Imagine a caterpillar spinning a cocoon around it, a process that is instrumental in bringing about fundamental change, though the caterpillar may not know what to expect. However, there will come a time when the cocoon is finished and the caterpillar will have evolved so much that we see it fly away, leaving the cocoon far behind.

The caterpillar is the human race and the cocoon is what we call today "the Internet".

- Paul Trafford

Status (January '04):

I'm a Project Officer in the Learning Technologies Group at Oxford University Computing Services. During the past year or so I've supported the uptake of Virtual Learning Environments across the University. My main responsibility has been to facilitate the rollout of a centrally hosted system called WebLearn, which I administer and for which I do some development, training etc. WebLearn is an implementation of Bodington, an open source product developed by Leeds University.

I joined OUCS in June 2000, part of a fairly small team (now called the Academic Computing Development Team) that works closely with academics in developing IT resources to support admin, teaching and research. One of the first tasks I was given was to review the kinds of VLE systems available; subsequently, I customised OxArch an existing PHP/MySQL based system at Oxford to produce the Teaching Resources Web site which made a valuable contribution to the Theology Faculty's QAA submission (the Government agency responsible for assessing the quality of teaching of university departments).

I have become quite fond of Open Source software and look after a Linux development server which provides various Internet services, in particular hosting a selection of multimedia services, including RealServer, Darwin and Zoom Image server. However, most of my time has been in Web development. In my most recent project, I produced an online editing shell for the second phase of Interactive Audio Comprehension Materials. IACM simulates an aural exam for 1st year Undergraduates in Modern Languages and consists of passages of text and streaming audio sections, all the data being stored in XML. The main aim of the second phase is to allow academics with no web authoring knowledge to create and edit passages, especially to provide an easy graphical interface for setting the timings. So I developed a system that presents a familiar interface using Web forms. Perl and CGI provide the basic Web interaction, whilst SGML, XML and XSLT (XML::Sablotron) are used to carry out the transformations - XSLT is used both to generate the data supplied to the Web forms and unusually to actually carry out the updating (editing, addition and deletion). JavaScript has been used to provide interaction with Real media controls.

I have made a very small open source contribution in the way of NetWedit, a WYSIWYG HTML mark up tool to accompany Web forms and licensed as a library under the GNU LGPL. It is written in JavaScript and is a bit quirky, but has the distinction of running in both Netscape and IE, and it offers lots of scope for different kinds of use. There is a sister tool called IEWedit, which is actually much more functional, but based on the code that is not open source :-(

In some of my other project work I developed a production system in Perl that generates a customisable multimedia Chinese language CD-ROM - you can choose how many lessons, what exercises etc. Running the CD requires no server! The Chinese Institute have used this to produce a version that you can buy from Blackwells online bookshop (just search for 'Chinese Multimedia').

Other computing topics of interest include mobile learning and handheld computing. I use a HP Jornada 720 both at home and work - you can read about some experiences I had running X Windows applications and also see how it coped with WebLearn (you can log in as a visitor).

And before ...

Previously, I worked as an Internet Resource Developer (System Adminstrator/Web Developer) for the MultiFaithNet project at the University of Derby. That's where I first learnt to set up a server to run Linux and Apache, and started tailoring various Perl tools, such as a links directory. After I left, the server carried on faithfully, managing to clock continuous uptime of about 8 months, and a two and a half years later it is still chugging along! I also had some space to work on the front end and could produce the occasional nice visual designs - the Mongolia exhibition that I composed at MultiFaithNet was well received by Barbara Hind, the photographer. This site, Chez Paul, is visually rather basic, but at least navigation should be quite quick.

I have spent a long time studying for formal academic qualifications. Some while ago I was trying to promote collaboration in Formal Methods research and developed the FM on-line proposal, but as my work is different now I am no longer pursuing this. If anyone would like to take it up, then please feel free (just send me an email to let me know). Similarly, I never got round to producing publications from my Ph.D. thesis. Again, I'd be happy for someone to publish this jointly, or even in their own name, though some acknowledgement would be appreciated!  In these I took to heart the systems thinking approach, which probably explains why it took me 8 months longer than the nominal 3 years for completion ;-)

And in the future ...

Looking long term, I do not see myself as remaining an entirely technical developer and my secondment seems to reflect this. Browsing this site will also indicate this - for instance, my interest in Open Source extends beyond the realm of software into interfaith dialogue: in Spring 2000 I gave the following paper at a very unusual conference on the theme of Wisdom: Open Sources - A Higher Consciousness in Software Development.  In fact I have many ideas and I like to integrate them, which is a natural thing for me to do, being mixed race.

Some time I will get round to updating my formal CV...

- Paul Trafford

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Last modified: 25 January 2004