Mmmm… stew

Irish stew tomorrow in Garenmarkt. I’m only sayin’



Web stuff library

Time to get a couple of reference works in, to wit:

  • Information Architecture for the World Wide Web by Louis Rosenfeld, Peter Morville  [O’Reilly, 0596000359]
  • The Design of Sites: Patterns, Principles, and Processes by Douglas K. van Duyne [Addison-Wesley, 020172149X]
  • The Elements of User Experience by Jesse James Garrett [New Riders, 0735712026]
  • Defensive Design for the Web by 37signals, Matthew Linderman, Jason Fried [New Riders, 073571410X]
  • Bulletproof Web Design by Dan Cederholm  [New Riders, 0321346939]
  • Eric Meyer on CSS by Eric A. Meyer [New Riders, 073571245X]
  • More Eric Meyer on CSS by Eric A. Meyer [New Riders, 0735714258]
  • The Zen of CSS Design by Dave Shea, Molly E. Holzschlag [Peachpit, 0321303474]
  • Web Standards Solutions by Dan Cederholm  [friends of ED, 1590593812]
  • About Face 2.0 [Wiley, 0764526413]
  • DOM Scripting by Jeremy Keith [friends of ED, 1590595335]
  • Don’t Make Me Think by Steve Krug [New Riders, 0321344758]
Yep. Yepyep.

Presse (encore)

Amusant: l’histoire de l’ancien du Collège qui était plus ou moins le seul témoin de la défaite historique des vins français (ou plutôt la victoire des vins californiens) en 1976—Paris Winetasting Author Visits Valley.

Et encore une ancien, à Malte cette fois: New EU representative in Malta takes over.

Et un troisième ancien, Horstpeter Kreppel, vient de prêter serment au Tribunal de la fonction publique de l’Union européenne.

Et encore: Loukas Tsoukalis (ancien et professeur visiteur!) devient un des trois “special advisers” du nouveau Group of Societal Policy Analysis de la Commission.

The mind boggles

I wonder sometimes…

what drives someone to enter the same incorrect URL over fifty times in a row?

why would you try two dozen variations of an address that doesn’t exist? like /poeple/name, /people/name, /ppl/name, /peeps/name, peoples/name, name/people/, staaff/people/name, name/staff/people?

if /something/images/name.jpg doesn’t exist, why try /something/images/images/name.jpg? and if that doesn’t exist, why try /something/images/images/images/name.jpg?

why does Google try combinations of URLs that patently don’t exist, have never existed and never will? like /ourdocs/template.asp?pagename=welcome?

how long do pages really stay cached in Google’s cache? we’ve got some that haven’t existed for at least three years in there!


We made an error! You idiot!

…that’s more or less what most websites tell you whenever something goes wrong. Don’t take my word for it, go ahead and try for yourself.

Try to get a page that doesn’t exist on Europa ( and you get this error message:

Not Found
The requested object does not exist on this server. The link you followed is either outdated, inaccurate, or the server has been instructed not to let you have it.

Do the same at the United Nations (

Not Found
The requested URL /english/qsdfqsdfqsfd was not found on this server.

Still, these are relatively benign. If we take a look at institutions a little closer to the College we’re made to feel downright stupid. Try the European Institute of Public Administration ( in Maastricht:

Error 404
Not Found

Terse. To say the least. And scarcely helpful.

Enter an incorrect address at the EUI in Florence ( and you’re hit with

File Not Found
The requested URL /unknown was not found on this server.
There was also some additional information available about the error: [Fri Oct 7 19:51:44 2005] access to /home/stronghold/htdocs/unknown failed for, reason: File does not exist

Quite. Give them credit: they try to be helpful, even if the help isn’t really, erm, actually helpful.

I’ve been around the internet for quite a while and I’ve seen my share of error messages, so I’m pretty much inured to them. But they’re neither friendly nor helpful. And what they’re really saying (or at least implying) is that you, the user, did something wrong. That you are to blame.

