Archives for March 2008

Pic Of The Day: Penguins

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Nick Reynolds Nick Reynolds | 15:44 UK time, Monday, 31 March 2008

penguins2.png

Above is a still from a very special BBC iPlayer promotion for a new BBC series Miracles of Evolution, in which film-maker and writer Terry Jones follows in the footsteps of Charles Darwin and his Voyage of the Beagle in 1831 - "a voyage which was ultimately to revolutionise the natural sciences with the publication of On The Origin Of The Species".

The first episode "presents spectacular footage, which has never been caught on camera before, of a unique colony of Adelie Penguins as they fly thousands of miles across the frozen wasteland of Antarctica to the Amazon Rainforest".

The full promo can be seen here on the BBC iPlayer and here on the BBC's YouTube Channel.

I've also embedded it from YouTube:

Update 10.57: There's also a Facebook group.

Update 15.48: Here's a video about how the promo was made.

Nick Reynolds is editor, BBC Internet Blog.

Our New Look

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Ben Gallop Ben Gallop | 13:01 UK time, Monday, 31 March 2008

You will have hopefully already noticed that the BBC Sport website has a new look. I explained in a previous post why we felt we needed to make some changes - and I also promised I'd come back to run through in more detail what we've done.

The first point to make is that this "site refresh" is being carried out in conjunction with our sister service, BBC News. A quick flick between the News and Sport homepages will soon highlight the fact that, although the two sites have much in common, there are also some fundamental differences in style. Steve Herrmann, the editor of the News site has outlined what the changes mean for News on The Editors Blog.

The second key point is that this is not a one-off relaunch. It is the first phase of a work in progress, and one that is based on the foundations of extensive audience research. There will be more improvements to come as we build up to what promises to be a superb summer of sporting action.

Read more and comment at the BBC Sport Editors Blog. Ben Gallop is the Head of BBC Sport Interactive.

Refreshing Changes

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Steve Herrmann Steve Herrmann | 10:04 UK time, Monday, 31 March 2008

newnewssite.jpgThis morning, we launched a new look for the BBC News website. You can see what it looks like here on the right, with previous versions further down the page. We've been working on this for the past few months, and in fact it is still a work in progress, because the changes will continue to roll out across the site in the coming days and weeks, and beyond that we have further improvements planned for later in the year.

But for now, here's what we've done:

First, we did some research asking you what you thought we should change about the site. Many of those we asked said: "leave it alone - don't change a thing". But it was also clear from the feedback we got that there were others who thought the site design could do with a bit of a revamp - something we'd been thinking about doing for a while.

So our designers embarked on a mission that they have called a "site refresh" - they say it's "like gardeners doing a bit of pruning and weeding, but not digging it up and starting from scratch"; ie, it's not a fundamental redesign of everything - many of the basics stay the same, because we know they work.

Specifically, here's what has changed.

Read more and comment at the BBC News Editors Blog. Steve Herrmann is editor of the BBC News website.

Digital Democracy: Bridging The Gap

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Andy Williamson | 09:46 UK time, Sunday, 30 March 2008

hansard_society.pngThis is part of a series of guest posts about the BBC's Digital Democracy plans, and is a response to Pete Clifton's post asking for your thoughts and feedback. Here, Andy Williamson of the Hansard Society calls for democracy where we can all get involved.

Or: Press The Red Button To Engage

The British people are radically disengaged from political institutions, with fewer than ever believing that their local representatives are worth voting for or even worth remembering. The result is that decision making is left to experts and consultants, with the views of ordinary people largely ignored and citizens left ignorant until it is too late.

Government has failed to keep up with the transformation of society made possible in part by the forms of networked individualism associated with the internet. Community action is increasingly self-motivated, viral, emergent and temporal. And this presents a significant problem for government, as old and new ways of engaging clash headlong like rutting stags.

Digital technologies can't of themselves change the nature of engagement. The strengths of the internet, most notably its ability to connect people to global networks, are resisted by government, whilst the latter fails to harness new technologies in ways that resonate with internet denizens. The new worldview enabled by the internet remains so alien to many of those inside the fortress of government that innovative ideas fail to gain any traction.

