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"I'm here now!": BBC's location based service experiment for the Radio 1's Big Weekend audience.

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Richard Morland Richard Morland | 18:43 PM, Thursday, 5 May 2011

Radio 1's Breakfast DJ Chris Moyles on a stage at Radio 1 Big weekend with the audience behind him.

At Radio 1's Big Weekend 2011 we are testing a new mobile feature that allows the audience to say "I'm here now" to their friends while watching their favourite artists throughout the day. The key thing is that they have to be present at a stage to check in.

So why are we doing this? This is an experiment to help the BBC explore privacy issues around Check Ins and ask whether the technology can enhance our audiences' experience of similar events. By using the latest mobile location technology, Facebook Places and a bit of web design, we've built a prototype that let's our audience share the experience with their family and friends in a way in which they're used to. We decided to use Facebook Places because we believe most of the audience at the event will have an account.

At the BBC I run a number of social media projects and we've been wanting to do something involving the audience at festivals and listeners at home for quite a while. The challenge I set myself here was to find a new and engaging way for the BBC to encourage users to share their festival experiences, good or bad, with the wider world.

The 'Check In' experiment is my proposed solution. It was initially developed on a beer mat in December 2010 but after a late night or two and hard work from the Future Platforms team it was delivered on time. It will only be available to smartphone users with Facebook accounts, attending Radio 1's Big Weekend in Carlisle. Participants are able to share a number of things: which stage they're at, who they're listening to and what they think of the performance. This information will be shared with friends via the user's Facebook newsfeed.

Here's how it works:

a simple diagram showing the way the Check In product works

The site asks users to verify their location by either checking their 3G cell or using their GPS location. Privacy has been a concern on this project from the outset. We have taken great care in making sure that this site is an example of how to be safe whilst using Check Ins. By default, our site only publishes information and comments to a user's friends via their Facebook newsfeed.

The prototypes database tells us how many people have checked into a performance and how many times they have checked in but the BBC does not hold any users' personal data. The system is completely anonymous, so while we can visualise the numbers of users we're unable to tell who they are. We also signpost that users can amend Facebook privacy settings to decide how and with whom they share this information. As Radio 1's Big Weekend is a ticketed event, we felt that this would be the perfect choice for an experiment of this kind as it reduce concerns of the audience sharing where they are. We also felt that this was a great opportunity to raise awareness with our audience of location privacy. The way we are doing this is to promote how to stay safe on-line as well as providing top tips for anyone using location based services.

From the start, allowing users to say where they were as one of our prototypes was going to be an interesting shift in what we do. We defined a set of criteria to be evaluated and we are carrying out three stages of audience research focusing on qualitative research at the event with 6 young people. They'll be given phones for the day and asked to evaluate the experiment and the promotion.

This has been a truly challenging and thrilling project to work on with some great people but there'll be no rest until the final evaluation in a few weeks. I'll be doing a further post after next weekend with details of how it went. - RM

Richard Morland - Senior Producer Social Media - A&M Interactive

NB: This is an experiment so unfortunately we cannot make it work on all mobiles. If you are attending then your handset will need to have location detection enabled and a browser that can handle HTML5 web code. For example: the iPhone 3GS, iPhone 4, Sony Ericsson X10, Samsung Galaxy and Galaxy S, HTC Desire, Desire HD and Nexus One, and any phones using Android 2.1 operating system and above (excluding tablets and small-screen devices such as Samsung Galaxy Mini, Sony Experia X10 Mini and HTC Wildfire).

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