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BBC Things To Do

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Ziad Dajani | 13:54 UK time, Monday, 6 June 2011

We've recently launched Things To Do, an online destination to help users find activities near them offered by the BBC and our partners off the back of TV, radio and learning campaigns.

Getting audiences involved in activities run by the BBC and our partners using our TV and radio programmes is at the heart of the BBC's learning strategy to inspire a life full of learning for all our audiences.

In January we announced that BBC Online would be reshaped around ten digital 'products', including a combined Knowledge and Learning proposition.

Things To Do is in line with the emerging product vision, seeking to unlock the learning potential across all BBC programming.

The BBC already runs a number of popular broadcast related activities like the Bang Goes The Theory Roadshow, the Free Family Proms or Stargazing Live activities. It has also had success in other initiatives like Breathing Places and Hands On History which let audiences know about partners' activities that engage audiences in learning about nature or history, for example.

Connecting it together

Until now though, this sort of content has lived in lots of different places within BBC Online.

Most often it was not connected and could not be searched together by location or date, had different user experiences and frequently was provided by different technical solutions.

Things To Do now brings this content altogether in a single solution making it easy for audiences to discover, and when they do, they'll find a consistent user experience that connects them with the wealth of BBC activity in this area.

All of the activities are about learning and/or participation, and are:

• Free or run on a cost-recovery basis,

• Run by the BBC or publicly funded or not-for-profit partners,

• Tied to our TV and radio programmes or learning campaigns.

So, a user might find out about one of the nature activities off the back of an on-air call to action by Kate Humble on Springwatch.

springwatch on flickr

They might then participate in an activity. Here's a nice comment on Flickr from someone who found out about a Bat Walk via Springwatch and Things To Do.

springwatch on flickr

We'll be working with some of the BBC's biggest programmes and events - Bang Goes The Theory, Countryfile, Springwatch, the Proms and the Olympics, to name a few - by putting all these events in one place we're hoping to inspire a greater number of people to interact time and time again.

We're not just trying to make things easier for audiences.

Things To Do is designed to help the BBC meet an important part of its strategy - to be a "catalyst and connector in the public space" and "help other institutions to reach and enrich the public".

To make this happen we've provided a single set of tools that makes it simpler for BBC TV and radio programmes to promote their activities online or work with partners.
And we've made it easier for the great partners we work with - organisations like the Wildlife Trust, the RSPB and the Museum of London. Our new admin interface will open shortly allowing, all our partners to enter their activities in just one place.

We've also announced an exciting data-sharing partnership with the online aggregator for the cultural sector, Culture24, to allow cultural institutions across the country to share easily their public-facing learning activities related to BBC programmes and brands.
We'll also be linking to their websites, where editorially appropriate, in line with our commitment to double external referrals for the benefit of the wider web.

What next?

We'll be continuing development to improve the user experience, working closely with the two agencies who have delivered Things To Do: Coob and Aerian Studios.

There are also a lot of exciting things to come, including improved mapping as well as more social and personalisation features.

The next big milestone to watch out for though is the mobile browser version of Things To Do, allowing users to find activities around them while they are out and about, the development of which is sure to keep us all really busy over the summer!

Ziad Dajani is the Editorial Lead Product Manager for BBC Things To Do, part of the BBC Online Knowledge & Learning product.

N.B. You can read Saul Nasse's thoughts on Things To Do on the About The BBC blog.

(Ziad's job title corrected 4th Jan 2012 by Ian McD)


  • Comment number 1.

    Thank you so much for "thingstodo" and not going for things2do :-D

  • Comment number 2.

    In episode 4 a 'bee hotel' was shown. Where can I find dimensions this please?

  • Comment number 3.

    Explain why Nick Robinson's blog comments are so much harder to read than this blog's? Well, I know why, obviously, it's because you have to read *up* the page, and the comments on each page get shifted to different page numbers as new ones arrive, and you have to scroll down *after* reading up to change pages, then scroll down to read up again on the next page. What I really want to know is, why have it like that at all, when this is so much more convenient?

  • Comment number 4.

