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Winter 2012 Open Post

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Ian McDonald Ian McDonald | 10:56 UK time, Tuesday, 31 January 2012

Plaque on Outside of TARDIS Door:

Plaque on the door of the Russell T Davies era TARDIS

As one season closes, another one opens; welcome to the Winter 2012 Open Post.

This is a chance for you to talk about topics that are on-topic for the BBC Internet Blog, but aren’t covered by any other posts currently open for comment.

The Autumn open post covered a lot of ground; we had answers to questions about the use of video on the News website, the blogs platform and postcodes. Liz Brown, product manager for News, updated Keith on moving News programmes to /programmes, and we were able to give Russ a bit of advance notice of the blogs migration to iSite.

Steve Hermann, Editor of the News website, answered @cping500’s question about text, video, and transcripts:

… currently we do not think the level of accuracy would be high enough to automate the process across the board. However, providing manually generated transcripts is something we try to do when we have pre-filmed material and the time to do it, but on daily news we do not have the resources to do it routinely.

We got the “About the BBC” site to change the address for our colleagues in the North-west to say “Salford” instead of “Manchester” - well spotted, Sue.

Steven Derrick explained more about how BBC iPlayer support works:

Every morning, the support team will sift through every single contact that we’ve received in the previous 24 hours. Any reports that indicate there could be a potential fault with BBC iPlayer, whether it’s an issue with a particular programme or with another aspect of BBC iPlayer, gets escalated for further investigation. The team will continue this process regularly throughout the day and once an issue has been escalated will update the help site accordingly.

A number of feature requests (eg #1, #3.2, #23, #36, #41) or bug reports (eg #20) have been passed on, and a couple of more detailed (#24, #30, #56, #80) or strategic (#19) questions haven’t had an answer yet. My colleagues are very busy building and maintaining services and it isn’t always possible to dig down into the details.

There were complaints that the BBC Internet Blog wasn’t getting enough links from the new home page, and that you wanted more blog posts on some things – such as the new home page. I naturally want more traffic and blog posts, so thank you for your support there.

I’d like to repeat my requests from the autumn open post: please separate questions, cite commitments, and use complaints site, moderation appeals process, and iPlayer help site if you have a complaint, a blocked post you want reversed, or a problem with iPlayer.

Several subjects – such as satellite reception – have been discussed at great length. It would be nice to hear some novel subjects come up. I look forward to reading and responding to your new questions and comments.


  • Comment number 1.

    I'd like to know a lot more about the BBC's proposed 'Crystal Mark' charter before the prototype is unveiled in a couple of month's time.


  • Comment number 2.

    Is it possible for a 'default location' field to be added to the BBC iD profiles? If added & set by the user it would be nice if it could then be used as the default on the home page, news (my location panel), and weather sites. At the moment the three sections require three different cookies to set the location, though I gather from a recent blog reply about the home page work is under way to address the different cookies.

    Also is the GVL/GEL 3.5 Masthead being gradually phased in or will existing sites be automatically upgraded to use it? At the moment there's a mix of the old Barley, GVL 2.7, GVL 3.0, and GVL 3.5 in use across the site which in my opinion doesn't provide consistency.

  • Comment number 3.

    There's a difference between what I'd like to see more of from the BBC, that might be reported on the blog, and what I'd like to see more of from the blog. If I had to pick something for the latter, I'd go for more interaction from people writing posts - we do OK with Ian and Nick in their 'hosting' roles, but quite often the person actual responsible for something will write a post, but not engage with comments at all, and when that happens it's both a missed opportunity, and even somewhat damaging - not talking to people is one thing, looking like you're actively ignoring them is something else.

  • Comment number 4.

    Thanks for setting up another open post Ian.

    I also have a question about the GEL 'v3.5' masthead. In the preview video of the new BBC Sport website (which looks very promising by the way), I noticed that the masthead turns white on hover. This behaviour has also been documented on the GEL website too (http://www.bbc.co.uk/gel/web/foundations/masthead/masthead-footer%29. I'm genuinely curious to hear the reasoning behind such a decision; won't this behaviour be jarring for users?

    In terms of content I'd like to read on the blog, a post about the future direction of GEL would be wonderful (a 'GEL: Two Years On' sort of thing). I like that the visual language is evolving—even if I'm not massively keen on the direction it seems to be heading.

