I think I promised a few posts ago that my silence on here was indicative of work being done behind the scenes on BBC HD, rather than idleness. Anyway, today much of that work moves out of BBC offices and into your space with a number of changes to the channel.
On air from 4pm today you'll see some new channel idents. They are the channel branding that sits between programmes on the channel, and part of what defines BBC HD (alongside the programmes on it of course). In their previous incarnation they've consisted of CGI swirling waves, out of which the BBC HD logo has risen - you'll now of course know exactly what I'm referring to and perhaps, like me feel that that particular CGI sequence can be somewhat repetitive and a little out of keeping with the values we're trying to espouse around great cinematography on BBC HD. As of today, they will be leaving us, to be replaced with some new images which I believe are more in keeping with the tone of the channel I want to build for you.
Secondly, the BBC HD website is getting a revamp. That's partly about moving it into line with the other BBC channel sites, and partly because I know that given the limited availability of BBC HD listings elsewhere, for some of you it is a really valuable source of information. The site will link to this blog - which I hope will be helpful - but I also wanted to draw your attention to four new videos on the "What is HD?" page which are embedded in the site. It assumes no knowledge - so probably not intended for those of you reading this - but please do take a look and recommend it to friends and families who know less than you and may be wondering where to start in getting HD and putting the bits of an HD system together. (Editor's note - the videos are embeddable so you can share them on your websites and blogs)
In terms of what's on the channel, I'll have some announcements for you next week. But in the meantime, I can recommend the new contemporary drama All the Small Things which we're showing tonight, starring Sarah Lancashire and Richard Fleeshman, which has a great sound track too. And of course we have the US Masters Golf from Augusta at the Easter weekend, I hope with pictures which will allow you to follow both the players and the ball against the splendour of one of the world's most visually stunning courses. I'm hopeful that The Open will join the BBC HD world next year - albeit in more rugged and windswept form.
BBC HD arrives on iPlayer very soon - but both before and after that I hope that you'll continue to enjoy the channel, and to feedback honestly about what you think.
All the best
P.S. I know that some of you may have lost at least one of the recent episodes of Yellowstone. As far as we can tell the problem relates to boxes rather than to our broadcast - but I wanted to reassure those of you who have contacted us that we will try to find a place to repeat this stunning piece of natural history filming during April.
This is down to the thorny issue of Rights. Much of our programming is made or commissioned by the BBC giving us the "primary rights", including the right to make it available on iPlayer and all its various platforms (PC, TV, mobile, games devices). However, in some cases, the BBC will buy in material, where the primary rights may be held by big international commercial organisations - in this case, it's the cable broadcaster HBO. Of course, TV is expensive to make and these companies want to maximise the return on the investment they've made in producing their shows.
As well as that, bear in mind that iPlayer isn't the only TV catch-up show in town, the big studios can also sell their material via DVD or one of a growing number of pay-per-download sites. So, in this case, while we could have BBC2 terrestrial (or "over-the-air") TV rights, on-demand rights may not always form part of the deal.
It's a complex area and there's no "one-size fits all" solution. There is a growing portfolio of Hollywood films on iPlayer but generally they're only available for PC streaming rather than download. Similarly, Heroes is available on the PC but not on mobile or TV iPlayer.
But I think it's important to note that the vast majority of the content that the BBC broadcasts is cleared for catch-up. That's down to years of hard work from the BBC Rights department. Without them, we wouldn't have an iPlayer.
Jonathan Murphy is Senior Editorial Development Manager for iPlayer.
The Radio 4 website was in need of an overhaul and today - after a lot of work and audience research - comes a new one. The disappearing site was rather cluttered and things were often difficult to find. Under the surface the edifice was kept together by increasingly frayed technology. So I hope you find the new one easier to use, that you use it more often and that you can find what you want more quickly.
One of the real drivers of Canvas, said Halton, is so the Beeb doesn't have to keep re-purposing and re-formatting its content for every medium, from mobiles to PCs to Macs. "In itself, it's a fantastic achievement you can watch iPlayer on a Nokia N96... But it demonstrates the challenge we face in working across multiple platforms." Though it is technologically-minded, the Beeb is not a technology company, Halton said, and would rather spend its money on creating new content.
Some time ago I promised I'd share some statistics with you about web traffic to the Points Of View message boards. My apologies that it's taken so long, and I can understand your frustration as you've been waiting.
However, things are starting to happen now. Rowan has started a thread asking for your views on reactive moderation on the boards, and we should have some more news next week.
In the meantime I'm going to show you a few numbers. For the meeting I described in my previous post Rowan (currently hosting the Television POV board) kindly shared some statistics which she had put together so I've used these (for November of last year) as a starting point.
First a couple of caveats around the terminology.
There are two terms used below, PIs or Page impressions and "Unique Users".
"Unique users" means the number of different IP addresses which have visited a particular page. Another way of putting it might be "visits from electronic devices which might have a person or persons attached". Six people could be using one computer, one person could have six devices with different IP addresses.
