Archives for January 2009

How we make websites

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Michael Smethurst Michael Smethurst | 18:57 UK time, Saturday, 31 January 2009

For the past few months I've been touting a presentation around the BBC entitled 'How we make websites'. It's a compendium of everything our team has learned from long years developing /programmes, the recent work on /music and the currently in development /events.

As a warning there's very little original thinking in here. For those familiar with the concept of one web, the importance of persistent URIs, REST, Domain Driven Design and Linked Open Data it'll probably be old news. Possibly it's interesting to see all these threads tied up in one place!?! Maybe it's interesting to see them all from a user experience point of view?!? Anyway, as ever, it's built on the thinking and achievements of many clever people over many years who are too numerous to mention here. Although obviously I'll make an exception for Paul Clifford and TimBL. :)


The presentation is here and the (slightly) expanded text is below for the sake of accessibility and Google.

Read more and comment at BBC Radio Labs.

Michael Smethurst is Information Architect, A&Mi, BBC Future Media & Technology

We're no longer updating this page!

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Seetha Kumar Seetha Kumar | 11:52 UK time, Friday, 30 January 2009

If you're a frequent visitor to BBC Online you might have already come across the message at the top of this page, which is now appearing as a banner heading across more and more of our pages. We've updated our existing signage for pages that have reached the end of their active "working" life.

When a site has evolved as ours has, it just isn't wise or cost effective to continue working on some of the pages we published in the past. At the same time, routinely deleting inactive content doesn't feel entirely right either, does it? (More on this below).

Whilst we work through the sensible way forward, the best approach at present is to clearly label pages which are no longer being updated but which have been left online either for reference or because they may still be of some interest. I hope we've done this elegantly even as we alert our users to the fact that the content provided may now be outdated. Of course we will continue to remove sites and pages which have become so outdated that they may lead to actual harm or damage.

To date, we've used a yellow "virtual sticky" note - like a floating label on the page. It had its' pluses in that it was simple and effective. But it partially obscured some of the site content, was tricky to implement technically, and just did not sit comfortably on the page.

This is why we've moved to a simple banner label across the top of each page. It links to a Help page explaining why we're no longer updating the page.

The aim of this labelling project is in part to show more clearly the extent to which we actively manage or "curate" our online content. I believe BBC Online should be an actively managed resource of information, tools and services which support and enhance the BBC's six public purposes for our audience.

It's all part of our ongoing efforts to improve the quality of user experience across BBC Online. The Barlesque templates which have been introduced gradually over the last 12 months support a consistent site wide look and feel. However, the migration of every page to the new template, even when it isn't any longer actively managed, is not a prudent use of resources. So in most cases, sites and pages which aren't being migrated to the new visual style will be labelled as "no longer updated". None of this applies, of course, to BBC News pages which generally carry a "last updated" message to inform users about the timeliness of information on that page.

There is a view, that perhaps we should grasp the nettle and delete "old" pages. As currybet points out, we continue to harbour some very old sites which pre-date even the previous templating language. (Most of the old sites currybet links to in his blog are no longer available, although at the time of writing, there is still Politics 97; and there may well be others).

There are others who would passionately veto deletion because of the inevitable broken links. I don't entirely buy this argument though I do sympathise with the considered view that these sites can offer information or stimulate memories around a particular BBC programme or event which may just be of value or interest in the future. As can be seen from currybet's examples, in their inimitable way, they can add to the history of the web and the BBC and its activities online.

As we debate this, we've been pondering what we should call the labelling project. It's obviously related to the traditional activity of archiving, but it's not exactly the same. My colleague Dan Taylor, had some interesting thoughts about archiving the web on his personal blog back in June last year.

Incidentally some of you (including the community at the Archers and Points of View message boards) noticed that yesterday the banner appeared on the sign in page on some of our message boards and blogs. This was an error, a bug which has now been fixed. My apologies.

Seetha Kumar is Controller, BBC Online .

External search removed from BBC Online

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Seetha Kumar Seetha Kumar | 11:30 UK time, Thursday, 29 January 2009

There has been some talk recently about innovation - is it becoming another buzz word?

I am curious to understand what people really mean when they use the 'i' word and the real world examples they intuitively embrace. Being practical, I understand it to mean both BBC iPlayer - the fastest growing search term on Google last year - and more recently the engaging Bugbears. Check it out and let me know what you think.

I talked about quality in December - this will be a recurrent theme.

It was interesting to read the diverse selection of comments about branding from my last post - I had to smile when I read the remarks about the 'cyclical nature of the BBC's management decisions'. Yes, sometimes it does come across that way. In this case, though, I disagree that 'it matters very little to people who use the service, just those within the organisation looking for ways to spend their allocated budget.' The key task - as addressed by old boar - was to make all our services part of the 'normal' BBC, by simultaneously removing surplus brands and simplifying the overall branding.

