Inside Information – Best Irish Business Blog shortlist

Inside sources (who declined to be named) are suggesting that the longlist for the ‘Best Irish Business Blog’ will look something like this …

Irish Blog Awards

The fact that this information was given to me (in ready to paste HTML) has nothing, absolutely nothing , to do with the fact that are sponsoring the Best Business blog award.


OpenIsland – showing free software means business – Belfast

If you’re interested in Open Software, and you’re around Belfast next Friday (Feb 1st) , you could do worse than go to this OpenIsland– it’s in Spires, opposite Jury’s Inn , right next to the Europa Bus Station (i.e. it’s pretty easy to get to).

Open Island Logo

Title: OpenIsland – All-Island Conference on Free and Open Source Software

Location: Spires Conference Centre, Belfast

Time: All-day Date: 1st February, 2008

Cost: Free Web:

The event will include talks from Bruce Perens, author of the Open Source Definition, and a senior speaker from Sun Microsystems, as well as a number of local case studies. Please note that the website says that the closing date for registration is 24th January, but if people wish to attend they can still do so by sending an email to Registrants should include the following information: Name, Company, Job Title, Email, Special Dietary Requirements

Top web designers get paid in cows

Eoghan McCabe and Ken Stanley are doing some work on a website for us. Under wraps until it’s complete, but even at this stage it looks very slick. This work is as a result of Eoghans win a web design competition so they’re refusing to take any payment for it. So what do you do to show their appreciation? You buy them a cow.
I don’t know what the going rate (in cows) are for Eoghan’s and Ken’s services, so this is only a token amount. And the cow goes to Africa via Oxfam Ireland rather than An Post leaving it at your doorstep. Although once Ken found out about his bovine-surprise, he threatened to track it down and BBQ it himself.

And yes, if you’ve been reading this blog for while, you’ll know that I’m a serial cow buyer.

Who will we be handing the 'best Irish business blogger' award to?

Did we mention that we’re sponsoring the Best Irish Business Blogger award at the Irish Blog awards on March 1st? We’ve written a guide to business blogging in Ireland, and I’m really looking forward to see who the winner is on the night.

Irish blog award sponsor logo

In case you’re looking at the blog award nomination form and wondering who to fill in the business section, may I be as bold as to suggest a couple of possibilities? If I’ve missed your blog , leave a comment.

Or you could follow our suggestions for Best Political Blogger.

Irish Blog Awards – Suggestion for Best Political Blogger

Unlike last year, I’m not going to give a complete list of alternative nominations for the Irish Blog Awards. Instead we’re going to plug a few specific categories for your consideration (including the Best Business Blog that are sponsoring).

Blog Award Logo Sponsor

Given that the shortlist could (partially) be done on the number of nominations, I’d urge you to check out the blog below, and see if it’s worthy of your consideration.

James Lawless (view from the tracks) has been started online as a rail activist, now writing as a member of Fianna Fail. Does that make him the only member of Ireland’s largest party to be brave enough to stand up online?

I often disagree with what he says, but it’s a useful counterpoint to the tide of anti-government opinion that seems to prevail in the blogosphere. Whether the tide is justified or not is a question that will last past March 1st when the awards are given out.

Of course, if you want a plug for your blog / nomination, please leave a comment and we’ll see what we can do. Next up: Business Bloggers that’d we like to hand the award to on the night.

What does actually do?

Damien asked for blurbs from the sponsors of the Irish Blog Awards as to what they actually do. After years of trying explain in our 3 minute elevator pitch, I think we’ve finally got the answer.

FirstPartners slogan build the ugly bits of websites. Not the lovely front ends but the bits that do the heavy lifting – the bits that ensure your bank balance is correct, that your ticket is there when you arrive at the airport, or bits that capture your teams’ knowledge . We deliver using a combination of Enterprise Java Technology, our custom Red-Piranha framework and Agile project techniques.

More at

How to fix the CAO Website (aka scalable systems using Drools and JMS messaging)

Just looking for the whitepaper on Scalable , Multiple Deployments of JBoss Drools? Click here

If you’re 17 or 18, and about to finish 2nd level school, chances are that you want to apply to a 3rd Level College or University. Here in Ireland you get 100 points for each ‘A’ grade in your final school exams (Leaving certificate), 85 points for a ‘B’ grade and so on. You can then use these points to ‘bid’ for your preferred course, with Medical and Legal courses ‘costing’ the most. Think of it as EBay for education, managed by the CAO (Central Applications Office).

Cao Logo

Of course, this being a Business Rules post, things are not quite as simple as that. Many courses such as Art and Drama require that you submit a portfolio of work. A lot of courses with strong people skills (e.g. Psychology) require an interview. And from this year, high demand medical courses have additional exams scores (testing for common sense and a personality!). These rules tend to be modified slightly from year to year. All these rules make the process more complex to administer, given that tens of thousands of people apply annually.

17 year olds being 17 year olds, all these applications hit the website in a 2-3 days ‘spike’ before the February 1st deadline. A 2nd spike hits the system in mid August when the actual exam results are published and college places are distributed.

Given that we’re dealing with people’s futures here how would you build the system (a) to process the rules clearly and correctly and (b) to guarantee that every application will processed , no matter how big the spike in workload is?. The current system has legacy issues, and has a history of falling over at critical moments (see stories here and here).

Problem A – how to run the course rules clearly and accurately – is a known issue, and can easily be solved using JBoss Drools.

Problem B – how to ensure the website / system is always available can also be solved quite easily : Use JMS to ‘Queue’ requests. At busy times in some call centres, instead waiting ‘musak’ you may get the message ‘ please leave your details and we’ll call you back when you get the head of the queue. BT Ireland do this for their broadband support, and they call you back in the same order that you were waiting. This guarantees that even under large spikes all requests will be handled (eventually), but with no guarantee of when. This is better than the alternative of ‘I’ll hang around online until I get the complete reply’; if the web site falls over; no guarantee when or even if you’ll get a response.

So, how do you put all of these together, perhaps with multiple versions of JBoss Drools (for extra scalability). By complete co-incidence (!) a whitepaper on how to build scalable websites using Drools and JMS messaging is here. – what they don't tell you about their mobile service

After 12 months on the ‘todo’ list, I’ve finally switched my mobile to Three Ireland. I’m broadly happy with the choice, but everybody loves a moan, so here are the three things that don’t tell you.

  • It’s impossible to topup online for prepay, neither via the Website nor via AIB / Bank of Ireland. It means you have to go to the shop and buy a topup voucher, then enter in a 16 number code. Not very user friendly.
  • You can’t sent text messages via the Website. No chance of using a proper keyboard to type your messages then.
  • While the portal is free, it’s a bit Ryanair-ish – all ads for Video Poker and ‘Download these ringtones’.

Not exactly killer ‘don’t use Three Ireland’ complaints , is it?’
Three Ireland Logo
So to give you (in the immortal words of Fox news) ‘fair and balanced reporting’ – here are things that I like.

  • Coverage (on both 3G and the 3.5G / HSDPA) is pretty good. At least in the Dublin – Belfast corridor where I spend most of my time. I’ll wait a while before transferring my Vodafone Data card though.
  • It’s cheaper for me than 02 and Vodafone – at least according to official telecom regulator site.
  • The phones are good. The Nokia 6120 that I got is average size, which is a compliment for the normally bulky 3G models. It’s got a small screen, but it plays well with my Nokia 770 Tablet , so it works out ok.
  • A large selection of their phones offer Skype – that’s free calls over the internet. While it’s crippled so no call in or out from normal telephones, it’s still useful enough for talking to overseas developers.