The weekly figures for all of the POV boards in November of last year were (I've rounded the numbers up or down to the nearest zero):
week starting unique users page impressions
2nd November 9500 396000
9th November 9600 380000
16th November 10300 407000
23rd November 9200 380000
Splitting the "page impressions" down by the seperate parts of the boards:
week starting page impressions
2nd November 283000
9th November 267000
16th November 295000
23rd November 277600
week starting page impressions
2nd November 31200
9th November 37300
16th November 29800
23rd November 28200
Points of View message board home page
week starting page impressions
2nd November 14300
9th November 14700
16th November 14500
23rd November 12700
week starting page impressions
2nd November 5300
9th November 4600
16th November 5400
23rd November 4600
"Online" (formerly "bbc.co.uk")
week starting page impressions
2nd November 5100
9th November 5500
16th November 7200
23rd November 5200
week starting page impressions
2nd November 2500
9th November 2500
16th November 2200
23rd November 2400
As you can see:
- The Television board of the POV boards is far and away the most popular POV board taking around 60% of the traffic.
- The BBC, Online and Digital boards get very little traffic, around 3% each
Thoughts, comments, questions please below. And more news on the boards next week.
In the words of one of my picture editors Dominik Klimowski:
"[I]t mocks an iconic, evil man like Adolf Hitler, illustrating the whole documentary in one simple image. It can, of course, elicit a knee-jerk response which misses the point, but on further observation it is by far the most effective method. What alternative is there with photographs? An archive photo of Hitler would be too serious and out of context, likewise a picture of the narrator Stephen Fry. Some pictures of tape machines may do the trick but then I don't think they'd grab the 'casual clicker' as much as the illustration we have used."
The relationship between the BBC and the illustrators is an open one and often involves several sketches and drafts before the final look and feel is decided upon, These are sketches for Adolf Hitler: My Part in his Downfall and The Duchess of Malfi. Final images are below:
"Commissioning illustrators is like having kids; you have great plans for them but in the end you have to let them do what they want and it usually works best that way."
And this relationship has given the iPlayer and the BBC Online homepage some of its most striking imagery while raising the profile of the hidden gems of our output. Here are some of our favourites:
Nixon and Machiavelli, together at last, trying to 'out-fox' each other
The Duchess of Malfi
Illustrator: Steph von Reiswitz
Not many good-guys in this play. Here the mood even extends to the typography. The whole sinister feel of the illustration is enhanced by one of the characters casting his beady eye over the viewer.
A Christmas Carol
Illustrator: Bill Bragg
Another one looking at us. The notorious Scrooge. Bill Bragg, who illustrated this one went back to the original text, and purposefully stripped the story of it's 'Disneyfication'
Edgar Allen Poe: Loving the Raven
Illustrator: Dominik Klimowski
Not really a bogeyman, as with Poe it's all in the mind. Again, melodrama works so much better with illustration than with photography, particularly when a 'generic' image is required to illustrate a whole series.
To have a woman, an educated, clever woman show me that being interested in new technology, gadgets and the design of the future was not only alright it was actually something I could do left an immeasurable impression on me.
Former information architect at the BBC Karen Loasby has dedicated her Ada Day post to her Mum:
Mum has been a huge influence on me. She made a technical career seem perfectly normal, and left me rather oblivious to any prejudice. As a result I am a rather poor feminist. I feel rather more constrained by looking much younger than I am, and by being an introvert. I struggle to think of any situations where I have experienced sexism. At least from the men...
The Guardian's Jemima Kiss expresses her admiration of games designer Jane McGonigal.
The new wide format makes the whole site even easier to use, creating more room for the content to be easily seen and scanned.
Some of you will remember that I told you about the relaunch of the site in time for the World Service's 75th anniversary back in December 2007.
At that time I said the redevelopment of the site would be an ongoing process. We have listened to what you have to say, and have worked to ensure that you have more of what you want.
What you get:
- More room for World Service audio - making it easier to catch up on missed programmes and special content.
- Improved navigation - with new sections for sport, science and special reports now joining news, documentaries, business and the arts, offering a clear route to the full breadth of BBC World Service programming.
- Increased number of podcasts - podcasts are very popular with bbcworldservice.com users - downloads have increased by 70% over the last 12 months to more than 6.1 million (Jan '09).
- A new Have Your Say index, which invites users to submit text, pictures and audio. Recognising the multitude of ways through which audiences communicate, the site is also linked to various social networks, including a Flickr stream, Twitter feeds, Facebook groups and blogs.
Much of our focus over the last few months has been on building the internal tools and databases to enable us to harvest and represent relevant data around our broadcast activity - in data terms, how our domains at /music and /programmes intersect. This means that we expect the play count data we display on artist pages to improve over the next weeks and months as these tools are rolled out. Currently this data still has significant gaps which is why we're still retaining the beta label. It should also enable us to begin generating really useful contextual links from our programme pages, such as making artist names clickable on tracklists. This work also represents the foundation for future views of data which might enable us, say, to provide navigation and aggregation around the broadcast of sessions or live events.
We've also added a few more innovations to the pages themselves since the beta was launched last July. We've added links to BBC news and blogs (here's how) and links to our own album reviews. We've made it easier to access the pages by guessing at a human-writable URL redirect so you don't have to rely on the ungainly-looking MusicBrainz ID that sits in the page's URL, though of course the pages are also now available via BBC search and web search.