Which of course may be the case—I monitor the errors that occur on the website very closely, and you do see people just try anything and everything in quick succession, blindly hoping that if they enter enough strange URLs they’ll hit on that one address they almost-but-not-quite remember.

However more often than not the error lies either with us (for removing something that used to exist or for adding a wrong link to a page) or with other people (for adding out of date or plain wrong links to their pages). And in those cases it’s even more counterproductive to saddle the unsuspecting visitor with a blunt error message.

So, what are we doing about this on the College site? Well, for starters, no technical mumbo-jumbo. No mention of Error 404s or server this and file that. And we try to offer help:

Page not found

You entered or followed a link to the following address:

We’re sorry, but we couldn’t find the page you were looking for.

Click the back button to return where you came from, or alternatively you may find what you were looking for on the College of Europe home page or the College A-Z.

If you are receiving this message and you suspect you shouldn’t have, something else may have gone wrong. Please get in touch with the webmaster—he may be able to help you out.

The wording needs some work, I know, but hey, at least we’re being really apologetic. We’re practically groveling we are.

Ah, I kid, I kid. 🙂

Sill, where the error page really comes into its own is when I know about the address that throws the error—be it a web page, or an image, a PDF file, a Word file, Powerpoint file, etc. Two cases there: either the non-existing address has a one on one replacement, or it hasn’t.

In the first case we never even stop for an error message and shunt the user onwards. So when for some reason the Development Office “home page? has been moved from /dev.htm to /template.asp?pagename=devointro and then to /development, either one of those addresses will forward the user to the correct page, no questions asked.

In the second case we do stop and inform the user of what is going on, as with everything to do with our HR Studies department:

Page not found

You entered or followed a link to the following address:

We’re sorry, but there hasn’t been a Human Resources Studies department at the College of Europe for a quite a few years now. Please see our Study Programmes page for more information on our current academic programmes.

At the moment there are close to four hundred “special treatment? URLs in the database.

I think I’ll only need to stay on top of the errors that are generated every day for a few weeks more, adding them to the database as they occur, to get our errors down from literally hundreds per day to practically nil.

Nifty, no?

Revue de presse

Hé ben, ça nous change des accusations de (shh!) mafia: Le Monde de l’Education de cet octobre 2005.

Le Monde

Pas mal, pas mal. Je me demande si on ne pourrait pas mettre cet article quelque part sur le site. Téléphoner le journaliste demain. Mouais.

What, me busy?

Eeyurgh. It’s been one of those plate-juggling days: a dozen equally important, equally needed to be done by, um, let’s see, yesterday things, punctuated with cursory glances at the 404s every half hour or so—can’t let them sit for a day and do them all at once or I’d never get on top of them—and of course the constant e-mail barrage, phone calls every so often, my weekly trip to Verversdijk, the weekly IT/Communications meeting, a briefing to (of all people!) The Reference this morning, a reply to a reply for a call for tender (which come to think of it I still need to redo seeing as I’d done it in French and it turns out they need it in English), et caetera.

Still. Could be worse. Managed to clear up quite a few loose ends on the website, managed to get a couple of misunderstandings out of the way, managed to set a meeting date to add more information about our campus buildings and residences, got some student event info from Natolin, reached an agreement about the new student website (more work I’m afraid, but still, nice to have an agreement).

And I managed to reduce the amount of newsletters I have to send out tomorrow by two. From three: this morning I knew I had to send out one newsletter for our Malaysia project, another one for UNU-CRIS, and a third one—actually a press release in the form of a newsletter—for our latest round of EU Policy Workshops. Fast forward a couple of hours, and the press release will be proper press release plus a section in the regular Development Newsletter, the UNU-CRIS thing has been upgraded (or downgraded, depends on how you see things :D) to an intranet item.

Which leaves the Malaysia newsletter. Which I’ll do first thing tomorrow morning. Right after my meeting with the student representatives. And just before my redoing the ACLT pages. Good thing the afternoon meeting for tomorrow has been cancelled (even if nobody seems to have done anything about the actual meeting request yet, ha!).

Um. Ah yes: welcome to my new weblog, auf Englisch und Französisch.