They think it's all over the Web

It is now, as e-developer Bryan Murray has scored a cracker with his work on this live-results Web site

It is now, as e-developer Bryan Murray has scored a cracker with his work on this live-results Web site

When Bryan Murray set to work on the Web site he was determined that the servers contributing data to the project would play together as a single team, writes Guy Campos. is the football Web site of The Sun and the News of the World newspapers and it depends on two third-party data streams: one covering live results and match reports from the Press Association and another covering league tables from information company Paradigm.

Murray, an e-developer at online design agency Xceed, wanted the integration of these two data streams to be as flawless as a pass by Liverpool footballer Jamie Redknapp.

To make this happen, one of the team of eight developers he led on this three-week project wrote a Perl script to transfer data from the Press Association server to an Oracle database sitting behind the site.

A Vignette content management system running on a Unix platform then takes this data and uses it to create a cache of pages. When users click on they receive pages from this cache, as generating a fresh page from the database on every click-through would slow down the Web site's performance, given the level of hits expected by a large football site. To ensure that users view up-to-date news the live results pages are updated every 30 seconds from the database.

Integrating data from the Paradigm server with required even niftier footwork. The league tables are available as Web pages from Paradigm but Murray did not simply want to display somebody else's Web pages inside a frameset.

With frames, the user would not be able to bookmark a specific league table. Frames could also confuse the user by offering up two sets of navigation tools - one on the frame and another on the Web page included within it.

To beat this block, Murray wrote a script in the old Unix TCL (pronounced "tickle") language used by the Vignette system. This script strips the Paradigm data of its unwanted Web page and navigational HTML tags and adds in those tags required by a page.

For Murray, seeing the integration work was the best part of the project - a bit like watching Liverpool win the European Cup 3-1 in 1977, with Tommy Smith heading in the second goal.

The worst part was testing the live results feed and seeing Liverpool lose a three-goal lead against Southampton, with that ingenious little Perl script helping to update the bad news every 30 seconds.

Curriculum vitae

Name: Bryan Murray

Job title: e-developer at online design agency Xceed

Age: 33

Qualifications: Phd in superconductivity, masters in electronics

IT skills: ASP, Vignette with TCL, Perl, Cgi-script, C

Hobbies: Solving Goldbach's Conjecture, a mathematical puzzle with a £1m reward

Favourite book: Catch-22 by Joseph Heller

Favourite pub: I like them all too much to have a favourite

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