglines engineer but unfortunately he’s moved on.

I’m disappointed to have to do this, as I have been using Bloglines since around 2000 and still think it’s a good product. If you’re disappointed too, why not let them know. They might listen to their own survey results…

Sector Skills Councils provide good careers pointers

ssda logoOne of the many things I’ve missed over the past few years has been the set-up of the Sector Skills Development Agency.  What I learned today, via Edinburgh Chamber of Commerce‘s Education Policy Group, is that their 25 Sector Skills Councils, set up to manage skills within industry sectors, provide a great source of skills information for specific careers.

Examples include:

In each case I’ve looked at, the web sites include a section for those interested in developing careers in the sector.  It’s the sort of thing that could be very useful in helping support course choices.

Frank Tindall’s Memoirs: a source of locally relevant contexts?

One of the principles for curriculum design under A Curriculum for Excellence is relevance. From a chance discovery in a local bookshop I’ve found a book that has potential to provide relevant local contexts for a wide range of curricular areas.

Relevance: Young people should understand the purposes of their activities. They should see the value of what they are learning and its relevance to their lives, present and future. link

The book, Memoirs and Confessions of a County Planning Officer by the late Frank Tindall, tells the story of the development of East Lothian from 1950 onwards. With a title like that, it’s not an obvious choice for the school library shelf – but it brings East Lothian’s recent history to life in a way I’ve never encountered before in more than 20 years living here.

Some topics covered include:

  • depopulation and measures taken to address it, including bringing “overspill” from Glasgow
  • flooding of the river Tyne, and work done in response
  • mineral resources, including coal and limestone
  • coastal conservation, including removal of wartime defences
  • the development of the ranger service and tourism

Somehow picking these out doesn’t do full justice to the book, though, because it makes it sound like a geography text and it’s not like that at all. It’s written as a series of stories, and you meet the characters involved. There’s endless East Lothian trivia, of course – where else could you find out where the rock went from the hole in Traprain Law, for example?

Because there are stories about every area of East Lothian, it has unusual potential to provide “hooks” for new curricular developments which are locally relevant and interesting. In many areas it would be possible, for example, to look at what the planners intended and see how things are working out now.

Reducing eduBuzz subscriptions via Bloglines?

Have you subscribed to any eduBuzz blogs via Bloglines? Do you still use it? If not, maybe you could do us a favour and delete those subscriptions?

Over the past few weeks the edubuzz service has occasionally been grinding to a halt. On those occasions, server memory resources have become exhausted, and a server restart has been necessary.

This has happened often enough now for a pattern to be apparent. On each occasion when the server load becomes excessive, there are very large numbers of internet connections from the Bloglines crawler. Tonight, for example, when it became necessary to restart there were 77 concurrent internet connections from Bloglines, almost half the connections in use. I’ve tried reporting this to Bloglines before, but didn’t get an answer.

There should be no need for Bloglines to demand updates from eduBuzz unless they’ve got users who have subscribed to eduBuzz blogs. Maybe if we can identify and get rid of redundant Bloglines subscriptions we can improve things, without having to block Bloglines?