Archive for April, 2008

What’s happening now:

April 30, 2008 1 comment

The what’s happening now module came about after listening to focus groups about the site. Some of the feedback we received was that they thought we only updated the News site a few times a day. Of course to resolve this we put in time stamps throughout the site, but it got us thinking. The result was What’s happening now (or News Feed as the working title).


The basic premise is that the feed will pick up any new article, slideshow, video or vote that’s put into the site. We also extended the feed to include editorially interesting content such as an articles first comment, whether it’s a new most popular video or simply when a piece of content has reached a certain number of views to show other users what’s engaging in the site. We also help check for breaking news every 30 seconds so you really know what’s happening now.

So far the feedback has been really good but we’re continually tweaking the metrics to balance what’s is interesting and what is overkill.

Now for the technical part. Like many portals we suffer from different content being in different places and we wanted to make it appear to be seamless from a user perspective, so we used good old SSIS.

I was a big fan of DTS in the SQL Server 7 days but SSIS is DTS on steroids. In fact after the WWOS project which dealt with extremely complex sport feeds we built a whole environment at ninemsn dedicated to using SSIS. In effect it’s an extremely cost effective flexible middleware system for us. So in this particular instance we asynchronously check our CMS, MSN and other web services for new content and place it into a table.

The news feed itself checks for the new content every 30 seconds using JSON. We use JSON throughout ninemsn due to it’s weight and speed, another one in my recommendation list.

Categories: Technology Tags: , ,

News Live

April 23, 2008 1 comment

Well we went quicker than we thought and the News site it live!

More details to come shortly, but it’s time to celebrate with a G & T

Categories: Technology Tags: ,

News 2008 beta

April 21, 2008 1 comment

Please note that this blog should not be reproduced by the media. It contains my personal views which may not reflect that of ninemsn.

After months of work we have now launch our new News site to beta!

Over the next week I’ll blog about some of the features of the new site and technical aspects but for now here’s an overview of some of the site features:

What’s happening now: A feed containing all the latest articles, video, sideshows and votes. It also includes editorially interesting elements such as the first comment or the new most popular.


The Flock: a complete rating and commenting mechanism to show what stories are important and also also their opinion (think Twitter meets Digg)


Scorecard: virtual news editor picking stories not just what we think is relevant but also based around your usage.


Best of The Web: news aggregator of latest stories from the most respected news outlets.


Overall the site has been widened and cleaned up with lots of white space. We’ve also spent a lot of time helping out our internal journos to be able to spend less time managing the site and more time building the content. This means better stories, more pictures and more video.

We’ll be running the site beta testing for less than a week and then publish to live.

We hope you like it.

Categories: Technology

Happy birthday Jackson

April 9, 2008 Leave a comment

Well today marks the first birthday of my son Jackson. I can’t believe we kept a human being alive and happy for 365 days. Thanks Jackson, it’s been a great year.


Right we’re off to the zoo.

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Latest podcasts

April 1, 2008 Leave a comment

Like all of us, time is in short supply so I love being able to catch up on the geek world whilst walking the dogs in the morning.

A couple of podcasts I liked so far this week…

The Scoop: Facebook, MySpace, Bebo defend social media – Interesting having a panel with some of the leaders of social networks. Obviously my ears prick up when they mentioned ninemsn dabbling in social tools (not as far as I can tell). I also agree that it’s very hard for us portals with the all things to all people mentality to properly build social networks, but try we will to some degree as UGC has been a great success for us over the past year.

Digital Planet: 24 March – Best part is listening to how Microsoft and AC Milan are working together on sports science. I knew that was the reason I never became a professional footballer. It wasn’t my ability…I just didn’t have the right technology!!

Oh, and whilst not a podcast, it was good to see my fiends at get featured on BBC’s Click