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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? 😉

Linking to external blog posts from our documentation

At work, we’ve just started a new set of documentation pages called “Tips of the Trade“. The project is still in the early stages. I thought other tech writers might be interested, so I’m blogging about it now. There will be a page for each of the products we document. The pages contain a set of links to useful blog posts written by people out there on the www. It’s a way of giving our readers more information and a way of involving external bloggers, developers and authors in our documentation.

Here are the first two:

The pages for JIRA bug tracker and Bamboo build manager are under review. We’ll be adding pages for our other products soon too.

Why have we started doing this?

The idea has been skulking around my head for a while, and it finally got dragged out into the open two weeks ago when, for the umpteenth time, someone asked me how we use wiki spaces to manage documentation versions. My answer was to point them to a blog post I’d written on this topic. But first I had to sift through the plethora of blog posts to find the ones about doing tech docs on wikis. And it’s not only me. Our technical sales and support guys have repeated the same search many times.

How much handier it would be if we could point the enquirer to a whole set of links about using wikis for technical documentation. Or even better, how awesome if people could just find the links for themselves in our documentation. Time saved, for them and for us. FTW.

Funnily enough, apart from tech docs on wikis, there are other things in life too. For example, haven’t you been dying to know how to secure a Grails application with Acegi and Crowd, or how to do SSO for RoundCube Webmail? Heh, the Crowd “Tips of the Trade” page has links to people who’ve done it.

Bringing the idea to life

So I put together two strawman pages, one for Confluence and one for Crowd. That was a fun and interesting exercise in itself. It took many hours. I had to search for the blog posts, then read each one and decide whether it suited the purpose. Because we’re talking about the technical documentation, I was looking specifically for “how to” guides rather than the broader use case materials.

Then I blogged about the idea and the strawmen on our extranet (a Confluence site that we use for company blog posts, planning, information management and so on). The response was immediate and enthusiastic.

That’s one of the things I love about working at Atlassian — all the feedback and support you get when you post an idea on the extranet. If you get no comments, then there’s a good chance the idea is a dud.

A rose by any other name

Isn’t it so often true that finding the name is the most difficult part of a new project? The page title started out as “Tips from the Trade”. But that wasn’t quite right. So for a short period of time we dubbed the pages “Tips from the Coalface”. Not ideal either. So now they’re “Tips of the Trade”. Better, but still not awesome.

The title doesn’t really resonate, scintillate, titillate 🙂

Any ideas?

The page layout

To categorise or not to categorise? I decided to go for “soft categorisation”. I don’t know if that term has ever been used before, but it kind of expresses what I mean.

Our human brains like to categorise things. It gives us a fuzzy sense of security and well being 🙂 On a more mundane level, categories give a page a structure that is pleasing to the eye. They soften the “wall of text” effect. On the other hand, categories are fairly arbitrary or subjective and can hide valuable information.

So I put the blog posts into more-or-less meaningful categories, and put a box around each block of links with the category as title. But I didn’t mark the category as a heading. The result is that the table of contents at the top of the page does not show the categories. So you get the best of both worlds — a categorised and an uncategorised view of the world, uh, page.

For those who want to know the wiki markup:

  • The table of contents at the top of the page is produced by a {toc} macro, showing only heading level 6: {toc:minLevel=6|maxLevel=6}
  • The boxes are produced by the {panel} macro, with a choice of colours: {panel:title=Application Connectors
    |borderStyle=solid|borderColor=#ccc|titleBGColor=#6699cc
    |bgColor=#cee7ff}

Hint: You can see the wiki markup for yourself. Go to the Crowd Tips of the Trade, open the “Tools” menu and select “View Wiki Markup”.

I also decided not to put the posts into any particular order. I’m assuming that most people will find what they want via a search, so I’ve added some short descriptions of the content of each blog post.

Tips of an entirely different sort

Diversion alert!

This morning I had to trim the tips of my hair. Fully two inches off! But the cause of this tip-trimming is suitably romantic. My hair got hopelessly tangled when I flew in an open-cockpit Tiger Moth. Tip: If you ever get the chance to do something similar, tuck your hair under the helmet. It was a fantastic experience. Here are some pics and videos: Flying in a Tiger Moth.

A couple of months ago I radically pruned one of our bushes, because it was getting tall and a bit sparse in the middle. We were worried for a while that I’d been too enthusiastic. But now such pretty flowers have bloomed on all the blunt tips:

Linking to external blog posts from our documentation

Linking to external blog posts from our documentation

My faith in gardening “how to” manuals is restored 😉 A close up view:

Linking to external blog posts from our documentation

Linking to external blog posts from our documentation

What’s next for the “Tips of the Trade” project

When we have published more of the “Tips of the Trade” pages, I’ll write about them on the Atlassian blog. That way, our customers, community developers and community authors will know about them too. People will start stumbling across the pages via Google search and other searches, word of mouth, etc.

The documentation is on a wiki, so other Atlassians and contributors can add links to useful blog posts they come across. The tech writers monitor the wiki pages and will intervene if the links don’t quite suit the purpose of the document.

The pages provide useful information for our readers, especially about the edge cases and specific use cases that it’s so hard to cover in the core technical documentation. Thinking of the blog authors, they’ll probably like the fact that we’re linking to their posts. You scratch my back, I’ll scratch yours. That’s social, mate ® 😉

I’m totally enjoying the work of compiling the pages and it will be interesting to see what feedback we get.

