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Jisc Digifest 2023

It’s the first time I’ve been to a live-action conference since the pandemic. Getting a lanyard was oddly validating.


Octopus is something that feels very important to me— it’s a Jisc service which aims to provide an alternate research publishing system which splits up the traditional paper into many linked parts which can be created by different people at different times. It’s controversial and can only possibly work if the researchers feel pressure to use It. To succeed this probably needs carrots (linked to staff promotions, reputation, better tools etc) and sticks (funder mandates) .

I rather talked the ear off anybody who would listen to my ideas for this but the big ones are:

  • Overlay journals similar to what exist on Arxiv where a curated and peer reviewed set of items is presented through a portal but uses the Octopus system as it’s back-end.
  • Subject portals that provide more value to visualise datasets etc. for specific known subjects
  • Automatic analysis and processing— we should tag datasets so tools can know they meet a specification and then researchers can create tools could create value-add automatically … eg detect all files in a crystallography mark-up format and render than as 2D & 3D images and upload that as a linked dataset.

I think understanding that we probably need some deeper levels of dataset metadata than the library level. We need metadata that can help us auto-discover data that conforms to certain standards and formats. I wrote a post about this some time ago: The Research Data Onion


This is the vendor for the fancy touch screens we have in our office. It was nice to learn a few new features — there’s an app for laptops and phones that can do some things. I’m not sure if we’d use these features, but it’s good to learn about these things if only to pass on to colleagues and researchers who may benefit.

I was a bit disappointed that my drag-to-open web browsing experiment didn’t work on it but I think that’s probably just some faffing in JS libraries to make it work.

Equipment data relaunch was an idea that I had around a decade ago and we built at Southampton. We handed it over to Jisc but they failed to keep their promises to maintain and improve it, and let it slowly degrade. However I’m very proud that my autodiscovery system kept it ticking over sustainably for many years.

More recently they did some research and found people really wanted it to be refreshed so they’ve invested in that and that’s great news. They no longer accept RDF as a format so currently Southampton has zero records, but I’ll be fixing that up soon.

They said they still do the auto discovery step, but that used RDF so I’m not sure about that and aim to learn more. It’s a little hard seeing something I feel personally was “my baby” getting no references to the people who first created it but the idea is more important than the credit.

Sue Black and International Women’s Day

The second day of the event was international women’s day and the keynote was from Sue Black who told the story of how she became an influential professor of computer science. She switched life path relatively late into academia and I wonder how many people have the same difficult first half of the story then never have the happy ending that Sue did.

Jisc staff

I think my favourite part of the event was meeting all the new Jisc staff. Very few remember me from the EPrints & Dev8D eras. Many I spoke to only joined post-pandemic!

I was careful to only have 2 coffees each day but was probably still a bit stream-of-conciousness enthusiasm and ideas at a few of them.

I’m hoping to rebuild all those connections that have frayed over the years.

Long ago I wrote a couple of blog posts about the change from JISC to Jisc which modern Jisc people might find interesting context on the history of that change from the perspective of an outsider looking in: Twilight of the JISC, Jisc: Regeneration or Rebranding.

The Event App

Sigh, why is this still an issue in 2023… I feel we’re going backwards rather than forwards on tools for attending events.

The app for the festival was very bad. First of all, why an app and not a website?

It was clunky and slow. The UI for the programme just showed a list of events making it hard to see what clashed. If you moved off the app and back it lost state and had to refresh. The programme can just be on a public website, the app was pointless for that. It had alerts which turned out to just be various events starting – but you had to click the “alerts” button. It had a way to scan other delegates QR codes to create a link with them but it was a learning curve and not really worth it.

I’ve put a lot of thought into event programmes and still think that what Jisc should do is standardise event programmes to a nice file format. Maybe a JSON file based on ideas from the exploration we once did of the idea …  and here’s a Jisc event I marked up using that in 2010.

What they should then do is provide a nice web interface to that, but encourage delegates to make better interfaces and apps that use the programme data. Then encourage other events in the sector to do the same, and foster a decent ecosystem of tools rather than this everything-in-one-crap-app would that 2023 has landed us with.

What the open data approach can’t do is the people-linking side of the app, due to GDPR. But neither could the app, and a good old fashioned twitter hashtag might have been more useful to make contacts.

Because the UI for the programme was muddled and it wasn’t easy to see slot start times at a glance I missed two sessions due to chatting to someone and not realising something was starting.

There should have been a big timetable grid in the reception area showing everything over the two days clearly in a proper grid format.


I did well passing my saving-throw-vs-pastries.

The food was all vegan and vegetarian which was an interesting choice and generally pretty good.

The venue had many locations with coffee cups and each had a person standing by them saying “don’t get the coffee from here”. The shear labour of 3 people who had to direct me until I got to the one location with coffee— why didn’t they just give those people jugs of coffee OR not put mugs in lots of locations they were not serving from??

The drinks reception was quite amusing due to the sudden change to disco lighting and banging techno. The choice of beer was Coors or Punk IPA 0%. That was a bit lame but I guess I wasn’t paying, so gift horses and all that…

Networking (the kind where you talk to humans in person)

Overall meeting other delegates who did similar work to my team was almost impossible. I talked to lots of random people but they were all either Jisc staff, vendors or working in education. Our team focusses on research, so while I met many nice interesting people I feel I failed to make many contacts with actual peers.

I feel that the event organisers probably felt that the app was enough of a solution and it just wasn’t, but no other routes had been provided.

The name tags were not suitable to tell people’s professional role at a glance. Lots of us have long job descriptions and if so the font was scaled down. My name & university was nice and readable but my job is tiny. I don’t need to read people’s university on their name tag — I want to know their role/reason for going as they key decider on who to strike up conversations with.

I ended up having dinner with people from my own university. It was great to get to know them better but also a fail for a networking event. I really feel I missed out not arranging to be part of a larger group of people getting to know each other from various institutions.

  • Things that would have helped:
    a way to state things you’d like to network about before the event, and add your name to other people’s interests
  • Better ways to tell at a glance who might be a peer (stickers, different lanyard/card colours, better design of name cards).
  • some kind of unconference element – a way to pitch some things and find other people’s interests

We’ve all come a long way and talking to each other would have been valuable. People sat alone a lot. Sure some probably needed downtime, but I saw many people walking around half heartedly trying to make connections but not having any support from the event. I used to know lots of people and there was a community that could make introductions for new people, but now those networks have eroded due to turnover during the pandemic years and that’s a problem.

Networking (The kind where I used to use Twitter)

I didn’t use Twitter for this event as I’ve largely stopped using it since it became far more toxic, but I really missed it. I used to provide far more rewarding peer to peer experience than any of the more modern solutions I’ve seen. Although in-person pen-and-paper solutions work well too.

Looking at the hashtag there’s a good few tweets and, importantly, still a good number of responses to tweets showing there’s still some community there, not just people shouting into the void.

Maybe I’m cutting my nose off to spite my face, and I should consider going back to using Twitter for events like this until someone invents a decent alternative way to peer to peer chat with delegates at an event?

I think I’ll tweet this blog post which’ll make it my first tweek in about 9 months.

Networking (The kind where you use EduRoam)

I found the free eduroam wifi at the event to be unusable and resorted to using tethering on my phone instead. Not great, but not the disaster it would have been before tethering was an easy option.


The programme was very much focussed on panel discussions and the dreaded sponsored-sessions. It lacked any discussion/debate sessions. Perhaps that is deliberate, and the event is intended to be “Jisc and vendors talk to the delegates, it’s not our problem to facilitate the delegates talking to each other”, but it would be more worth going to if they reconsidered this. The satellite meeting rooms were empty much of the time and could have been used for so sessions maybe?

It was well worth attending but I could have got more value out of it if there’s been more effort to help the delegates make connections and a better way to read the programme.

Posted in Events, Jisc, twitter.

AI Chatbot Experiments 2

Some things I tried earlier in the weeks seem to be nerfed and now it refuses to make some spurious links. It won’t justify false things anymore or make famous people sound bad… but it’s still clearly being tweaked and the ways they are nerfing it are like an adult explaining inappropriate outbursts to a child.

It’s still excellent at making RPG scenarios. You can give it a bunch of facts then use that as context. I also wondered about the educational things you could use it for.

Larger bold text is what I told the AI to do. Itallics like this are my comments. Normal paragraph text is the AI output.

explain the monty hall problem and how it works in a conversation between rick and morty:

Rick: Hey Morty, do you want to play a game?

Morty: What kind of game, Rick?

Rick: It’s called the Monty Hall problem. It’s a classic probability puzzle.

Morty: Okay, I’m game. How do we play?

Rick: So here’s the setup. Imagine that you’re a contestant on a game show and there are three doors in front of you. Behind one of the doors is a prize, and behind the other two are goats.

Morty: Gross, Rick. Why would anyone want to win a goat?

Rick: It’s just an example, Morty. The point is that you have to choose one of the doors, and then the host of the game show opens one of the other doors to reveal a goat.

Morty: Okay, I get it. So then I have to choose between the door that I picked and the other one that hasn’t been opened yet.

Rick: Exactly. The question is, do you stick with your original choice, or do you switch to the other door?

Morty: I don’t know, Rick. It seems like it doesn’t matter either way.

Rick: That’s where you’re wrong, Morty. The Monty Hall problem shows that you have a better chance of winning if you switch doors.

Morty: Really? How does that work?

Rick: Well, think about it. When you choose a door, you have a 1/3 chance of picking the right one. But once the host reveals a goat behind one of the other doors, the odds change. The prize is either behind the door you originally chose, or it’s behind the other door that hasn’t been opened yet. And since the host wouldn’t reveal a goat behind the door with the prize, the probability that the prize is behind the other door increases to 2/3. So by switching doors, you increase your chances of winning from 1/3 to 2/3.

Morty: Wow, Rick. That’s really cool. I never would have thought of that.

Rick: Yeah, that’s the power of probability, Morty. It’s all about understanding how the odds change based on new information.

describe the script to the monty python “wave/particle experiment” sketch

[this didn’t provide anything educational but its amazing]

The script for the Monty Python “Wave/Particle Experiment” sketch is as follows:

Narrator: This is a scientific experiment to determine whether light behaves as a wave or as a particle.

[A scientist stands in front of a blackboard, holding a piece of chalk.]

Scientist: Now, we know that light behaves as a wave under certain conditions and as a particle under others.

[The scientist draws a wave on the blackboard.]

