26 June, 2009

Colourful gene trees

We have some news for the forthcoming ensembl release. We have added a few more display options for our gene trees. It will be possible to colour the background of the trees based on the taxonomy. It will be much easier to locate orthologues or paralogues in a given clade. For people who prefer more subtle colouring, they can choose to colour the branches instead.

It will also be possible to automatically collapse all the genes for a given clade. In the example shown in this figure, glires and diptera are collapsed. Moreover, the new version will also allow you to hide fish genes for instance or even all genes from low-coverage genomes.

All these options are configurable from the configure panel available through the 'configure page' link in the left panel.

25 June, 2009

Ensembl Workshops in July

The summer is a time for research institutions to focus on research (or go on holiday). This causes a decrease in our Ensembl Outreach and Training (at least, workshop-wise!) However, we are giving a few workshops in July.

2 July: Internal Developer's Course (let's see what the developers themselves have to say about browsing Ensembl!)
6-7 July: Browser modules in EBI roadshow, Poznan Summerschool of Bioinformatics, Poland
9-10 July: Browser workshop in Seoul, Korea (Korea National Institute of Health)
13 July: Browser workshop in Daejeon, Korea (KRIBB)
13 July: Browser workshop at Wellcome Trust Genome Campus, for campus employees
14-15 July: Browser workshop in Pusan, Korea (Pusan National University)

Don't forget, we have loads of training videos on our tutorials page (and YouTube channel!)

15 June, 2009

US Mirror

Ensembl is pleased to announce the release of its West Coast US mirror (uswest.ensembl.org). This is a full mirror of the current Ensembl 54 release. We are providing this mirror to improve performance for users in the US, particularly on the West coast. It includes full search, BioMart and BLAST support (BLAST searching is actually run at Sanger with results passed back to the mirror).

This mirror is managed directly by the Ensembl web team, and we will aim to update it along with the main site, to keep it current. Credit for gettting this mirror up goes to James Smith and Eugene Bragin from the web team, with support from the Sanger systems team, particularly Peter Clapham, John Nicholson and Dave Holland.

Future plans: We will improve the mirror in the near future by allowing users to switch between the main and mirror site. Currently, we do not suggest logging in to the mirror. All user data must be retrieved by the main site at the Wellcome Trust Genome Campus. Speed is optimal if login is not used, however this will be improved in the future.

Many thanks,
The Ensembl Team

14 June, 2009

A view of the world from Ensembl

Following our recent post updating you with feedback from our recent user survey, I wanted to share with you the following data. I've been data mining our web logs to get a picture of worldwide access to Ensembl (this is page impressions) and I put them on a heat map representing access to our browser (this doesn't include either BioMart or direct access of our public databases). I filtered out commercial IP addresses (i.e. all those .com, and .net) to simplify the analysis. Countries are shaded according to how much they accessed the Ensembl browser in the month of May. Dark countries use the Ensembl browser more, light countries, less. And this is what you get:

Heat map May 2009

Can you see your country here? If not, consider running a browser workshop in order to join our wide community of Ensembl users!

This map should help us to monitor the success of our workshops (at this moment I'm writing this from Venezuela which hopefully should appear in future heat maps!) Although there are still some gaps in the map, we are happy to see that Ensembl is used globally and our efforts are recompensed. Training leads to more in depth understanding of how to use the browser, and we think our worldwide workshops are helpful in using Ensembl to guide and enhance research.

Greetings from Venezuela, or as you would say here... ¡Hasta la próxima


10 June, 2009

Thanks for your feedback!

Dear all,

Thanks to all of you who participated in our Ensembl browser survey, which closed at well over 150 respondents. We appreciate hearing from users worldwide, and our responses came from Europe, the Americas, Asia, India, New Zealand and Australia.

We will be able to move forward based on the feedback, in order to make the browser smoother and easier to use.

Some of the things we learned.

How often do you use Ensembl?

The majority of our users (83%) access the Ensembl browser multiple times per week. (See pie chart above). A similar survey run by Ensembl in 2007 reflected a much lower figure: only 32% of users browsed as frequently, with the majority of respondents accessing the browser once a month or less. Genome browsers appear to have moved from being tentative, browse-for-interest curiousities to comprehensive resources that can be integrated into daily research.

We were pleased to see our users are accessing many types of Ensembl data, from transcripts to variations to comparative genomics. Most respondents found the tabs in our new interface to be intuitive, so we won't change those! Many users scroll through views using the buttons on each page, so again, we will keep those in place.

More of you are finding the Pre! and Archive! sites helpful. And 65% of users voted that the most important aspect was good information.

Things we will work on?

In addition to custom data and user upload advances, we are focusing on graphical display of our comparative data. These improvements are already in our pipeline. We did get some new ideas from the survey, for example, some of our respondents could not find the Pre! or Archive! pages. We will think about how to make these links more obvious.

Speed of the browser could be faster. We will keep you posted on the Ensembl mirror on the US west coast.

Finally, more users are finding our help pages and videos, including a new YouTube channel. and we will be constantly adding to the tutorials page. If you have ideas about videos or tutorials you would like to see, please send your comments to our helpdesk. We find it immensely helpful to hear feedback from our user community.

Thanks again for the view of Ensembl from our users! We will be polling again next year.

The Ensembl Team