Old boar and lucas42 are right - consistency is important. We need a uniform url policy, it's something we've started thinking about late last year - more on this later. And yes, if we are trying to work towards consistent branding, making the site operate consistently is vital. Three c's I worry about are: clarity, consistency and coherence, and I comfortably predict these will be the subject of many more musings.

Picking up on Sue Aitch's positive comment on our commitment to accessibility, I hope you have read my colleague Jonathan Hassell's two recent posts and some of the aspirations we have for the year. They include improved live subtitle synchronisation, improving the iPlayer's media player so it can display the colours currently used in broadcast subtitles to indicate different speakers, and inclusion of subtitles on BBC channels simulcast on

In this post I wanted to tell you about another step we are taking towards being clearer about we do and don't do. Today will see the end of the web search option on BBC Online. I know that when we removed this from the re-launched homepage over a year ago, (we replaced it later) a number of users complained so I want to set out the thinking behind this decision.

When I took this job on following the BBC Trust Service License review last year, there were several actions pending in my in tray. One of these being a request from the Trust that we look at web search.

Reviewing the service recently you cannot help but come to the conclusion that BBC web search was not sufficiently different in quality or character from others like Google or MSN to justify the time and money spent maintaining it. Users have easy access usually in their browser, to a very similar service. Usage is not high, accounting, on average, for between 10 -15% of the total amount of searches made on BBC Online.

We'd do far better to concentrate on making our own BBC website search as good as it can be, for example by developing our topics proposition and improving the way we point users to other related content around and off the site. To be honest, there is a lot we can do to provide users with a range of editorially selected links to other high quality sites in the UK and elsewhere. This is why we have decided - with the endorsement of the BBC Trust - to end the web search option.

I realise that some of you may find this inconvenient, but do not believe that in the current search market the BBC can genuinely make enough of a difference. We need to focus our energies where we can truly do so. I want to direct our efforts over the coming months on providing a richer selection of external links across BBC Online. At the moment, these can look thin.

For example, although our health page on autism has a good selection of external links, these are not available on our autism topics page and there are none at all on our search results page for autism.

In fact, there is a huge number of excellent links across the site. The problem is that these links can be a bit buried away. So we need to bring all our links into a single database so that they can be presented to users in a wider range of contexts across BBC Online - rather as we do in News with alternative coverage of some stories.

Seetha Kumar is Controller, BBC Online.

Visualising Radio - delivering video and audio

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Alan Ogilvie Alan Ogilvie | 10:44 UK time, Monday, 26 January 2009

So, I just wanted to answer some of the queries we've been having about the audio and video that was used for the Visualising Radio trial.

My team - Terry O'Leary and Toby Bradley - organised the streaming elements, as we do for much of the music events we cover on a regular basis, as well as things like 'ScottCam' which you will remember from last year.

The first thing is a discussion about the audio, and a quick explanation (I've tried to write this in simpler terms, so audiophiles please suppress your urge to correct my terminology).

Visualising Radio Console from Alan Ogilvie on Vimeo.

Read more and add your comments on the Radio Labs blog.

Alan Oglivie is Interactive Platforms Producer, Audio and Music Interactive.

Points of View Message Board 5: Summary of Meeting With POV programme and BBC Vision

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Nick Reynolds Nick Reynolds | 12:00 UK time, Saturday, 24 January 2009

Attending the meeting were: Helen Foulkes, Roo Reynolds, Tom Van Aardt, Rowan Kerek, Nick Cohen, Nick Patten and myself.

I was very pleased with the meeting that we had on Tuesday to discuss the Points of View message boards. It was very positive with lots of enthusiasm expressed for improving the boards. (Helen from Points of View at the very start said that the boards were very useful to the programme).

pointsofviewmeetingPhoto of meeting taken by Tom.

Rowan who is currently hosting the Television board stressed (for me) the key problem with the boards at the moment. The community there feel they are not listened to by the BBC and want a closer relationship and better feedback. As she put it, they feel like they are sometimes "talking in a corner".

Before the meeting Rowan shared some numbers for web traffic which supported what you've been telling me in comments about the value of the Television board. The Television board gets the vast majority of the traffic to the POV boards, getting twenty times the numbers of even the board's home page.

I outlined the history of the boards (for more detail of the current hosting arrangements see this blog post). Up until recently they have been run and hosted by the BBC's Future Media division not by television (even though Points of View is a television programme primarily about BBC television).

I used the analogy that this was like asking Radio 4 to host a board about Radio 3 i.e. the relationship isn't close enough to get a really good conversation going. I said the key practical question for me was "who is going to host this board?"

I was pleased that that everyone in the meeting seemed to agree that the solution was that BBC Vision (the television bit of the BBC) should try to take on responsibility for hosting the POV boards and managing the community there.

One idea which seemed to go down well was for a community editor or manager in Vision to act as the host for the board and to possibly be in charge of a blog about television.