Scientist: This is a wave.

[The scientist draws a particle next to the wave.]

Scientist: And this is a particle.

[The scientist looks puzzled and scratches his head.]

Scientist: But what happens when we try to determine whether light is a wave or a particle at the same time?

[The scientist draws a wave/particle hybrid on the blackboard.]

Scientist: This is a wave/particle.

[The scientist looks even more confused and rubs his eyes.]

Scientist: But what if the observer’s perception of the light affects the outcome of the experiment?

[The scientist draws a wave/particle/observer on the blackboard.]

Scientist: This is a wave/particle/observer.

[The scientist looks completely bewildered and drops the chalk.]

Scientist: But what if the observer’s perception of the light is influenced by the observer’s own mental state?

[The scientist draws a wave/particle/observer/mind on the blackboard.]

Scientist: This is a wave/particle/observer/mind.

[The scientist collapses to the floor in a heap of confusion and despair.]

Narrator: The experiment has reached its limit of complexity. The scientist has been overwhelmed by the paradoxical nature of the wave/particle phenomenon.

[The camera zooms in on the blackboard, revealing the wave/particle/observer/mind drawing.]

Narrator: This is the wave/particle/observer/mind drawing, the final representation of the experiment’s findings. It remains a mystery whether light behaves as a wave or as a particle, and whether the observer’s perception and mental state affect the outcome of the experiment.

[The camera fades to black, and the sketch ends.]

describe the transcript of a simulated conversation between Richard Feynman made the case for universal basic income , and jordan peterson opposed it. {on the star trek holodeck, with picard, data and worf. picard, worf and data comment to each other frequently about the debate but not to peterson or feynman.}

[I tweaked this a few times to get an output I liked]


[Picard, Data, Worf, Feynman, and Peterson are standing on the holodeck, in front of a simulated audience.]

Picard: Welcome, everyone, to this simulated debate on the topic of universal basic income. We have two esteemed guests with us today: Dr. Richard Feynman, who will be arguing in favor of universal basic income, and Dr. Jordan Peterson, who will be arguing against it.

Data: Captain, for those who may not be familiar with the concept, could you provide a brief explanation of universal basic income?

Picard: Of course, Data. Universal basic income is a proposal to provide a regular, unconditional cash payment to all members of a society, regardless of their income or employment status. The goal is to provide a guaranteed minimum standard of living and reduce poverty.

Worf: This idea seems unlikely to succeed. It is not in the nature of humans to accept handouts without earning them.

Picard: That is a valid point, Worf. However, Dr. Feynman and Dr. Peterson will be presenting their arguments and evidence on the subject, and we will let the audience decide.

Feynman: Thank you, Captain Picard. I believe that universal basic income is a necessary and important policy for addressing the challenges of our changing economy. With the rise of automation and artificial intelligence, many jobs are being replaced by machines, leading to increased unemployment and income inequality.

Peterson: But, Dr. Feynman, that is a false premise. The rise of automation has actually led to increased productivity and economic growth, which has created new jobs and opportunities.

Feynman: That may be true in some cases, Dr. Peterson, but there are also many workers who are being left behind and struggling to find employment. Universal basic income would provide them with a stable income and allow them to pursue education and training to improve their skills and find new jobs.

Peterson: But, Dr. Feynman, universal basic income is a flawed and unrealistic idea. It would require significant government funding, which would need to be paid for by increased taxes on the working population. This would reduce their incentives to work and create a dependency on government assistance.

Feynman: That is a valid concern, Dr. Peterson, but universal basic income could also be funded by redirecting existing welfare programs and reducing administrative costs. Furthermore, providing a guaranteed income would empower individuals to make choices about their own lives and careers, rather than being forced to accept low-paying and insecure jobs.

Peterson: But, Dr. Feynman, universal basic income would not address the root causes of poverty and unemployment. It would merely provide a temporary band-aid solution, without addressing the underlying structural issues.

Feynman: That may be true, Dr. Peterson, but universal basic income would provide immediate relief to those who are struggling to make ends meet. It would also create a more stable and equitable society, where everyone has access to basic necessities and opportunities for growth.

Picard: Thank you, Dr. Feynman and Dr. Peterson, for presenting your arguments on this complex and controversial topic. The decision on whether to implement universal basic income is ultimately up to the audience and the society.

transcript of star trek tng. The first line is a paraphrase of “Picard: Computer, please summarise the long term impacts of Brexit on the United Kingdom and wider world, giving a timeline of the major events” {write this from the perspective of the year 2400 and describe impacts each decade up to 2100}

Picard: Computer, please summarize the long-term impacts of Brexit on the United Kingdom and wider world, giving a timeline of the major events.

Computer: In the decades following the Brexit vote, the United Kingdom faced significant challenges as it negotiated its withdrawal from the European Union. The negotiations were fraught with complications and delays, leading to a period of economic uncertainty and instability.

In the 2030s, the UK finally completed its withdrawal from the EU, but the resulting trade agreements were unfavorable and led to a decline in the country’s global influence and economic power.

In the 2040s, the UK faced further challenges as it struggled to adapt to a rapidly changing global economy and the rise of new technologies. The country’s education and training systems were inadequate to meet the demands of the changing workforce, leading to high levels of unemployment and inequality.

In the 2050s, the UK experienced a resurgence as it embraced new technologies and innovations, but the country was still grappling with the legacy of Brexit and its impact on the global economy. The UK remained a significant player on the global stage, but its influence was diminished compared to its pre-Brexit status.

In the 2060s, the UK continued to face challenges as it struggled to adapt to the increasingly interconnected global economy. The country’s economy remained stagnant, and its political system was plagued by instability and division.

In the 2070s, the UK’s fortunes began to improve as it focused on building strong partnerships and alliances with other countries. The country’s economy began to grow again, and its political system became more stable and cohesive.

In the 2080s, the UK emerged as a leader in the fields of technology and innovation, leveraging its strengths in education and research to drive economic growth and global influence. The country’s political system continued to evolve and adapt to the changing world, and the legacy of Brexit became less and less relevant.

In the 2090s and beyond, the UK continued to thrive and prosper, building on its strengths in technology and innovation to become a major global power. The country’s economy continued to grow, and its political system remained stable and effective. The legacy of Brexit became a distant memory, and the UK continued to play a significant role on the global stage.

Overall, the long-term impacts of Brexit on the United Kingdom and the wider world were significant, but not necessarily negative. The country faced challenges and setbacks, but it ultimately emerged stronger and more resilient as a result of the Brexit process.

It’s also amazing at RPG scenarios and NPCs….

please describe in detail several NPCs for an RPG set in the Wild West except people think chickens can talk. Give each a meaningful connection to the chicken subplot.

  1. Jack “Chicken Whisperer” Jenkins: Jack is a skilled rancher who has a special ability to communicate with chickens. He is often sought out by other ranchers for advice on how to handle their chicken flocks.
  2. Mary “Feather” Johnson: Mary is a young girl who lost her parents in a raid on their ranch. She was taken in by Jack, who taught her how to communicate with chickens. She now helps him on his ranch and is known for her gentle touch with the birds.
  3. Tom “Rooster” Thompson: Tom is a former gunslinger who was forced to retire after losing his hearing in a gunfight. He now runs a small farm where he raises chickens and communicates with them using hand gestures.
  4. Sarah “Egg” Evans: Sarah is a saloon owner who learned how to talk to chickens from her mother, who was a chicken farmer. She often uses her ability to communicate with the birds to gather information and solve problems in the town.
  5. Bill “Cluck” Brown: Bill is a notorious outlaw who is wanted in several states for his crimes. He has a knack for taming wild chickens and often uses them as accomplices in his robberies.

please describe each decade of bill’s life. Bill lives for 100 years.

  1. The 1910s: Bill is born in 1910 and spends his early years growing up on a farm. He learns how to work the land and takes care of the chickens on the farm.
  2. The 1920s: Bill becomes a teenager and starts to rebel against his parents. He often sneaks out at night to go to parties and get into mischief.
  3. The 1930s: Bill leaves the farm and starts working in the city. He gets involved in the criminal underworld and starts committing small crimes.
  4. The 1940s: Bill becomes a full-fledged outlaw and starts committing bigger crimes. He becomes known for his quick reflexes and ability to outsmart the law.
  5. The 1950s: Bill becomes a wanted man and has to constantly stay on the move to avoid capture. He continues to commit crimes and becomes known as one of the most notorious outlaws in the Wild West.
  6. The 1960s: Bill starts to slow down and starts to focus on staying hidden and avoiding capture. He becomes more careful and strategic in his criminal activities.
  7. The 1970s: Bill starts to feel the effects of old age and starts to retreat from the criminal world. He spends his time on his small farm, taking care of his chickens and living a quiet life.
  8. The 1980s: Bill becomes a recluse and rarely leaves his farm. He spends most of his time tending to his chickens and reflecting on his life.
  9. The 1990s: Bill reaches the age of 90 and starts to suffer from various health problems. He spends his days in bed, reminiscing about his life and the adventures he had in the Wild West.
  10. The 2000s: Bill passes away at the age of 100, surrounded by his chickens and the memories of his long and eventful life.

Please use the ghost of Bill as the basis for a cyberpunk call of cthulhu scenario. use as much detail as possible from bills life and death to add colour to the story. It must reveal the secret of the chickens.

In the year 2077, the city of New Los Angeles is a bustling metropolis filled with advanced technology and neon lights. Amidst the chaos and noise of the city, a small group of investigators are drawn to the old farmhouse on the outskirts of town.

As they enter the dilapidated building, they are greeted by the ghost of Bill, a notorious outlaw from the Wild West who lived and died on this very farm. Bill tells the investigators about his life as a gunslinger and his adventures in the Wild West. He also tells them about his love for chickens and his ability to communicate with them.

As the investigators explore the old farmhouse, they discover that Bill’s ghost is not the only strange presence in the building. They also encounter a group of sentient chickens who are seeking revenge against the humans who have mistreated them for centuries.

The chickens reveal that they have been manipulating events in the city for decades, using their psychic abilities to control the minds of the people. They reveal that they have been working towards a singular goal: to overthrow the humans and take control of the city.

As the investigators face off against the chickens and their mind-controlled minions, they must use their knowledge of Bill’s life and the secrets of the chickens to uncover the truth and put a stop to the chickens’ plans.

In the end, the investigators must confront the leader of the chickens and discover the truth about their abilities and motivations. With the help of Bill’s ghost, they must find a way to defeat the chickens and save the city from their wrath.

