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Confluence tip – HTTP 500 or 504 error with Copy Space plugin

This tip is for people using the Copy Space plugin on Confluence wiki. If you’re copying a large space, you may see an HTTP 500 or HTTP 504 server error a few minutes after starting the space copy. Don’t panic. It’s likely that the copy process is still going on. Whatever you do, don’t close the browser tab or window until you know for sure.

It happens to me often, and it happened in a rather spectacular fashion earlier this week. I’m letting you know, in the hope that I can save you from a moment of panic. Or, as in my case this week, from a few hours of unnecessary frenzy.

About the HTTP 500 and HTTP 504 errors

When you get an HTTP 500 error, your browser window displays a message something like this:

  • 500 Internal Server Error
  • Internal Server Error
  • HTTP Error 500

The error message is a bit useless. It doesn’t give you much information, and it sounds very dire. Basically, it means that something has gone wrong and the server can’t give you more information. This is the error we get when using the Copy Space plugin on our production documentation wiki.

I’ve also seen an HTTP 504 error appearing in the same situation on a test server. It seems that the server configuration determines which error you get. HTTP 504 is a Gateway Timeout error. That’s a bit more helpful and a little less scary.

What to do if you get an HTTP 500 or 504 while copying a space

First, wait a while. It is most likely that the front end has timed out, but the copy process is still happening in the background. Do not close down your browser.

Open another browser window or tab, and try going to the address of your new space. The space will become available when the copy operation has finished. Keep trying.

How long should you wait? Ah, now there’s the rub. The copy operation can take anything from a few minutes to a few hours, depending on the size of your space. Until this week, I would have said 2 hours was the maximum time to wait. This week, one of our spaces took 5 hours to copy. I guess the answer is: It depends on your previous experience with copying spaces on your wiki.

When the waiting period has gone on too long, raise the alarm with your system administrators. Ask them to examine the logs to see what has happened, and to determine whether the process is still running.

If you have no joy there, start the copy process again.

What is the Copy Space plugin?

The Copy Space plugin is an add-on that you can install into your Confluence wiki. It gives you a way to copy the content of a space to a new space, with a new space key. One of the Confluence developers wrote this plugin for the Atlassian technical writers, and it’s available for everyone else to use too. It is not a supported plugin, but we use it all the time. It would be very difficult to do without it.

There’s a request for the Copy Space plugin to be supported and bundled with Confluence: CONF-14198. If you like, you can vote for and comment on the issue. If the plugin were supported and bundled, we could ask for better handling of long-running tasks. 🙂

Banksia flower

I love the colours of this Banksia flower I saw when walking in the Australian bush. The flower head is made up of hundred of tiny individual flowers. (Ref.) Perhaps 500, or even 504? 😉

A technical writer in Sydney – and some trees

Julie Norris had a great idea this week. She has created a YouTube channel specifically for the #tcchat Twitter chat group, and she’s uploaded a video of herself and her corner of the world. Now she’s inviting us to do the same. What a lovely idea, thanks Julie!

So I’ve spent the last few days making a video and uploading it to YouTube. To cut a long story short, here’s the video. As Julie suggested, the video introduces me as a technical writer working in Sydney, and shows you a bit about my surroundings:

I think it’s a cool idea that will help to bring far-flung technical writers closer together, especially those of us who take part in the #tcchat Twitter chat group.

The long story

It took many, many tries to get this far. I have to confess that the air turned a delicate blue hue at times. Why oh why are movie formats so finicky, fussy and frustrating? 😉

I first read Julie’s post when I was on the bus on the way to work. Unsurprisingly, I did not have my camera with me. I did, however, have my sparkling new iPhone 4, which does movies. Cool. I made a cute movie of the Sydney Harbour Bridge through the bus window, and of the building where I work. On the way home, I filmed a Paperbark tree flapping in the breeze and a Sydney Red Gum glowing in the gentle afternoon light.

The next day I sallied forth with my “real” camera and took some more movies.

Then I attempted to splice them together. Disaster. I tried free software and trial versions of expensive software. Suffice it to say: Nothing works perfectly.

So in the end, I’ve decided to use the software that came with my Canon camera. It’s pretty good, but it is not able to merge the movie files made by the iPhone. It gets the picture OK, but no sound.