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 🙂

ffeathers

WordPress says that ffeathers has:

  • 62 posts
  • 184 comments
  • 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 😉

Getting to the root of the problem

Today I did my second stint with Conservation Volunteers Australia (CVA), pulling up noxious weeds and planting native plants in the Australian bush.

Atlassian, the company I work for, allows us five days a year of special leave, to work for a non-profit cause of our choice. We can do all five days in a block, or a day at a time, or even half a day at a time. The cause I feel passionately about is the environment and biodiversity. So I’ve decided to do a day’s work with the CVA every now and then.

And hard work it is too. The main aim is to pull out the non-native intruders and help the natural bush to re-establish itself.

The CVA team meets the volunteers in Sydney, and drives them and the equipment out to the day’s location. There we meet up with someone from the local council, and the day’s work is planned.

Getting to the root of the problem

Getting to the root of the problem

Today we were in Sydney’s Northen Beaches, clearing a section of the bank along Manly Creek. Here are two of the biggest invaders we encountered:

Getting to the root of the problem

Getting to the root of the problem

Above: Arrowhead Vine, also known as Turkey Rhubarb — Acetosa sagittata.

Getting to the root of the problem

Getting to the root of the problem

Above: They did tell me the name of this one, but I’ve forgotten. That’s ironic, because this is the plant I spent most of the day with 🙂 It has a long stem which travels along the ground, winding under the grass and other plants, and sticking up a cluster of leaves every now and then. It’s quite a satisfying plant to uproot.

It’s a great feeling, getting to the root of a problem 😉

The last time I volunteered with CVA was ten months ago, in October last year. I wrote a blog about it then too. Today, it was a pleasant surprise to meet up with a couple of the same people! There were 14 of us today.

Getting to the root of the problem

Getting to the root of the problem

A weird flashback happened when we spread a large sheet of heavy black plastic over the freshly-weeded earth, to stop the weeds growing back. Through my mind flashed the thought, “Where I come from, that sheet would be someone’s roof by tomorrow morning.” (I’m from Cape Town in South Africa. Nothing as useful as that sheet of plastic would remain unclaimed for very long.)

Getting to the root of the problem

Getting to the root of the problem

What did I enjoy about today?

  • Learning more about what’s a weed and what’s not.
  • Winter sunshine.
  • Birds — galahs, rainbow lorikeets, eastern rosellas and kookaburras.
  • Not a wiki or a document in sight 😉
  • Fourteen people of different shapes, sizes and persuasions.
  • Doing something that really matters. In the big scheme of things, as my mother would say.

It’s really a great aspect of working at Atlassian, that they give us the opportunity to use part of our working hours to do something like this. We spend so much of our lives at work, it’s hard sometimes to find a balance with family life and responsibilities. It’s even harder to find the time for something like this. Thanks guys!

Weed all about it

Atlassian, the company I work for, allows its staff members six days per year for volunteer work. You can choose where you donate your time, and still receive your usual salary. Impressive, huh.

My pet cause is conservation, and in particular bush regeneration. I spend a lot of time just in my own garden, hauling out nasties like agapanthus and asparagus fern and putting in native plants. A couple of days ago, my neighbour looked on in horror as I uprooted yet another hank of agapanthus. “Are you a greenie?” she asked. I started to say, “No”, then thought about it. I guess I am. Not a dyed-in-the-wool greenie. But becoming more and more convinced that we need to do something about climate change and the homogenisation of our environments.

So, today was my first “volunteering” day. Volunteering is a big thing in Australia. It’s part of the national culture. Try googling it, if you dare. The most well-known volunteers are the fire fighters. But there are lots of other opportunities. I chose Conservation Volunteers Australia (CVA). They go out in groups of ten to twelve people every day, and tackle a patch of bush that’s under pressure from non-indigenous plants or other threats.

Our group was interesting. There were three new people, including me. The others were all regulars. Some of them volunteer with CVA two or three days every week! One person had brought her daughter – at three years old, the youngest member of the team.

The youngest

Above: The smallest, eager to get started.

One of the regulars is Anna (not her real name). It was Anna’s birthday, so the CVA team leader had baked her a cake complete with candles. We had it for morning tea. One of Anna’s birthday presents was a pair of gardening gloves. That’s dedication for you.

We targeted an area near the Curl Curl lagoon. A week before, people had been hard at work removing the noxious lantana. Here’s what the patch looked like when we started:

Before

Above: Lantana massacre.

And here’s the spot I decided to make my own:

Before

Above: My patch before I started.

Everyone got stuck in, pulling out the last remaining roots and preparing the ground:

Hard at work

Above: Hard at work.

Here are the plants we put in:

Pigface

Above: Pigface (Carpobrotus). Info. Evidently this one grows fast and furious – a good ground cover for difficult terrain. We made sure we planted it in one particular area only.

Spinifex

Above: Porcupine grass (Spinifex). Info.

Pelargonium

Above: Pelargonium. Info. This is a native variety of the popular pelargonium/geranium family.

Hibbertia

Above: Hibbertia. Info. They say this one is quite hardy too, and makes very good ground cover.

And here’s my own little patch after a couple of hours’ work:

After

Above: My patch done.

It’s a good feeling at the end of the day, to have made some sort of difference in the world out there.

To remember for next time: Take some insect repellent!

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