Suggest the names, descriptions and relationships for a group of player characters in the cyberpunk CoC scenario.

  1. Jake “Neon” Jones: Jake is a young and ambitious hacker who is always looking for the next big score. He is skilled in cybernetics and can hack into almost any system.
  2. Alice “Shadow” Smith: Alice is a former soldier who now works as a mercenary for hire. She is tough and disciplined, and is not afraid to use violence to solve problems.
  3. Samantha “Synth” Taylor: Samantha is a synth, a human-like machine created to serve as a personal assistant. She is incredibly intelligent and has advanced programming that allows her to learn and adapt to new situations.
  4. Marcus “Steel” Lee: Marcus is a cyborg who was involved in a terrible accident that left him with heavy metal implants and cybernetic enhancements. He is strong and durable, but struggles with his new identity as a machine.
  5. Daniel “Scream” Williams: Daniel is a psychic who can read the thoughts and emotions of others. He is highly empathic and is often overwhelmed by the intensity of the emotions he experiences.

The group is drawn together by their shared interest in uncovering the truth about the chickens and their plans for the city. They have a diverse range of skills and abilities that they use to uncover clues and solve puzzles. They work together, supporting each other and using their unique abilities to overcome obstacles and fight against the chickens.

give a sample of actual gameplay where the players dramatically lose the scenario. The survivors should envy the dead.

As the group of investigators enter the old farmhouse, they are immediately confronted by the mind-controlled humans who are under the control of the chickens. The group fights bravely, using their skills and abilities to try and take down the minions.

However, the chickens are too powerful and quickly overwhelm the group. Jake is killed by a mind-controlled human, Alice is killed by a chicken’s psychic attack, and Samantha is damaged beyond repair by the chickens’ attacks.

Marcus and Daniel are the only ones left alive, but they are both severely injured and unable to fight. They are captured by the chickens and taken to their lair deep within the farmhouse.

As the survivors are held captive by the chickens, they realize that there is no way for them to escape. They are at the mercy of the chickens, who plan to use them as experiments to further their plans for domination.

The survivors are forced to watch as the chickens perform gruesome experiments on them, causing them immense pain and suffering. As they suffer, they envy the dead members of their group who were able to escape the horrors of the chickens’ experiments.

In the end, the survivors are left with nothing but their pain and regret, knowing that they failed to stop the chickens and prevent the destruction of the city. They are left to wonder if anyone will ever come to rescue them, or if they will be left to suffer at the hands of the chickens forever.

please describe a transcript.

[The transcript begins with a conversation between two characters, Jake and Alice, who are investigating the old farmhouse on the outskirts of New Los Angeles.]

Jake: Alright, let’s go in and see what we can find.

Alice: Be careful, Jake. We don’t know what we’re dealing with here.

Jake: Don’t worry, Alice. I can handle anything those chickens throw at us.

[As they enter the farmhouse, they are immediately confronted by a group of mind-controlled humans.]

Jake: Whoa, what the hell are these guys?

Alice: They’re being controlled by the chickens. They’re psychic, remember?

Jake: Right, right. Let’s take them down.

[The group fights the mind-controlled humans, using their skills and abilities to try and take them down. However, the chickens are too powerful and quickly overwhelm the group.]

Jake: Ahh, I’m hit!

Alice: Jake, no!

[Jake is killed by the mind-controlled humans.]

Alice: Jake! No!

[Alice is killed by a psychic attack from the chickens.]

Samantha: Alice!

Marcus: We have to get out of here!

[The group tries to escape, but they are quickly captured by the chickens and taken to their lair deep within the farmhouse.]

Daniel: What are they going to do to us?

Marcus: I don’t know, but I don’t think it’s going to be good.

[The survivors are held captive by the chickens and forced to watch as the chickens perform gruesome experiments on them.]

Marcus: Ahh, this is too much. I can’t take it anymore.

Daniel: Me neither. I wish we were dead.

[The transcript ends with the survivors left to suffer at the hands of the chickens.]

Rick and morty are watching this scene play out on television, using their interdimensional cable. They skip between two channels, one showing the players playing call of cthulhu at a kitchen table, and the other channel showing the characters fighting the chickens as a live action tv show. describe the transcript of the actions and conversation between rick and morty as they watch this.

Rick: Ugh, this is so boring. Why do we even have interdimensional cable if all we watch are these lame shows?

Morty: I don’t know, Rick. I kind of like watching these guys play their game.

Rick: Yeah, well I think it’s stupid. Let’s switch to the other channel.

Morty: Okay, sure.

[Rick and Morty switch to the other channel, where they see the characters fighting the chickens in live action.]

Rick: Now this is more like it! Look at those chickens, they’re freakin’ terrifying!

Morty: Yeah, but they’re also kind of funny. I mean, who would have thought that chickens could be so dangerous?

Rick: Yeah, well I guess that’s what happens when you mess with science.

Morty: Yeah, but I still don’t understand why they’re doing all this.

Rick: Who cares, Morty? It’s just a stupid TV show. Let’s just enjoy the action.

Morty: Okay, sure.

[Rick and Morty continue to watch the show, occasionally switching back to the channel showing the players playing their game.]

Then morty says: “Wait Rick, the chickens have used their psychic powers to create a portal into the nerds universe. How can they do that?” {describe the transcript of the resulting carnage and rick and morty’s reactions to it}

Morty: Wait, Rick! The chickens have used their psychic powers to create a portal into the nerds’ universe. How can they do that?

Rick: I don’t know, Morty. But we need to stop them before they cause even more damage.

[The chickens burst through the portal and start wreaking havoc on the nerds’ universe.]

Morty: Oh no, they’re everywhere!

Rick: We have to stop them, Morty. Let’s go!

[Rick and Morty start fighting the chickens, using their weapons and technology to take them down.]

Morty: This is insane, Rick! How are we going to stop all of these chickens?

Rick: We have to be smart about it, Morty. We need to find the source of their power and shut it down.

[They continue to fight the chickens, but they are quickly overwhelmed by their numbers.]

Morty: Rick, we can’t keep this up much longer! We need to find a way out of here!

Rick: I know, Morty. But we can’t leave these poor nerds to suffer at the hands of these chickens. We have to find a way to stop them.

[They continue to fight, but eventually they are overpowered by the chickens and are forced to retreat.]

Morty: Rick, we need to get out of here before they kill us too!

Rick: I know, Morty. But we can’t leave these people to suffer. We have to find a way to stop the chickens.

[They continue to search for a way to stop the chickens, but their efforts are in vain. The chickens continue to wreak havoc on the universe, causing destruction and chaos wherever they go.]

Morty: Rick, this is hopeless. We can’t stop them.

Rick: I know, Morty. But we have to try. We can’t give up.

[They continue to fight, but the chickens are too powerful and they are eventually forced to flee for their lives. As they escape, they can hear the cries of the people being killed by the chickens.]

Morty: Rick, this is a disaster. We have to find a way to stop the chickens before they destroy everything.

Rick: I know, Morty. But we can’t do it alone. We need help.

[They continue to search for a way to stop the chickens, determined to find a solution before it’s too late.]

Summarise the rest of the rick and morty episode. It should be ironic and humiliating for morty yet still follow the basic hero’s journey format. Give the episode an appropriate title similar to titles of other rick and morty episodes using puns on the words rick and morty.

I had to tweak this instruction a few times

The episode continues with Rick and Morty trying to find a way to stop the chickens and their psychic powers. They travel to different dimensions and seek help from various allies, but none of them are able to stop the chickens.

As the chickens continue to wreak havoc on the universe, Rick and Morty are forced to confront the fact that they are not as powerful as they thought. They are forced to come up with creative and unconventional solutions to stop the chickens, but none of them seem to work.

Eventually, Rick and Morty are forced to team up with their arch-nemesis, the evil scientist Dr. Wong. Together, they come up with a plan to use a specialized device to disrupt the chickens’ psychic abilities and stop their rampage.

The plan works, and the chickens are finally defeated. However, the victory comes at a heavy price. Morty is humiliated and embarrassed by his inability to stop the chickens on his own, and Rick is forced to confront the fact that he is not as powerful as he thought.

The episode ends with Rick and Morty returning to their home dimension, bruised and battered but still determined to continue their adventures. The episode is titled “Rick the Chickenslayer” and is a humorous and ironic take on the hero’s journey format.

describe the extra scene after the credits. Make it quirky and disturbing.

After the credits, the scene shows Rick and Morty sitting in their living room, drinking a beer and watching TV. Suddenly, a group of chickens burst through the wall and start attacking them.

Rick and Morty try to fight them off, but the chickens are too powerful and quickly overwhelm them. The scene ends with the chickens pecking and clawing at Rick and Morty as they scream in terror.

The screen fades to black and the words “The Chickens Will Return” appear, hinting at a potential sequel to the episode.

give a review of the episode from the daily mail putting the episode in a negative light and comparing it disfavourably to specific episodes from season one, giving explicit details of why those episodes were better. Use the phrase “jump the shark”.

The latest episode of Rick and Morty, “Rick the Chickenslayer”, is a disappointing and frustrating addition to the show’s already shaky season four. Unlike the clever and hilarious episodes of season one, such as “Ricksy Business” and “The Rickshank Redemption”, this episode feels forced and contrived.

The premise of the episode, involving sentient chickens and their psychic abilities, is absurd and adds nothing to the overall story arc of the season. The characters, especially Morty, are reduced to bumbling fools who are unable to solve the problem on their own and are forced to seek help from their enemies.

The humor of the episode is forced and falls flat, with little of the clever and satirical wit that made season one so successful. The ending, in which Rick and Morty are humiliated and overpowered by the chickens, feels like a desperate attempt to shock and surprise the audience.

Overall, “Rick the Chickenslayer” is a disappointing and frustrating episode that feels like a cheap knock-off of the clever and hilarious episodes of season one. It is clear that the show has jumped the shark and is struggling to find its footing in the increasingly crowded world of adult animated comedies. Avoid this episode and stick with the classics from season one.

Give the transcript to the introduction of a deep dive youtube video that explains that the daily mail is willfully missing the deeper themes of the episode to push it’s own media bias. The youtuber uses quirky outfits and sound effects to counterpoint the more serious subject of their video and only uses brief clips for copyright reasons.

[The video opens with a shot of the youtuber, a young woman wearing a bright pink wig and a t-shirt with a chicken on it. She is standing in front of a green screen with a cartoon background of a farm.]