    This is complete and utter garbage. It's limited in scope, has no educational value whatsoever and frankly you can find out what goes on locally from local papers and the library. If this is the standard of online content the BBC are using to replace all the user generated sites they've scrapped then frankly, shame on the management. Using Aerian studios to develop the site is a big mistake. They completely screwed up the re-design of H2G2 to such an extent it became unuseable and they had to revert back to the old formats. H2G2 did more for the aims of the new online goals than any other site on the BBC. It taught folk how to write in all formats, from factual guide entries, peer reviewed to poetry and prosse. It had a thriving community that more or less ran the site with volunteers, (big society, remember that?)it was and still is, a font of knowledge for all levels, all standards of education. So what do the BBC do? Get rid of it. The one site that fitted ALL aspects of the BBC's vision of how to look online with their 10 areas and they give us 'Things to do' that does nothing, has little or no interaction and stuff on there can be found without even switching a pc on. Pathetic. What a waste of licence fee payers money.

  • Comment number 5.

    JoeK - you're off topic. See this blog post. No more comments about comments please.


  • Comment number 6.

    Testing_Times: you're obviously entitled to your opinion but Aerian worked very hard indeed on the H2G2 refresh and in my view the results were well worth it. You can read a blog post by paul from Aerian here and contribute to the discussion on H2G2 here. The H2G2 redesign is off topic on this post.


  • Comment number 7.

    As you are using Aerian for this new project as stated in THIS blog I don't think highlighting the issues that are still prelevant to the re-design of H2G2 by the same company, which subsequently rendered the site so unuseable that the BBC had to run both the old and new side by side, as being 'off topic'. Hardly money well spent was it? The overall point being the BBC seem intent on wasting licence fee payers money on untried,untested stuff while closing out stuff that does work and work well. Where the re-design of H2G2 is concerned it really does look like an attitude of 'we can't get it working so lets get rid of it'. If this 'Beta' of "Things To Do" doesn't work will you close it or keep spending to make it work?

  • Comment number 8.

    Testing_Times, Just to clarify a few things here. The H2G2 sites ran parallel for transition purposes and not because the new design didn't work. When you say the "design" didn't work, are you referring to the service? There has been problems with the service that powers H2G2, which is nothing to do with myself or Aerian Studios, but an internal service within BBC.

    In addition, we did actively invite users from H2G2 to join in the redesign, and in fact had fantastic responses from them, and continued to use their thoughts and opinions during the redesign process. It's not my place to comment on the sale of H2G2, but I think it's fair to say it's nothing to do with it's redesign.

    In terms of Things To Do, it's a growing concern, and one that everyone is working hard to make into a big success. It's a shame you feel so negatively about it, and you are naturally more than entitled to your opinion, but I do think it offers a great services to those not as web savvy when travelling or looking for local events. I know for example, that members of my family found it incredibly helpful and as more partners join the program, it will only get better and more powerful.

    As I hope you can understand, BBC and ourselves at Aerian Studios are doing all we can to provide good services for the people of the UK, and any issues you may have with the things we produce does not come from a lack of effort or care on our part.

  • Comment number 9.

    Testing_Times, just to point out that one of the big aims for the new H2G2 design was to better serve the vast majority of users that never register or sign-in but who visit the site daily just to browse and read stuff. For the initiate and the casual reader alike, we wanted to make the site more much more accessible and less estoric. We wanted the new front page to better communicate what H2G2 is all about. The wider feedback we're getting suggests we've done this. Aerian have done a magnificent job, we were really very impressed with them. The sale of H2G2 has absolutley nothing at all to do with the redesign. Yes, there are bugs still to be ironed out, but we are working on them.

  • Comment number 10.

    Testing_Times: Just to give you some more info re: the BETA status. It doesn't refer to testing out an untried concept – as per my post we do this already (on Stargazing Live and Breathing Places for example) but with Things To Do we are bringing it all together in one place.

    We're in BETA currently because we're working with a small number of partners – the idea being to get things right before opening up to partners more widely which will be happening shortly. Once more partners, and more TV and radio programmes get on board you'll see the number of activities increase and the scope widen. We're also working hard on additional interactivity on the site, particularly on mobile, so watch this space. If we get it right we can connect audiences who've been inspired by what they've watched on TV and radio with really great 'real world' educational experiences run by the BBC and our partners.

    Regarding Aerian – they have done an excellent job for us and been a fantastic team to work with.  


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