We've added our "Now On The BBC" feature to artist pages (here's one for Bonnie Prince Billy). Set against our aspirations for fully domain-driven design and semantically linked data, this is something of a blunt instrument, as it's effectively linking data to flat pages. But compared to where we are now, we think it offers some pretty neat features. It gives us the raw material for an enhanced artist gateway, and the tool that sits behind it also lets us publish in a streamlined way to an artist page at the same time as we update the homepage and genre pages of the new music site.
Elsewhere on the site, we've brought our overall template and design conventions into line with most of the rest of BBC Online. We've added contextual programme recommendations to our album reviews - so if you're reading a review of Marianne Faithful's new album and would like to hear the kind of programmes that broadcast her music, you can follow the links to Nemone, Iyare and Shaun Keaveny's programme pages. We're experimenting with a new Flash interface as well to display our "most played" artist data on the homepage.
We've been grappling with some fundamental editorial questions in bringing the artist pages to full public beta. As mentioned when we launched the beta, we are now publishing several hundred thousand pages automatically, which harvest third-party content from Wikipedia and MusicBrainz, both sites run by the contributions of a dedicated, self-appointed pool of experts. This is new territory for the BBC, and we've had to give careful thought to our policies and how we communicate them to our audience. We would love to hear your feedback on the approach.
We have a lot of plans for building on this foundation. In the short term, we'll be working through a somewhat miscellaneous snagging list which includes everything from making sure we build URIs for all the resources windowed on our pages to getting audio clips back on our album reviews. We're keen to get our content around artists and albums on to the mobile platform. We're looking at ways in which we can reflect and link to activity around artists from the rest of the web.
Most importantly, we'll be working hard on systems to automate meaningful aggregation of all of the BBC's own content around artists, so that you will never miss, say, a documentary featuring a given artist, or an interview that's available on one of our programme pages. Coupled with that, we'll be building a variety of ways of navigating contexutally between different kinds of content (music, programmes, topics and so on). We'd also like to bring our users into the picture, by gathering attention data, fanship and the like and starting to offer personally useful journeys around our content.
Coyopa, as any regular Radio Labs reader will know, is the new system for encoding BBC national radio stations for the iPlayer and internet media devices - both simulcast and on-demand. It's been running well in production since November, and is now producing all listen-again and most simulcast streams across our services.
If you're deeply interested in the technology we use, here's a quick delve into rather more detail about Coyopa. This isn't for the faint-hearted, particularly if your tolerance for TLAs is low. (What's a TLA? A Three Letter Acronym. LOL. FTW!)
Read more and leave comments on the Radio Labs blog.
James Cridland is Head of Future Media & Technology for BBC Audio & Music Interactive.
The Red Button Arcade One in Ten project was borne out of a realisation that, whilst they're nowhere near as powerful as the average PC or modern games console, digital set-top boxes are considerably more powerful than classic home computers such as the BBC Micro. As such they should achieve comparable or better performance when running video games.
Last week, a viewer made the following query: "When I access the flight arrivals screen, the picture changes from that which was on television to a rolling weather forecast. Why is this? Why would I want to know about the weather?"
This happens when using BBC Red Button on Sky, and there is actually a technical reason behind these seemingly unconnected pieces of content. But before I get into that let me explain how our channels, extra video content and text allocation are set up for the Red Button service on digital satellite.
The BBC Trust has approved the BBC's budget for 2009/10 including the budget for BBC Online. From the Trust's press release:
Following the Trust's review of bbc.co.uk and consideration of the necessary management controls, the Trust has been able to agree an increase in BBC Online's budget of £30.7 million over three years, subject to certain conditions set by the Chairman to the Director-General which we are publishing today.
This is significantly less than BBC management originally asked for. The Trust considers that investment at this reduced level is appropriate. It believes that ongoing robust evaluation of the BBC's impact on online markets will be necessary to ensure that public value is created by the investment.
We're now ready to reveal the new Radio 4 website design. These annotated screenshots take you through some example pages from the new site with an explanation of their main features. Let me give you some background to this work which is one of the most complex redesigns in the BBC portfolio.
The design takes the colours and shapes of Radio 4's brand toolkit as its starting point. Our team worked with this toolkit to create a design that adds depth and impact to our programme pages, without distracting from the content - white background space and a subtle emphasis of the information hierarchy help to present the programme information clearly. Agreeing a design route is usually the point at which all stakeholders want to have their say and this project followed that honourable tradition.
This is the third and final post in a series. (Part 1, Part 2)
I'm the producer of the BBC Central Communities Team, which means I work across most BBC services dealing with moderation issues. This is the last post in a series of three about some of the legal issues that we face when moderating the BBC's blogs, message boards and communities. I've written about defamation and contempt of court, but probably the trickiest for us to deal with are specific reporting restrictions.
Reporting restrictions are court orders that prohibit the release of specific information such as the names and addresses of witnesses, defendants, or young people involved in court cases. They can be imposed for a variety of reasons, such as to protect young or vulnerable witnesses or defendants, or because other trials are pending and release of the information could prevent a fair trial.
