Preston Lodge High School celebrates 3 years of

This month Preston Lodge High School in Prestonpans, East Lothian has been celebrating the first 3 years of

It runs on East Lothian’s WordPress MU blog system, and has grown to become a family of over 30 blogs supporting most departments in the school.

Starting with just two main sites – the main site, and ‘Today @ PLHS’ – the daily notices for use in school, we now have around 30 contributing sites from subject sites, to yearbooks, to pupil web jotters, is a vast network of contributors from around the school. By far the largest portion of has over 120 teachers, pupils and office staff adding to the site almost daily.

If you’ve been wondering how well a portfolio of blogs might match up to the needs of your secondary school, this is definitely one that’s worth a look.

Out of curiosity, I’ve just gathered some usage statistics over the 3-year period. Here’s an overview of page views per month over that time: Gets Easier to Use

Screenshot of the new edubuzz interfaceIt’s become even easier to get publishing on following today’s upgrade to Version 1.5.1 of its WordPress MU software.

The interface redesign is the result of a lot of work by the WordPress community, including extensive usability testing. First impressions are good, but we’ll need to do some checks to see how students and staff react. Some differences bloggers will notice:

  • a more up-to-date appearance
  • a new arrangement for adding media
  • the confusing term “slug” has been replaced with Permalink:…/ Edit
  • a full-screen editor facility has been added
  • “Timestamp” has been replaced with Publish immediately…/Edit

Testing is still under way, but so far at least things seem to be going well.  An existing bug with creation of new blogs, which was leading to login difficulties under Internet Explorer, has also been fixed with this update, although a few existing faulty blogs still need to be fixed.

Update:  There’s an issue with inserting images in posts. I’ve encountered it under Firefox, but have found it’s working OK under Internet Explorer 7. Thought things were going too well…

How To Change An Early WPMU Database from latin1 to utf8 Encoding.

I’ve written a note on how to do this, which is on a separate page was one of the early WordPress Multi-User (WPMU) sites.  It started off with Version 1.0 Release Candidate 4 of the WPMU software. The way WPMU encoded tables within the database changed in later versions, and needed changed. This has proved an extremely time-consuming exercise, and the note is an attempt to save others some time if they encounter the same problem. offer some new customisable themes

If you’re thinking it’s time your edubuzz blog got a makeover, you’ll find there are now a few more themes to choose from.

These are themes that have been shared by James Farmer of, and many have customisable header images.  The ability to customise the header is proving a key feature for schools, classes and students so these are welcome additions.

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…

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?

eduBuzz service news

An order is now being processed for an upgrade to the edubuzz server. This will mainly provide :

  • more disk space, mainly needed for storage of uploaded files such as images, audio and video
  • more memory capacity, to handle increasing numbers of users

Disk space on the current server is being used up at an ever-increasing rate.

There’s an ongoing education job to be done in reminding people not to upload huge, high-resolution image files just to illustrate blog posts. This is all part of the process of learning about using the web in the classroom, though, and perhaps to be expected at this stage.

It’s not unusual to find image files of 2MB embedded in blog posts, even though these will take over 5 minutes to load on a typical dial-up connection. This is something we maybe should have spent time on in training sessions, where we’ve tried to concentrate on using the tools, and have probably tended to avoid discussion of file size issues. We’re not alone, though: it’s clear from discussion forums that other WordPress sites have the same problem.

If you’re reading this and wondering how to avoid the problem, our advice is to avoid creating a big image in the first place. You can do this by setting your camera to take a low-resolution image. For class web use, a JPEG (.jpg)  image file will usually be around 20KB to 50KB, depending on what it contains.  About 400 to 500 pixels wide is adequate.

If you’ve already taken a large image, web sites like offer a free,  easy-to-use resizing service. You just browse to the image on your computer, upload it, choose the size you want, and download the resized file.