This is why the internet alone will not solve the problems of democratic disconnection, particularly when it is used to enable the very institutions of power that people no longer trust. Most government-led attempts at eDemocracy still rely on the structures of formal governance that cause and demand top-down, monolithic solutions to be imposed on communities. They operate via a "best practice" mindset of one-size-fits-all that often results in mediocrity. eDemocracy examples on the fringes, such as the 10 Downing Street ePetitions, attempt to address this problem but ultimately are likely to fail because they remain disconnected from the policy process.

governance_of_britain.png"Online" is still largely out of mind in government policy making. The Governance Of Britain green paper [pdf] published last year makes one reference to the internet and this is in relation to alternative voting methods.

hazel_blears_quotation.jpgWe need conduits that can connect an increasingly remote government to the changing society that it serves. This means moving the political debate back to citizens; for government to "do with" rather than to "do to" people. It means encouraging more dynamic and emergent forms of democracy which can be enabled by new technologies, which are grounded in our local communities and which emerge from the grassroots. This is easier said than done. I don't doubt that Hazel Blears believes that the internet "has the potential to open the door to a new kind of politics" and I most certainly believe that she is correct. However, she may well be underestimating the resistance to be encountered along the way.

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A New Look

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Steve Herrmann Steve Herrmann | 14:50 UK time, Saturday, 29 March 2008

It's been a time of even more hectic activity than usual here on the BBC News website over the past week or two. Our development and design teams have been putting the finishing touches behind the scenes to a new look for the site which - all being well - we're aiming to launch next week.

For the journalists it's been a period of familiarisation with the changes, and briefings on how it will affect the way they create pages in our content production system.

I'll go into more detail about the changes once you're able to see them for yourselves, but the new look will include wider pages, bigger images, a new programmes area on the front page and a new pan-BBC masthead.

Read more and comment at the BBC News Editors Blog. Steve Herrmann is editor, BBC News website.

BBC UX 2.0

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Richard Titus Richard Titus | 15:00 UK time, Friday, 28 March 2008

In my first month at the BBC we constructed what became known as the “wall of shame”: a collection of printed screen-shots of the BBC’s digital services which included web pages, mobile and Interactive TV.

Organised by portfolio, the wall soon became what could only be described as a collage of confusion, a display of conflicting designs and user journeys all of which depicted various epochs of innovation. More importantly, many of them weren’t even clearly branded as part of the BBC’s digital offering.

Additionally, the way that our audience would journey between these systems was and in many cases remains quite challenging and difficult. People can’t always find what they are looking for, couldn’t play media efficiently (almost 187 different media players were/are in use currently) nor could they share our content with others, discouraging our audience from being our biggest distributor.

In six short months we have taken major steps to solve some of these issues, creating a consistent navigation and look and feel now being deployed across the site, making the homepage useful & personalisable, creating a single embedded media player (EMP as we call it) with a single ingest and distribution infrastructure.

Notice the same EMP on both the Programme pages, News pages (soon with consistent standardized Share functionality) and the streaming iPlayer itself!

Lastly, but likely most significantly (and controversially) the new homepage - which was launched a few weeks ago, and announced by my creative director; Bronwyn Van der Merwe .

To those of you who say (like John Smales) “Why change it if it isn’t broken?” I'd make the following points:

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BBC Children's & The Byron Review

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Marc Goodchild | 12:31 UK time, Thursday, 27 March 2008

Dr Tanya Byron's Review of the potential dangers children face when they're gaming, surfing the web or networking online was finally made publictoday with some clear recommendations.

Like many organisations delivering interactive content to children via the internet, the BBC was asked to submit evidence to the review. As you'll see if you read the submission (which you can view as a pdf document here), we probably go further than most to ensure that children's safety is paramount at all times.

For the BBC Children's department, where I work, the review is particularly pertinent.

cbbc_logo.pngWe have two digital brands (that mirror our television channel output). CBeebies is aimed at under 6s (and is used primarily with parents at the helm or standing close by). CBBC targets the more internet savvy 6-12s and is more of an adult-free zone (but one that parents can trust).

So first of all, we'd like acknowledge Dr Byron for her considered response about the societal and personal benefits interactive media, and the internet in particular, can deliver to our audience.

cbeebies.pngIf many of the tabloids are to be believed, the internet is an inherently evil medium that should be strictly off limits for underage users. Others amongst the technorati think that democratising nature of the web is its greatest characteristic and it should be up to parents alone, not organisations like the BBC, to vet or restrict what their children can access. [Photo above courtesy of Andrew Stawarz on Flickr]

But like Dr Byron, we probably sit somewhere in between these polarised extremes.

Yes, there is a lot of inappropriate content out there on the millions of unregulated sites across the internet. Not for nothing has it been termed the Wild West where anything goes. But we don't agree that we should therefore "turn off" the internet for anyone yet to reach legal maturity.