There are two things that make reporting restrictions so difficult to moderate. The first problem is that in many cases I couldn't even tell you what these restrictions are without risking prosecution, but as an example they currently include a bar on any new information being reported on the case of 13 year-old father Alfie. Sometimes communicating this to our users without giving away the information is hard - simply saying 'We removed your post but can't tell you why for legal reasons' is bound to frustrate users. It's also one of those areas that seems to fire up conspiracy theorists: 'if the BBC are suppressing the truth on this, then they're definitely hiding something on the moon landings/JFK etc'
But the real challenge is the media that we work in. In print, television or radio complying with these restrictions is easy, but when anyone with access to the internet can publish content, once that information is available somewhere, distribution becomes easy and instantaneous. Many of our services are post or reactively moderated so comments appear straight away. And it's not just our services we have to watch for - we also have to decide whether to remove links to other sources of the information such as social networking sites or archived news stories.
The most famous recent example was the 'Baby P' case, where members of the public - or 'Facebook vigilantes' as the Independent described them - attempted to use social media sites including BBC message boards, to breach the court order forbidding the publishing of his killers' identities. Our moderation teams removed these posts as did those of Facebook, Bebo, the Sun and others, but the information was still widely distributed across the web. While blogs and comments inciting violence against the people convicted would not be acceptable under any rules, the public's desire to distribute this information is perhaps understandable with an emotive issue such as this. And to them our actions probably appear as callous censorship, but publication in breach of any court imposed restriction could seriously interfere with the course of justice or destroy someone's life or liberty as well as bringing the risk of prosecution.
This is of course not the case. A publisher has no alternative but to comply with the restriction, although the BBC and the other media organisations will challenge orders they consider to be legally unjustified and an unneccessary incursion into free speech.
But with the spread of access to internet publishing some people argue that it may prove pointless in the future to try to enforce some of these rulings. In the meantime we have no alternative but to remain mindful of and comply with our legal obligations.
The difficulty of moderating BBC services within the law increases. And the cries of 'censorship' faced by major news organisations are only going to get louder.
Paul Wakely is Content Producer, Future Media & Technology.
Since we at the BBC started blogging in earnest in 2005, we have seen some incredible growth. Now tens of millions of our blog pages are being read every month, and our hope in BBC News is that they add context and expert analysis to the big stories.
When we started blogging it felt important that our blogs should follow the style of other blogs at the time, and because we used a popular blogging program, that was easy to achieve. Since then styles have matured a bit, and this week the design for our pages is also changing.
Incidentally, while talking about blogs, the deputy director of BBC News, Stephen Mitchell, discussed the proper role of blogging in the BBC with media commentator Stephen Glover on this week's Newswatch, which you can watch here.
Giles Wilson is Features Editor, BBC News website.
To use a tortuous analogy a well designed website should be like a cubist painting: the spaces between things are as important as the things themselves - where things in this case means pages and spaces means links. Sorry!...
"In the first part of the Digital Britain report, Lord Carter outlined his vision for the future of British Broadband, in which he saw every household in the UK being able to enjoy speeds of at least 2Mbps by 2012 - 2Mbps is a sufficient speed at which to stream videos from the BBC iPlayer, meaning that everyone in the UK will be able to watch events at the London Olympics online."
This, then, is an organisation on its back foot. The odd thing is that it doesn't have any need to be. The criticism they perceive can come from several different sources, including people who believe that we as a nation pay for the BBC so we should have unfettered access to everything it produces and the right to copy, reproduce and build businesses on it; people who don't really understand the difficulties of turning a very large organisation from one that provides into one that shares; and people who don't like the BBC anyway.
I wanted to share some news - and of course to respond to comments which I thought might be most easily done as a single post.
First a couple of developments to share.
Those paying close attention may have noticed that for the first time today outside of a major event, the BBC HDschedule is up at 9 hours. That's the full service that we have permission for from the BBC Trust, and from now on (until there is any extension to the service) the channel we plan to deliver to you.
We'll start daily at 4pm, and run through to between 12.30 and 1.30 7 nights a week although we will of course still extend the channel hours when there are sporting or other events that fall outside those hours. I would welcome your feedback on how far predictability - for example of the kinds of programmes you can expect say on a Saturday evening, or from 4 to 6 on a weekday - is useful to you because I am trying to build greater consistency into the schedule.
With a new scheduling team on board we will be making some changes over the coming months, which I would hope can plan your time with the channel. It is inevitably tricky given the fact that we are juggling with programmes from across BBC channels, and trying to follow their schedules and broadcast programmes at the same time where it makes most sense to do so.
Getting to nine hours is quite a milestone in the life of BBC HD, although as some of you have suggested, it is in the end what's on the channel inside those hours that matters most. We are working on that too - no specific announcements at this time but we are keeping busy.
Before you ask the inevitable question I have to tell you that unfortunately there will be no BBC HD showing of The Wire - not because of lack of money or lack of will, but because the series is made on digibeta.
Getting some of the programmes I think need to move into HD may mean though a slight shake up of some of the things that have featured in the past - hopefully you will agree with the choices, but as one example there will be no Chelsea Flower Show this year in HD. Getting more of Six Nations in HD is a goal for next year - as scarlet supporter has picked up, there are no France and Italy based fixtures in the mix. That's part of a decision about how to spend our Sport HD budget most effectively and was the case last year too I believe. I can't promise it will change, but it is under discussion as we consider how best to extend the BBC HD sport offer.