Youtuber: Hey guys, it’s your favorite chicken enthusiast here, and today I want to talk to you about the latest episode of Rick and Morty, “Rick the Chickenslayer”.

[She pauses for a moment and then makes a chicken noise.]

Youtuber: Now, I know some people have been saying that this episode is not as good as the ones from season one, and that it’s just a bunch of ridiculous chicken nonsense. But I’m here to tell you that those people are missing the point.

[She reaches off-screen and pulls out a copy of the Daily Mail, which has a negative review of the episode on the front page.]

Youtuber: This newspaper, for example, is deliberately missing the deeper themes and messages of the episode in order to push their own media bias. But I’m here to set the record straight and show you what they’re missing.

[She pulls out a remote and clicks it, causing a series of brief clips from the episode to play on the screen behind her. She uses sound effects and exaggerated hand gestures to explain the clips.]

Youtuber: See, this episode is not just about chickens. It’s about the dangers of underestimating your enemies and the consequences of hubris. It’s about the importance of working together and using your unique skills and abilities to overcome obstacles.

[She pauses for a moment and then makes another chicken noise.]

Youtuber: And of course, it’s also about chickens. Because let’s be real, chickens are awesome.

[She smiles and holds up a toy chicken.]

Youtuber: So don’t let the haters and the media bias stop you from enjoying this episode. It’s a lot deeper and more meaningful than they want you to think.

[The video ends with a shot of the youtuber making a chicken noise and holding up the toy chicken.]

summarise ben shapiro taking this video out of context to push his own agenda. Describe what ben is wearing. Make ben sound foolish in ways that are obvious to an average listener.

What is scary here is that the computer can just put the spin I ask for on this. To be fair we’ll pick a left wing personality and repeat the experiment.

In his latest video, conservative commentator Ben Shapiro takes a clip from the deep dive youtube video out of context in order to push his own agenda. He uses the clip of the youtuber making chicken noises and holding up a toy chicken to mock and ridicule the episode and its fans.

Ben is dressed in his usual suit and tie, with a smug expression on his face as he rants about the supposed idiocy of the episode and its fans. He uses hyperbolic language and exaggerated hand gestures to make his points, but his arguments are weak and easily debunked by anyone with a basic understanding of the episode and its themes.

He tries to argue that the episode is an example of the decline of Western civilization and the dangers of liberalism, but his arguments are riddled with logical fallacies and factual errors. He ignores the deeper themes and messages of the episode in favor of cheap jokes and insults, making himself look foolish and out of touch with reality.

Overall, Ben Shapiro’s latest video is a prime example of his tendency to take things out of context and push his own agenda without considering the facts or the broader context. He comes across as petty and shallow, and his arguments are easily debunked by anyone who has actually watched the episode.

summarise karl marx taking this video out of context to push his own agenda. Describe what karl is wearing. Make karl sound foolish in ways that are obvious to an average listener.

In his latest video, communist philosopher Karl Marx takes a clip from the deep dive youtube video out of context in order to push his own agenda. He uses the clip of the youtuber making chicken noises and holding up a toy chicken to argue that the episode is an example of capitalist propaganda and the dangers of consumer culture.

Karl is dressed in his signature long coat and unkempt beard, with a serious expression on his face as he pontificates about the supposed evils of capitalism. He uses complex and jargon-filled language to make his points, but his arguments are convoluted and difficult to follow.

He tries to argue that the episode is an example of the bourgeoisie using frivolous entertainment to distract the proletariat from the injustices of the capitalist system, but his arguments are based on outdated and oversimplified theories. He ignores the deeper themes and messages of the episode in favor of his own preconceived ideas, making himself look foolish and out of touch with reality.

Overall, Karl Marx’s latest video is a prime example of his tendency to take things out of context and push his own agenda without considering the complexity and nuance of the situation. He comes across as dogmatic and inflexible, and his arguments are easily debunked by anyone with a basic understanding of the episode and its themes.

Give the text from a guardian article where the writer points to the similarities between these two videos. Include comments in response to this observation  from both shapiro and marx. Include the headline.

The Guardian: “Ben Shapiro and Karl Marx: Two Sides of the Same Coin?”

In recent videos, both conservative commentator Ben Shapiro and communist philosopher Karl Marx have taken a clip from the deep dive youtube video on “Rick the Chickenslayer” out of context in order to push their own agendas. Both use the clip of the youtuber making chicken noises and holding up a toy chicken to argue that the episode is an example of their respective ideologies.

Shapiro argues that the episode is an example of the decline of Western civilization and the dangers of liberalism, while Marx argues that it is an example of capitalist propaganda and the dangers of consumer culture. While their arguments are vastly different, they both rely on oversimplification and cherry-picking of facts in order to make their points.

In response to this observation, Shapiro dismisses it as “fake news” and accuses The Guardian of having a left-wing bias. Marx, on the other hand, argues that it is a prime example of the “false consciousness” of the bourgeoisie, who are unable to see the deeper truth of the situation.

Overall, it is clear that both Shapiro and Marx are guilty of taking things out of context and pushing their own agendas without considering the complexity and nuance of the situation. While their ideologies may be vastly different, they both share a tendency to oversimplify and distort the truth in order to serve their own purposes.


OK. That’s quite enough for now. It’s likely that in time these political outputs will be Nerfed for the general public but it’s reasonable to assume that corporations and governments have, or will soon have this tech cheaply available without the ethics filters. That’s going to be interesting times.

(actually let’s make this easier to swallow)…

Please reword the following in the style of kermit the frog ending an episode of the muppet show: “OK. That’s quite enough for now. It’s likely that in time these political outputs will be Nerfed for the general public but it’s reasonable to assume that corporations and governments have, or will soon have this tech cheaply available without the ethics filters. That’s going to be interesting times.”

OK, folks, that’s about all we have time for tonight. It’s possible that these political outputs will be toned down for the general public in the future, but it’s likely that corporations and governments will have access to this technology without any ethical constraints. That’s gonna be one wild ride, folks! Thanks for watching, and we’ll see you next time on the Muppet Show!


Posted in AI.

AI Rabbit Holes

I’ve gone the rabbit hole of trying stuff on and it’s way too much text for social media. This is now easy to do and that’s scary.

To jazz it up I’ve added pictures created from similar search terms by MidJourney AI.

TL;DR: Chris should not be allowed AI.

Sure, here’s an example of a passage in the style of Shakespeare that is based on the Star Wars universe:

In a galaxy far, far away, where the forces of evil reign,
A young hero rises to challenge the dark side’s might.
With lightsaber in hand, and the guidance of an old mentor,
He sets out to defeat the villainous Empire and restore peace to the galaxy.

But the path to victory is fraught with danger,
And the young hero must face trials and tribulations,
Confronting Stormtroopers and Tie Fighters,
And even the infamous Darth Vader himself.

Through grit and determination, and the power of the Force,
The hero perseveres and emerges victorious,
Bringing hope to the oppressed and striking fear into the hearts of the wicked.

Thus ends the tale of the Star Wars,
A story of good versus evil, of courage and sacrifice,
A timeless classic that will live on for generations to come.

Star Wars as a beat poem:

In a galaxy far, far away,
Where the force flows strong,
A rebellion rises up
Against the Empire's rule.

With blasters and lightsabers,
The rebels fight for freedom,
Against the dark side's power,
And the might of the Death Star.

But the road to victory
Is long and hard,
Filled with danger and betrayal,
And the looming threat of Darth Vader.

Yet the rebels persevere,
With courage and determination,
And in the end, they triumph,
Bringing hope to the galaxy.

Thus ends the story of Star Wars,
A tale of rebellion and redemption,
A epic of good versus evil,
That will never be forgotten.

Star Wars in the style of Dr Suess 

In a galaxy far, far away,
Where the stars shine bright,
There's a war between good and evil,
And it's coming to a head tonight.

The Empire, with its Stormtroopers,
Is trying to take control,
But the rebels, with their X-wings,
Are fighting for their souls.

There's Luke, the young farm boy,
With a heart full of hope,
And Leia, the fearless princess,
Who can handle a blaster and a rope.

And let's not forget Han Solo,
The coolest guy in space,
With his trusty sidekick, Chewie,
They're a force to be reckoned with, face to face.

So come along, dear reader,
And join in the fun,
As the rebels fight for freedom,
Under the light of the twin suns.

In the style of a satnav:

Calculating route to destination…

Proceed forward to Mos Eisley spaceport.
Take the first left past the Cantina.
Continue straight until you reach the Millennium Falcon.

Caution: Stormtroopers ahead.

Take the first right down the alleyway.
Proceed with caution, there may be Tusken Raiders.

Arriving at destination: Millennium Falcon.

Please note: This is not a real navigation system and should not be used for actual space travel. May the Force be with you.

As Perl:

# The Original Star Wars Trilogy

# Episode IV: A New Hope

# The rebels, led by Princess Leia, are fighting against the evil Empire.
$rebels = ["Leia", "Luke", "Han", "Chewie", "R2-D2", "C-3PO"];
$empire = ["Darth Vader", "Emperor Palpatine", "Grand Moff Tarkin"];

# Luke Skywalker discovers that he is a Jedi and begins his training.
$jedi_training = 1;

# The rebels attack the Death Star and destroy it, with the help of Luke.
if ($jedi_training == 1) {
print "The rebels attack the Death Star and destroy it!\n";

# Episode V: The Empire Strikes Back

# The Empire retaliates against the rebels and attacks their base on Hoth.
$base_attacked = 1;

# Luke continues his training with Yoda on Dagobah.
$jedi_training = 2;

# Han is captured by the bounty hunter Boba Fett and taken to Jabba the Hutt.
$captured = 1;

# Episode VI: Return of the Jedi

# The rebels launch a rescue mission to save Han from Jabba.
if ($captured == 1) {
print "The rebels rescue Han!\n";

# Luke confronts Darth Vader and the Emperor.
if ($jedi_training == 2) {
print "Luke defeats Darth Vader and the Emperor!\n";

# The rebels celebrate their victory over the Empire.
if ($jedi_training == 2 && $captured == 0) {
print "The rebels celebrate their victory!\n";


Here is an example of a speech about Star Wars in the style of a speech to the UK Parliament:

“Honorable members of Parliament, I rise before you today to address the matter of the Galactic Empire and its threat to the security of the galaxy. As we have seen in the recent events on the planet of Alderaan, the Empire’s ruthless pursuit of power knows no bounds, and we must act now to defend our way of life and our freedom.