The blog could be for when BBC people want to talk about their TV work in a more structured way while the POV message boards could be continue to be the place where licence fee payers started threads about BBC television.

The community editor/manager could host the boards and the blog and feed in useful threads to BBC television people, encouraging them to respond and participate on both the blog and the boards. If a blog was set up it might contain posts about Points of View the programme when it's on air.

I said that if this happened the current POV boards should be refocused. The, digital and radio boards could be closed down. Helen said that radio already has the Feedback programme (and its own message boards) and that Points of View (the programme) only covers radio when the story raises big issues about the BBC (e.g. Brand/Ross). The current BBC POV board could be the place where big BBC stories could be discussed.

I repeated niclaramartin's view that the board (which we have just renamed "Online" in line with Seetha's recent announcement) was "moribund" and in my work as editor of the BBC Internet blog wasn't really worth the effort I was putting in to hosting it.

I think people felt that the idea of a communities editor in television was well worth pursuing. Roo said he would investigate further. We also felt that if any changes were going to be made to the board a good time to make them would be April of this year when Points of View starts its next series.

Just to reassure people reading this that no one in the meeting suggested that the POV boards should be closed down.

Personally I'm very happy with the discussion in the meeting. To make the boards really work they need a strong host in the right place and the communities manager idea seems like a good solution.

Obviously I'll keep you posted on whether any of this happens and when and I'd welcome your comments.

Nick Reynolds is editor, BBC Internet blog

Inauguration online

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Steve Herrmann Steve Herrmann | 11:11 UK time, Thursday, 22 January 2009

My colleague Rory Cellan-Jones has made some interesting observations here about whether the Obama inauguration was best followed (for those of us not actually in Washington DC yesterday) on new media or old, streaming online video or good old TV.

From the traffic figures on the BBC News website yesterday I'd say the most noticeable thing to me was the amount of video consumed by visitors to the site - in particular the number of people simultaneously watching the live stream, which was a new record.

Read more and leave comments on the BBC News Editors Blog.

Steve Herrmann is editor of the BBC News website.

Interesting Stuff 2009-01-20

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Dave Lee | 13:17 UK time, Tuesday, 20 January 2009

Hitwise informs us that following a BBC drama series, the official Anne Frank website has experienced a traffic hike of 19 times its usual hit rate.

Anne Frank


Gavin and Stacey stars Mat Horne and James Cordon will be featuring in a series of 'webisodes' to accompany their new sketch-show series on BBC Three.


Readers using Linux distribution Ubuntu may find these instructions useful for setting up iPlayer Desktop.


Today marks the inauguration of Barack Obama, and Rory Cellan-Jones discusses how it'll pan out across the web. The BBC, he says, will feature:

Video reactions sent in by users of services like Seesmic and Qik, and there will be a "mood map" with people around the world invited to say whether they are optimistic or pessimistic about an Obama administration, and their reactions then flagged on the map."

Five Live is also publishing plenty of Inauguration Day pictures on its Flickr stream.


It's all gone a bit hypothetical on the Backstage mailing list. Ian Forrester chipped in with this scenario:

Say, we had a ton of media assets from a BBC programme which we owned all the rights to and wanted to distribute widely. Not just video, but images, sound, subtitles, metadata about the programme scripts, etc.
How would you 1. Package it? 2. Distribute it? 3. Licence it?

Dave Lee is co-editor, BBC Internet blog, BBC Online, BBC Future Media & Technology.

Talking Twitter

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Zoe Kleinman | 10:31 UK time, Tuesday, 20 January 2009

This article was originally printed in the BBC staff newspaper, Ariel.

Barack Obama does it, Stephen Fry does it and Britney Spears does it too. Twitter is the latest Web 2.0 tool to get everybody talking - and people and programmes all over the BBC are at it as well.

For the uninitiated, Twitter is a very simple idea. You answer the question 'what are you doing?' in 140 letters or less, as often as you like. Other people can then sign up to 'follow' you and receive your updates. They can also reply to you, either in public by using their own update or in private via a Direct Message, a bit like an email.


Twitter is 'a highly conversational, lightweight and highly interconnected blog,' explains Portfolio Executive (Social Media) Roo Reynolds (@rooreynolds), whose Twitter feed gets more followers and reaction than his conventional blog.


Generally people use it to gossip, gather information and share news - from the mundane (at time of writing Twitter user Stefnet is 'enjoying a cup of tea') to the significant (director of Global News Richard Sambrook looked to Twitter for UGC updates during the Mumbai attacks).

Twittering as the BBC

It's very easy writing short sentences about what you are doing as an individual, but writing them on behalf of the BBC is a different matter. The tone has to be informal and conversational because that's the nature of the site - but with the underlying authority and impartiality the audience expects from the BBC whatever platform it's on.