Disrember is right in observing that there's inconsistency in film availability in HD - quite simply, studios are not always prepared to make HD versions available, and sometimes the scheduling of films means that we don't have time to acquire an HD version when we want to show them. But also, BBC HD is never going to be a movie channel - Sky movie services already do that very well, and what we're trying to do is something different. Film is a pretty small part of our content offer, and is likely to remain a limited part of the schedule.
A couple of you, including ropies and wednesday83, are asking about channel promotion and whether the BBC is putting sufficient welly behind HD. Firstly, there's another burst of on air promotion coming up early next month, linked to some on-air changes around the channel idents, an update for the website, and the arrival of HD content on iplayer. And we're looking hard at what works most effectively in terms of increasing awareness of the channel, bearing in mind the proportion of homes that currently have access to BBC HD. Mike has picked up on the references to "the BBC HD channel" - that is the way that presentation has been asked to reference BBC HD because we've found that it is the most effective way of making it clear that viewers do need to change channel to watch the programme in HD. There is a huge amount of confusion still - albeit not on this blog - around the HD viewing experience and we have found that simply telling people that a programme is "also available on BBC HD" doesn't always help them to find the HD version.
The comments on encoders do not go unnoticed - rest assured wednesday83 and others - there is work underway but unfortunately going first down the path to HD does inevitably mean that later entrants can buy later generations of equipment, and it would not be best use of your licence fees to replace kit before it had served its useful life.
Finally, Sue_Aitch makes a good point about information on ceefax and red button help. I've passed it on to the relevant people and I'm hopeful that it is something that can be fixed.
I hope this covers most points - I really have nothing further to say on the subject of DOGs.
It's not a revolution, more building on the success of the BBC's blogs to date, and moving them to the new visual language now in use across BBC Online, with a cleaner and simpler look and feel (let's face it some of our blogs including the Internet blog were starting to look a bit wild and scruffy).
When we user tested the designs last year people described the designs as "clutter free" and "easy to use". They also had a strong sense that these blogs were "from the BBC", one of the things we're trying to achieve.
Blogs which are no longer being updated will stay in the old look and eventually be mothballed.
Dave Lee said "it's like moving into a new house". We're fixing a few things as we go so if you see any glitches let us know.
Comic Relief have an amazing talent of bringing people and organisations together to do unimaginable things and raise implausible amounts of money. The BBC is certainly not immune to their charms.
I don't know how many people in the Corporation are involved in Red Nose Day this year but it's a lot. A quick search for Red Nose Day brings up content across the nations and regions.
Even if you are not directly involved you could well be doing something funny for money. I walked into a room in TVC today only to see a colleague dressed as a Canadian Mounty. He had raised £100 already - everyone likes a man in uniform. However I just wanted to highlight a small section of Red Nose Day within the BBC and within Multiplatform to illustrate the kind of "remarkable stuff we can pull off" to quote Will Saunders the MP Executive for Comedy.
Everyone knows how difficult it can be to get your great stuff promoted around BBC Online but Will managed to get a Red Nose banner, in one shape or form, right across the BBC's websites.
The noses have been added across bbc.co.uk using the Barlesque templates, meaning sites around the BBC didn't have to do any extra work for the noses to appear. Each banner is only shown once to each visitor, using cookies to avoid repeats, and to ensure each one turns up at its alotted time - meaning our developers don't have to come into work in the middle of the night to change them."
We don't know what this will do to traffic and ultimately donations but I hope it'll be impressive.
The other thing that people know how difficult it is to do is, get high-quality pictures back from the highest mountain in Africa when you are suffering from altitude sickness. You do know how difficult that is don't you? The fact that Caragh Salisbury and her team, working with Mob Dar's documentary team, managed to get those pictures back is a testament to all the work done by news gathering and the the Natural History Unit in the past. At last we have put it all to the use it was always meant, following Chris Moyles et al up Kilimanjaro to help raise £1.6m.
So what did we go for? We mulled over the possibilities of using eerily beautiful space images, we thought about churches, collars, mass prayer, none of which I was comfortable with as none screamed God (or His absence) at me. Then it hit me, why should I try and put a face on the Almighty when Michelangelo had already done it for me in the Sistine Chapel. Whether you believe or not, his rendition of God in the Creation of Adam is the most instantly recognisable face of God and suited this programme nicely.
What I love about this image is that it is a fresco, a painted work that helps break up the rows and rows of presenter headshots which appear particularly for iPlayer Radio (we have to use so many head shots that when displayed on the iPlayer interface the display can have a whiff of a Crimewatch line-up about it. I am, with the picture editors on the bbc.co.uk homepage, commissioning more and more illustrations to bring variety and a bit of depth to our radio imagery - this image (Steph von Reiswitz) for the Talented Mr Ripley on Radio 4 is one of a series we have commissioned for this exact purpose.
Ashley Stewart Noble is Senior Content Producer, BBC Online, BBC Future Media & Technology.
We're making a change soon to the News website front page "ticker" of latest news headlines.
We've redesigned it to give more prominence to breaking news - as well as to latest headlines and to upcoming scheduled news events. You'll be able to stop or replay the ticker items and click straight through to video, as well as to stories.
Seems strange to view it any other way now. An outstanding question has been how and when will we enable the ability to have video embedded in other sites.
Well, finally you can do it.
For some videos (starting with those in the News Technology section), we have started to roll out the Embed function.