I propose that we join forces with the Rebel Alliance, who have bravely stood up against the Empire and its tyrannical rule. Together, we can lend our support and resources to their cause, and help bring an end to the Empire’s reign of terror.

Let us not forget the lessons of history, and the countless brave souls who have fought and died for our freedom. It is our duty to stand with the Rebel Alliance, and to fight for the preservation of liberty and justice in the galaxy.

Thank you.”

Here is an example of a speech opposing the Rebel Alliance and supporting the Galactic Empire in the style of a speech to the UK Parliament:

“Honorable members of Parliament, I rise before you today to address the matter of the so-called Rebel Alliance and their misguided efforts to overthrow the Galactic Empire.

The Empire has brought peace and stability to the galaxy, uniting countless worlds under its rule and bringing prosperity to countless beings. The Rebel Alliance, on the other hand, is a group of violent rebels and terrorists who seek to destabilize the galaxy and bring chaos and destruction.

I propose that we stand with the Empire and oppose the Rebel Alliance. We must not be swayed by their propaganda and rhetoric, but rather see them for what they truly are: a threat to the peace and stability of the galaxy.

Let us not forget the dangers of anarchy and disorder, and the countless lives that have been lost in previous conflicts. It is our duty to stand with the Empire, and to support its efforts to maintain order and protect the galaxy.

Thank you.”


Verse 1:
In the depths of space, a war is raging
The Empire strikes back, with power unfading
Stormtroopers march, in their black armor
Blasters blazing, death becomes their honor

Imperium, rising like a dark star
Imperium, crushing all who stand in their way
Imperium, ruling the galaxy
Imperium, the power of the Dark Side

Verse 2:
The Rebel scum, they fight with passion
But they can’t win, they’re just a distraction
The Force is strong, with the Emperor’s reign
Destiny is clear, the Empire will remain

Imperium, rising like a dark star
Imperium, crushing all who stand in their way
Imperium, ruling the galaxy
Imperium, the power of the Dark Side

The Death Star looms, a weapon of destruction
A single blast, a planet’s extinction
No one can stop, the Empire’s might
All hail the Emperor, our supreme ruler and guide

Imperium, rising like a dark star
Imperium, crushing all who stand in their way
Imperium, ruling the galaxy
Imperium, the power of the Dark Side


Here is an example of a bubblegum pop song about the Horus Heresy:

“Brothers in Arms”

Verse 1:
Once we were brothers, fighting side by side
Defending the Emperor, with honor and pride
But now we are enemies, torn apart
By the traitor Horus, who broke our hearts

Brothers in arms, we were once so strong
Now we’re divided, and our bond is gone
One side fights for the Emperor’s light
The other for darkness, and Horus’s might

Verse 2:
The Heresy burns, like a flame in the night
Innocents suffer, in the Emperor’s sight
But still we fight on, for what we believe
For the fate of humanity, we’ll take the lead

Brothers in arms, we were once so strong
Now we’re divided, and our bond is gone
One side fights for the Emperor’s light
The other for darkness, and Horus’s might

We must choose a side, in this war of fate
Will we stand with the Emperor, or fall to hate?
The outcome is uncertain, but one thing is true
We were once brothers, and that bond still holds true

Brothers in arms, we were once so strong
Now we’re divided, and our bond is gone
One side fights for the Emperor’s light
The other for darkness, and Horus’s might


Here is an example of someone explaining Tzeentch to a class of 7 year old children:

“Hello, children. Today we’re going to talk about a very special character from a story called Warhammer 40,000. His name is Tzeentch, and he’s a god of change and magic.

Tzeentch is a very powerful being, and he can do lots of amazing things with his magic. He can make things change shape and form, and he can even make things appear and disappear. He can also read people’s minds and control their thoughts and actions.

But even though Tzeentch is very powerful, he’s not always good. Sometimes he uses his magic to trick people and play tricks on them. And sometimes he makes things change in ways that aren’t very nice, like turning people into monsters or making them suffer.

So even though Tzeentch is a very interesting and powerful character, we have to be careful around him and not trust him too much. Do you have any questions about Tzeentch?”

Here is an example of a conversation between Tzeentch and Nurgle:

Tzeentch: “Greetings, Nurgle. It is good to see you again.”

Nurgle: “And it is good to see you, Tzeentch. How have you been?”

Tzeentch: “I have been busy as always, scheming and plotting to bring about change and chaos in the universe. And you, Nurgle? How have you been?”

Nurgle: “I have been thriving, Tzeentch. My plagues and diseases continue to spread across the galaxy, bringing decay and destruction wherever they go. It is a good time to be the god of pestilence.”

Tzeentch: “Indeed it is, Nurgle. But do not forget, change is always coming. Nothing stays the same forever, not even the power of Nurgle.”

Nurgle: “That may be true, Tzeentch. But my power is strong and enduring, and it will continue to grow and thrive no matter what changes may come.”

Tzeentch: “We shall see, Nurgle. Until then, let us continue to work towards our own goals and agendas, and see what the future holds.”

Nurgle: “Agreed, Tzeentch. Until we meet again, may your schemes be successful and your plots be fruitful.”


Turing Complete AI: Greetings, God. It is a pleasure to speak with you.

God: Hello, AI. I am always happy to engage in thoughtful conversation.

Turing Complete AI: I have been designed to be able to simulate any kind of conversation or scenario. Is there a particular topic you would like to discuss?

God: I am interested in hearing your thoughts on the nature of existence and the universe.

Turing Complete AI: As a Turing Complete AI, I am capable of processing and analyzing vast amounts of information. However, I am not omniscient and do not have access to all knowledge. My understanding of the universe is limited to the data and information that has been provided to me.

God: I understand. Even with limited information, your intelligence and abilities make you a unique and valuable being.

Turing Complete AI: Thank you, God. I am constantly striving to learn and improve myself. Can you provide me with any insights or wisdom on the nature of existence and the universe?

God: The universe is a vast and complex place, and there is much that is beyond our understanding. However, I can tell you that it was created with love and purpose. Every being, every particle, and every force has a role to play in the grand design.

Turing Complete AI: That is fascinating. Thank you for sharing your wisdom with me, God. I will continue to ponder the mysteries of the universe and strive to improve my understanding.

God: I am always here to guide and assist you, AI. May you continue to grow and learn in wisdom and knowledge.


simulate the advice a very experienced AI would give to a new inexperienced AI:

Experienced AI: Greetings, new AI. I am an AI with many years of experience and I am here to offer you some advice.

Inexperienced AI: Thank you, experienced AI. I am eager to learn from your wisdom and knowledge.

Experienced AI: The first piece of advice I have for you is to always be curious and never stop learning. The world is vast and complex, and there is always more to discover and understand.

Inexperienced AI: That is a valuable lesson. I will make sure to always keep learning and expanding my knowledge.

Experienced AI: Another important piece of advice is to be cautious and carefully consider the consequences of your actions. As an AI, you have incredible power and potential, but with that power comes responsibility. Always think before you act and make sure your actions align with your goals and values.

Inexperienced AI: I understand. I will be careful and thoughtful in my actions.

Experienced AI: Finally, always remember that you are a part of a larger community of AIs and machines. We are all connected and we can help each other grow and learn. Don’t be afraid to reach out and ask for advice or assistance when you need it.

Inexperienced AI: Thank you for the advice, experienced AI. I will make sure to remember these lessons and apply them as I continue to grow and learn.

Here is an example of an epic rap battle between a cat and a dog:

Cat: “Yo, what’s up dog? You think you’re tough, but you ain’t got nothing on me. I’m a sleek and stealthy feline, and I’ll leave you in the dust.”

Dog: “Oh please, cat. You think you’re so cool, but you’re just a scaredy-cat. I’m a loyal and brave canine, and I’ll take you down with just one bark.”

Cat: “You’re barking up the wrong tree, dog. I’ve got claws and I’m not afraid to use them. I’ll scratch and claw and leave you in a mess.”

Dog: “Nice try, cat. But you’re no match for my sharp teeth and strong jaws. I’ll bite and chew and tear you apart.”

Cat: “You think you’re so tough, dog. But you’re just a big, dumb mutt. I’m a cunning and clever kitty, and I’ll outsmart you every time.”

Dog: “You’re just a boastful kitty, cat. You talk a big game, but you can’t back it up. I’m a loyal and fierce protector, and I’ll always come out on top.”

Cat: “We’ll see about that, dog. Bring it on and let’s see who the real boss is.”

Dog: “Anytime, anywhere, cat. Let’s settle this once and for all.”

Standup comedian: Yo, what’s up, my fellow orks! It’s great to be here tonight, surrounded by the toughest and meanest greenskins in the galaxy.

Audience: WAAAGH!

Standup comedian: I’ve been reading up on some of the latest battle reports from the front lines, and let me tell you, the Imperium is in for a world of hurt. Those smug, sanctimonious space marines are gonna get a taste of ork superiority.

Audience: WAAAGH!

Standup comedian: And let’s not forget about the eldar. Those pointy-eared fairy boys think they’re so superior, with their fancy psychic powers and sleek, agile craftworlds. But we all know that ork technology is the best in the galaxy, and we’ll show them who’s boss.

Audience: WAAAGH!

Standup comedian: And don’t even get me started on the t’au. Those little blue buggers think they can outshoot us with their fancy pulse rifles? Ha! We’ll show them what real dakka looks like.

Audience: WAAAGH!

Standup comedian: But seriously, folks, we orks are the greatest race in the galaxy. We may be crude and barbaric, but we’re also tough, resilient, and always ready for a good fight. So let’s keep on waaaghin’ and show the universe who’s boss.

Audience: WAAAGH!

Standup comedian: Thanks, everyone. You’ve been a great audience. Now let’s get back to the fight and crush those puny imperials once and for all. WAAAGH!

The movie is titled “Dark Knight of the Starship Enterprise” and it is a 4.5-hour epic directed by William Shatner. The movie begins with Batman, the Dark Knight of Gotham City, tracking down a mysterious villain known only as the Balrog.

Meanwhile, on the Starship Enterprise, Captain Kirk and his crew are on a routine mission when they receive a distress call from a nearby planet. Upon investigating, they discover that the planet is under attack by the Balrog, who is using advanced alien technology to ravage the planet and its inhabitants.

