Busy Times

Vale Fireworks 20103 sisters by Conan (TK) (cc)

Since ProSEO two weeks ago I have been very busy.

On the uni side I have been making a console-based text chatting system in C as well as working on my final year project. I e-mailed Patrick Altoft and he gave me a couple more ideas for the project so all is good there, made good progress with almost a full day of work on it last Friday.

On Thursday went to see the Vale fireworks – didn’t think it was as impressive as in previous years. Perhaps they decided it would be good to tone it down given the recent announcements that tuition fees will double and could triple in the next few years. Still I didn’t see any arts students protesting.   Here are some Flickr photos of the Vale Fireworks.

Talking of fireworks my Cassiobury Park website experienced an explosion in traffic – up to a 3,300% spike on normal levels on the day of the bonfire there. Sadly revenue didn’t increase at all!

Have also been hooked into playing OpenTTD by house mates. Kind of like Railroad Tycoon, which I enjoyed playing previously but eventually got bored of, but with the ability to build road, sea and air transport networks as well. The railroad construction system is far more complex than in Railroads with the entrance and exit paths into stations, signals and pretty much everything having to be manually constructed.

Onwards!  Next C exercise has already been out a week.

Notes on ProSEO

Had a really good time at ProSEO where there were a lot of big name speakers, thanks to Distilled for the free ticket.

Picked up a few ideas for my final year project particularly from Patrick Altoft of Branded3/SEO blog blogstorm.   A couple more features I now plan to implement in my Link Analysis tool are a link profile graph showing the spread of links from each domain authority (so you can build links that follow the natural linking profile for your sector) and an indicator that a site may have been penalised by Google if its PageRank value is significantly different from the mozRank (there is a SEOmoz API).

Patrick’s presentation also made use of Wordle.net an excellent tool for visualising word based data (e.g. you can stick an RSS feed into it or, in this case, a list of anchor text point to a domain).  Wordle have some advanced features which can enable integration with other software.

Dave Naylor was pretty spot on with his Google is taking over the SERPs talk too!

Although I’m still ahead of schedule on the downside I haven’t coded anything on my project for the last 6 days due to going back home, the conference and a C project to create a “console-based Internet chatting system”.

MSInternet came into uni today along with a game development recruitment company. They were billed as a web development/internet marketing company but after a nice chat with MD Martin Saunders it seems they are mostly focused on php development and iPhone Apps now rather than SEO :(.

Wordle: CP referring keywordsWordle: Game Maker Blog referring keywords

Above:  Couple of Wordle clouds for (non-weighted) referring search terms in last month  – pretty obvious which sites they are for!

Paying for University Education

When I (hopefully) graduate I will owe the Government about £20,000 in loan repayments. That’s a lot. Tomorrow a report is due to be delivered to the Government which is expected to recommend the removal of the current £3,300 odd tuition fee loan cap. It has been suggested that may see University tuition fees rise to around £7,000 a year.

In comparison with countries such as the United States the British system is cheap but I don’t think landing graduates with a huge sum of debt is the right way to go about funding the higher education system.

The Lib Dems played with the idea of a ‘graduate tax’ which would see those who received the benefit of a free University education (so not me) pay a higher rate of income tax for the rest of their lives. If the University system is working then surely graduates will pay back far more tax anyway from the greater wages they can command (provided the graduates aren’t all working in call centres).  I think the problem is that the previous government wanted more people to go to University than was and is necessary which has led to the creation of degree courses in downright ridiculous subjects (pdf).

Foreign students already pay higher fees and make up an increasing proportion of students at UK Universities, I imagine because of the larger fees they are willing to pay. The amount Universities receive in fees from students is less than 30% of their total income.

The repayments for student loans are currently 9% of all income earned over £1,250 a month. On average UK salary (£25,428 a year) on a £20,000 loan at current rates of interest it will take 16 years to pay off.  16 years in which I imagine most graduates will want to buy a house.

Is my degree is value for money? Impossible to tell until I’ve got it and a job but I am pretty confident it will give me much greater opportunities than most other subject choices.

Photo: Stephen Boisvert (cc)

Grey future for students of today

The papers are constantly telling us that the economy is all messed up.  That students cannot get jobs when they leave University with debts and ridiculously high applications-to-graduate-jobs figures are being quoted almost every week.

Today joy of joys the BBC is headlining with “Students to face higher costs as graduate tax proposed” whilst a quote from today’s Guardian Online reads “It makes gloomy reading for those studying computer science and IT – they have the lowest employment rate for any area of study”.  Lucky us.

Natwest also sent me a nice letter saying they are going to stop paying me interest on my student account. I don’t know what the rate of interest I had been receiving from them was but it is the principle of the matter! The savings I have elsewhere are earning me something like a pathetic 2% a year thanks to low interest rates caused by all those people buying houses they couldn’t afford and inflating the prices so I will have no chance of owning one for the next 20 years or so.

So the parents of my generation not only got paid to go to University and benefited from vastly increasing house prices once they were on the property ladder they also get to retire at an age which is totally unaffordable leaving us to work longer and pick up the bill!

Grrr. I bet that if I do manage to save up to buy a house interest rates will magically be much higher then.  </rant>