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Turning Japanese, Staying British

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Ashley Highfield | 16:25 UK time, Wednesday, 26 March 2008

According to the Information Technology Innovation Foundation (ITIF), British broadband is among the slowest in Europe, with an average connection speed of just 2.6Mbps, placing it below countries including Slovakia, Hungary, Poland and Holland.

Finland topped the study, which takes into account 16 countries, with an average connection speed of 21.7Mbps - eight times higher than the UK average.

Globally, Japan leads the way, both in terms of speed and price.

japanbroadband.jpg

[Image of 3.6Mbps 1円 courtesy of 22n on Flickr.]

According to the ITU, in its Internet Reports (admittedly last year, but I don’t think much has changed), Britain had the eleventh fastest (on average) broadband speed globally, behind most of the G8 and, surprisingly, behind Kazakhstan.

What is the BBC's role in helping to address this? What services and/or interventions (if any) should we make?

Does Freeview offer an example? The UK is now world leading in digital TV takeup and choice after the BBC’s revival of Digital Terrestrial TV after DTT failed twice as OnDigital and ITVDigital.

How can the BBC help deliver greater broadband penetration, speeds and takeup, helping to narrow the digital divide between the technologically savvy haves and the internet-deprived have-nots (not all of whom, by any means see themselves as "deprived")?

It's a subject I've raised before, but Mark's comment on one of my previous posts on the digital divide in the UK asked another question: whether there is another "digital divide" between the BBC's role as provider of content, and its role to drive universal access to all sorts of digital services.

I don't think so.

In fact, I think this duality of purpose goes to the heart of the BBC's mission: create great content for the enjoyment of the individual, and help drive universal usage for the betterment of society.

Indeed, it's enshrined in the Purposes as laid out by the Queen and Parliament in the BBC's Royal Charter (and regulated by the BBC Trust):

  • sustaining citizenship and civil society
  • promoting education and learning
  • stimulating creativity and cultural excellence
  • representing the UK, its nations, regions and communities
  • bringing the UK to the world and the world to the UK
  • in promoting its other purposes, helping to deliver to the public the benefit of emerging communications technologies and services and, in addition, taking a leading role in the switchover to digital television.

Ashley Highfield is Director, BBC Future Media & Technology.

Homepage Accessibility

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Jonathan Hassell | 11:16 UK time, Tuesday, 25 March 2008

Following the launch of the new BBC Homepage in February, it was great to read this blog post on Unintentionally Blank (The BBC Does Web 2.0 accessibly and validly).

I thought it might be worth a few words here to talk about how we made the new homepage work for disabled users.

The accessibility team in BBC FM&T is looking at new approaches to accessibility, which truly put usability for disabled users at the heart of everything we do, but also help usability for non-disabled users.

The idea that the new Homepage should be a widgetised page - like Facebook, iGoogle and Netvibes - presented a challenge. How could Ajax and JavaScript be used to make the page dynamic and customisable, without causing a disastrous user experience for access technology users and alike?

Firstly, we looked at ways to make the page friendly to users with motor, cognitive and visual impairments.

For example, we ensured that font sizes and the use of colour met our Accessibility Standards & Guidelines, and that links were not too spaced out (for screen-magnifier-users), too close together, or too small (for those with motor impairments).

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The City Speaks

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Jeremy Mortimer | 15:57 UK time, Thursday, 20 March 2008

The starting point forThe City Speaks, which is broadcast over two Afternoon Plays on Radio 4 this week, and also available to viewers on interactive TV via the BBC Film Network site and on the Big Screens, was a challenge for filmmakers to create a “visiontrack” to a series of fifteen minute radio dramas.

I was one of the radio drama directors drafted in to work with a filmmaker on this project, and then when Conor Lennon, whose idea the project was, left the BBC, I was given the task of making sure that it all got on air.

the_city_speaks.jpg

In the spring and early summer of 2007, six filmmaker teams were working closely with radio writers to develop scripts which were then recorded for radio before the films went into production. Peter Ackroyd had been approached to write a short story, which provided a starting point for the writers. I worked with writer Mike Walker and filmmakers Rose Pedlow and Joe King on I am Not You Are Not Me, a solo voice piece about a man who wanders up and down the Kingsland Road piecing together bits of his life.

