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BBC News Radar

Jake MacMullin | 10:00 UK time, Thursday, 19 February 2009

The first post on this blog promised that we'd discuss prototypes and experiments among other things. Well, today's post is about one such prototype that we'd like to share with you: BBC News Radar (http://radar.journalismlabs.com)

Grab of Radar

I've been working at the BBC for the last 2 years where I mainly work on the deep, dark internals of the main content management system used to produce the news and sport websites (as well as many other sites) - but that's another story for another day. Today, I'd like to share something  that I've been working on in my 'spare' time at the BBC.

One of the things that first struck me when I started at the BBC was the sheer scale of the news web site. Whilst I knew the site was popular and I was aware that the BBC produced a lot of content, I have to admit I wasn't aware of just how frequently new content is published on the site and how often existing content is updated. You might also be surprised at how frequently and constantly that we publish new content on the news site: almost literally 'every minute of every day' (although there tends to be slightly less content published in the early hours of the morning in the UK, as we don't force all our journalists to work all night).

One reason you may not be aware of how frequently we publish new content is that until now there has been no one place you can go to see all of the stories we publish on the news site. You can always monitor the front page or subscribe to RSS feeds of each of the various indexes you might be interested in - but you'll only see a small sub-set of all of the stories we publish.

The BBC News Radar displays a list of recently published stories from any section of the BBC News web site. It displays both stories that have just been published for the first time and stories that have been recently updated. We've had an internal application of the same name within the BBC for some time - so I can not claim any credit for the idea of displaying all of our new content in one place. This prototype has been developed to explore the idea of providing a publicly available version of this application. We look forward to hearing your feedback.


  • 1. At 9:44pm on 19 Feb 2009, Hastings wrote:

    I must admit I am suprised that this has not been available before - it is a standard feature on most CMS simply because it is the simplest database query - SELECT from Articles ORDER Desc (more or less)

    One thing, however, it would be nice where the category is shown on the right to make that linkable.

    A little CSS to make each story expandable, perhaps showing the first 100 words, ending with .... and read more might be cute too.

    Hmm, now here is a thought that might be fun. A very simple browser based application called the "BBC Personal Viewer"

    It would basically be a way of showing all the news in lists, broken down into favourite categories, and so on. The user could store on their BBC account their favourites and do things like change the look and feel (thumnail size, background - simple CSS stuff).

    Add some addons like a world clock, bbc schedules, weather, links to favourite BBC program minisites, favourite article links ...

    And you have a highly configurable home page.

    And pretty simple to do! A couple of database tables joined to the user table, and a bit of Ajax and JavaScript programming and off you go.

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  • 2. At 08:40am on 20 Feb 2009, SheffTim wrote:

    Neat idea. I can't find a link to it in the News section so I'm guessing this is the first public showing; it would need a permanent home.

    A good fit could be in either the 'Also in the News' section or on the main News home-page itself; possibly near the 'Most Popular Stories' section.

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  • 3. At 10:22am on 20 Feb 2009, johndrinkwater wrote:

    From the site:
    ‘Please enable javascript and reload this page or visit this page using a browser that supports javascript.

    If you feel strongly that this content should be available without requiring javascript, please tell us.’

    Do I need to say anything?
    I mean, really, requiring javascript just to display a list that you could compute on the server (and then, if the user has javascript, further add to it while they are viewing it)
    Whatever happened to meta refresh…

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  • 4. At 01:12am on 21 Feb 2009, Nightwol wrote:

    First came across this during yesterday's outage of the main site. Seems to work pretty well - if this continues to be public I'm sure I'll wnt tp keep up with it

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  • 5. At 01:12am on 21 Feb 2009, HappyHare wrote:

    Great, is that why you removed the 'Updated every minute of every day' slogan? you just went 4 minutes without an update :-)

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  • 6. At 08:32am on 23 Feb 2009, digitaldickinson wrote:

    This is nice but is there a plan to offer an RSS feed of this rather than having to subscribe to lots of separate pages?

