Greenhill Grammar school, Oldham

Photo System
Development Timeline


Early Years with MSN

The presentation of photographs on this site has several unusual features developed over many years which make it particularly well suited to the special requirements of an 'old school' website. I.e. the ability to find all the entries about specific people, classes, teams etc. quickly and easily.

The first collection of Greenhill images that I recall was part of an MSN group which I joined in May 2003 prompted mainly by sight of the 1957 panorama. In the early part of 2005 Ian Chidgey and Roger Worthington started a project attempting to index the faces on the 57 pan using grid references. The appropriate name then being found in look-up tables. The system was very unreliable, however, because the faces didn't fall naturally onto any easily used grid and people's subjective interpretation of the references differed widely.

I started experimenting with a simple group photo using image mapping and the 'tooltip' attribute to show the person's name. This was successful though the html script required to achieve it was not permitted as MSN content. It had to be placed in my ISP (Tiscali) personal web space and viewed via a link on the MSN page. The 57 panorama was presented in May 2005 using this method. It attracted a lot of favourable attention and work was started on the 1962 panorama almost immediately. At the same time more and more members offered class and team photos for inclusion into the 'Named Photo' series.

It soon became apparent that everyone was providing a lot of information, involving a lot of work on my part, that was hard linked to Tiscali and effectively locking me into them as ISP. In December 2005 I registered the domain to give me some flexibility of hosting and helping to make the system independently 'future proof'. It had the added advantage of now being visible to the major search engines and gave the two associated sites (MSN and greenhill-gs) a much higher profile.

By March 2006 there were so many photos in the system that we started to receive complaints about the number of 'clicks' required to move from one photo to another. This was exacerbated by restrictions on the size of, and number of entries on, the menu pages on MSN. Javascript was used for the first time in the greenhill-gs system to show a 'worm hole' menu when the cursor was moved to the top of each image. This essentially allowed one click movement between any two images in the system. As well as images, documents such as the school magazine 'The Greenhillian' were now being offered for inclusion on the greenhill-gs site. This intensified an already ongoing debate as to the quality/definition of images posted.

The quality of material on the MSN site itself was adequate for its time on the internet but generally poor in the wider context. The greenhill-gs site on the other hand was posting higher quality images in the continuing attempt to make all this input 'future proof' and many early contributors to MSN had rescanned their material to a much higher standard for the site. Factions within MSN however were insisting that much of the greenhill-gs material was duplicated at lower quality on the MSN site for a mixture of reasons, ostensibly to make downloads more manageable for a rapidly dwindling number of members on slow internet connections.

In June 2007 the work involved in maintaining the limited capability MSN system began to outweigh that involved in the greenhill-gs site itself and I resigned from MSN, though a co-operation agreement was eventually negotiated. Another worrying feature of the MSN site was that it had no independent back-up system and could not be relocated. Again, rational discussion of the situation was not tolerated and later in 2007 another independent domain came into operation, Ken Rodgers', though this had originally been started as a proof of concept project for the proposed rehousing of the MSN group.