Getting that right is difficult, whoever you are, warns James Cridland (@jamescridland), Head of FM&T, A&M Interactive. 'If a presenter wants to use Twitter in a personal capacity, that would be brilliant - but I'd recommend them asking for guidance,' he says. 'While he's excellent at it now, Jonathan Ross' (@wossy) first faltering steps were a little like watching your dad dance at a disco...'

Public vs Private

Technology correspondent Rory Cellan Jones (@ruskin147), a veteran Tweeter, says he always has in mind that his Twitter updates are like updates on any other newswire. His tweets, as the updates are called, tend to be technology focused but he does also write about his private life - from casual snippets about walking the dog and cooking for the in-laws to a recent mention of his son getting a place at Oxford University.

'I'm self-aware,' he says,' I know Twitter is public. Writing about my son felt weird but I was just so proud! The borders between personal and professional break down with social media - you get to know people more. But people have always built relationships in business - I don't think it gets in the way.'

It's a delicate balance though, warns James Cridland. 'I'm fairly careful about what I publish online,' he says. 'There are some people out to 'get you' on the web, so it's important not to give them too much ammunition.'

Working Lunch

Also bear in mind the editorial responsibilities of your part of the BBC. For example, as a business programme, Working Lunch (whose Twitter feed I look after) has additional journalistic guidelines on top of standard BBC policy. We follow the financial journalism code laid out by the Financial Services Authority - so does our Twitter feed.

I post a variety of Working Lunch updates generally no more than 3 or 4 times a day but almost always at least once - sometimes links to things we're doing on the programme, sometimes I ask a question (it's an amazing way of getting a swift snapshot of opinion, and even finding contributors), sometimes it's just a small piece of gossip or chit chat, like the time I lost my voice half way through recording a voiceover for a film I was working on.

I reply to most of the messages that address Working Lunch - even if it's a case of 'thanks but no thanks'. I also check out the Twitter site of everyone who joins us and, if they're not direct marketing or spam (Twitter spam accounts are easy enough to spot and are usually swiftly taken down by the site itself), Working Lunch follows them back.


The most well-meaning Twitter feeds cause massive irritation when they fail to engage with their followers. Be warned though - it's time consuming. With a few hundred followers it's manageable for us at the moment... although that may change as the number of subscribers snowballs, as it has done this week.

I soft-launched Working Lunch (@workinglunch) on Twitter in October 2008 and acquired about 100 followers by mentioning it in our weekly email newsletter but never on the programme. Until last Tuesday, when we ran an item about Twitter on the show, looking at how businesses are using it to make money (one of our guests, a wine merchant, runs virtual wine tastings, in which Twitter folk post their tasting notes on the site after simultaneously sipping wherever they are). We also mentioned our own Twitter address - - and the inbox instantly went mad with subscribers.

Fake Account

Hundreds of people signed up to follow us, started sending us replies and direct messages - and then a problem arose. Someone set up a fake Working Lunch account. After an hour (and a couple of very stern Direct Messages from me) the imposters owned up and deactivated their account.

The Twitter crowd was up in arms about the deceit. 'Why on earth would you want to pretend to be a TV programme?' asked one indignantly. Well quite, I thought... but the lesson I learned was about branding. I had registered 'workinglunch' but hadn't thought to register BBCworkinglunch. I was lucky - the fake Working Lunch didn't say anything editorially compromising - they were mainly re-tweeting the official updates. But don't make the same mistake.

Building Relationships

Overall so far, the experience has paid off though - it's brought us into immediate contact with a whole new section of the audience who probably wouldn't think to send us an email. We now refer to Twitter regularly on the programme and reference Twitter responses to topical finance issues as well as the traditional emailed opinions from viewers.

It's becoming a very useful tool for programme support - but the time consuming process of relationship-building online is essential to its success.

Interaction really is the golden rule. 'Follow users, be a good citizen, don't just broadcast,' concludes Jem Stone (@jemstone). 'Don't just use it for feeds for an event and then vanish. Twitter is for life, not just for Christmas.'

Zoe Kleinman is a Website Broadcast Journalist on Working Lunch. Follow Working Lunch updates on Twitter here.

You can also follow the BBC Internet Blog on Twitter here.

Obama's inauguration on BBC HD

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Danielle Nagler Danielle Nagler | 12:52 UK time, Monday, 19 January 2009

Hi everyone,

Letting DOGs rest for a moment, I wanted to let you know that BBC HD will be broadcasting Barack Obama's inauguration tomorrow (Tuesday) afternoon. We tracked down an HD feed, and although some of the BBC News input will be in SD, I hope that you will enjoy the chance to see this historic event with every line of detail. It will be on the channel between 4 and 6pm, with the main event scheduled for around 5pm our time.

Danielle Nagler is Head of BBC HDTV, BBC Vision.

Interesting Stuff 2009-01-15

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Nick Reynolds Nick Reynolds | 11:18 UK time, Thursday, 15 January 2009

C21 Media has a in-depth video interview with Anthony Rose about plans for BBC iPlayer in the coming year.


