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R&D Live Events project

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Chris Bowley Chris Bowley | 16:50 UK time, Friday, 16 November 2007

Myself and Tristan make up the full-time R&D team for BBC Audio & Music interactive. We try to organise our work so that we can concentrate on a single rapid prototyping project for around 4-6 weeks with input from other members of A&Mi. These projects can range in scope but generally result in an internal or public prototype.

The latest R&D project focussed on live events (i.e. festivals and concerts) and coincided with the BBC Electric Proms. The project team was made up of myself, Yasser Rashid and Sarah Challis but we also consulted with various members of the department who develop and maintain sites for our live events. We decided to develop a site for the Electric Proms which was made up of content sourced entirely from outside bbc.co.uk, aggregating information and media held on other sites. Our event sites are often heavy in the resources they require to design, build and maintain but most of the work is editorial, producing the site content. Our approach was to explore how much of this we could automate, even if the result was not a fully practical solution.

The basic constraint was imposed that we held as little information as we could, storing only links to resources for each individual gig held and venue used during the Electric Proms. The resources chosen to provide content for the site were Last.fm, Upcoming, Flickr and Twitter. Andrew Barron (senior producer for music events sites across bbc.co.uk) created events on Last.fm and Upcoming for each gig so it was simply a job of matching these up to the list of events. As both sites provide similar sets of information regarding events, we decided to use Upcoming to provide event information and Last.fm for attendance information. We also brought the Last.fm social network into our site to incorporate an important feature of an event: participation.

Yasser and Sarah spent time looking at the event timeline and how both those attending the event and those not attending interact with each other and the event site. We felt it was important to bring this participation into our site and using Last.fm's social network provided a quick way to prototype this.

Our constraints resulted in a design made up of four templates: gigs, venues, users and a landing page. The Electric Proms branding was incorporated along with a simple and bold style, assigning a colour to each template. A column-based layout provided a flexible way of displaying the content when we didn't know its length.

Here's some shots of the resulting site:

home_small.gif

gig_small.gif

venue_small.gif

friends_small.gif

The QuickTime movie below shows the slides from the presentation we gave to wrap up the project

This project did not result in a public prototype because of the way in which we used data from Last.fm and Upcoming to build the site. Also, the simple prototype aggregates the page content each time it is accessed which is clearly completely impractical for any site which expects a large number of users.

We have begun to use third party content across bbc.co.uk from sites including http://www.google.com/maps, Flickr and last.fm. Our project was an exploration of how we might use third party content in the future as it is undoubtedly something that will become more prevalent.

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