Archives for April 2009

Showcase Lowdown

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Rowena Goldman | 17:23 UK time, Thursday, 30 April 2009

A big thank you to everyone who attended the event A Collaborative Journey at Wallacespace on Monday 27th April. It was a fantastic day full of insight and exciting discussion that will continue to inform the relationship the BBC has with academia and research councils...

...The day showcased the collaborative research projects supported through our pilot funding call. As well as displays from 7 projects highlighting outcomes and findings we also had project presentations in the Big Room from the following projects...

Read more and download research papers at the Knowledge Exchange blog

Rowena Goldman is Innovation Executive, BBC Research & Development, BBC Future Media & Technology.

Introducing... BBC Feeds Hub

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Alan Ogilvie Alan Ogilvie | 16:24 UK time, Wednesday, 29 April 2009

Here in the Distribution Technologies team for BBC A&M Interactive, we look at how best to distribute media and metadata across A&M for current and future platforms; we also look at how to syndicate our content to external partnerships and the public.

Feeds are a great way of reusing content more easily in an automated way. You're probably familiar with the example of RSS feeds from blogs or podcasts, which save you having to visit different sites to collect the information you want. In A&M we reuse and reversion many different feed formats, not just RSS, to save us duplicating work across different platforms.

Feeds Hub is one of our new projects focusing on registering, reusing and reversioning data feeds.

It is an open-source project that aims to share its solutions publicly...

Read more and comment at BBC Radio Labs blog

Alan Ogilvie works for Distribution Technologies, BBC Audio & Music Interactive.

Prioritisation - Choosing what will be on BBC Red Button

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John Denton John Denton | 16:04 UK time, Wednesday, 29 April 2009

Every six months, in my role as Managing Editor of TV Platforms, I work through the process of prioritisation. Put simply, I work with the team here to prioritise the development projects for the following six months (or more if we know beyond that!)

TV Platforms provide all of the technical development skills led by a team of producers and project managers and ably supported by testers and design (or user experience - UX).

Read more and comment at Press Red blog.

John Denton is Managing Editor, TV Platforms, BBC Future Media & Technologytvplatformsprioritisation.gif

Happy Birthday h2g2

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Nick Reynolds Nick Reynolds | 11:50 UK time, Tuesday, 28 April 2009

A tenth birthday is always worth celebrating.

So it's my pleasure today to say "Happy Tenth Birthday h2g2".

If you don't know what h2g2 is there's a useful summary here.

h2g2_logo.JPGI'm old enough to remember the original Radio 4 series of "The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy" with the late, lamented Peter Jones as the voice of the book.

But it wasn't until recently that I became aware that there was a whole community out there actually trying to write the definitive guide to 'Life, the Universe and Everything'.

As a newcomer, the most enjoyable part of h2g2 to me is the Edited Guide which produces quirky 'weird and wonderful entries' like these:

Envy-free Cake Division

The London Beer Flood of 1814

Malaysian Teapot Worship: The Ayah Pin Cult

my coeditor enjoyed this one about memorable football press conferences.

But there's more to h2g2 than the Edited Guide. It's like a vast, sprawling virtual city where its community members try their hand at pretty much anything they fancy. For example there's a spin off group of h2g2 people called the Aviators making videos including this one:

One thing I do know is that h2g2 people really value - indeed, love - their community and its spirit.


Members of the h2g2 community Phil, Hypatia,Teuchter, Vip, Elentari, Acid Override, Matt and Metal Chicken at a Birmingham Mini-Meet on the 25th April, 2009. Photo by permission of Websailor on flickr.

So if you're a past or present member of the community I hope you'll join me in wishing h2g2 a happy birthday.

Nick Reynolds is editor, BBC Internet blog

Seetha Kumar's NDI 2009 speech in full

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Seetha Kumar Seetha Kumar | 12:40 UK time, Monday, 27 April 2009

As some of you may have read last week I accepted the challenge of being the BBC's Online Access Champion. I'm speaking today at the National Digital Inclusion Conference - together with Lord Carter and the government's first ever digital inclusion minister, Paul Murphy.

I see this as a great opportunity to share the story about our work around making new technologies more accessible for our audiences and to explore what more the BBC can do in partnership with others, to inspire and enable the 17 million people currently not using the Internet to get connected. I am sharing my speech with you. I am interested in your reactions and suggestions on what can be done particularly around access in order to close the divide.