It's taken a while because there have been a huge number of tricky little issues to sort out and most of these have been complex business issues around rights, terms and conditions, etc... But at last through the fog, a simple and subtle change finally emerges.
When you roll over the Share button at the bottom of the embedded Flash player, you will now get an Embed option which allows you to take the embed code and embed the video on your site.
As you can see, as well as the video there is a description panel under the video. This will roll out to more areas of the site after this initial phase and there are different flavours of embedded widget which will be made available.
There will remain some content which we won't be able to allow you to be embedded and viewed off site or outside the UK, mainly for rights reasons.
This year we are focussing on a number of projects which will make our content more open including some major changes to the News and Sport website content management and publishing systems.
I'd be Interested to hear how you would like to see our syndication and content sharing develop.
John O'Donovan is Chief Technical Architect, FM&T Journalism
As one of my first projects at the BBC I led the development of the BBC's homepage leading the industry and our audience into a new personalized future. The page has proved enormously successful driving higher usage and deep engagement (over 30% of the audience personalise the page still to this day a year later).
The mobile team has taken the initiative to take this thinking to the mobile homepage, which makes a ton of sense to me. Mobile devices (including phones) are very very personal, (more than 90% of our mobile phones have personal A/V content (photos, videos, etc) on them. We carry them everywhere. To me this project is the beginning of a personalised, audience centred roadmap for the BBC, and a great step forward for the mobile service and team.
Ulyssa MacMillan, who leads the BBC Mobile Browser team, has written the blog below which I'd like to share with you today, I am immensely proud of her and the team with their hard work to get this service live!
Richard Titus is Future Media Controller, Audio and Music & Mobile, BBC Future Media & Technology
The Mobile browser team has developed a customisable mobile homepage and we're sharing it with you today so you can try it out and give us your feedback. It is currently in beta form linked from the main homepage. Over the next few weeks we will be adding new features, fixing issues and building in changes based on feedback until we are ready to remove the beta status and replace the current homepage at the end of March.
For best results, view full screen.
This is significant for everyone involved in developing mobile services for the BBC - the homepage is dynamic and it is served from Forge (the BBC's new dynamic web serving infrastructure), and it is the first milestone in an ambitious roadmap for the development of our service to be contextual, social, personal, immediate, device and location aware. Whilst complimenting bbc.co.uk, it will take into consideration the unique properties of Mobile and of the audience needs when they are on the go. We will build on the learning and experience of this project to reinvent BBC Mobile.
- Customisation helps users surface their favourite areas from the site and access them directly from the homepage, Music, entertainment, News, Sport...
- It gives the ability to create a localised content set - News, Weather and TV schedules where you live.
- The homepage has a more live and up to date feel - with the latest schedule and iPlayer featured content (see end of mail for supported device details) as well as News, Sport and Entertainment top headlines.
- It takes advantage of a user's handset and network capabilities to give them the best possible experience - e.g. a different experience and image sizes for touch screens and iPlayer/audio and video if supported.
- Reordering topics (news, sport, weather, entertainment, television, radio & music, featured sites)
- Removing and/or adding topics to the homepage
- Setting and changing location
- Adding extra news and sport sections
- Changing the television/radio stations and schedules
- Saving the page (via cookies - if supported by your carrier)
If you are unsure about whether your handset is supported, just give it a try. If you try to access the homepage on an unsupported handset you will be redirected back to the current homepage.
Accessing the homepage
Put the url www.bbc.co.uk/mobile/betahome/ into your phone or text BETAHOME to 88822. You will be charged 10p to 12p to send the text and it will not come from your text bundle. You may receive two different messages to ensure you have the best format for your handset but there will be no extra cost.
This is only the first phase of our plans for the BBC mobile homepage.
While it's a vast improvement on the current offering, we'll continue to review the content, functionality and design, and we'll continue to listen to users about what they want to be able to do with their homepage.
We will give users the ability to customise the mobile homepage from a desktop PC, and in the future to share preferences across mobile and the fixed line where appropriate to do so. We will also introduce an element of implicit recommendation - telling users about more content they might be interested in that they may not be aware of - and bring a whole new audience to the content available.
We'll also widen the range of handsets and browsers supported, and build on our new dynamic device-intelligent architecture to offer the best possible experience, whether you are on a low end device or high end touch screen.
We are exploring ways of allowing users to add more content whilst being mindful of page weight - we will tie this into device detection too, so that handset capabilities are taken into consideration for the best experience possible. Adding favourite football teams and following the latest sports news and results direct from the homepage would be a really popular example of additional content, and we'll look at adding this option in the very near future.
If our users spend time and effort telling us about their favourite subjects and UK location, it makes sense for this to shape their experience across the whole BBC mobile site so we'll be looking to offer a more customised experience across other areas of the site too.
We'll also be looking at how to better surface the vast range of content on the site - mobile search, using dynamic navigation and links, and looking at how we can use location-based technology.
Users of our international site will also see their homepage change later this year - making it more customisable using the functionality we've developed for the new beta homepage.
We'd appreciate any feedback you have about the new homepage. We'd especially like to find out what you think of the functionality, user experience, design and the speed at which it loads on your phone. It's a little heavier than the current live homepage as it has more content in it. And if you have any other comments about the features you'd like to see on the homepage, we'd love to hear those too.
Ulyssa MacMillan is Executive Producer, BBC Mobile.
I wrote in January about our ongoing efforts to improve the quality of user experience across BBC Online. Now that our mothballing and archiving activities are well under way I am looking to the future and at how we can ensure that we raise the bar on quality across the business.
Last week I shared with my commissioning and production colleagues a set of ten principles which should underpin all new activities on BBC Online. These principles are based on a looser set which has existed for a couple of years (and can still be found on Tom Loosemore's blog) but I have tightened them up.
I want to inspire editorial and technical teams to think not just about their project in isolation but how it will really work for the audience, how it will relate to or build upon the best of what already exists on BBC Online and how we can be part of the wider web.
The principles are:
1. Web sites and products should be designed to meet a clearly-defined audience need
Anticipate needs not yet fully articulated by audiences and meet them with products that set new standards and even exceed expectations.
2. The best websites do one thing really, really well
Do less, keep it simple, execute perfectly.
3. Ensure there is nothing similar already published on BBC Online
We are all contributors to one website. How are you adding to what exists already? Can you reuse what has been built and is your content, in turn, reusable? Don't create a web cul-de-sac - we have so many of those already!
4. Any website is only as good as its worst page
Ensure best practice editorial processes, technology and UX standards are adopted and adhered to. Your content may be linked to, forever, so plan for the full lifecycle. Consider how will it look in three year's time, how it can be curated. Will it degrade gracefully - or should you set a date for it to be mothballed or archived?
5. Accessibility is not an optional extra
Sites designed that way from the ground up work better for all users. Your site should, where appropriate, easily translate into other languages.
6. Maximise routes to content
How will people know your site exists? Keep the URL as simple and memorable as possible (and remember that all URLs should be lower case). Optimise your site to rank high in Google and other search engines. Develop permanent URLs and contextualise with as many aggregations of content about people, places, topics, channels, networks and time as possible.
7. Free up your content for consumers to take away
Don't reinvent Facebook or Bebo - just make it easy for users to take nuggets of content with them, with links back to your site or the wider BBC from wherever they are. Wherever and whenever users find your content make sure the feedback loops work.
Link to other high-quality sites - your users will thank you. Use other people's content & tools to enhance your site and vice versa.Don't feel you have to host the conversations about your content, just link to them or join in as appropriate.
9. Consistent design & navigation needn't mean one-size-fits-all
Users should always know they're on a BBC website, even if it doesn't look exactly like another. Clear signposting is vital to ensure users won't get lost within or beyond your site.
10. Personalisation should be unobtrusive, elegant and transparent
These will be reviewed every few months and we welcome your views. We are also currently reviewing our Standards and Guidelines and I shall be writing about this soon.
There won't be a studio (we are not allowed to put one anywhere decent, or with a view of the track, for example) so we will present from the paddock, the pit lane or anywhere that is interesting and makes sense.
BBC man James Cridland has been blogging his thoughts on the 'Multimedia Meets Radio' conference in Prague. Part 1 is here, and part 2 is here. From part two:
Brett showed off the visualised radio trial we ran earlier in the year; showed a nicely put together video about how the station made their Wimbledon coverage an interactive thing; and finally discussed their football player (you'll find this at bbc.co.uk/widgets. He announced that this football player will be on the iPhone - sounds like the BBC's first iPhone app. Yay, woot."
Dave Lee is co-editor, BBC Internet blog, BBC Online, BBC Future Media & Technology.
Many people do not realise that criminal proceedings become active as soon as someone has been arrested, so when the news breaks of a high-profile arrest, that's the point at which we have to consider contempt of court when moderating. It's also the point at which everyone wants to comment on the arrest, and often with contributors' emotions running high, many of the comments make it hard for the moderators to strike a balance between allowing fair comment on a case and removing content that could break contempt of court law.
And of course, if a comment assumes the guilt of the suspect, it is potentially libellous as well. How "substantial" the risk a comment to a website can represent is key to a successful prosection of the publisher for contempt. It will depend on several factors including how far off are the court proceedings and how damaging to a fair trial the comment may be.
In any high-profile case journalists always walk a tightrope between trying to satisfy public hunger for information and staying within contempt laws. Newspapers are notorious for testing the limits of contempt of court, and even if comments are intended as a joke, that's no defence, as the BBC has found to its cost.
In printed media, and most radio and television output, it should be easy to make sure that you don't break the law, since it's you who is in charge of what goes on the page or into a broadcast. But when comments appear on a story it becomes far more difficult to limit the risks.
For example, UK contempt law would usually prohibit any reference to the previous conviction(s) of someone facing new court proceedings. This is easy for a TV reporter, they just have to get through a report without accidentally saying "And of course we all remember the defendant from his murders in the Nineties" (though mistakes do happen).
But the current statutory contempt law dates back to 1981, when no-one realised that an internet filled with archived news stories, blog entries, comments and even cached pages would make the exchange of this kind of information easy and immediate. If you aren't aware of contempt of court law it would seem perfectly reasonable when a story breaks to post a link to an archived page and say 'hasn't this bloke done this before?' And under the current laws the BBC moderators would have to have to remove your post.
In my final post, I'll look at reporting restrictions.
Paul Wakely is Content Producer, Future Media & Technology.
He's been investigating and advocating ideas around how the BBC could become more "open". Some of what he's done has been reflected on his blog "Common Platform".
