Wednesday 23 July 2014, 10:02
Book review: Tubes: Behind the Scenes at the Internet, by Andrew Blum
If you spend much of your working and home life online, maybe a summer break, stepping away from updates and emails, is a chance to learn how what you take for granted every day actually happens.
For instance, where is the internet?
In ‘the cloud’? Even in pre-cloud days we were already thinking about ‘uploading’ and ‘downloading’, which also subliminally suggested a kind of celestial home for our bits.
In reality, of course, there is no ‘up’ or ‘down’ involved. And there’s no cloud either. In fact the most ‘cloudy’ part of the internet is the bit right next to us: between the device we’re using and the wi-fi box, where data jumps mysteriously through thin air.
Mostly, from there on data travels through implausibly thin wires bundled together in cables, running for thousands of miles. They often lie on the sea bed, emerging on shore to link endless banks of servers on which data sits quietly until it is summoned by an online request.
It’s a modern miracle: both that the infrastructure has been built - much of it consisting of banks of cheap computers wired together - and it is so...
Tuesday 22 July 2014, 16:13
Indian election celebrations. Earlier this year I blogged about the first editorial experiments that BBC News was about to conduct using instant-messaging platforms. Since then it’s been a busy few months in which we have developed and run pilots on WhatsApp and WeChat for the Indian elections, on BBM for the BBC Hausa service in Nigeria, and Mxit during the South Africa elections.
We were the first major news organisation to try out editorial content on these platforms, so we were very much venturing into unchartered waters. Rather than setting targets for subscribers or audience reach, we used these pilots as proof-of-concepts to see if there was an appetite for these editorial products from users on these platforms. So how did they go, and what are some of the lessons we’ve learnt?
The Indian election
On WhatsApp we set up a BBC News account and invited users to add a mobile number to their WhatsApp contacts and send a message to it to subscribe to the service. Users were then put on to a ‘broadcast list’ where they would receive a maximum of three updates a day, in both Hindi and English.
We posted a variety of items. These included audio and video clips and daily text...
Monday 21 July 2014, 10:55
WSJ website commemorating the anniversary of WWI The way the conflict is described - 'The Great War,' 'The war to end all wars' - underlines its enormity, and it seems to defy description. The huge wealth of resources on the web meanwhile makes coming up with anything innovative seem incredibly difficult. Just a couple of clicks away are interviews conducted with war veterans in the 1970s and 1980s. More recently, their descendants have spoken of their remembrances at length and submitted images and memorabilia through social media.
These were the thorny issues facing half a dozen editors and designers from the Wall Street Journal who gathered in a meeting room in London last December to discuss how to commemorate the 100th anniversary of WWI. How could one do justice to such an epochal event when so much historical knowledge was already available both online and in print?
We threw lots of ideas around for more than an hour. One idea from digital producer George Downs seemed to stick. Why not do a 10 x 10 of 'things' from the conflict? We could cover 10 armaments, 10 medical breakthroughs, 10 innovations, and so forth.
After some research we felt that 10 items in fixed categories...
Friday 18 July 2014, 10:47
The first of an occasional series about innovation looks at how the BBC is experimenting with making its programme content the basis of e-books
Anya Saunders While tech-related innovation is usually associated with small start-ups, big organisations need to innovate too - either to develop new products or to start working in areas that are new to them.
It was the latter challenge that faced the BBC when it began to focus on the growing market in e-books. How would its television programmes translate into this new medium? And should the BBC be developing e-books as a new platform for original...
Wednesday 16 July 2014, 12:56
A quiet day at the European Parliament In a previous post, I looked at how the new anti-establishement blocs of MEPs elected to the European parliament are forming themselves into formal and informal groups.
Here I’ll profile the parties themselves (with the exception of UKIP, about which there is already plenty of information elsewhere on the BBC).
The top three anti-establishment parties in the new parliament are as follows (for details of the groups they belong to, see my previous post):
UKIP (UK): 24 MEPs (EFDD Group)
Front National (France): 23 MEPs (NI group)
5 Star Movement (Italy): 17...
Tuesday 15 July 2014, 15:14
Tory MEP Syed Kamall addresses the European Parliament While the main parties won 83% of the 751 seats in the new European Parliament, they collectively face what some see as a new kind of ‘opposition’ - which will be a new feature in an institution with a strong tradition of alliance-building and consensus.
About 13% of parliamentary seats are now split between what have become two what we might call anti-establishment (or ‘fringe’) groups:
- The EFDD (Europe of Freedom & Direct Democracy) has 48 seats (6.39%), with UKIP as is largest party.
- The NI (Non Attached) has 52 seats (6.92...
Monday 14 July 2014, 13:34
BBC Academy radio training studio How many times have I heard radio people smugly intoning that ‘the best pictures are on radio’?
Very droll. As a TV producer for many years, I've struggled to gather as many decent shots as I can to make a programme, not to mention carting around heavy, hot, fragile lights just to show a person talking in a room. So I’m probably over-sensitive to the idea, even in jest, that no pictures are somehow an improvement.
I’ve been thinking about pictures on radio because I’ve been on a three-day course to learn about radio production. We had to create...
Thursday 10 July 2014, 14:01
The new sites are freely available around the world. Each covers journalistic skills, editorial values and law, and impartiality in the use of language.
They are the result of close cooperation between the College of Journalism and the BBC World Service, and have been created to support BBC journalists working in the language services. They also offer help and advice to other journalists...
Wednesday 9 July 2014, 09:27
We launch an occasional series about post-BBC lives with a blog by novelist Alex Gerlis.
Alex was a BBC journalist for more than 25 years, mostly in television news. He left his last job, as head of training at the BBC College of Journalism, in 2011. His first novel, The Best of Our Spies, was published in December 2012. He has also written a Kindle non-fiction single about D-Day, The Miracle of Normandy, and is finishing The Swiss Spy, a prequel to his first novel.
You know someone is leaving the BBC when you receive a LinkedIn request from them. They’re now a media consultant, you...
Tuesday 8 July 2014, 11:22
It’s great that the BBC is willing to help the wider local media sector, but the industry needs to help itself too, argues Damian Radcliffe:
BBC offices in Salford - where the Revival of Local Journalism conference was held
James Harding’s announcement at The Revival of Local Journalism conference that the BBC is “open and willing” to explore partnership opportunities with other local media operators has understandably attracted a lot of attention.
But Harding’s well-intended words should not be interpreted as meaning that the BBC is the panacea for the plethora of issues local journalism...