Read the rest of this entry

Seetha Kumar at the National Digital Inclusion Conference

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Dave Lee | 11:03 UK time, Monday, 27 April 2009

Seetha Kumar, Controller of BBC Online and our new Online Access Champion, is due to talk at today's National Digital Inclusion Conference in London.

We'll be posting Seetha's speech a little later on, but you can catch a live stream right here.

We expect Seetha to be on at around 12.15.

Dave Lee is co-editor, BBC Internet Blog, Future Media and Technology.

Open Post 2009-24-04

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Nick Reynolds Nick Reynolds | 14:25 UK time, Friday, 24 April 2009

open.jpgAlthough I'm sure Officer Dibble will disagree with me I thought the first open post on this blog was reasonably sucessful. So I thought I'd try another one.

This post is for comments and questions about anything to do with BBC Online, BBC iPlayer, BBC HD, and the BBC's digital and mobile services.

But as it's an open post you can leave a comment about whatever you like.

I can't guarantee that every single comment or question will get a response. But I'll try.

OPEN picture by mag3737 on flickr.

Nick Reynolds is editor, BBC Internet blog

Interesting Stuff 2009-04-23

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Dave Lee | 13:40 UK time, Thursday, 23 April 2009

"Watch Horrible Histories on your terrible TV!" screams a soldier on the new Horrible Histories minisite which launched on Friday. It's just one of many recent minisite launches, including Ashes to Ashes, Lifegivers and Gardeners World.


On Monday we launched iPlayer HD. Nick Jackson, a University of Lincoln student, has blogged his satisfaction -- along with some frustration at the restrictions of broadband speeds in university accommodation.

Dan's Media Digest casts a critical eye over the launch -- and wonders if the new HD streams will be made available on Virgin set top boxes. The same thing is being discussed here, too.

WebTVWire gives a good breakdown of all the new additions here.

See a selection of news coverage about iPlayer HD here.


The Guardian reports that the £250 million surplus from the Digital switchover could be used to fund the Government's broadband-for-all scheme:

The BBC's licence fee deal includes £130m a year set aside for the digital switchover help scheme between now and 2012, when the UK is due to completed the move from analogue to digital terrestrial television.

However, last year the National Audit Office estimated that up to £250m could be left over from the digital switchover fund once the analogue TV signal is switched off in 2012, based upon lower than expected take up in the first region to make the move.

There has been a fight between Ofcom, Carter and the BBC over what to do with any leftover digital switchover cash. Darling's intervention suggests that the government has won and the licence fee money will be used to support universal broadband.

One commenter questions the 2mbps target, especially given the recent iPlayer HD launch:

[T]hat's not enough to get the best out of, say, BBC iPlayer now, with its impressive new hd options. strikes me as a waste of money to roll out something that's already on its way to being obsolete.

Steve Busfield isn't entirely convinced. When exactly does the digital switchover cash switch over?

More on the plans here and here.


The Radio 4 blog asked for thoughts on their site redesign -- and now they're acting on that feedback.

PaidContent reacts to our announcement of the new Buyer's Guide, oddly comparing it to Project Kangaroo -- a project that was completely different.

Up Your Ego is -- how can we put this lightly? -- less than impressed about Radio 4 putting a Webby Award graphic at the top of their pages.

Dave Lee is co-editor, BBC Internet Blog, Future Media and Technology.

A Collaborative Journey at Wallacespace, St Pancras: April 27th 2009

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Rowena Goldman | 11:41 UK time, Thursday, 23 April 2009

On Monday 27th April the AHRC/BBC Knowledge Exchange Programme will, hopefully, bask in its finest hour as we showcase the collaborative research projects co-funded by both our organisations to an audience of academics, BBC staff, research councils, innovation agencies, government quangos and maybe the odd journalist.

Two years after the pilot funding call was announced we have a heap of insightful findings and recommendations to impart on a range of BBC activities and output around community, learning journeys, accessibility, fan behaviour, user generated content and virtual worlds. And as we explore ways in which knowledge transfer like this can impact on the BBC, there'll also be a panel discussion chaired by digital media guru Bill Thompson where we'll be trying to surface ways in which we can we can build on the existing partnership model we already have in place with the AHRC.

Read more and sign up for the event at the Knowledge Exchange blog

Rowena Goldman is Innovation Executive, BBC Research & Development, BBC Future Media & Technology

Buyer's Guide on The Archers Website

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Mark Friend Mark Friend | 11:43 UK time, Wednesday, 22 April 2009

If you look carefully at The Archers website today, you'll see a link to a "Buyer's Guide".

Click on this and you'll be directed to Audiobooks of The Archers which are available on CD and/or as a download. There's more information on each product, links to suggested suppliers and clear pricing information.

Our decision to introduce the 'Buyer's Guides' is driven by a public service, and not a commercial, ethos. Rather, this is about making it easier to find relevant BBC material and providing information to help guide people through buying online.

And just to reassure you suppliers do not make any payments to the BBC, either for listing as part of this service or for any click-throughs.

The suggested suppliers have been assessed against published criteria which include purchasing security, data protection and customer support. These criteria are intended to give a simple and reliable way to find BBC products while not favouring any one retailer over others.

We're launching the Buyers Guide after research we conducted (survey, interviews, focus group and user testing) suggested people want to know how to find BBC content that is commercially available online. They reacted positively to the idea that the BBC should provide links to commercially available BBC content. In fact most participants were happy for the BBC to take a stronger commercial stance. The user testing of the choice of price, preferred brand, and availability presented by the Buyers Guide was also welcomed.

Buying media online can be confusing and daunting, particularly for those with concerns around security and legality. I believe the BBC has a public service role to play in helping people to find older content, and in guiding those least familiar with purchasing media online. Acting as a 'trusted guide' is something that we take very seriously.

In terms of aggregating content, for example, if you're interested in the UN talks on North Korea, then BBC Online will link you to a wealth of archive BBC News reports on North Korea, background information and links to other sites including US Northern Command, CBS News and Sky News.

This aggregation of material becomes more complicated when some of the relevant BBC content is only available commercially, and, in the past, we didn't link to it. For example, go to The Archers website and you'd see links to other BBC drama from the past seven days but no reference to old material available as Audiobooks.

Consequently, we hope that the 'Buyer's Guide' will go some way to providing users with the opportunity to find out more about their favourite BBC content.

I'd be interested to get your reaction.

Mark Friend is Controller, BBC Audio & Music Interactive

Inside Da Vinci

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Andrew Bowden Andrew Bowden | 09:50 UK time, Wednesday, 22 April 2009

This is Da Vinci.

Da Vinci - the test farm

No. You're right. This doesn't really look like a famous Italian polymath at all.

In fact this Da Vinci is a room in our office, commonly known internally by a slightly more down to earth name of "The Farm".

Da Vinci is our test farm, and contains about a hundred different set top boxes on which our services are tested - if you've ever built a website and felt the pain of having to test a website in Internet Explorer, Firefox, Chrome, Opera, Safari AND Konqueror (okay, that last one is probably just me!), then you might want to spare a thought for our test team who have to test on lots of different boxes - all with their own odd quirks and behaviours!

Read more and leave comments on the Press Red blog

Andrew Bowden is senior producer, TV Platforms team, BBC FM&T.

BBC HD: Joining the BBC iPlayer family

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Danielle Nagler Danielle Nagler | 17:01 UK time, Monday, 20 April 2009

Hello everyone

Another week, and another step forward for BBC HD to share with you.

There have been hints, veiled references, and then announcements that it is imminent but finally BBC HD - both the channel and the content - are joining the BBC iPlayer family. From today you'll be able to catch up with all our new HD programmes for seven days after our first broadcast using the technology you know and hopefully love. You will need a reasonable broadband speed and decent processing power - but for those who want more detail about the mechanics, I do recommend Anthony Rose's blogpost. You won't find everything we broadcast on the channel in iPlayer, but we are aiming to provide for you the vast majority of the new programmes we are showing. We're limited at the moment by length - programmes over 60 minutes long are challenging - but I am hopeful that is something we can work through over time to ensure that longer dramas also make it into the iPlayer mix.

I hope this move makes it even easier for you to catch up with content from the BBC in HD - as ever, do let me know what you think and how you find our HD downloading experience.

Danielle Nagler is Head of BBC HD, BBC Vision.

BBC iPlayer goes HD, adds higher quality streams, releases iPlayer Desktop out of Labs

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Anthony Rose Anthony Rose | 16:10 UK time, Monday, 20 April 2009

N.B. Editors note: As Chris Cornwall noticed last week there was a premature announcement of BBC iPlayer going HD. But now it's ready, and Anthony has the full details.

Internet video used to be, and for the most part still is, a grainy, lower quality version of the video that you're used to seeing on your TV, and subject to stops and starts that you wouldn't expect or tolerate from broadcast television.

The good news is that today BBC iPlayer takes a major step to address that quality gap, with some programmes now available in HD, and all programmes now also available in a new SD-quality stream that's pretty close to TV quality. As of today, iPlayer's standard definition video quality should be as good as most Freeview channels, plus you'll now be able to stream or download BBC programmes in high definition without need for a set top box.

Along with the introduction of these new higher quality formats, we're also adding a new larger video playback window, adding adaptive bitrate technology to automatically deliver the best quality video that your internet bandwidth can support, and adding a diagnostics page that lets you easily test your internet connection speed.

Finally, we're taking our cross-platform iPlayer Desktop download application out of Labs and ending our use of peer-to-peer technology.

It's a major release, the most significant since the current iPlayer site went live in July last year. Much of the new technology in this release sits 'beneath the hood', so let's take a look at the new features in more detail:

iPlayer goes HD

Good news for those with fast computers and fast internet connections: BBC iPlayer now delivers some of your favourite BBC programmes in HD. The HD proposition in iPlayer follows the HD content availability on the BBC HD channel, so we're starting with about 40 hours of HD content per week, which will grow over time.

HD has been a long time coming to iPlayer, so you might be interested in the back story:

We first began investigating HD in iPlayer over a year ago. The BBC HD Channel quality controllers have high standards and insisted that for us to label content as "HD" it had to be true HD - i.e. 720p or above with no obvious encoding artefacts. No cheating (as some other video sites do) labelling anything upwards of 800x600 as HD - our HD needed to be at least 1280x720.

That meant using H.264 and an encoding bitrate of 3Mbps or greater (we actually settled on 3.2Mbps as our preferred HD bitrate). However, since many people won't have an internet connection that can stream 3.2Mbps reliably, we wanted to make HD available for download as well. Trouble is, a year ago our download manager was Windows-only, and we were determined to only release HD when we had a solution that allowed our Mac and Linux users to download them as well. Additionally, a year ago too few people had a version of Adobe Flash that could play H.264, which meant many users would need to install a software update in order to access our content - something we're keen to avoid.

The good news is that as of today the various pieces are in place for going live with HD: Our new cross-platform download manager allows Windows, Mac and Linux users to download HD, everyone has a version of Flash that can stream HD, and our HD channel now has more content available.

It should be noted that glitch-free HD playback requires a fairly recent computer with a decent graphics card - older computers won't be able to handle the CPU-intensive decompression & rendering and may drop frames, leading to jerky playback. To get the best HD experience always play back in full-screen mode, and if you don't have enough bandwidth to stream try downloading instead.

So, look for the new BBC HD Channel in iPlayer, then go full-screen to enjoy the HD quality. Or, why not take this opportunity to connect your computer to your (HD-capable) TV set and enjoy HD on a nice big screen.

Note that HD programmes are about 1.5 gigabytes per hour of video, so you might want to check your internet package, particularly if you're on a 3G connection, to see if you're on a bandwidth-capped plan and, if so, how many hours of HD content you can stream or download before you reach the monthly limit for that plan.

New resizable media player

Back in December we introduced in iPlayer Labs (the testing ground for new iPlayer ideas and features) the ability to change the size of the video playback window.

iPlayer Labs users told us via their feedback (which we hugely value and which influences our product design decisions) that they loved the idea, asking overwhelmingly for this feature to graduate from Labs. In Labs we tested three video player sizes - you told us that the smallest and largest sizes hit the spot.

So today the ability to resize the video player window graduates from Labs and is available to all iPlayer users.

New high quality 1500Kbps video format

Finally, BBC programmes should look as good on your computer as they do on your TV, even if you don't choose the HD option.

If you select the new large video window size, iPlayer will automatically switch to using our new 1500Kbps 832x468 video format. When you switch to full-screen mode, iPlayer will continue to use the 1500Kbps stream for a playback experience that's close to TV quality.

Programmes that you download using iPlayer Desktop will now also use this new 1500Kbps format, making downloads now close to TV quality as well.

Regular video streams get a boost too

In addition to introducing a new 1500Kbps SD quality format, we've also shifted our default video quality up a notch, so that our existing High Quality (800Kbps H.264) format now becomes the default used in the smaller video playback window size. For programmes without fast movement played back on a small computer screen the quality of that 800Kbps format is pretty good, which means that as of today our baseline video quality takes a big step up.

Adaptive bitrate, phase one

You might be thinking... the baseline stream has changed from 500Kbps to 800Kbps... what if I don't have enough bandwidth to stream 800Kbps (or for that matter our new 1500Kbps streams)?

The good news is that this iPlayer release also includes the first phase of our adaptive-bitrate technology, such that iPlayer will now automatically switch to a lower bitrate stream if it detects that you don't have enough bandwidth to play the preferred version. For example, if you're happily playing the 1500Kbps stream when your partner at home also decides to watch an iPlayer programme on their computer and you don't have enough bandwidth to support both streams, then iPlayer will automatically drop down to 800Kbps, and then down to 500Kbps, as needed.

In this first phase of our adaptive bitrate system, once iPlayer has dropped down to a lower bandwidth stream it will stay with that lower bandwidth version for the rest of the programme you're watching. Over the coming months we'll enhance that behaviour to allow iPlayer to automatically ramp up and down between available versions every few seconds to match your available bandwidth.

For users on bandwidth-capped internet connections or who otherwise might want to override the adaptive bitrate system and use only our lowest bandwidth (500Kbps) stream, we've provided an option to do so (right).

New internet speed diagnostics page

With the availability of our new 1500Kbps and HD streams we thought it a good time to add a diagnostics page to help you see what bandwidth you're getting from your ISP, and also help us better understand average bandwidths that our users are getting, including allowing us to analyse the bandwidth available from different ISPs by time of day, etc.

Our new diagnostics page - - looks at first glance similar to others you may have seen at and elsewhere, but it's significantly more sophisticated than other speed test sites we've seen.

Most speed test sites measure the speed taken to download a small file over HTTP. That's a good number to know if you're trying to measure your HTTP download speed, but what we and our users are more interested in is the ability to stream an iPlayer programme - and that means measuring RTMP streaming protocol speed, and from the specific locations where our servers are located. Accordingly, our diagnostics page performs a total of four tests: The first tests the download speed from our BBC web site servers, the next three tests measure the Flash RTMP streaming speed from each of three major content distribution networks (Akamai, Level3, Limelight), giving us excellent visibility into overall network throughput and allowing us to shape future design decisions accordingly.

iPlayer Desktop out of Labs

Three months ago we released iPlayer Desktop, our new Adobe AIR-based cross-platform download manager. Initially we made iPlayer Desktop available to Labs users only, allowing early adopters to try it out and give us feedback.

Many thanks to all those Labs users who sent us valuable feedback - we read them all - you'll find many of the bugs you mentioned have been fixed, and many of the ideas and suggestions have either been incorporated into the latest version or are on the to-do list for future release.

Today iPlayer Desktop graduates out of Labs, replacing our existing download manager as our new cross-platform download platform. Windows, Mac and Linux users can now download iPlayer programmes, including in HD, for offline playback.

As of today, we're no longer using P2P to distribute our content, or use your upload bandwidth- all content is now either streaming or direct HTTP download from our servers. If you're a user of our existing BBC iPlayer Download Manager, you can continue to use it to play back files that you've previously downloaded, but all new downloads will be via iPlayer Desktop, so feel free to go ahead and uninstall BBC iPlayer Download Manager (look for that entry in Add/Remove Programmes). Note that Sky Player and 4OD use the same Kontiki technology as our existing BBC iPlayer Download Manager, so if you've installed their download managers you may find that some shared Kontiki components remain after uninstalling ours.

Download to view on your TV

Although they've not yet caught on in a big way, Windows Media Extender devices provide a way to play back downloaded movies and songs on your TV set. Made by companies including Linksys, D-Link, NetGear and Zyxel, plug one end of these devices into your home network (or connect via wi-fi) and the other end into your TV set and/or audio system, and you can then browse and play files shared on your home network by any PCs running Windows Media Centre. Many of these devices have HDMI outputs,1080p upscaling and SP-DIF audio output to your 5.1 system, providing a high-quality way to play back downloaded programmes on your TV.

User feedback told us that a popular use case for downloading iPlayer programmes was to play them back in Windows Media Centre or via these Windows Media Extender devices. We have good news for these users: We're now making those same WMV files available for direct download, with no need to install any software - just look for the More Downloads option (right), then download the file, save it to your desktop or Windows Media Centre library, and play it out as you wish, including moving it around your home network, playing it back on other devices in the house, etc.

Now working on... iPlayer 3.0

Over the next couple of months we'll have a few more iPlayer releases with additional features, but the iPlayer team is now focussing on the next-generation of the iPlayer site - we call it the iPlayer 3.0 release - coming this summer - though it's early days it's looking really exciting - stay tuned for more info as development progresses.

Anthony Rose is Controller, Online Media Group and Vision, Future Media & Technology.

Interesting Stuff 2009-04-20

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Dave Lee | 12:55 UK time, Monday, 20 April 2009

The recently launced Wired UK magazine has heralded Anthony Rose as "the man who saved the BBC":

Picture: Wired UK

Rose, who had arrived three months earlier as the iPlayer's latest boss, thought that users would find the service too difficult to use. But first he had to make his case to the BBC's tired Future Media & Technology team. So, pulling a chair up to a computer, he asked his assistant to find her favourite BBC show, Friday Night with Jonathan Ross. "It was a disaster," Rose recalls. "It went wrong in ways we couldn't even imagine."


From a man who saved the BBC to a woman who has become a Champion. Seetha Kumar, the controller of BBC Online, is now our Online Access Champion:

Seetha will be tasked and resourced to make sure that the BBC plays its full part in helping more people take advantage of online services. The new role complements Seetha's current responsibility for running BBC Online.

The announcement of Seetha's new responsibilities was made at the Digital Britain summit. Read all the BBC related stories here.


Paul Brannan, editor of emerging platforms, has been talking about social networking and journalism.


The BBC Knowledge Exchange blog has a post introducing 'beebac', the network for media professionals and academics:

beebac is a space where academics and media professionals can find people and projects that interest them. It is a network for BBC staff, academics and industry partners. It enables you to find people and projects you want to be involved with, explore areas of mutual interest and exchange ideas and resources.


And in a pretty lenghty post, Yves Raimond from Audio and Music explains some of the latest additions to the Programmes pages.


'My real name is John Ravenscroft, although I have used the name 'John Peel' while working for Radio London," begins a letter to the BBC gramophone department in July 1967.

If that opening paragraph is enough to get your nostalgia senses tingling with glee, then I suggest you have a read of this brilliant article about the BBC archives by Jemima Kiss.


Finally, if you're wondering where iPlayer HD has got to, we experienced "deployment issues" last week. More soon. There's a message board discussion about HD going on here.

Dave Lee is co-editor, BBC Internet Blog, Future Media and Technology.

BBC Podcast Directory relaunch

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Sarah Prag Sarah Prag | 17:44 UK time, Wednesday, 15 April 2009

Today is a big day for the BBC audio podcast service, as we've relaunched the central Podcast Directory. The Directory makes it easier than ever to browse the BBC's full range of podcasts and there are a few new features to play with.

The main idea behind the site is to make it as easy as possible for listeners to find podcasts that'll be right for them - whether you're into a particular station or genre, want to search for a specific podcast, or just want content that's the perfect length for your journey into work, then the new site should work for you. I'll mention a couple of the highlights here, but I'd definitely encourage you to have a play with the site to see all the options and features that are now on offer.

If you're interested in finding out which podcasts are new, or in the limelight, then the new Recently Launched and Editor's Picks selections might be for you, and you can hover over the images to find out more about each series.


If you're pretty sure which podcast you want, but are not quite sure what it's called then you could try the clever new search box. As you type it auto-suggests podcast titles which feature those words, and will even suggest a whole category of podcasts that might be of interest.

If you fancy more of a browse then you can now drill down by radio station, genre, or a combination of both.

qf_music.JPGSo you could request to see all Sports podcasts from 5 live that are about Football, or see what Radio 1 offer in the News category. Any podcasts that meet your criteria will appear below the filters, and you can then arrange them based on which is the most recently updated, or longest/shortest. Once you've found a podcast that you're interested in you can hover over it to find out more, or click through to the full page for that series.

The podcast pages themselves now offer more info and functionality than before.

The biggest new development is that you can now play any available episodes in the page, in addition to being able to download them, or follow the steps to subscribe to the series.

This page also now recommends other podcast series you might like, as well as links to relevant pages elsewhere on

There are Help links throughout the site, and a fun new Short Introduction to Podcast video for people who want a simple overview.

player.JPGOn a more technical note (look away now if you're faint of heart), the directory is built on the new Forge platform. Forge supports dynamic, database-driven services rather than static page-based services and an infrastructure that includes new hardware, systems and updated technology. All this is good news for the developers; and those maintaining and updating the podcast directory. Hopefully, the end users get a better experience too!

This site has been built by a great project team in FM&T for Audio & Music, with significant input from Jim Downie in my team. They've really enjoyed building it, so I hope you'll now enjoy using it!

Let me know what you think, as we're hoping to continue to develop the site over the course of the year and would appreciate your feedback.

Sarah Prag is Executive Producer, BBC Audio & