Revitalising the FT's global archive

Lindsay Nicolle meets the man who turned the FT site into one of the world's biggest free news resources

Lindsay Nicolle meets the man who turned the FT site into one of the world's biggest free news resources

In October, www.ft.com, the online incarnation of the Financial Times, introduced a free global archive of more than 10 million articles from 2,000 publications, making it one of the world's largest free information search facilities. The portal is now the biggest news site in the UK after the BBC.

Adam Worrall, team leader of the site's four-person core systems team, is one of the original co-developers of the archive. He was also instrumental in the configuration and deployment of the Web servers for the new enhanced, searchable, Verity database, as well as being responsible for co-ordinating the input of third-parties, and integrating the diverse components needed to create the search engine.

"We've been a lot more ambitious with the second launch of the archive and it has involved a lot of glue to make things talk to each other and be robust enough," says Worrall. "My role for the time being is as troubleshooter and lead developer for the core systems of the site - chiefly the content management system database, interfaces, and Web servers. My main skillset is classic debugging of the site's systems."

The update of the site has meant migrating 1.5 million users, who access 30 million pages every month, from DB2 to Oracle running on Sun's Solaris operating system.

In recent months the site has also been stripped of much of the original customised content, and given a new, simplified look and feel. The content management system is OpenMarkets' Futuretense. The registration sub-system and the global archive front-end on the site are handled by a separate team and run on Java Server Pages and Enterprise Java Beans.

"It is a very pluralistic site because we're delivering content through Apache Mod Perl, which we use as a plug-in to the Web server to make it go like a rocket - it is a very flexible, lovely tool," says Worrall.

Worrall allows four hours a day for project development, migrating data from the old to the new system, creating new parts of the site, or exploring future potential changes. The rest of his day is spent being reactive to events. He favours old-style tools for his job, including the Emacs editor and SSH for network connectivity. "It sounds a bit old-fashioned but they're classic tools really and they do the job," he says.

The relaunch of the archive and revamp of the site has been a massive success, delivering over 50% more page views per month than the old style site.

For the future, Worrall is working on integrating the whole family of FT Web sites and a second generation Wap site.

Curriculum vitae

Name: Adam Worrall

Age: 28

Qualifications: BSc computer science, PhD computer graphics

IT skills: Unix, Perl, Apache, Solaris, Oracle, Java, Emacs, SSH, C

Hobbies: food and drink

Favourite book: The Trial, Franz Kafka

Favourite pub: The Embassy, London

Worrall on Worrall: sceptical, creative, persistent

This was last published in November 2000

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