    I'd also love to get a sense of whether the 'visual first' approach used on the home page and 2012 site is resulting in more engagement; are you getting the results you desired? Personally I find the arrangement of content on these pages to be totally confusing; a visual assault on the senses! I'm also noting a heavy use of interactive elements; are these being used as expected? With so much content on the home page hidden by default, how many users are actively clicking to reveal further information? What about those elements on the lower half of the page? With so much hidden, I wonder if it needs to be there at all!

    Pretty geeky questions I know! I ask only because I care :-)



  • Comment number 5.

    +1 for Paul's #4 question. I find the colour changing masthead very unusual and not in a good way so I'd like to hear some reasoning behind the concept.


  • Comment number 6.

    Any chance of the sport & weather URLs in the masthead being updated as currently they're still pointing to the old news sub-domain.

  • Comment number 7.

    Right, sounds like you're opening up for ideas and suggestions, so here's a few I've thought of.

    The use of the BBC iD system should be greatly improved. BBC iD already stores postcodes and locations of users, so why doesn't it use them as you sign in, to deliver regional content? That information could then feed across the site, delivering the customised homepage and default regional programming for iPlayer. Currently 6:30pm on weekdays says "London News" which isn't what 90% of your audience would be looking for.

    iPlayer's use of BBC iD should be broader too. I should be able to use my favourites across devices. My favourites on my Samsung TV, my iPhone, iPad and on the main BBC website are all different. They should be synchronised between devices, and the BBC should keep track of what you've played and how far you're into the broadcast.

    I might be watching a video on my iPhone or Android device, then want to pick up where I've left off on the website or my smart TV. There is no reason why the BBC couldn't store the last played point of a video using BBC iD, so I can pick up where I left off from device to device. Currently users have to manually move videos if they swap devices to watch it. It's a fairly simple thing to do, and a very slick function.

  • Comment number 8.

    As most people know these days there are four national education systems. four NHS system and three legal systems in the UK. Why particularly in Education and the NHS this is not recognised in respect of England. Just check today's education stories listed on the news site. Maybe it would be better to transfer Education and the NHS to the appropriate national pages (which at the moment are 50% crime because it is easy to get crime stories from the Police)

  • Comment number 9.

    Since there haven't been any BBC responses to the BBC News App on Android Tablets posts can you explain what the BBC is doing to ensure it's Android apps are available to license fee payers in the Channel Islands? Currently the apps usually don't show up in the Android market on device and the web market states 'This item cannot be installed in your device's country'.

  • Comment number 10.

    With Digital Switchover complete in the Channel Islands, The Isle of Man, Wales and Scotland and All England except Meridian, London and Tyne Tees, and with DSO yet to come in Northern Ireland, please would it be possible to have a World Clock on Red Button Digital Text now to bring the content of BBC Ceefax page 459 back to travellers?

    And please, why is there never a date published on the Red Button Digital Text Film Chart?

  • Comment number 11.

    fr - comment 9 - Kate Milner has responded to your question in a comment on her blog post. Thanks.

  • Comment number 12.

    Ian, could you pass this suggestion to the iPlayer devs?

    I'm about to buy a new Samsung TV and Humax Freeview recorder - this has the TV version of iPlayer loaded. What i would like to do- as I run Linux on my laptops (which is a little hampered due to Adobe ripping out NVIDIA ION logic from Flash 11) - is play content from the BBC4 Collections on my TV, and search the content on my TV.

    Would it be possible to make the BBC4 collections fully browsable through the TV version of iPlayer itself as opposed to having to use, say, a netbook to find a programme, then search iPlayer on the telly? This would then integrate the archive material more closely when there's specialist material aired. Maybe through a Collections category?

    Could this then be extended to the Archive as well? So it's browsable through the website - but as they ARE played out from the iPlayer infrastructure - it would help if they were navigable on the TV as well.

    I'd make much more use of the archives if this was the case.

  • Comment number 13.

    Re @12, I did raise the enquiry with the iPlayer team - case number is CAS-1284045-QP9Q7D.

    While the *web pages* are held on your webservers, the *content* is on iPlayer infrastructure... would be useful to have both methods of lookup... and be able to drill through... and please ensure it's all viewable through the MHEG apps...

  • Comment number 14.

    Any feedback from the powers that be yet before this entry disappears from the main blog page?

  • Comment number 15.

    As BBC Wales has been Digital only for some time now, would it be possible to erradicate the phrase "Wales (Analogue only)" from BBC Online?

  • Comment number 16.