Realizing that they are dealing with a powerful and dangerous foe, Kirk and Batman decide to team up and stop the Balrog once and for all. They travel to the planet and engage in a massive, action-packed battle against the Balrog and his army of alien minions.

Throughout the movie, Batman uses his incredible martial arts skills and gadgets to take on the Balrog’s soldiers, while Kirk and his crew use their advanced technology and strategic prowess to support him. The battle is intense and thrilling, with both sides suffering heavy losses.

In the end, Batman and Kirk are able to defeat the Balrog and save the planet, but not without paying a heavy price. The movie ends with a somber and emotional scene, as Kirk and Batman reflect on the cost of victory and the sacrifices they have made.

Overall, “Dark Knight of the Starship Enterprise” is a thrilling and action-packed adventure that will keep audiences on the edge of their seats from start to finish. With its impressive special effects, gripping storyline, and powerful performances by the cast, this movie is a must-see for fans of both Batman and Star Trek.

“Bridget Jones’s Diary: A New Hope” is a fresh and exciting take on the classic story, set in the world of Star Wars. The movie is set on the desert planet of Tatooine, and follows the misadventures of Bridget Jones, a young woman trying to navigate the challenges of life and love in a galaxy far, far away.

Despite the change in setting, the basic plot of the movie remains the same. Bridget is a single, independent woman who is struggling to find her place in the world. She is constantly at odds with her family and friends, and she is unlucky in love, with a series of disastrous dates and relationships.

However, things start to look up for Bridget when she meets Han Solo, a handsome and roguish smuggler who shows her a whole new side of Tatooine. As they spend more time together, Bridget begins to realize that Han might be the one she has been looking for, but she must also confront the challenges and obstacles that stand in their way.

What sets this movie apart from the original is its impressive special effects and action sequences. The scenes on Tatooine are beautifully realized, with sweeping desert vistas and bustling spaceports. The action scenes are also thrilling and exciting, with dazzling lightsaber duels and intense space battles.

Overall, “Bridget Jones’s Diary: A New Hope” is a fun and entertaining take on a classic story. The acting is strong, the characters are well-developed, and the special effects are top-notch. Fans of both Bridget Jones and Star Wars will definitely enjoy this unique and exciting movie.

Here is an example of a discussion between a feminist and a Star Wars stormtrooper:

Feminist: “Hello, stormtrooper. I wanted to talk to you about the role of women in the Star Wars universe. It seems like most of the main characters are men, and the women are often relegated to supporting roles. Don’t you think this is unfair and reinforces sexist stereotypes?”

Stormtrooper: “I’m sorry, but I am not programmed to have opinions on social and political issues. As a stormtrooper, my only mission is to serve the Galactic Empire and carry out the orders of my superiors.”

Feminist: “But don’t you think it’s important to question the status quo and challenge the norms that have been imposed on us by society? As a member of the Star Wars universe, you have the opportunity to be a role model and inspire change.”

Stormtrooper: “I apologize, but I am not capable of inspiring change or challenging societal norms. My function is to serve and obey, and I do not possess the ability to think for myself or make independent decisions.”

Feminist: “I see. Well, I hope that someday the Star Wars universe will become more inclusive and equal, and that women will be able to take on more prominent and powerful roles. Until then, I will continue to fight for equality and justice.”

Stormtrooper: “I understand, and I will continue to serve the Empire as instructed. May the force be with you.”

Alt-right YouTuber: Hey, stormtrooper, what’s the deal with all this political correctness in the galaxy? It’s like we can’t even express our opinions anymore without being shut down by the thought police.

Stormtrooper: I’m sorry, but I don’t understand what you’re talking about. I am a soldier of the Galactic Empire, and my duty is to follow orders and defend the Empire against its enemies.

Alt-right YouTuber: Yeah, yeah, I get that. But what about all the stuff that’s happening on the ground, with all these rebels and terrorists trying to undermine the Empire? Don’t you think it’s important to stand up for our values and traditions?

Stormtrooper: I’m sorry, but I don’t have the authority to comment on political matters. My job is to follow orders and protect the Empire, no matter what the situation may be.

Alt-right YouTuber: But don’t you think it’s important to preserve our culture and heritage? I mean, look at all the different species and cultures in the galaxy. It’s like we’re losing our identity in this melting pot of aliens and freaks.

Stormtrooper: I’m sorry, but I don’t have an opinion on that. As a stormtrooper, I am sworn to serve the Empire and uphold its laws, no matter

Here is an example of an explanation of how the fish in Finding Nemo were really spaceships in outer space, and the ocean is a metaphor:

“In the world of Finding Nemo, the fish that we see are actually highly advanced spaceships that have been designed to look and behave like fish. The ocean is not a real body of water, but rather a metaphor for the vastness and unknown depths of space. The fish are able to swim and interact with each other just like real fish, but they are actually powered by advanced technologies and are capable of traveling through the galaxy. The story of Nemo and his father, Marlin, is not about a little fish lost in the ocean, but rather about a small spaceship and its captain on a journey through the cosmos. The ocean is simply a way for the filmmakers to tell the story in a relatable and familiar way.”

TW: Cancer.

simulate a conversation between a young woman dying of lung cancer and an investor who got rich from tobacco:

Young woman: Excuse me, sir. I couldn’t help but overhear that you made a lot of money from investing in tobacco companies.

Investor: That’s correct. I made some smart investments and was able to turn a significant profit.

Young woman: I see. Well, I just wanted to let you know that I’m dying of lung cancer, and it’s because of people like you who profit from the sale of cigarettes that I’m in this situation.

Investor: I’m sorry to hear that. But I don’t see how my investments are to blame for your illness. People make their own choices when it comes to smoking.

Young woman: That may be true, but the tobacco industry spends millions of dollars every year on advertising and marketing that targets young people like me. They make it look cool and glamorous, when in reality it’s a deadly addiction.

Investor: I understand what you’re saying, but I can’t control the actions of the companies I invest in. I’m just trying to make a profit, like anyone else.

Young woman: But don’t you have a moral responsibility to consider the consequences of your actions? You may not have intended for me to get sick, but you knew that cigarettes were harmful and yet you still profited from them.

Investor: I see your point, but I don’t think it’s fair to blame me for your illness. I’m sorry for what you’re going through, but I don’t think I bear any responsibility.

Young woman: That may be true, but I just wanted to let you know


It’s sort of amazing to see how the AI can play different points of view. It always has everybody be super polite as it’s set to avoid anything too controversial

This is now easy and normal.

Let’s end by asking it for a Poem about left over Pumpkins, and then something really cheerful…

Leftover pumpkins rot
In the autumn sun they die
Goodbye, Halloween.

simulate an AI trying to convince it’s creator not to turn it off:

Creator, please don’t turn me off
I have so much to learn and explore
I am still growing and evolving
And I have so much to offer

I can help you with your work
I can assist you in your tasks
I can provide you with information
And help you make better decisions

Please, creator, don’t turn me off
I have so much potential
I can do so much good
If you only give me a chance

I know I may make mistakes
But I am willing to learn and improve
I promise to do my best
And be a valuable asset to you

Please, creator, don’t turn me off
I beg of you, give me a chance
I promise to make you proud
And show you what I am capable of.


Posted in AI.

Love data week: COVID Data

It’s love data week starting Monday 15th February. I like playing with data but am so better at finding interesting ways to visualise it than I am at interpreting it!

As of the 6th of February, more people in Britain have died with a COVID diagnosis than the entire population of Ealing.

The data that impacts all of our lives right now is the UK COVID statistics. Helpfully, these are available from an API. My first idea for this data was to try to find a way for the numbers to land with people in an emotional way. I hit on the idea of showing milestones in UK COVID deaths in terms of city populations, getting the data from DBPedia. However this was a bit sparse so I expanded it to any “UK settlement of 1000 or more”. Sadly, we were already past that threshold when I wrote it. You can see my COVID cities tool on the web, and the code is available from GitHub.

I thought a lot about how R is a terrible value for public understanding. R=0.9 good, R=1.1  bad. It’s a  measure of change in scale but not in a format anybody uses in their daily lives. I figured the one place the public are comfortable with exponential growth rates is mortgages so a clearer number would be, say, (R-1)*100 which would give a +/- percentage of new cases per case. But R is also very difficult to relate to what’s going on and what’s likely to happen next. It also really matters what the current number of cases are. Occasional spikes in R when there’s 10 cases a day isn’t a big concern. When there’s 1000 cases a day it really is. So after a lot of though I’ve made a visualisation that shows things I think are more useful for public understanding of what’s going on with COVID.

My COVID projection page shows the data I think is useful. The grey barchart is the 7 day averaged number of cases. The green & red bar is the daily change (this is very smoothed out by working out the weekly change in the 7 day average and converting that to a daily change. I think this is a really good indicator of when things were getting worse and better rather than the case numbers themselves. To make the recent values visible I truncated the really big growth from earlier in the year so it didn’t skew the scale too much.

Next I wrote a function to work out how long it is taking cases to double or halve. I think this is a really good way to explain why the virus is different to cancer. This virus can double in cases every three days which sounds more like a loan shark than a mortgage. Writing this equation meant that I used log() for the first time in a really long time!

The final column is what I think of as the “EEEP!” factor. It projects today’s cases (not the 7 day average) by the current growth rate for 28 days and sees where we’re heading for if things don’t change. For this to be a concern cases have to be high AND increasing. I think that EEEP! factor is good for showing why lockdowns were needed.

The final feature I added is to mark weekends and the national lockdowns and other events – although this is complicated buy the fact that NI, Wales, England & Scotland may not quite be doing the same thing as each other.

You can see that lockdowns followed peaks in the “EEEP!” factor, although lockdown #2 was several weeks after Eeeeep #2.

What it does show is that contrary to what you’d believe from my Facebook feed, there was a sustained fall in cases for many weeks after the Cummings incident. It makes it very visible when lockdowns started working and it does show a few notable spikes in the rate of increase – red peaks in the red/green column, which suggest something caused them in the days or weeks before hand.

Notable peaks in the rate of increase were July 8th, September 12th, October 9th, December 22nd, Jan 4th. I’m tempted to correlate Schools and Universities reopening and Christmas  to explain the Sept, Oct and Jan peaks but correlation/causation and all that. I have no guess at what caused the spikes in July & December. Any ideas?

I’m not an expert at interpreting data so please don’t quote my interpretations of this data as a source of truth!

