BBC BLOGS - The Editors

Archives for June 2010

BBC News low-graphics version (2)

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Anthony Sullivan | 15:21 UK time, Wednesday, 30 June 2010

Thank you to everyone for your comments about the closure of the low graphics service.

I appreciate that the mobile version does not offer the same full range of content but that is something we will be working on in the coming months.

I referred to a new suite of tools which we hope to make available in the summer. These should allow you to easily select a simplified version of the News site - much like low graphics - whatever we have on the full web version should also be available there too.

Read on and comment at the BBC Internet Blog.

Anthony Sullivan is executive product manager, BBC News website.

What's up with the weather?

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Mike Rudin Mike Rudin | 15:54 UK time, Thursday, 24 June 2010

To some, it's a massive conspiracy to con the public. To others, it's the greatest threat to the future of our world.

Over recent years, opinions about global warming have become increasingly polarised.

It came to a head late last year when hundreds of e-mails from the University of East Anglia's Climatic Research Unit were published.

The so-called "Climategate" debate was born.

Despite governments, scientists and campaigners telling us the world's climate is changing, opinion polls suggest growing uncertainty about global warming.

It hasn't helped that recent weather forecasts of a barbecue summer and a mild winter have been spectacularly wrong.

Panorama's Tom Heap has gone back to basics to ask what we really know about our climate and how it affect us.

His examination of the topic comes just ahead of the third and final report into "Climategate".

Thus far, there have been two inquiries: the Parliamentary Science and Technology Select Committee and an independent review by Lord Oxburgh.

Both found that there was no grand global conspiracy and no deliberate scientific impropriety or dishonesty.

The final report by Sir Muir Russell
has looked at whether the scientists involved could have been more open with their critics.

The e-mails, which talk of hiding and deletion, gave some the impression that information had been deliberately withheld. They also appeared to lift the lid on an apparently vicious and personal conflict.

We wanted to pin down what, if anything, is broadly agreed and certain about global warming.

Top Gear may have its "Cool Wall", but we have built a "Wall of Certainty". We tested it out on some leading scientists and asked them a few key questions about climate change.

We gave them just four options - certain, likely, unlikely or no way. The answers were fascinating.

First up was Professor Bob Watson. He chaired the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change for five years, worked for former US Vice-President Al Gore, and is now chief scientific adviser to the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs.

Second was the leading sceptic Professor John Christy, an atmospheric scientist at the University of Alabama in Huntsville.

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Contrary to some of the newspaper headlines and blogs that suggest all global warming science is a con, they agreed that mankind is causing the planet to warm up.

We also hear from the scientist behind the graph which has become an icon in the climate-change debate. Professor Michael Mann regrets the way his so-called "hockey-stick graph" was put in the spotlight by politicians.

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And we find out that the leading sceptic Bjorn Lomborg, author of the best-selling book The Skeptical Environmentalist, accepts much of the basic science and agrees with the critical IPCC finding that most of the recent global warming is man-made.

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There is genuine uncertainty and disagreement about the exact scale and speed of human-induced global warming and crucially what we should do about it. But I was surprised to find how much agreement there is on the fundamental science.

Mike Rudin is producer of Panorama's What's Up With The Weather? You can watch it on BBC One on Monday 28 June at 2030BST and online.

Goats, condoms and paper clips

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Giles Wilson Giles Wilson | 12:49 UK time, Wednesday, 9 June 2010

Close observers of the BBC News website's "most popular" box might have noticed a rich crop of unusual - and usually old - stories appearing in the past week or two. Examples include Woman jailed for testicle attack, E-mail error ends up on road sign, Condoms 'too big' for Indian men and Man turns paper clip into house.

In 2006, a certain story about a Sudanese goat resurfaced long after it had first been in the news and my colleague Adam Curtis wrote about how the viral potential of the web makes it hard to predict which stories readers will tell their friends about.

We've seen odd stories resurface from time to time - but lately the increased number of such old stories prompted us to investigate further.

We think we've worked out what's going on. Our front page usually shows you the "most shared" list, while pages for individual news stories show you the "most read". In the process of upgrading some of the software which publishes our site, we started to show you "most shared" on story pages as well as the front.

This means that any odd eye-catching story from the archive has been displayed on many more pages than it would normally have been, with the result that more people than normal have read it, more people than normal have then shared it with their friends, and the higher it has then climbed in the rankings.

We're now putting things back the way they were - though doubtless it won't be long before the Sudanese goat makes another appearance, one way or another.

Giles Wilson is the features editor of the BBC News website.

BBC News linking policy (3)

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Steve Herrmann Steve Herrmann | 17:36 UK time, Monday, 7 June 2010

Links to external sites are an important part of the BBC News website and I have blogged previously about how and why we are aiming to develop what we do in this area - here and here.

One theme that came up was what we should do about linking to sites which require subscription. There were mixed views; on balance, you seemed to be in favour of us providing the most relevant links, wherever they are, with some saying they'd like us also to flag links which require subscription if you follow them.

That is broadly the direction we are going in. As the Times moves into online subscription and others consider the options - see, for example, this piece about the New York Times - there is likely to be a changing landscape with some sites and stories behind paywalls, some not, and some which are in between - a certain number of visits or part of an article free, all depending on the user's individual circumstances.

Screenshot of NewstrackerOur approach will continue to be to take editorial justification as our guiding principle - the relevance of the link in relation to the story we are reporting and its usefulness to you in that context. Beyond that, we will, where practical, aim to tell you if the link is going to a subscription site. Our automated Newstracker module, for example, should be able to do this and already signals when registration is required.

For in-line links in blog posts and news stories, it may be impractical to do this for reasons of space, layout or time. Whatever we do, though, we will look for the best and most useful links for you, while following our approach to external links - which you can find at the bottom of every page.

Steve Herrmann is editor of the BBC News website.

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