Tom Scott shares some thoughts on "The Web as CMS".

I'm a bit of of Linked Data fetishist. I believe that the future of web design lies not in webpages but in URLs and resources.

Michael Smethurst's search for cultural identifiers has sparked good comments on the BBC Radio Labs blog, including LibraryThingTim:

if you've read "The Unbearable Lightness of Being" and you're at a party where the attractive woman in the backless dress mentions she loves the book, the edition is completely immaterial...

The Shed wants to make a BBC weather presenter his friend on Facebook, and discovers the BBC has guidelines for "this sort of thing".

Ant Miller and Andrew Bowden ponder moves to Salford.

And Pink Dog is worried and then relieved about DOGs.

Nick Reynolds is editor, BBC Internet blog

BBC HD: "Creeping" DOGs Update

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Danielle Nagler Danielle Nagler | 16:59 UK time, Wednesday, 14 January 2009

Hi everyone,

I'm sorry for "going quiet" (as jtemplar has commented this week).

I had hoped that I could come back and tell you that the creeping DOGs which I also noticed watching the channel at home over the holidays were just a temporary seasonal aberration, caused as a result of staff less familiar with the channel or more stretched because of the holidays, making mistakes.

The system for taking the DOG off certain content is not effectively automated, and therefore changes like adjustments to junctions between programmes can cause it to reappear.

However, while that may have been a factor it does not explain - as a number of you have noted - why it was on Anne Frank or Larkrise (which like you I don't expect to see it on). As far as I can tell, a number of human errors, at different points of the chain, are responsible.

And it is not good enough.

So what I propose to do is the following:

To reiterate to everyone involved the decision taken around when the DOG should be used;

to ask the managers of the areas involved to monitor the DOG's removal;

and to ask you to highlight to me anything that you spot that seems to you like a programme that shouldn't have a DOG but does.

There is a lag in getting these things to happen, but I hope that this will fix the problems within the next week or so. My aim is to ensure that you enjoy the channel rather than being infuriated by it, and I'd like there to be as few distractions from the content as possible. Our viewing figures for the Christmas period do suggest that a lot of you found things you liked within the mix - let me know what - and I hope that there will be more in the coming weeks (particularly once the top left of screen is a little clearer).

Danielle Nagler is Head of BBC HDTV, BBC Vision

In search of Cultural Identifiers

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Michael Smethurst Michael Smethurst | 13:46 UK time, Wednesday, 14 January 2009

books.jpgImage: "A Rainbow of Books" by Dawn Indigo on flickr.

Late last year we got quite excited about Open Library. Using the open word always seems to tick our boxes. We chatted about the prospect of a comprehensive, coherent BBC books site heavily interlinked with BBC programmes. Every dramatisation of a novel, every poetry reading, every author interview and profile, every play linked to / from programmes. The prospect of new user journeys from programme episode to book to author to poem and back to episode still seems enticing. We started to wonder if we could use Open Library as the backbone of this new service in the same way we use MusicBrainz open data as the backbone of /music.

Unfortunately when we looked more closely an obvious problem came to light.

Open Libary is based on Amazon book data and Amazon is based on products.

Correction 16.01.09: OpenLibrary is NOT based on Amazon data (see Tim's comment). For now it models books in a similar fashion to Amazon (as publications/products not cultural artifacts). OpenLibrary are looking to enhance this model to allow grouping of publications into works which is fantastic news. If you can contribute code or knowledge I'd encourage you to do so.

And the BBC isn't all that interested in products. Neither are users.

Read more and comment at BBC Radio Labs blog.

Michael Smethurst is Information Architect, A&Mi, BBC Future Media & Technology

The new Radio 1 homepage

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Ben Chapman | 11:53 UK time, Tuesday, 13 January 2009

Man, what a New Year! Things are normally pretty quiet here over Christmas and we are all happily plucking the turkey because we know that loads of people are doing the same. This year we offered listeners lots of pre-Christmas gifts - some of our best music sessions to take away. Over 12 days we saw around 600,000 downloads. There's one to fight the Christmas stats slump!


Once the excitement of Christmas was over and the world was driving to their next destination for New Year's Eve, a hardcore group of us were working away to prepare for two major projects: - new homepages for Radio 1 & 1Xtra  - the Visualising Radio Trial on Chris Moyles' show and on Switch with Annie & Nick

Radio 1's new homepage went live on Sunday. It's already been in beta for a week and it's been a brilliant week! The internal dial in my guts, which seems to automatically weigh up the negative and positive responses to a project, has settled on a thumbs up, gold star, good work.


That's not to say everyone loves it - of course they don't - but before I get into that I should say what we set out to achieve with this revamp:



We want to ensure our homepage is young. It should appeal to a range of people but primarily, it's for young people. It has to be a bit cool and a bit populist but ultimately for someone who is between 15 and 24.


