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XML feeds for Listen Again content

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Alan Ogilvie Alan Ogilvie | 13:26 UK time, Thursday, 4 September 2008

BBC Radio supports multi-platforms, so we also have multi-formats to support that. How do we make sure we are providing this in a machine readable way that helps people expose our content more?

If you've been following Tom's blog, you'll have noticed that we are now happily creating feeds of data that provide availability information about all our Listen Again (Audio-On-Demand / AOD) content.

I've put together some documentation from our internal tests and subsequent wider 'beta' tests with some of the aggregators and device manufacturers.

"Every 3 hours, it contains everything that is available now (as per update). It also contains everything that will become available in the next 48 hours." excerpt from docs

I'm presenting this documentation as I think we are ready to find out how it works for others. You can feedback on aodfeed at bbc dot co dot uk (yes - this email now works for anyone who has tried it previously) or to myself - firstname.lastname@bbc.co.uk. Or indeed, feel free to comment here and I will attempt to collate.


  • Comment number 1.

    I assume the Listen Again feeds are Listen again within a time limited window?

    The Listen again webpage eg for Radio 4 http://www.bbc.co.uk/radio4/progs/listenagain.shtml , links to programmes that were broadcast years ago. Eg Relatively Einstein

    Is there a way of getting the URLs for all these 'archived but replayable' series? eg the five programmes linked to from http://www.bbc.co.uk/radio4/science/relativelyeinstein.shtml

  • Comment number 2.

    As it happens - I sent you an email this morning with an example of one of many recent programmes where the (usually present) RealAudio links are missing.

  • Comment number 3.

    Hi Alan - thought I'd post here what I sent you a email about earlier this week.

    Are there plans to add genre information to these feeds? Specifically I would like to be able to build menus on a per genre basis as was possible on with the old radio player.

  • Comment number 4.

    It's great to see the Audio on Demand feeds are finally working. The documentation has been quite useful as well.

    Sadly you do seem still to be having quite a lot of problems with the audio behind the feeds, particularly the Real Audio versions of programmes. I hope you're able to fix that soon.

    In the meantime, I've whipped up some new pages based on the new XML data at http://www.iplayerconverter.co.uk and I look forward to seeing what else the you chappies in Radio can offer.

  • Comment number 5.

    I just wanted to reply to the many emails that have been coming into us about this. We are reviewing all your comments, and we do take this seriously - for us here in Radio land it was always important to keep distribution to the same number of potential listeners on our multi-platforms. We are working hard to make sure that our feeds are correct.

    One comment I'd make about iplayerconverter is simply that it seems to rely on screen scraping the iPlayer webpages - which is back to where we were with RadioPlayer interface. I'd like to hear from whoever set this up.

    The data that iPlayer is displaying should be the same as the data we are exposing using this feed - as we are the source of the iPlayer data. I say should because I don't feel at the moment I can say 'is'.

    If I haven't had time to reply to you directly, sorry - your input is important and we do listen (especially as you are directly speaking to the people that originate the data and the media files).

    Alan Ogilvie

  • Comment number 6.

    Thanks for the feedback Alan.

    Some more details regarding the email that I have sent you.

    The big issue right now is the lack of RealAudio links for some of the content - especially Radio 4.
    Yesterday, of the 440 programmes listed for Radio 4 ... 160 had no links to the RealAudio content.
    At the moment - of the 443 programmes listed, 177 have not links to the RealAudio.
    i.e. it is getting worse.

    For an iPlayer user this might not matter much because it can play the encrypted MP3 - but for a remote device with no browser ... this makes it much worse than the old days of web scraping.
    I suspect that the issue is not the XML generation itself - it is probably listing what it can find. My guess is that the problem is further back in the chain.

  • Comment number 7.

    Alan - I'm the author of iplayerconverter . Although the first version (up for about a week) screen-scraped, the current version uses a combination of the /programmes XML feeds and the new mediaselector XML. No screen-scraping here!

    I think the big problem is not so much the feeds (which we're all very keen on and grateful for) but the fact that there appears to be something seriously wrong with the underlying audio data (particularly the Real data). I think the ra files are OK - to my humble eye it looks like the generation of the .ram files (which of course the mediaselector XML points to) that is going wrong.

  • Comment number 8.