Our starting point was the road itself, and the many ways in which it has changed over the last half century. Rosie and Joe became fascinated with the way in which old shop signs and advertisements had been remade and painted over, but still revealed part of the past. This became a key theme in Mike's play, which was voiced by Jim Norton. Rosie and Jim took the deliberate decision not to include the character played by Jim in the film. Other filmmakers did use actors, but none of the films attempt to synchronise dialogue from the soundtrack with actors in vision - just as well, I think. After all, this is not television.

You can watch the films online at the BBC Film Network site.

We had the film première in front of an audience of 400 at the BFI Southbank last week. There was no red carpet, but it was great to see such a good turn out for a radio drama event.

Initial response to the broadcasts on the Radio 4 Drama & Readings message board indicates that some radio listeners had a few problems accessing the interactive TV broadcast - and it certainly was counterintuitive to hear the Radio 4 continuity announcer ask listeners to "turn off" their radios in order to continue listening (and watching) the Afternoon Play.

We hope to bring another film for radio to Radio 4 before too long.

But what do you think: is the City Speaks a bold development in visualising radio - or just a bastardised hybrid of television?

Jeremy Mortimer is Executive Producer, BBC Radio Drama.

BBC Guidance On Social Networking

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David Jordan David Jordan | 09:50 UK time, Thursday, 20 March 2008

Last week, the Guardian ran an article claiming that the BBC was going to restrict staff online networking.

What has actually happened is that we've published two new guidance notes about the use of social networking sites. We discussed these guidance notes at yesterday's internal BBC Editorial Policy meeting.

The first deals with how BBC programmes can have a presence on social networking sites and explores the issues that need consideration.

The second guidance note explores issues around impartiality when those employed by the BBC use social networking sites in a personal capacity.

This draws on existing BBC policy on conflicts of interest which aims to ensure that our journalistic integrity is not compromised by the off-air activities of our presenters and editorial staff. For example, staff need to be aware that "British Broadcasting Corporation" may appear after their names when they join political groups on Facebook.

Last year, there were some stories on blogs and in the press about Wikipedia entries being edited from BBC IP addresses (Pete Clifton wrote a post about this on the BBC News Editors Blog), and we've included new guidance about this.

What I hope we've created is something which is common sense. It does not restrict BBC staff from conducting legitimate activities on the Internet. But it does raise awareness of how crucial the BBC’s reputation for impartiality and objectivity is.

David Jordan is Director, BBC Editorial Policy & Standards.

BBC iPlayer: Anthony Rose Interview

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Nick Reynolds Nick Reynolds | 10:22 UK time, Wednesday, 19 March 2008

guardian_logo.pngAnthony Rose is interviewed in this week's Guardian Tech Weekly Podcast, talking about the BBC iPlayer. Listen here.

Nick Reynolds is Editor, BBC Internet Blog.

BBC iPlayer On iPhone Update

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Ashley Highfield | 12:17 UK time, Tuesday, 18 March 2008

beta_iplayer_iphone_corner.pngEasy For Legitimate Users, Hard For Hackers

Sorry to be posting this a few days after all the fun, but I've been on paternity leave and yesterday was my first full day back in the office.

So, the BBC iPlayer service on the iPhone got hacked. A way was found to take the iPhone streams and turn them into download files to your desktop. This was obviously not our intention.

We want to get iPlayer onto as many devices and platforms as we can (and as many as makes economic sense, given that we have fixed funding).

The launch on the iPhone/iPod touch platform has increased traffic to iPlayer by 10% (7% from general increased awareness and 3% specifically accessing iPlayer from their iPhone/touch). The team led by Anthony Rose has done a fantastic job: the iPhone implementation of iPlayer looks great, and neither Anthony, nor his boss Erik Huggers, nor I, have any intention of taking down the service.

We know that with each new platform comes more complexity and issues. We know that some platforms are going to be easier to break than others.

But we know that by offering a legitimate service to as many users as possible, most people, most of the time, will respect that rights holders want the BBC to only let their content be available for free at the time of transmission, and now with iPlayer, for a week post-transmission, and that therefore most users will use the legitimate iPlayer product in a legitimate manner.

In fact, more than most: the vast majority. Something like just one twentieth of one percent have accessed a BBC iPlayer programme via a hack.