The site needs to be modular and feed driven. We've worked hard to pull together the appropriate feeds - the newest of which is the video feed. The video instinctively feels like it should be further up the page, but we are waiting to see how this pans out: Is it technically sound? Is the content flowing fast enough?

Modularity is important for the future. We need to be able to carve up our pages when we personalise Radio 1, and to change elements without having to spend resources on redesigning the lot. I guess this comes at a cost, as some people have noticed the new grid pattern and said they miss the curves and corners.


We also wanted to make the site simpler and there will be more navigational changes to come. We removed the 'Experimental' module from the homepage, as this content isn't a genre of its own and often falls into one of our other categories. We removed the 'Daytime' module because we use the main promotional window to show much of our daytime entertainment content. Frankly if it's daytime content that we weren't willing to put in the main promo window, then why would we highlight it?

Feedback from the audience hasn't led us to make major immediate changes, but we've got lots to think about and work on such as: - simpler navigation - toning it down (although most love the bright colour - it feels contemporary and young) - we are also going to consider a drop down menu for DJs and Shows navigation.


Whatever your views, I think we're in a better place than ever before in terms of being able to respond to them. We can make regular small and simple changes, so do let us know what you think by leaving your comments below.

Big thanks go to my colleagues in Radio 1/1Xtra Interactive and in Future Media &Technology for working so hard to deliver the new sites.


The other major opener for the New Year is the Visualising Radio Trial. My internal gut dial is still spinning on this one. Not least because you just never know how 'live' things are going to go. Yasser at Radio Labs blog and Duncan at Whomwah have more details.


I've staked quite a lot on the concept of Visualising Radio over the years. This is a concept that may not become 'normal' for many years but the ability for us to deliver glanceable content is going to be an important part of keeping radio relevant as broadcasting and IP march forward.

Early in my career at the BBC, I wrote the text for RDS and DAB. Few people at the time saw the value in LiveText on radio... they wouldn't dream of turning it off now. The exciting step here though, is in the real-time reflection of our audiences inbound texts, the automation of artist information, images and 'now playing' data, the editorial fun that we can have running filters over our SMS comments... and of course being able to watch Moyles live from 6.30 am till 10 am... for just one week.


Lets see how it goes and I look forward to reading your comments.

Ben Chapman is Interactive Editor, Audio and Music Interactive.

Interesting Stuff 2009-01-12

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Dave Lee | 13:30 UK time, Monday, 12 January 2009

Kevin Dunne, from o2 Ireland, considers the success of the BBC iPlayer, and ponders the impact of integrated online television from MySpace:

I think this is true convergence. A one stop shop that merges tv and online worlds. I wonder how far behind fully functional web browsing on tv is? Will broadcasters look at the possibility of launching tv shows online at the same time they're being released on tv?"


On-demand TV social network Boxee has entered public beta -- and according to the Boxee blog now includes BBC iPlayer. Ian Forrester on BBC Backstage says, that this "is not an offical iPlayer release."


Not since Rolf's Cartoon Time has a man at the BBC been so adept with a set of felt-tips as Steve Bowbrick. This time he maps out some thoughts on the BBC's use of Wikipedia:


Steve explains his reasoning here, drawing reference to an earlier post by BBC Internet Blog editor Nick Reynolds.

By means of a follow-up, Roo Reynolds (no relation to Nick), adds some guidelines for BBC staff using the encyclopaedia.


English-speaking French news channel France24 asks whether comments about the Gaza conflict should be censored:

On most subjects, the BBC have usually allowed most user comments to pass freely, but that is not the case where reactions to the Israel-Gaza conflict are concerned.
In the "Have your say" section of the BBC website, a moderator explains: "We've got two debates on the blog at the moment (on Gaza and on homosexuality) that are leading us to delete well over half of the comments you're posting. So, to save your time and ours a little reminder of our blog rules."


And finally, this tweet from Zingari made us all chuckle. We're always listening!


Visual radio launches!

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Yasser Rashid Yasser Rashid | 11:56 UK time, Monday, 12 January 2009

Today we have launched a new visual radio player!


It's available for the Chris Moyles show on weekday mornings (6.30am - 10am) and Annie and Nick on Sunday night (7pm - 10pm). Go to the Chris Moyles or Annie and Nick pages during those times to check it out. Outside of these times you won't be able to see it - but that's why I've written this post. It is also only available for one week as we are trialling the service and hope to get as much feedback as possible to see what audiences think of the concept.

Read more and leave comments over on the Radio Labs blog.

Yasser Rashid is Creative Director, Audio & Music Interactive.

BBC iPlayer: Changes to the message board

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Jonathan Richardson | 16:47 UK time, Friday, 9 January 2009

The BBC iPlayer messageboard is changing its layout.

When you consider all the past year's changes to the way BBC iPlayer works, this may not rank as the most dazzling bit of news, but for the hundreds of you who use it each month, I intend to make your life that bit easier.