Steve's time with us is coming to an end, and so there is a special event next week when he will report back and reflect on what he's found.
The event happens on Tuesday 10th March at 6 p.m. in the Council Chamber in Broadcasting House. It's a public event but by invitation only. So if you want to come make a request on Facebook or Upcoming or leave a message in comments on this post. If there's a question you'd like to ask Steve in advance also leave it in comments.
I'm the producer of the BBC Central Communities Team, which means I oversee the day-to-day moderation across most of the BBC's social media sites such as message boards, community sites like 606 or blog comments (like those some of you will hopefully leave below).
Moderation is the most contentious part of managing social media services, and is frequently viewed as simply an attempt to stifle free speech. This is the first of three posts about the legal issues that arise when moderating the BBC's social media sites. The feedback we get suggests that a lot of contributors lay the blame for removing their comments squarely at the feet of the BBC but like everyone else in the country, the BBC has to comply with UK laws, and the comments and posts that the BBC receives and publishes are subject to them.
The first legal concern is defamatory content. Defamation encompasses both slander and libel.
Briefly slander is a spoken defamatory comment and libel refers to comments in written or permanent form such as broadcasts and posts on the internet. A defamatory comment is one that lowers the reputation of an identifiable person or company in the eyes of right thinking members of the public.
Of course, as an internet publisher the BBC tries to avoid as far as possible publishing any defamatory comment, and the various types of moderation we use are intended to limit the risks of publishing contributions from the public.
The BBC's moderation teams receive thousands of contributions each day. When we come across ones which we consider potentially risky, then we have to assess the evidence to support them, and sometimes remove them.
This isn't an easy job, particularly where users are referring to - and sometimes extrapolating from - stories they've read in newspapers or on other websites. Just because something has been published elsewhere, is no defence to a libel action. Websites, blog posts, newspapers and (ahem) major public service media organisations can all be the source of libellous stories, so if you repeat them elsewhere there is a risk you could be posting defamatory content.
Finally, I should point out that we don't just remove this material for our own protection. It is possible that legal action can force publishers and ISPs to hand over the details of the contributors who posted the material so that they can make a claim for damages against the individual who made the post. So, please remember that sometimes the moderators might just be on your side.
In Part 2, I'll look at contempt of court.
Paul Wakely is Content Producer, Future Media & Technology.
"[Anthony Rose] treats my team like a small startup in which he's 'invested some capital', lets us be creative and innovate, while guiding us and fighting political battles on our behalf. In return, we have to work extremely hard and deliver releases of our products every two weeks. It's a clever way of having teams which can innovate and move quickly, while being part of a large, slower, more cautious organisation."
This sounds like a fantastic project, which could potentially bring online video into the mainstream and onto the televisions in millions of British homes. This makes Project Kangaroo look quite insignificant in comparison.
What Satellite & Digital TV has a round up too, and considers the new recommendation system:
iPlayer will enable you to share your viewing experience with your MSN messenger contacts. A new set of tabs at the top of the page will show which programmes your friends have been watching, and how you rated them. You can also send an alert to your friends each time you watch a new programme. So your friends and family can find out just what you think of Dawn Goes Lesbian. [We] can see a possible flaw in this plan.
According to this in-depth post, the version of BBC iPlayer accessible through Virgin Media isn't actually iPlayer at all. In the blogger's words:
[T]he TV iPlayer is not connected to the internet or to the main iPlayer servers or content network. The iPlayer branded menus merely point back at the same episode of Cash in the Attic on the Virgin servers that the Virgin branded screens do. Once you start playing the video, the Virgin VOD controls take over. This means that none of the presentation twists or web functionality that we have come to expect from the web iPlayer exist on the Virgin service."
U2 even have their own BBC website featuring all the exclusive content the Corporation's Audio and Music department has produced. With my pseudo-geek multiplatform webbie type hat on, I can confirm it's a tasty design and a well executed web offering. It feels right for the event. It ticks all the right boxes any web producer has to face on a daily basis at the BBC. It is, in short, the kind of project I wished I'd worked on despite the fact that I loathe U2."
If you want a quick snapshot of plenty of content on the BBC News site, take a look at Alltop, which now has a BBC section.
Dave Lee is co-editor, BBC Internet blog, BBC Online, BBC Future Media & Technology.
As I said in the blog, if you have a 50" 1920x1080 display you will get the 4th (20MHz) but you will also get some (but not all) of the 5th (25MHz) grating. However the 6th is just not there! What you are seeing unfortunately is an alias that's folded back at around 26MHz.
Here is your picture with the original 25 and 30MHz gratings added - if you look at the off-air and original 25MHz grating you can see they line up but the 30MHz original does not match the off-air grating.
I am pleased you can see the 25MHz grating though!!
Andy Quested is Principal Technologist, HD, BBC Future Media & Technology
Staff from the BBC's online and technology teams talk about BBC Online, BBC iPlayer, and the BBC's digital and mobile services. The blog is reactively moderated. Posts are normally closed for comment after three months. Your host is Eliza Kessler.
Links to conversations and stories about the BBC's online activities. The links on this blog and its delicious stream are chosen by Eliza Kessler and Nick Reynolds. Follow @bbcinternetlinks on Twitter.
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