Clearly, anything more than zero is not ideal, but we live in the real world, and at this level the hack does not undermine the trust we've built with our contributors, rights holders, and on-screen talent, particularly as it does not appear to be a malicious or commercially motivated attack.

iplayer_benjamin_watt.jpg

As some commentators have pointed out, the reason the volume of iPlayer hacks is this low is probably because if you want to keep a permanent copy of a BBC programme for your personal use, there are easier ways to do it than hacking the iPhone implementation (which we've made considerably harder, if not impossible). You can simply tape/PVR your desired programme from air. If you really want to illegally distribute BBC programmes, then this is possible too. PVR BBC programmes off-air, and then upload the files to a file-sharing site. Most people don't want to break the law. And we do have legal redress, but have needed to use it, or even to threaten to use it, extremely rarely.

We'll try and ensure that it's easy for legitimate users and hard for hackers, and I think the team here is doing a great job at both - but no service (whether the beta of iPlayer last summer or the beta on the iPhone a couple of weeks ago) will necessarily work perfectly out of the box.

I hope that the vastly improved dialogue we now have with the various interested communities out there (developers, Linux users, etc., via this blog among other channels) will enable us to build the services that everyone wants, and that the vast majority of people can get to enjoy BBC programmes on demand... which is the point of all this.

Ashley Highfield is Director, BBC Future Media & Technology. Main image by Benjamin Watt.

Programmes: A Bite Size Design Process

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Jamie Tetlow | 09:42 UK time, Tuesday, 18 March 2008

I'm the lead designer on our /programmes work and seeing as Sophie's away, she's asked me to give you a little detail about the new designs.

bite_size_episode.jpg

We've been testing and developing the technical infrastructure since October 2007's initial beta launch and we've now had the time to refresh the look and feel. Back in October, we'd taken the view to not implement any strong visual design as we didn't want to spend too much effort defining another pan-BBC style when there was so much internal talk of a "lick of paint". We spent most of the early period building strong semantic markup foundations and grappling with the layout and hierarchy of the core information but now, with the arrival of what's being called the "Global Visual Language", we needed to crack open our photoshop and css skills.

As Tim Anderson noted recently, the vast majority of BBC websites have been mocked up as full pages in Photoshop and then passed to someone else to convert into the final code - but the work on /programmes demands a different approach, so I thought I'd shed a little light on our process.

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Podcasts On Other Mobile Devices

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Simon Cross Simon Cross | 10:27 UK time, Monday, 17 March 2008

I'm starting to sound like a stuck record. All my posts seem to be about podcasting; specifically, making our podcasts available on other platforms. Annoyingly, this post is no different, but I think it's still worth mentioning some more cool work we've done to optimise our mini audio on-demand service for new mobile devices.

First, we did the iPhone, which was swish, and very zeitgeisty. But we always said we'd be doing the same for other devices, so here's our first simple-but-elegant iteration of this.

podcasts_psp.jpg

Read more and comment at the Radio Labs blog.

Simon Cross is Senior Client Side Developer, Audio & Music.

Homepage Update

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Andrew MacInnes | 15:58 UK time, Friday, 14 March 2008

You may have read that yesterday we had some problems with the bbc.co.uk homepage.

Around lunchtime, the Feed Engine application which powers our customisable panels on our new-look homepage tied itself in knots. Rather than presenting the text and images in a nice neat moveable box, it got the text and the pictures mixed up. The result of this was lots of random binary characters being presented to our users.

feed_engine_b0rked.png

This was picked up very quickly, both by our internal monitoring and complaints from our users.

Since the feeds system is integral to our homepage design, we decided to switch our homepage to our emergency "lite" version. The lite page is something we have on standby in case of large news events or technical problems which impact our ability to serve pages in a timely response to our readers. The page has no customisable panels and is far smaller in terms of page weight. Since it doesn't rely on the problem panels we decided to roll it out.

It took about 20 minutes or so from the page being broken to get the lite version up and running. We then started an investigation into the problem and when things looked stable we released the proper homepage again.

Only once before have we moved to the lite homepage because of a technical fault. The last time was caused by flooding. Normally, it's only huge news events that force us to scale back our page weight.

homepage_simplified430.png

Then, at about ten to one in the morning, it happened again. Luckily we have monitoring in place so the relevant people were all woken up and the lite page reinstated. Through the night, the lite page was monitored until a dedicated developer turned up to work at six o'clock this morning to find the root cause and hopefully fix the issue once and for all. We turned back to the normal homepage at half past nine this morning.

Since then, it's been stable and we expect it to remain so. Touch wood.

Our apologies for the inconvenience caused.

Andrew MacInnes is Head of FM Operations, BBC Future Media & Technology. Simplified homepage grabbed by Ryan Morrison.