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  • 7. At 8:42pm on 23 Feb 2009, retrac wrote:

    Cool, but can you add sports news, and some kind of filter for regions!

    That would make it really useful.

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  • 8. At 10:37pm on 04 Mar 2009, Jake Macmullin (BBC) wrote:

    Thank you all for taking the time to have a look at the News Radar Beta and to share your thoughts here.

    You've made some great suggestions. I like the idea of being able to personalise the feed of stories - and the idea of including a panel on the News front page is a good one (though we'll have to do much more testing before we think about that. This Beta is currently only getting a few hundred hits a day - compared with hundreds of thousands for any one page on the News site).

    A number of people have requested an RSS feed (via other feedback mechanisms) - and in retrospect this seems like an obvious omission.

    johndrinkwater: Your point about javascript is a valid one - it really needn't be required to simply display the list of stories - but is used to update the list without having to reload the whole page. If we were to move this site from Beta, we'd certainly have to think about how the site 'degrades' nicely for people without javascript. Just out of interest - why don't you have javascript enabled?

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  • 9. At 08:57am on 11 May 2009, artesea wrote:

    RE: RSS Feed, do you mean something like this: http://newsrss.bbc.co.uk/rss/newsonline_uk_edition/latest_published_stories/rss.xml
    A bit slower, but pretty much the same thing.

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  • 10. At 2:53pm on 28 May 2009, Simon wrote:

    Is the BBC News Radar broken?

    Stories are not updating...

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  • 11. At 4:42pm on 29 May 2009, Bill Taylor wrote:

    Has not been updating for two days. I have reported as a technical fault

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  • 12. At 12:24pm on 31 May 2009, Bill Taylor wrote:

    Anyone from BBC care to enlighten us? Any idea when or if it will return?

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  • 13. At 09:32am on 01 Jun 2009, Bill Taylor wrote:

    Its back, thanks!

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  • 14. At 5:04pm on 07 Jun 2009, nobodybeme2 wrote:

    It would be nice to include more information on 'updated' stories. Perhaps a word by word diff as per changedetection.com, or a small graphic time line indicating when updates occurred to the story. This is of course if you do store the entire history of articles.

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  • 15. At 11:08am on 12 Jul 2009, Bill Taylor wrote:

    No updates for 2 days!

    Anyone else not getting updates?

    It could be a problem with my ISP Demon.co.uk!

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  • 16. At 00:17am on 13 Jul 2009, Guv-nor wrote:

    It is broke again, ISP Orange.

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  • 17. At 5:52pm on 20 Jul 2009, Shambles wrote:

    nice to get some reaction from bbc re absence of the site !

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  • 18. At 04:53am on 21 Jul 2009, Jake Macmullin (BBC) wrote:

    Guv-nor and shambles: Sorry about the outage, it is back online now.

    As News Radar is a prototype or 'Beta' website, we can't dedicate the same resources to supporting it as we do for the rest of our websites. As such, it may be unavailable from time to time - or it may (as you've noticed) fail to update occasionally.

    On this occasion, there was a problem caused by a recent update to one of our other systems that News Radar relies upon. Unfortunately, this problem required a little bit of development work to fix and I've only been able to do that work today. While we can't guarantee News Radar will always be available, a week without updates is much longer than I would've liked. Sorry about this.

    The good news is that it is back up and running again now and updating as new stories are published.

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  • 19. At 09:39am on 21 Jul 2009, Bill Taylor wrote:

    Jake: thanks for the info!

    Please let us know when you are aware of major problems.

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  • 20. At 09:10am on 16 Dec 2009, Bill Taylor wrote:

    Any news as to when News Radar will be updating again?

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  • 21. At 8:01pm on 19 Dec 2009, m_r wrote:

    Please can you let us know what happened to the News Radar site? It has not updated for 2 weeks now. Is this a temporary problem, or has it been discontinued?

    Many thanks in anticipation

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  • 22. At 10:01pm on 12 Jan 2010, Bill Taylor wrote:

    For Information: News Radar now updating again in Chrome Windows 7/ XP

    My be coincidence. but Chrome was updated.

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