    I agree with the posts above the most serious issue at present is the lack of real urls in the media selector. A simple script shows the following this evening:

    Station Programs No Real entry
    Radio 1 83 4
    Radio 2 87 9
    Radio 3 95 3
    Radio 4 469 180
    Radio 5 Live 76 13
    1Xtra 61 0
    6 Music 61 2
    BBC 7 133 19
    Asian Network 81 8
    nan Gaidheal 108 108
    Radio Scotland 187 34
    Radio Ulster 190 4
    Radio Foyle 194 21
    Radio Wales 66 3
    Radio Cymru 134 134
    Totals: 2025 542

  • Comment number 9.

    BBC Radio 4 is still missing 92 of the 430 programmes listed this morning.

    Can someone from BBC give an update on what has been happening and what the prognosis is?

  • Comment number 10.

    Radio 4: World On The Move not available on my Internet radio (via Reciva site)

    Apparently "the XML file for Radio 4 lists the programme but the pointer to the audio file only refers to the secure MP3 that is only available via BBC iPlayer.So - Reciva cannot include it in their list."

    Other programmes suffer from this as well.

  • Comment number 11.

    Thank you all for your input - whether it is the comments here, or the emails you send. I do read it all, apart from the stuff that ends up in my spam filter.

    As I said previously - supporting 'non-web page listening' is something we are more than keen on. But in order to do it properly - we need feeds to support our device manufacturers, aggregators and developers.

    In order to create the feeds we have to 'break a few eggs', it's a difficult time for us - but we hope to have a beautiful [egg-based?] product at the end that supports us for the future.

    We've not exposed the data in this way before, and we expected some 'airing of dirty laundry' (can I 'air-punctuate' any more? doh).

    In exposing the schedule in this way we have posed ourselves quite a few questions - for example: are we seeing things that were wrong before but it was difficult to track down. There is so much of our audio available that it simply wasn't practical to check everything. The key term there - wasn't. With the feed we are also using it as a monitoring loop to check other possible points of failure.

    There many other questions, and we are trying to knock each of them into shape. Honest.

    I had sleepless nights over our avid listeners on RadioPlayer getting a worse experience. But I convinced myself that 'breaking the eggs' (yes, again) was the way forward and we'd all be in a better position.

    ...and we are, you may feel that it isn't - but trust me, it's getting there.

    The amounts of audio content we deal with, the way that it's encoded and delivered is immense and we have to enact change within the boundaries that our BBC places around us.

    If you contacted me, I have recorded your comments and it helps us focus our plans where necessary. I can't reply directly to everyone all the time, so if you feel that I should have replied - my apologies, I hope you can understand and please don't stop feeding me your comments.

  • Comment number 12.

    Thanks for the feedback Alan. These feeds are definately appreciated especially as it now looks more of the programs are becomming available. (I still count 423 out of 2033 missing this evening, but the main national stations are looking much better.)

    Would it be possible to set up a two way discussion forum for these feeds and related topics. Those of us developing community projects to consume your data really need to be able to ask ask questions about future additions and direction. I believe this would really help - especially to ensure the amount of effort the bbc is putting into exposing its data is to prove worthwhile - it would validate that the data you are making available is useful and help turn the future direction. You clearly have an email list for the radio manufactures related to these feeds, would it be possible to open this up to subscriptions from the community?

  • Comment number 13.

    At the moment - BBC Radio 4 XML data has not been regenerated for 5 days.

    XML opens with
    schedule start_date="2008-10-06T06:00:06Z" updated="2008-10-06T06:01:15Z" end_date="2008-10-08T06:00:06Z" network="radio4"

    I would also support a forum or similar where such issues could be highlighted and ideas generated. It would also mean that BBC folks could look in one place rather than keeping bookmarks for old blog postings.

  • Comment number 14.

    Radio 4 feed has been fixed.

    Also - now everything has the correct XML identifier.

  • Comment number 15.

    I'm hoping this is the right place - I am not at all a techy and all this is so much Greek to me, but I am a Reciva listener and am frustrated because Radio 4 and BBC7 on demand xml files have not been updated since Farming Today yesterday (Tues 18th November). As for the updates becoming available every 3 hours, that's a laugh, lucky if they're updated once every 24 hours. Not sure if that's a BBC or a Reciva problem.

    All the best,
    Anne in Geneva.


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