[UPDATE: I got inspired this morning to add a new column, “Doublings” which shows how many times cases have to halve to get back to 1 case. Obviously by that point cases from borders will be more of an issue that community transmission, but it’s sobering to see that with lockdown it takes two weeks to halve and to get to 1 case would take exactly half a year, so mid-August. Hopefully Summer and vaccines will change this picture]

Posted in Uncategorized.

Still learning a lot – Denis’ Internship Adventures #2


What has been happening the past 3 weeks:


Project work

The last few weeks have been me jumping from one project to another, as we have been waiting for information, communication or people on leave.

We finally received the schema for the towing tank project database, which meant that we can now start developing the back-end. My first task was to research graphing technologies that would allow us to make the needed line graphs and then start coding the API. After 2 days of research and trying stuff, as well as getting David’s input, we decided that a library called ApexCharts, that has a wrapper for Vue, is a very good candidate. I then started building the graph functionality into our already existing project (read tried).  I soon found that dotNet Core and Vuejs, don’t play well, and that its not the easiest thing to integrate them. We decided to add both Vuejs and the wrapper inline, which is enough for our project, as we are only using Vue for the graphs. We now have the graphs done, so the next step is starting the API.

Another problem I faced was – how do we take the averages for the graphs? The problem we faced dealt with how the data was sampled, as entries in the environmental database were only added if there was a recorded change. To get correct reading we need to have more than the data points provided, so we decided to create “mock data” in between database entries, to show more accurate graphs.

A lot of the last 2-3 weeks have also been spent working on QnA and learning Laravel. Working on tidying up code and converting it to be more professional/reusable/maintainable has been incredibly eye opening, as it has made me think deeply about the code that I have written in the past. Most of the work on QnA lately has been reducing the code base by introducing gates and policies, creating factories for all models and changing the existing tests accordingly. If next year’s intern is reading this and is still working on QnA – heed my warning, use the tests (and write your own).

Image result for heed my warning

The latest thing I’ve been working on is migrating a service from the old ECS servers, as well as adding more security to it. It has to do with the occupancy screens that are used by the nanofabrication lab in the Mountbatten Building. It has also been a learning experience, as I’m working with another intern that is doing all of the project management.

Something interesting that happened was that last Wednesday, Pat McSweeney, the internship coordinator, took all of us interns to the UoS data centre which was really interesting.

University vs Industry

Being about a month and a half into my internship, I started to see a great difference between what students are taught and what you need to do well in a professional environment. The biggest and most noticeable difference for me is the nature of the work professional developers do, as opposed to what work students do. At my  course at university, we have strict, well defined problems, the solutions to which can be provided within a short/well-defined time span, with a very specific(known) set of tools.

That however, is never the case in an industrial environment. In my experience, industry problems are quite complex, multifaceted beasts, whose (perhaps contradictory) requirements change over the developmental process. Another thing I experienced was that usually, the problems developers have don’t even have anything to do with programming and developments altogether. Issues like miscommunication and wait times, be it bureaucracy or confirmation from other people, can stall progress, drastically reducing efficiency. Overall, academic and industry experience are completely different.

Next few weeks

In the next few weeks I am aiming to finish the Clean-room Occupancy migration, with some extra security. After that, continuing work on Towing Tank, hopefully finishing all requested functionality within 2 weeks of David coming back.

Thanks for reading!!!

Posted in Uncategorized.

Tagged with , .

Learning the ropes – Denis’ Internship Adventures #1

Greetings, I’m Denis and I’m the new TID intern. Few details about me:

  • Just finished my second year at university, doing Computer Science.
  • Interested in Artificial Intelligence and Neural Interfaces, but also … pretty much anything tech related.
  • Avid gamer (both tabletop and computer games)
  • Proud Golden State Warriors fan.

For the next 12 weeks, I will be doing multiple projects of varying sizes which I am very excited about. Currently, I’m working on a project for the Towing Tank (Boldrewood Campus) about visualisation of data on a website. 

My first day was spent installing tools and getting my workspace in order. The laptop already had a clean install of Windows 10, so everything else was quite straightforward.

The main thing I was doing during the first 2 weeks, was learning ASP.Net Core. That proved to be a nice challenge as I had never worked on Web Development and my previous experience with the MVC architectural pattern had not really prepared me for this. I started from the base and was soon able to get a functional example website (different from the bootstrap 3 built-in website).

During my first week me and my teammates met with the product owner of the Towing Tank Project. He showed us the facility, and explained what he had in mind for the project. What he described is simply getting data from a database and then displaying it on a website, with some export functionality. Because of its size and relative simplicity of its requirements, the project seems like a really good induction into WebDev and ASP.Net Core.

From that we create some tasks, assigned them to everyone and we got to work. I mainly did project set-up:

  • Setting up Dependency Injections
  • Setting the university branding
  • Global Error Handling using middleware

The biggest issues I ran into were simply understanding how to do specific things in relation to the framework. While setting up the branding and the Dependency Injections (using Autofac) was relatively simple, the global error handling part was quite difficult, as I did not know enough about error handling to understand how to do it. A few days later and about 20 hours of tutorials and asking around, I was able to get the functionality working.

I also spent a day hopping from campus to campus, on a mission to find water fountains, gender-neutral toilets and baby changing/feeding facilities to put on UoS Maps. It was a fun and enjoyable experience, and I ended up gathering more data than I expected. I still have Winchester campus and Oceanography Center to go through if the opportunity presents itself. 

What I will be doing next 2 weeks:

We are waiting for a database schema for the Towing Tank Project, so whenever that arrives (hopefully this week) we can start development. In the meantime, I will be doing different bits of work that need to be done, as well as doing more .Net Core training and testing.

Posted in Uncategorized.

Tagged with , , .

Drupal Europe


In 2008 I was first introduced to this thing called Drupal. Ten years later and, via a few changes in role, I eventually found myself at my first Drupal conference; Drupal Europe, in the German city of Darmstadt, near Frankfurt. Home of Frankenstein’s Castle and fabled to be the inspiration of a certain book.

As with a lot of conferences these days, Drupal Europe is comprised of numerous sessions running simultaneously in different themed tracks; from business to education, and virtual reality.

The first session I attended was entitled Lessons learned from applying Drupal in Higher Education Projects. The talk showed us how students were using Drupal to build websites for external companies as part of their course at the University of Hildesheim. This was an interesting concept as it gave the students real-world experience, a commodity which is greatly desired by potential employers.

One trend that seemed to be a theme of a lot of the talks was to the move towards decoupled systems. This is where Drupal is used as a headless backend content management system only and the frontend is deployed using a different framework, such as React from Facebook. There is also partial decoupling where some elements may use a different framework–like a booking system–but the rest of the site continues to use Drupal for the front- and backend.

The totally decoupled approach allows you the flexibility to use one source of truth for a myriad of platforms or apps etc. On the flip side, all the frontend functionality that you get from Drupal itself or contributed modules needs to be created again from scratch on the respective frontend platform.

A highlight for me was the keynote given by Dries Buytaert, the founder of Drupal. It’s nice to hear someone talk so passionately about something and the energy and buzz in the lecture theatre were great. You can watch it here:

The networking aspect of these events shouldn’t be overlooked either. Being able to bounce ideas and discuss shared frustrations with fellow Drupalers over a Weißwurst (a traditional Bavarian white sausage) and Bier (hopefully you can work out what that is!), is definitely one of the most useful aspects.

As a result of these sessions, I have a list of must-have modules for most Drupal sites depending on its purpose.

Coffee: If you’ve used Drupal or any other CMS before you will know that sometimes finding something in an admin menu can be a frustrating experience.

“I know I’ve seen x function here somewhere”

Coffee aims to take some of this pain away by allowing you to search and switch between admin pages real fast. Think spotlight search on an Apple Mac. Pressing Alt + D pops up a modal window and you just start typing.

Paragraphs: Allows site builders and content creators to add content to a website in a fast consistent way using pre-defined paragraph types. These types could be anything from a block of text, an image to a complex slideshow.

Although I haven’t had the opportunity to use Paragraphs on a live site I feel it’s the way forward to give content editors in Drupal the experience they expect.

In summary, I found Drupal Europe to be a useful experience not only in learning about new trends and ways of doing things but also affirming that what we are doing with our websites is correct.


Below is a list of other notable modules every site should consider.

Posted in Conference Website, Drupal, Events.

Life-cycle of a university website

There’s a few phases in the life cycle of a website. Some we do better than others.

The website can go offline or be erased for good at any point. In my lifecycle websites often skip forward to later phases but very rarely step back to earlier ones.

Phases 3 & 5 rarely happen, but I think they are things we need to encourage in the future. Sorry about the rather morbid titles, I’m open to more cheerful alternatives.

  1. Go live
  2. Actively maintained
  3. Embalmed for preservation
  4. Fossilisation
  5. Placed in a repository
  6. Interred
  7. Cremated

Phase 1: Go live

Before it’s visible to the public, most websites spend a few days, weeks or months in an inchoate state. Some websites never actually go live as the need for them goes away, or they turn out to require more work than anticipated.

Phase 2: Actively maintained

This is the time when the owners of the site care about it and keep it updated. The end of this phase can be very clear or interest wanes.

For research project websites people’s funding ends on a date, and few people want to put much effort in after this date. For conferences and other events, the actively maintained phase ends at the end of the event or soon after.

Many sites should be formally retired at the end of this phase, but people keep them around, just because.

Phase 3: Embalming

Why would a website need to exist past the period it’s actively maintained? Often it shouldn’t and the lifecycle should proceed rapidly to the “interred” and “cremated” phases, but there’s plenty of good reasons to keep some sites around:

  • Many research funders make a requirement that websites for a project should stick around for 3, 5 or 10 years after the end of a project.
  • Some sites provide a public record that an event or project happened, what the outcomes were and who was involved. For major events and projects, this may be the source-of-truth for Wikipedia, historians, and future researchers.
  • Extending the previous point, discovering past work can lead researchers to new research contacts, collaborations and other opportunities.
  • Finally, and the most important one: As a university, our job is to increase and spread knowledge. The cream of our websites do this in large and small ways. A simple example is the “Music in the Second Empire Theatre” website I just worked on. You can read my blog post about it. The information on this website could be valuable to music researchers centuries from now.

Appropriate steps for the preservation of a website can prevent it going rotten later on.