The current board layout was last updated while iPlayer was still in its trial phase and you could only get it on a Windows XP machine (if at all). Now that there are myriad ways for you to get iPlayer, it's time to make it easier for you to comment.

In an ideal world, the BBC iPlayer help site will have all you need - you can search for answers, we updated them regularly, and you can contact us from it. But not always. Or perhaps you just like a good old chat about BBC iPlayer, or have a suggestion for improvements.

From today, the board has been updated to make it easier for you to know what to post. This means clearer sections with guides telling you what we need. In return, we hope to be able to better track new problems and keep the boards up to date by getting rid of threads on programmes that are no longer available. Of course, this is no guarantee that every single message will get a response or a fix, but the tidy should make life easier for everyone.

The messageboard's community is a busy one, with regulars there such as The Phazer, Onslow the Cat, Egg on a Stilt, Matt and HoneysHoney just some of the many keeping the discussion up, helping others or reporting problems with us. We do track but don't always answer all your comments and hope that the changes are only improvements to the already buzzing board.

Head to the board to check out the changes.

Jonathan Richardson is Content Producer, BBC iPlayer, BBC Future Media & Technology

Points of View Message Board 4: Niclaramartin's questions

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Nick Reynolds Nick Reynolds | 15:02 UK time, Wednesday, 7 January 2009

Just before Xmas niclaramartin asked a number of questions in a comment on my previous blog post.

Rather than writing another long comment I thought I would answer them in a new blog post. Nicalamartin's questions are in italics.

1. Why has Points of View programme stopped "advertising" the POV messageboard?

points_of_view_logo.jpgPoints of View hasn't stopped advertising the message board. At the end of each show and often in the body of the programme Jeremy Vine refers to the POV website and the messageboard. They have, however, stopped doing a feature called the 'message board moment' which looked a different messageboard threads. They tell me they found the messageboard comments were much stronger if they were used in the body of the programme.

2. Is there a timescale to phase out POV Television and Radio messageboards?

No there is not. No decision has been taken about any part of the POV boards.

3. As "the Executive in charge of the boards as a whole", why, are you ONLY hosting messageboards, and somewhat distant from "Television" and "Radio"? And is that YOUR decision or that of your superiors?

Last year we had a situation where there was a danger that no part of the POV boards would be hosted. Not good for the community, or for the quality of the boards.

In order to deal with this on a temporary basis I decided that I would host the BBC, and Digital boards (as explained in this previous post).

But I didn't feel that I would have the time or the expertise to host the Television and Radio POV boards. I agreed with BBC Vision that they would host the TV board (and in due course Rowan started hosting that board). Jem Stone of Audio & Music agreed to host the Radio board.

This was my decision although I obviously had to get agreement from Jem and Roo Reynolds.

4. Has a decision been to "marginalise" the Television and Radio messageboards, with the ultimate aim of removing them from BBC?

No. No decision has been taken about any part of the POV boards.

5. Why will you NOT talk to messageboarders on THEIR board? Your liking of blogs/control by author is NOT a reasonable argument to use, IF, you genuinely WANT to reach the largest number of messageboarders and receive the BEST input?

It's untrue that I won't talk to messageboarders on the POV boards. I do. But I find that the quality of comments I get is better on the Internet blog than on the boards. People seem better behaved, and you get a wider range of opinion. Threads on the board seem to slide off topic too easily and seem to end up focussing on my behaviour rather than the questions I am interested in discussing.

I put links on the message boards to the blog posts to encourage them to come to the blog.

6. Will BBC be trying to cut back on messageboards (including Television and Radio)?

I can't speak for the whole BBC but as Jem says here we are trying to improve the functionality of our blogs and message boards across the board.

7. Do BBC want blogs/twitters and technical boards to be encouraged, whilst minimising the "pull" of POV Television and Radio messageboards?

No. The question is "what's the best way of engaging with licence fee payers online?"

Sometimes this will be a twitter feed, sometimes a blog, sometimes a message board.

But all of them stand or fall on how much effort is put into hosting or maintaining them. A poorly hosted message board, a blog where comments are not responded to or a twitter which is never used will not be very useful.

8. Do BBC want to be seen as censoring/marginalising viewers' comments, in preference to asking only the questions THEY WANT to hear the answers to?

No. We don't want to censor or marginalise comments. The questions are "what's the best way to get feedback from viewers about the things they care about?" and, in this instance "are the POV boards a good way of getting feedback?".

9. ITV (as you linked to) don't have a problem with viewers commenting on their programmes, will BBC (in future) be denying THEIR viewers that same freedom?

No. I don't think the BBC has a problem with viewers commenting on programmes.

We provide a lot of places online and on radio and television where they can do so. The question again is what is the best format and place to do this, and how much hosting or engagement is needed.

Or to put it another way - is what you're getting back worth the effort you're putting in?

10. Can you categorically confirm that POV Television and Radio messageboards WILL NOT be closing, and that there is no plan, which has been discussed to close them, or move them further to the edge of BBC, and eventually out/closed?

As I've said already I have no plan so nothing has been discussed. It would obviously be foolish of me to promise you that nothing will change ever.

I do have some ideas for how the POV boards could be improved, and become more focused. I will share these with you in my next blog post.

11. Why do you like blogs - it appears not very many messageboarders like them at all, and we have been vocal about WHY? We still don't know what you see as the pluses to blogging (from the point of view of posters OTHER THAN the original author/blogger)?

In my last post I explained the advantages I think blogs have. To quote myself:

...there's a trade off. People who comment have less freedom on a blog than the blog owner. But in return there's more chance of a useful result, of the blog owner participating and actually giving you answers.

12. Are you genuinely trying to IMPROVE all POV messageboards, or, ONLY the three techie boards - seeing "Television" and "Radio" as frivolous, and serving no purpose, other than a meeting place for posters to meet and "chat"!

I am trying to improve the whole board.

And as I've already said at the moment my opinion is the reverse of what you suggest.

I actually agree with you Niclaramartin when you said the board is effectively "moribund". The BBC and Digital parts of the board don't get many posts. The television part of the POV boards is in iny opinion currently the most useful part of the boards.

There'll be more on this subject soon!

Nick Reynolds is editor, BBC Internet blog

BBC iPlayer Message Board Changes

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Nick Reynolds Nick Reynolds | 10:36 UK time, Wednesday, 7 January 2009

If you're a regular participant on the BBC iPlayer message board, you may be interested to know that Jonathan Richardson who is in charge of the board is planning some changes.

The full details are here. Jonathan is asking for comments by 11 a.m. on Friday morning.

Please leave any comments on the board rather than on this blog post.


Nick Reynolds is editor, BBC Internet blog

Panorama Online: The next phase

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Derren Lawford | 14:30 UK time, Tuesday, 6 January 2009

Today sees the official launch of the new Panorama website and I hope you won't mind me saying a few words about it here and seeing whether you think that this is a good use of the web by a TV programme.

So much work goes into a 30 minute Panorama or a one hour special and the website struck me as the perfect platform to showcase the best of our journalism online. Britain's Terror Heartland is a prime example; blog posts from Tom Giles and Jane Corbin provided extra context, while an extended interview with Pakistan's Interior Minister Rehman Malik gave those of you interested in the subject an extra perspective. Jane also wrote a feature on the programme and introduced it online in a short video.

Read more and comment on the BBC News Editors Blog.

Derren Lawford is Panorama's Multiplatform Editor.

Interesting Stuff 2009-01-05

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Dave Lee | 16:01 UK time, Monday, 5 January 2009

Happy New Year everybody!

It's time for resolutions. For most, it means more exercise, less cake -- but not Anthony Rose. He wants to:

Provide an 'adaptive bitrate' solution in BBC iPlayer so that no matter whether you have a 300Kbps 3G connection or a 50Mbps connection, BBC iPlayer will serve you the best quality video that your personal internet connection can sustain at that instant, including full HD streaming if possible. The video should never stutter or stop, and should smoothly adapt to changing bandwidth conditions. When we and others get this right, then IP-delivered TV will take a leap in quality, reliability and widespread uptake."


This is a few days old now, but in case you missed it, it's really worth checking out this really exciting demo from Journalism Labs:


Those of you who are a part of the Backstage mailing list may have read about the confusing way some programmes are listed on the BBC website. Why, for example, does the Top of the Pops programme page say there are no episodes coming up? The TV programme, as we know, doesn't run anymore -- but on on the World Service, TOTP is still going strong. Jaime Tetlow, designer at BBC Future Media and Technology, explains:

Getting down to the nitty-gritty of our internal data structure we'd probably say that the International World Service 'Top of the Pops' and the BBC One 'Top of the Pops' ARE different programme 'brands' but belonging to the uber 'franchise' of 'Top of the Pops'... although we don't have 'franchise' in our data structure yet."
It would be the same for the 'franchise' Doctor Who and it's various incarnations: BBC One's 'Doctor Who', Radio 7's 'Doctor Who', BBC Three's 'Doctor Who Confidential' etc, etc..."


Over the Christmas period, the Daily Mail's Stephen Glover wrote a stinging critique of the BBC bloggers. His thoughts were challenged by Giles Wilson on the BBC News Editors Blog.

Today, the National Union of Journalists (NUJ) have posted this clip of Newsnight economics editor Paul Mason. Paul is NUJ rep for the programme, and says that "pyjama bloggers" cannot replicate the peer review of a real newsroom:


Finally, Radio 3 has launched a group blog to conincide with Composer of the Year 2009. Jessica Duchen will be blogging about Mendellssohn, Denis McCaldin about Haydn, Rick Jones on Purcell and Suzanne Aspden is blogging about Handel.

Dave Lee is co-editor, BBC Internet blog, BBC Online, BBC Future Media & Technology.

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