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Weeknotes #1 (12/02/2010)

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Tristan Ferne | 17:57 UK time, Friday, 12 February 2010

Today we are starting a little experiment in the Prototyping team, a series of posts called weeknotes. Weeknotes are intended to give you an insight into what we’ve been doing during the week, how we work and the kind of thing we do, rather than any specifics about projects. We can’t always talk about our projects because some of them are sensitive or confidential, but those that we are allowed to talk about publicly should get separate blog posts. And don’t forget that we’re R&D so everything you read about here are explorations or prototypes. The Prototyping team consists of 12 people within R&D (we vary with some part-timers, attachments and freelancers) and we are a mix of software engineers, designers and production staff.

Weeknotes will be written alternately by myself (lead producer), Chris (our program manager) and George (the team leader). The idea for weeknotes originally came from Matt at Berg, and you can see other company’s weeknotes at http://www.weeknotes.com/.


Not a good start to weeknotes - I injured my knee over the weekend so I’m stuck at home. This week we’re kicking off a couple of new projects and we’ve allocated half of the team on each, we’re trying to reduce the number of simultaneous projects because we’ve had a few too many recently and it gets a bit crazy.

I was supposed to be running a workshop to kick off a week’s work on Signatures [a project investigating musical taste]. Despite this the team crack on with some deep conversations, but the problem’s quite a hard one and it’s a day of banging heads against table tops. We also started work on the Microblogging project [a project to support the BBC presence on microblogging platforms]. George has been writing story cards for this - to the team’s delight (it’s been a while since he “embraced” agile).

In team news, Dave joins the design team for a few weeks starting from today. That means it’s double its usual size because we’ve also got Ste, a design trainee, with us for a month. And Duncan releases one of his home/work projects, he seems to do them entirely on his train journey. It’s a Google Chrome browser extension to display Now and Next information for BBC TV and radio schedules. There’s more on his blog.


I have a phone conference with the Signatures team in the afternoon, I think I ask too many questions and maybe set them back a bit. George has a shocker of a day - a finance telco, then our management meeting, then an EU telco, followed by a use case discussion for a project, then an interesting chat around possible new location based services.


George met his boss for breakfast first thing, and thus was bleary eyed from then on. I’m back in the office today and overnight Chris G has taken a step back from Signatures and has scribbled down a good framework to continue the work. I think we’re getting somewhere. We show Mythology [a recently completed project about narrative and stories] and some other projects to Adrian, down from R&D North, and they seem to go down well. There’s lots of whiteboarding going on in the Microblogging team, I’ll have to ask them how they’re doing. They’ve got a very exciting Kanban board with pictures on. Turns out the designers on this were mapping out the various elements of the service. Ste then took on the graphing and Dave took the site layout.

The afternoon is taken up by a Resolver progress meeting with an external company who are doing the work. It’s primarily a feasibility study with a couple of weeks to go, but as it goes on, although we come up with more issues and problems, we now have some really good answers and ideas and it’s getting pretty exciting.


Team standup in the morning, almost all the projects look good. Vicky is setting up our demo/meeting room for some Multitouch focus groups at the weekend [we’re investigating multitouch/multiuser interfaces] which means we have to find somewhere else for our Signatures workshop. We’re getting even more down about this now, but we start some competitor analysis to see where we might fit. Theo buys some exceedingly good cakes to keep us going.

Meanwhile Duncan’s been adding personalised reminders to his Chrome extension and playing with Webkit transitions and keyframes. And on Microblogging Sean has started writing code to access the data stream and is now looking at ways to chop up the data and the designers are iterating the design of the service and drafting some beautiful graphs.


Well, I’m tidying these notes and double-checking them with Chris G and George while thinking about Signatures. Theo’s taking a day off from Signatures to let his brain cool and think about his project documentation ideas instead, while Chris G and Chris N are ploughing on. I’m reasonably happy because although we may not crack this completely, we will at least have done a decent study of the problem area with a good list of product ideas.

Vicky hands over the multi-touch work to Conor and Maxine for tomorrow’s focus group testing and they do a quick run through of the demos, there are a couple of minor bugs but everyone seems happy. Bill T from the BBC’s Archive team comes in to see some of latest projects and discuss possible collaboration, and immediately after Andrew from Vision meets us to talk about ideas for new services. A busy afternoon to round off the week.


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