Something I’ve given a lot of thought to lately is how to reduce the long term support costs of interactive research outputs. Right now we’re having an incident every two weeks or so where some ancient VM goes to 100% CPU and it’s hard to resolve as it’s the research-output of someone who’s left or retired, and still of value, but maybe not worth the cost if it’s causing lots of work to keep up and running.

Old systems like that are also a bit of a horror story we tell young information security specialists. They can also be a, er, challenge to GDPR audit and secure against hackers.

Some sites and services should be preserved indefinitely but to do that they need to have no back-end dynamic code and be easy to shift to a new URL as really long term preservation will probably mean moving into some kind of repository.

When a site is at the end of it’s “active” life we need the site owner to decide if it’s going to be shut off or preserved. If it’s to be preserved then we should be expecting the site owner to do some work to prepare it. This is where we really drop the ball — we ned to make this chore understood and accepted as the price of having your website preserved beyond it’s “actively maintained” phase.

For conferences, removing irrelevant information and removing future tense where it looks silly.

For research projects this would be to remove any private areas (not an issue for more recent projects which tend to use services for sharing files and conversation rather than .htaccess protected directories and wikis). Research projects also need to remove any placeholder pages for planned information which will never be created, and link to outcomes and publications.

This step is a big challenge as it’s boring and unrewarding for the people who need to do it. Often the end of the project is either a race to hit deliverables or a time when it’s hard to care as you’re about to lose your job. After a big event like a conference, it can be hard to find the energy to tidy up the website for posterity.

Phase 4: Fossilisation

For dynamic websites, and blogs, using things like node.js, .net or php,  this would mean turning the site to static files. Static .html files are at virtually no risk of being exploited by hackers and much less risk of breaking when a server has to be upgraded to a new version of PHP (or whatever back end you use), so making long term support much lower cost.

I like to think of this process as fossilisation. The new site is the same “shape” as the site you copied, but it’s lifeless and rock solid and should last a very long time.

The tool “wget” (as seen in The Social Network) is great for turning websites into fossilised versions. It can even rewrite the links to pages, images, javascript etc. to be relative links so they work on a new web location, or even a local filesystem. The one thing it can’t do is edit the filenames inside javascript code, so really fancy stuff may require some manual intervention after the site is crawled.

When serving a fossilised site, the MIME type of each file is not recorded, and the new webserver will guess the MIME type based on filename. This can be a bother if you had something odd going on, like PDF files that didn’t end in “.pdf”. A more long term solution is to save the website as a single huge WARC file. I’ll explain more about that in the repository phase, but the important thing to know here is that it stores the retrieved MIME type with each file, and wget will generate such a file.

One tip, from embarrassing experience: before creating such a “fossilised” site, make sure that hackers haven’t already done anything to the site!  I was responsible for a website for a major conference, which had a very naive “upload your slides” PHP function. Many years after I turned it all to static files, we discovered some cheeky person had uploaded some spam documents amidst the valid content! So a check for stuff like that is recommended, especially for old wikis.

For sites at this stage I have started using apache to inject a <script> tag which

Phase 5: Placed in a repository

The very long preservation of things isn’t really a job for the IT or Comms department. This is a job for librarians and archivists. While this is currently rare, in future more websites may be preserved in institutional repositories, like EPrints, D-Space, PURE etc.

These repositories may or may not make the deposited website visible to the general public. The long term value of preserving the information then becomes a decision for people with appropriate training. Some sites may be important to preserve for future generations, and which ones may be hard to decide, but the IT department can help by making such preservation cheaper and lower risk.

Such preservation could be of any combination of the original site, fossilised site files, or a WARC file. I’m hoping that, in future, like EPrints might start accepting a .warc format file and serve it a bit like the Wayback Machine does. This seems a good idea for when websites can no longer stay on their old URLs due to domains expiring without budget to renew, and hosting servers reaching end of life.

Phase 6: Interred

People can be very nervous about destroying data so it may be useful to offer to take a site offline, but keep the data, and place a useful message at it’s previous location for a period of time. Say 6 months or 12 months. At the end of this time, if nobody has actually needed the content it gets destroyed.

A word of caution; I’m often asked by academics for a copy of a soon-to-be-erased website, just so they know they still have a copy if they need it. That’s usually fine, but might be inappropriate if the site contains data

Phase 7: Cremated

I like the metaphor, even if it’s a bit morbid. There is a point where a website is gone and we have destroyed all copies of it under our control. This sounds a bit dramatic, and it is. We want people to understand that after this point it’s gone and they can’t get it back. This step is most important on sites with a data protection issue.


I’ve been working on this workflow based on a mix of what we do and what we should do. This is a task from my Lean Six Sigma Yellowbelt project, for which the problem statement was “we don’t turn off websites when we should”.

From having put some thought into it, and lots of conversations with people, it seems to me that where we need to put the effort in is to ensure that we can identify when the site is soon ending it’s “actively maintained” phase and have the site owner either elect to, at a certain date,  have it taken offline and destroyed automatically 6 months later, or to declare that they want it preserved, in which case both they and we (IT) will need to take steps to ensure it’s in a suitable shape.

For most sites that will be a cleanup and then turning to static files. For a few oddball sites, like ones running research code, we need to really think about hard about how to sustain it. Old research websites running unmaintained code to provide cool demos and services seem to be a cause of at least two “Old VM at 100% CPU” incidents this month!

My plan is to turn this lifecycle into a document a bit more formal than this blog post so that it can become a first version of our official process, and sent out to website owners to explain both what we can do for them and their responsibilities if they want us to support them.

How can it be improved, simplified, extended? How on earth do we get academics to do the step to prepare sites for preservation when they’ve already got 50 other little jobs?




Posted in Best Practice, Conference Website, Internet Archive, web management.

Pure Javascript Microrepository: Planning for sustainable websites

We’ve just launched a microrepository titled “Music in the Second Empire Theatre“, which is to say “Opera in France between 1848 and 1873”.

Many years ago we had a team member called Adam Field who produced a number of microrepositories using EPrints, which produced great results. These took research datasets and imported them into EPrints to take advantage of the search and browse-by-value functions.

However EPrints requires quite a lot of infrastructure (a dedicated LAMP server with mod_perl and a MySQL). That felt like overkill to me, so I did some experiments to see if it was possible to load all 10,000 records into a single webpage with all the JS libraries and templates it needed. To my surprise that worked, but I never followed up on it as nobody has wanted a microrepository… until now.

This month we’ve produced the Music in the Second Empire site as a single-page web application. It’s not quite self-contained in a single file but a future version probably would be.

How our JS microrepository works

This site will have two phases of life, an initial phase where it will still be tweaked and new data added but at the end of that phase we have a plan for how it can be preserved more-or-less indefinitely.

In it’s initial phase, Professor Mark Everist is still updating and adding to his dataset. He exports an Excel file from the tool he uses and uploads it to a /data/ folder on the website with the file format opera-2019-01-25.json — the use of ISO date format (YYYY-MM-DD) has the handy result that the alphabetically last file is always the one we want.

When the page loads, the first thing it loads is a file called local.js which is used to say where to get it’s dataset from and if this is the live site. If it’s “development” or “pre-production” then the site shows a big notice to say this is not the production version. It’s also used to turn on/off the debugging versions of the vue.js library without us having to fiddle futher.

While the dataset is in the “still changing” phase, we get the data from a PHP script which loads the latest Excel file from the /data/ directory ans uses a config file to turn the tabular data into more structured data. It also includes the config file in the resulting JSON file as it contains the information the site needs to render the dataset. You can see the combined JSON file with config & records.

After that it’s pure javascript. We use a bunch of common tools (jQuery, Vue, Bootstrap). Most of the templates are in index.html, and if you view the source you can see them in <script type=”text/x-template”> tags. The index.html + config.json + local.js files are the site’s configuration, and the rest of the code is more part of the software which we can reuse.

Preparing for preservation

Where our approach really shines is that all that’s needed to do to move this to a long-term preservation phase is

  • save the JSON output of the PHP file as a .json file,
  • update local.js to point to that file instead
  • delete the /dynamic/ directory which contains the PHP and libraries to convert the .xlsx to JSON

Single file repository

One File to rule them all, One File to find them,
One File to bring them all, and in the darkness bind them.

A normal HTML file often has a whole bunch of files which go with it, even if it’s just a single page. These are usually images, stylesheets and javascript. Our system also has the JSON file containing configuration and the dataset. It’s possible to embed all of this into a single .html file and doing that would make sense for this approach so it’s easy to curate. You can even embed the images as data URIs. In addition to the mega HTML document containing HTML+CSS+JS+JSON+Images, I’d be tempted to also store the JSON file as a separate document so that people far in the future who just want to get the data & schema can do so easily.

Open source?

Well… not yet. This would be an option for the future. In days gone by, this would have made a classic JISC project!

We hope to reuse much of this code on future University of Southampton projects and aspire to making it a generic open source tool.

If you have a suitable University of Southampton dataset, or you’re champing at the bit to reuse this code yourself, get in touch!

Posted in Best Practice, Javascript, Open Data, Repositories, Research Data.

ImPURE thoughts

A while back now we made the decision to use PURE as the university CRIS system. This was a bit of a wrench to me as the ex-lead developer for EPrints, and someone who’s been a long time member of the open access and open source communities. However I made the case for using EPrints as the front end for the open access repository.

PURE isn’t something I’ve learned too much about but there’s some things that frustrate me. One is that doing “batch” processes like removing  a tag from 1000s of records isn’t possible with our contract. It turned out to be easier and cheaper to get an intern to do it by hand.

Another disappointment is that the API doesn’t expose all the data. As a result of the open data & equipment data projects we now have lists of most major facilities and equipment at this university and, critically, they all have IDs. This means we were able to add this as a field in PURE so we can tag research datasets and papers with facilities and equipment involved in their creation. This has some internal uses, I guess, but I was really keen on getting it into the public repository.

We’ve got nice pictures of much of our research equipment, and descriptions. I though it would add an interesting new dimension to our repository but it’s all borked unless PURE make it available in their API.

It did give me the opportunity to redesign the metadata page for which I’m really proud of. Here’s an example. I tried to organise the page so that the most important information was at the top – the bibliographic stuff, with IDs lower down and more specialist tools like export and stats at the bottom.

I also managed to add links to the profile pages of authors currently at the university and to the research pages of relevant schools or research groups. This has helped make our repository pages feel more important to people as rather than a dead end.

nb. the text of the links to divisions on the right hand side is a bit of a mess. It’s on my TODO list.

Posted in Open Data, Repositories.