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Graeme Kay Graeme Kay | 17:50 UK Time, Thursday, 29 April 2010

The Proms website launch is a particularly busy period for us - it involves the entire Radio 3 Interactive team. Asking for a blog entry on the day itself would invite a dusty answer. But after a few days to recover and reflect, senior content producer Gregory Stevens tells it like it was. - Ed.
gregory_stevens_300.jpgIf I answer the phone, I'll forget where I am - which is halfway through Prom 39 changing text dashes (known to typographers as n-rules, the 'n' indicating the length of the dash) for html (a bit of online code which tells the interface to display a dash, or n-rule). Are you with me so far?  Well, if I don't answer the phone, they will only ring again.  And in the quandary, I forget where I am anyway and the phone stops. 
However well prepared I am, Proms site launch day is always a nightmare.  In an idle moment I ask members of the team to proofread the site and then receive half a ream of printout with myriad corrections.  They're eagle-eyed and a bunch of sticklers, bless 'em. How can I bribe someone to take on the fixes?  Chocolate is the currency of the day.  You have to be especially careful with orchestras: some seem to want the indefinite article, some don't,  and I always seem to have got them the wrong way round.
We're also launching a bespoke Proms site for mobile phone users, which shares most of the web site code but not all, so the site breaks. More chocolate is needed to lubricate the throat of the 'mobile guru'  who, between mouthfuls, advises on a fix.  And it works - for the first time ever we are launching mobile and web together - it's a very shiny new site which looks great on mobiles and especially wonderful when viewed on those devices with big touch-screens. I am reminded of the advice to over-exuberant owners of these gizmos: 'Remember: you bought one, you didn't invent it...'
The Proms press team commissioned a film to be shot of the launch of the Proms at the Albert Hall, with Nicola Benedetti playing Vaughan Williams's 'The Lark Ascending'. At around 4pm, half way through the latest set of corrections, the film is sent to me electronically.  So I break off and start the somewhat tortuous process of re-coding the film to fit on to our website and to recode an old page to put it on. Somewhat to my horror, I find I am in a race with the Guardian website who are editing our footage for their own purposes ... no pressure, then.
Throughout all this all members of the Radio 3 web team and Proms team check and correct the website, as more changes come through. The office is mostly deathly silent: headphones are firmly clamped to earholes and my webmeisters produce no more than a woollen-mill's chatter of mass keyboard-clicking, punctuated by the odd shriek of triumph as a particularly tricky bit of coding publishes, and that part of the site starts to work.  Lunch is abandoned and the cake that I should have bought for tea to thank the team remains unbought...
Finally, it's done, the whole site is live and we can start to promote it from the Radio 3 website. Now all I need to do is to closely attend to the Radio 3 Message Boards, where expert listeners with an eye for finding missing umlauts and Koechel numbers, lurk.  So I put them right immediately, before they cast too many nasturtiums ...
  • Gregory's photo is by Proms video blogger Jon Jacob


  • Comment number 1.

    Dear Radio 3
    I was pretty mad today when I allocated 15 minutes before having to drive to a conference [3 and 1/2 hour drive] for submitting my Proms plan to find I was 4845 in the queue!! If you are going to have an online booking facility it needs to work for us workers otherwise we may just give up on you!!
    Best wishes

  • Comment number 2.

    I agree with Julie. Whose idea was this new booking system for the Proms? At 08.30 I was number 5180, with about a 2 to 3 hour wait to be connected and even now, some 4 hours later the waiting list is still over 2000 !!
    Consequently I have decided to abhort any efforts to get to the live Proms and will listen on the radio or watch on TV when possible.

  • Comment number 3.

    I disagree strongly with the two comments above. I am a pensioner so perhaps not so savvy as some people with some aspects of computer technology. However I created my Proms Planner so very easily. It was much more user friendly than many sites for buying tickets. Then I logged on at 7.45ish on Tuesday. The waiting room was full. I was allowed in at 8.04am, with over 1,000 ahead of me but the numbers went down really quickly and I was all booked and finished by 8.25am. Yesterday's Evening Standard said that two tickets a second were being sold and that demand was 'unprecedented' and that over 80,000 tickets were sold on that first day. I think Julie and Long-time Proms supporter have to get real. If you want to book at the very beginning of the booking period for the biggest and best classical music festival in the world then you are NEVER going to be able to do it in 15 minutes. I now know exactly what Proms we have tickets for, unlike the previous system. Well done to all those responsible for getting this system up and running.


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