News & Sport Embedded Media

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John O' Donovan | 11:30 UK time, Friday, 14 March 2008

Yesterday we launched embedded media (see an example here) across the BBC News and Sport sites.

We are starting with just a few stories, but over the next few weeks, we will be converting most of our video and audio to be embedded.

embedded_player_3d.png

We're using an embedded media player which, within the BBC, is known by the secret code name of the Embedded Media Player - or EMP. This is a new site-wide media player built by the Journalism and iPlayer teams. More about this further down.

"So what does this change on the site?", you may ask.

Currently, our audio and video appears in popup windows using Real or Windows Media formats, which you get to by clicking on the Watch / Video or Listen / Audio links that you see in stories. You can see some examples in this story underneath the main picture.

This approach has served us well, but it was apparent from trials we ran in the middle of last year [for example, here], that in general, people find embedded media easier to engage with. No surprise there, as the unstoppable march of sites such as YouTube has proven. However, Pete Clifton also talked about how this may change the way we make video and provide added value to the stories it is associated with.

It has taken some time to put all the pieces in place to make this change, but there are a lot of moving parts to adapt without breaking anything that is being used on the live site.

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Visualising White Comments

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Max Gadney | 15:11 UK time, Wednesday, 12 March 2008

I have spent the week fending off the raised eyebrows I get when I explain that I'm going to the annual SND Information Graphics conference, mainly because I am taking it as holiday and paying for myself.

SND is the Society of News Design. It is firmly based in media but with presentations including subjects such as airport design and wayfinding. It is one of the broadest design conferences around and largely bereft of people whose style outweighs their substance.

This has been an interest of mine since I was young and I was fortunate to work with designers who went to the conference when I led the News Online design team before I moved to TV commissioning.

What has this to do with anything?

white_season_visualiser.png

Well, the BBC Two White season website includes Spectrum: a visualisation of comments from BBC News's Have Your Say (it's on the right hand side of the page).

We commissioned this in order to allow people to explore this complex debate more freely than they might in the conventional text format. As one of the BBC's most popular television services, BBC Two must make subjects like this accessible. But being BBC Two it must do it in a way that encourages discovery and serendipity.

As well as the TV programmes, we decided that the White Season would also be a good place to highlight some material from the archive and quality contributions in Video Nation.

Then the question of what we could do with comments came up.

At first, we were cautious.

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Streaming Radio Online: Your Comments

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James Cridland James Cridland | 14:45 UK time, Wednesday, 12 March 2008

radiolabs175.pngOn the BBC Internet Blog a few weeks ago, I posted a piece about planned changes to our streaming, for both live and on-demand radio. It's a piece that has got quite a lot of comment, so (in order that I don't take over the Internet Blog, and also to highlight its content here) I thought it worth replying to the comments in turn. Which I'll do, as they say in all the best blogs, after the jump.

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"Behind The Scenes": How We Make Media

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Lucy Hooberman | 12:06 UK time, Wednesday, 12 March 2008

I'm an Innovation Executive in FM&T working on Research and Innovation projects. One was the now historic project which launched the Blog network.

Sometimes we get hired by other parts of the BBC to help them scope new projects. My current one is taking a look at how the BBC can help all our audiences to explore how contemporary media content is made. I started on my own blog, by looking at what a few other organisations are doing. And already suggestions are coming in as to what to look at and what we might do.

Two caught my eye today. First via Charlie Beckett at Polis, who told me about what ITV News is doing with its Video Blogs on blip.tv and on ITV.com.

behind_scenes_newsnight.png

Then our own blog Editor, Nick Reynolds, pointed me to Jeremy Paxman's very entertaining Behind the Scenes at Newsnight video, which forms part of the altogether more serious BBC News School Report Day tomorrow (March 13th). This is a significant project which

gives 12 and 13 year olds from UK schools the chance to make their own video, audio or text-based news at school and to broadcast it for real.

It offers resources to teachers on how to make news and involves BBC journalists in the project too. Ofcom recently published a research study Lifeblood Of Democracy? Learning About Broadcast News under its Media Literacy remit.

Both of my examples go behind the scenes of how the news is made in different ways.

ITV News offers on the spot first-hand accounts of what it is like to be there producing the news, but giving us extra background. The vlogs I am most enjoying are "Manyon in the Arabian Gulf" [Part 1 | Part 2 | Part 3]. They are not the newest, but I remember trying to understand the geography of the area and what might have happened at the time almost a year ago when 15 British navy personnel were kidnapped there. They do give quite a bit of detail of the area and what is happening there now.

BBC News's Schools Report is more of a "how to" or a media literacy project to enable better media understanding and skills.

They both look like great projects to me, but what do you think? If you have any good examples of how people talk about how media is made - whether they be broadcasters and journalists or writers, bloggers or students and teachers - please do let me know. What would you like to know, if anything, about how media is made? I'll be posting more examples as I find them looking at TV, Radio, the internet and accessing all areas, if they'll let me in!

Lucy Hooberman is Innovation Executive, BBC Future Media & Technology.

Over The Air Sign-Up Live

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Ian Forrester Ian Forrester | 10:22 UK time, Wednesday, 12 March 2008

over_the_air.pngOver The Air is a special event being organised by Mobile Monday London, hosted by Imperial College and supported by the BBC. It's 48 hours of mobile and wireless development by and for the leading lights in the industry.

At its core, it's a mobile development event that's part conference, and part un-conference, all in a 48 hour open hackathon format...

Read more at the BBC Backstage Blog

Ian Forrester is Senior Producer, FM&T bbc.co.uk Projects

BBC iPlayer On iPhone: Reaction

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Nick Reynolds Nick Reynolds | 11:47 UK time, Tuesday, 11 March 2008

Richard Allan suggests that Anthony Rose's post about BBCiPlayer on the iPhone fulfills the BBC's public purpose to "promote education".

I'm not sure I'd go that far, but it's clear that readers of this blog have an appetite for "behind the scenes" material and I'll do my best to try and get you more. Thanks for the positive response both in the comments and elsewhere.

iplayer_itouch.jpg

However, Webometric Thoughts wonders whether the BBC has fallen for Apple's hype. Rory Cellan Jones clearly hasn't.

Regarding Cory Doctorow's post on BoingBoing, BBC Drops DRM From iPlayer Video On Demand Service: I've posted a brief comment here and hope to have a fuller response from Anthony in the next couple of days.

Nick Reynolds is editor, BBC Internet Blog. Picture of EastEnders on BBC iPlayer on an iPod touch by Richard Peat

New Release For BBC Mobile

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Matthew Postgate Matthew Postgate | 14:36 UK time, Monday, 10 March 2008

BBCmobile_Football-Index170px_01.jpgHi. I'm Matthew Postgate: Controller, Mobile in BBC Future Media & Technology.

Today, the BBC's mobile team launched a significant release of the mobile version of bbc.co.uk.

We've been calling this the "refresh release" and the team has been working on it in earnest since November. It's the first of three major releases we are planning for 2008 and brings together a number of enhancements that are probably long overdue.

There are upgrades to the code base and to the hardware, the replacement of a critical piece of hardware that was seven years old. The team is currently petitioning for release of the relevant box from the server farm so we can display it like the Toyota Hilux that wouldn't die on Top Gear. These parts of the project mean that you should notice an improvement in the speed with which we are able to publish stories.

This release has been focussed on consolidating the existing mobile version, so there is not a great deal of new editorial material at this point, although there is more local content and Newsbeat has been included for the first time.

You'll also notice the new design. I believe a new design for the site is long overdue - but, like all design changes, I'm also sure it will divide opinion.

The BBC has had a presence on the mobile internet since 1999. There was a major overhaul of the mobile version of bbc.co.uk in 2003, when we moved from a black and white WML 1.0 service to one that used more colour and images. At the time, some people felt we had betrayed the simple elegance of the previous design.

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BBC iPlayer On iPhone: Behind The Scenes

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Anthony Rose Anthony Rose | 09:55 UK time, Friday, 7 March 2008

Today was a big day for BBC iPlayer: it's the day that it first became available on a portable device. BBCiPlayer is now available on iPhone and iPod touch.

To play BBC programmes on your iPhone or iPod touch, you'll need to be online via a wi-fi broadband connection (the iPhone's EDGE connectivity is too slow for streaming video). BBCiPlayer on iPhone is a beta version right now, so if you find some programmes aren't available on iPhone or you get the occasional oddity... yep, we're working on it.

iplayer_3dshot175.pngEver since we announced that we were working on BBC iPlayer for iPhone, there's been a lot of speculation in the blogosphere as to how it would work. Would we use Apple's new iPhone SDK? Would we use the rumoured Flash for iPhone? What video format and bitrate would we choose? And which devices will we support next...?

So, for those interested in a behind-the-scenes look, here's the low-down...

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Social Radio

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John Ousby | 10:13 UK time, Thursday, 6 March 2008

Editors' note: This is a post based on an article in this week's edition of Ariel, the BBC's in-house weekly magazine, by Audio & Music Interactive's Head Of Distribution Technology John Ousby. John mentions prototype work on social radio that has been attracting attention across the web: among many others, Digital Spy links to the development of the Olinda hardware prototype and TechDigest even calls for "a BeebPhone, with a DAB receiver inside"!

On the subject of Olinda, Radio Today quotes AM&I's R&D man Tristan Ferne from the Radio At The Edge conference:

It shouldn't just be the BBC. This is really for all radio stations. I'd like your help.

If you have any thoughts on social radio, do please leave a comment below.

chris_evans_bbc_mic.jpgBlowing The Trumpet For Sharing

Rewind to the early '90s. I was walking to Catford station, radio in my pocket, listening to Chris Evans and company on his astounding GLR breakfast show. He jumped into the "honk your horn" feature. Suddenly, several dozen horns blared out around me. I felt like I was part of something bigger - a solitary experience was transformed into a shared one.

Despite presenters finding new and fun ways of uniting their audiences, shared experiences around radio and television have dwindled ever since radio stopped being a piece of furniture and moved to the pockets of youngsters keen not to share their parents' taste in music.

We are witnessing the growing popularity of content on demand and the increasing range and take-up of audio and video consumption on portable devices is growing. So should we be bothered? I think we should.

Of course it is possible for large numbers of people to share experiences in the on demand world. Look at YouTube, iPlayer and the Radio Player, where increasing numbers of people are asynchronously consuming the same content and commenting, rating, tagging and even talking about it later. There's something about sharing a live experience which adds a layer of depth to the relationship we have with our media.

Real social networking, where people from diverse backgrounds come together around their passions and interests, has great social value in an environment of increasing diversity and ghettoised communities.

There are some interesting early developments that new technology is making possible.

Take the UK Film Council. They have put digital projection into a third of UK cinemas and has been dipping their toes into social networking around film through myfilms.com for nearly a year now. What they are looking at now though is how they can use their infrastructure to allow people to choose what they want in their local cinema, breaking out of the cycle of two weeks of blockbusters followed by obsolescence until DVD. So, apart from opening up the long tail of film to a wide audience, the council could create opportunities for virtual communities transitioning to real world shared media experiences.

The German company Viif has developed an interesting application for the mobile phone where you can invite your friends to watch video clips with you, using video calling. You can see your friends and communicate with them while watching something together. This is a small step away from what is possible on Skype conference calls and MSN already, with kids chatting about what they are watching while attempting to do their homework.

In BBC Audio & Music interactive, we have developed a prototype radio with DAB and WiFi which allows social listening; you are alerted when any of your friends are listening to radio and have the option of tuning in to the same station. The radio knows what you and your friends are listening to, creating the backbone for recommendations and social networking around your radio tastes. The BBC developed the prototype, codenamed Olinda, with Schulze & Webb who are blogging about it here.

big_screen_football.jpg

It's not all new, of course. Test the Nation on interactive TV, the Jonathan Ross mobile quiz and the innovative things being done on the BBC big screens around the country, to name a few, have all provided great insights into mass participation and connection around live media.

"Honk your horn" was forced off the air when the police branded it a traffic hazard. Hopefully new ways of uniting people around live media won't come to such a premature conclusion.

John Ousby is head of distribution technologies, A&M Interactive

Pic Of The Day: BBC1 Ident

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Alan Connor | 09:00 UK time, Monday, 3 March 2008

In the corner of the boardroom BC2A3M3 here at Broadcast Centre sits a box. Inside the box is a globe which will not be familiar to younger readers. For those who remember when BBC channel idents did not involve penguins, ballerinas or hippos, though, it should be all to easy to picture what this mechanical globe looks like when the power is turned on. (For background on idents and furniture in general, you can spend many a happy hour at Andrew Wiseman's Television Room.)

bbc1_globe_430.jpg

Update 2008-03-04: Since taking the photo above, I've also written about the homepage clock in an article for the BBC News Magazine, so it's been suggested that I put a link here to those witterings.

Update 2008-03-18: Nick has pointed out that the bog-brush blog quotes this beautiful explanation of the 1985 vintage BBC "COW" (computer-originated world).

Alan Connor is co-editor, BBC Internet Blog. The kit making up a corresponding BBC2 ident can be seen in our Flickr account.

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