Saturday, March 9, 2013

Owl Cam' Situation Report

Friday morning, I spoke about the owl cam' situation with a very pleasant member of the staff of the President's Office at the The University of Texas at Austin. The person knew exactly who I was from the start of the conversation, so the owl cam' must, as they confirmed, be getting some attention in the President's Office. I asked about the status of the situation, but learned only that the matter was being discussed (or words to that effect).

I brought up the issue that, while I have no desire to cause them problems, or rush them, there's nothing I can do about the schedule on which the screech owls are operating, and I'm expecting the first egg to hatch this coming Wednesday, possibly sooner. Since that marks the beginning of the most interesting and educational phase of nesting, and the one I'm confident people look forward to the most, I asked that that time constraint be factored into their considerations. That issue was duly noted, and I offered to assist them in any way I could. It was suggested that I might hear from them that afternoon (I assumed that would be a request for further information, rather than a resolution), but that didn't happen. No gripe there; they made no promise, best laid plans and so on....

Perhaps Monday.

Regrettably, I think the folks involved in the discussion/decision have never had the opportunity to see the screech owl cam' site. Therefore, I wonder what opinions they've formed about it, and how those might be feeding into the discussion. The copies of the site in the Internet Archive would be indispensable if that were the problem, but I've seen those copies and they look terrible for reasons I have yet to nail down (missing style sheets and graphics seem to be part of the problem - but why weren't those archived along with everything else?). If they could see the site, rather than working, I suspect, in something of a vacuum, I can't help but wonder if they'd have an easier time reaching their decision. In this matter, however, I've entered the realm of speculation, since I know nothing about the nature of the decision making process that's underway.

BTW, readers who clearly have some experience with environments like mine, have asked whether the site was forced down due to central IT technical issues, excessive network use, inappropriate use of University resources, or use of University time to run the site. All good questions. The answers are, respectively: no, the site is hosted independent of our central IT resources; no, our networking team—of which I was a member for many years—watches for excessive host bandwidth utilization and may be depended upon to contact those people whose hosts approach the top of the charts, and I was not contacted; no, the screech owl cam' site conforms with all versions of our Acceptable Use Policy that I have seen (that's why, among other things, my links to books on Amazon are links uncontaminated by Amazon's profit sharing scheme, so I make no money whatsoever when someone buys one of them); and, finally, no, I don't use University time to run the site - all of the data is gathered and archived by my home computer (and other hardware there), so, in practice, I have to be at home to process it to produce the daily image galleries, write updates, perform routine maintenance, etc.

In fact, the site was forced down by a manager who promised me from day one that there would never be any problem with my continuing to host it on my office computer—something I'd already been doing for eleven years, so you may be certain I made a point of raising that issue—who watched the cam' last year, was aware that it was already running this year, and who is even taking an ongoing loan of a screech owl nest box from me. What's good for that goose is, evidently, all that matters to it in this world.



  1. Wow. Just - wow. I can not fathom the motive behind the actions of that manager. Boo hiss!

  2. Hey Chris, I can only offer a couple of sketchy screen shots that show the layout (not the content) and 1 photographic representation of the cam. Happy to forward that little tatter if it will assist. Cheers, BWrinkle

    1. Thanks very much. For whatever it's worth, there was only one request made for a look at the site, and that was in my initial conversation with the person attached to (but not a member of) the President's Office, which occurred on Monday the 4th. That said, if the issue arises, or if I can raise the question of its helpfulness and I receive an affirmative answer, I think I can reconfigure my software here to recreate this year's site in more-or-less working order (I'm unsure how some of the animated pages may react to receiving no new images—they include some disaster recovery logic that might be triggered and make them behave in ways that could seem odd—but I don't think there'll be any horrible issues).