Oh, and I’m fond of Australian trees. You’ve probably noticed there are a couple in the movie above. 🙂

My trees and this blog are one year old

In August last year, I planted two trees at about the same time as I started this blog. Now the trees and this blog are just over a year old. A good opportunity for some stats 🙂


WordPress says that ffeathers has:

  • 62 posts
  • 184 tags (hmm, interesting but meaningless coincidence)
  • 17,216 total views
  • 7,584 blocked spam comments (thank you Akismet)

The most popular post is The agile technical writer with 1,247 views.

Today, someone found ffeathers by Googling for:

“your mouse has moved” error

I hope you found what you were looking for 🙂

Prickly Paperbark

Yesterday, another person came here searching for:

paperbark tree information on growth

So in your honour, here’s some idea of what a Paperbark tree does in a year.

The Prickly Paperbark was a tube, about 40cm high, when I planted it in August last year. Now it’s nearly 2 metres high and quite robust. (It needs to be robust, to survive the onslaught of weeds, floods, cold and heat that our garden inflicts upon it.)

Prickly Paperbark a year ago, at 40cm

Prickly Paperbark a year ago, at 40cm

Prickly Paperbark now, at 198cm

Prickly Paperbark now, at 198cm

It has a very pretty trunk and bark already. The diameter of the trunk is almost 3cm at its thickest part.

Prickly Paperbark close-up

Prickly Paperbark close-up

Old Man Banksia

The Banksia has not grown much since I last measured it in April this year. It’s approximately one metre tall, and battling an ever-changing environment. Since I planted it, a couple of tree ferns have muscled in on the territory.

Old Man Banksia last year, at 17cm

Old Man Banksia last year, at 17cm

Old Man Banksia now, at approx 1 metre

Old Man Banksia now, at approx 1 metre

Still, it is putting up a gallant fight. Its trunk is almost 2cm in diameter and it always has a lot of new growth, although much of it goes sideways in an attempt to find the sun.

Old Man Banksia close-up

Old Man Banksia close-up

As well as my two favourites, we planted around 20 native trees and shrubs last year. Spring has sprung, and we’ll be shopping for more soon. Death to all agapanthus 😉

Yayyy! Confluence wiki has page ordering

It’s a great week for technical documentation on a wiki. Confluence 2.8 is out and it includes manual page ordering. The technical writers at Atlassian have been vocal lobbyists for this feature for quite a while. I’m sure that many people who voted for the feature are technical writers too.

When you’re writing a documentation set, the sequence of the pages and chapters is very meaningful. It’s nice… well, many would argue that it’s essential to be able to define a logical page order rather than being stuck with an alphabetical order. Up to now in Confluence, we’ve worked around the problem by manually adding chapter numbers and page numbers, like “1. Introduction”, “2. Installation Guide”, “2.1 System Requirements”, and so on. Now take a look at point 2 in the Confluence 2.8 Release Notes. We can just drag and drop the pages and chapters where we want them. They stay there 🙂 and the new order is reflected in the PDF outputs and hierarchical page-tree views. Magic.

Here’s the page-ordering feature request on our JIRA issue tracker — it has 174 votes and 87 watchers (i.e. people who want automatic notification of any developments on the issue). The JIRA voting system certainly helped to get this particular feature into Confluence. It was a non-trivial change, and took a fair bit of effort from the development team.

A big hug for the Confluence team on behalf of technical writers everywhere ♥

Other Atlassians think the new version of the wiki is awesome too. See what Fag on FOSS has to say. There were a number of people involved in getting the release out there, and it’s cool that we’re all so pleased with it.

How are my trees doing?

It’s been a while since I ventured to the top of the garden to check up on my two trees. Some of you many have seen my first post about the trees, way back in August last year, when I planted the trees. Now they’ve been in the ground for eight months. They’re about the same age as this blog.

The Old Man Banksia is now 98cm high, grown from 17cm at planting:

Yayyy! Confluence wiki has page ordering

The Prickly Paperbark has shot up to 172cm, from 40cm at planting. Its trunk is about the girth of my finger. As you can see, the garden around the Paperbark is a bit of a jungle, but the tree is holding its own:

Yayyy! Confluence wiki has page ordering

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