    Does the BBC website host any 3rd party scripts or cookies that can read the BBC's own (1st party) cookies?


  • Comment number 17.

    Could you please incorporate a link from a user's ID profile to the User Profile. (Or better still, insert a User Profile link in the current login drop-down menu.)


  • Comment number 18.

    Has the engineering work scheduled to be finished in Autumn 2011 to enable radio networks to share programme information been abandoned?


  • Comment number 19.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • Comment number 20.

    Does the BBC have any plans to allow temporary use of the iPlayer from abroad by legitimate, normally UK resident TV Licence holders while on holiday?

  • Comment number 21.

    Will the remaining Ceefax pages with not-ever-shared-with-Red-Button-information continue to be updated until BBC One Northern Ireland switches to digital on Wednesday 24th October 2012, please?

  • Comment number 22.

    Please could the BBC sort out the negotiations so that 100% of the archive and other material that they play out over iPlayer infrastructure is available to Smart TVs? For instance, all your Archive content, the BBC4 Collections, the Music collections... and accessible from within the iPlayer apps already out there on platforms such as LG Smart Tvs, Humax Foxview recorders etc...

    In addition to the 7-day stuff, please. I get better audio response on my just-purchased Smart TV - and would LOVE to see all that stuff up there.. especially when the next BBC4 Collection comes around...

    I know it's down to rights - just getting annoying now...

  • Comment number 23.

    @Russ (#18) on sharing radio programme information:

    Thanks for the question, but after discussion with colleagues I think I need a bit more detail before I know where to forward this.

    I asked in the blog if you could cite commitments. Do you have a link to more information about this engineering work?



  • Comment number 24.

    @Alex Cockell (#22):

    Could I ask you to clarify what the issue is: is it that specific archive shows are available on BBC iPlayer desktop but not on BBC iPlayer big screen; or is that that they play out if you know the URL but are not findable?

    And could you give me the web address of an example show in iPlayer desktop?



  • Comment number 25.

    @24, Ian - The issue is that the Collection content is accessible from both iPlayer browser and iPlayer bigscreen *if viewed on a computer*, but not if viewed from my LG Smart TV.
    For example - the Army collection.

    Collection page - http://www.bbc.co.uk/bbcfour/collections/p00hl622/army-a-very-british-institution
    Example programme - How to make a Royal Marines Officer - http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/p00jsd7c
    Visible on iPlayer - http://www.bbc.co.uk/iplayer/search?q=royal%20marines along with Behind the Lines - another archive series.
    Visible on iPlayer Bigscreen search *on computer*.
    iPlayer Bigscreen link - http://www.bbc.co.uk/iplayer/bigscreen/tv/episode/p00jsd7c/
    Two episodes were located.

    iPlayer on TV - NO JOY.

    If you enter the same search term ("how ") on the LG TV iPlayer app, only the options "How to build a nuclear sub" and a current CBeebies (I think) programme came up.

    Tried another title "The Devil's Music" from the All American collection. Again - all visible from iPlayer-on-computer's search pages - no joy on my TV.

    Please could you liaise with the folks who arrange syndication - let us see these archive programmes on TVs, STBs etc... my LG smart TV has become the primary way I use iPlayer.

  • Comment number 26.

    @Ian, considering that one of David Danker's (have I got the name right) intentions is to make the iPlayer content more easily accessible.. might it not be an idea to get all the Collection and other permanently available material visible to TV and STB clients ready for when Youview goes live?

  • Comment number 27.

    I asked in the blog if you could cite commitments. Do you have a link to more information about this engineering work?

    Ian (#23) - the commitment was reported from John Partington, A&M Programme Information Product Manager, in April 2011.

  • Comment number 28.


    Thanks for the link.

    For clarity, John Partington said:

    it will be autumn before the software engineers finish their work
    That's not exactly the same thing as being scheduled for the autumn, but naturally, I'll forward your question to John Partington.
  • Comment number 29.

    @Russ (#18);

    John Partington, Interactive Platforms Editor in Audio and Music Interactive, replies about sharing programme information:

    The software engineers have delivered the back end changes, but there is still some work to do to align the way the two networks use the system so we can reap the benefits. I believe we’ll be there in the summer.
  • Comment number 30.

    @Alex, regarding making archive shows available on iPlayer on all platforms

    I passed your comments on to Dan Taylor, Executive Editor for TV & iPlayer, who says:

    It is something we are aware of and keen to implement but unfortunately we can't currently commit to timescales.

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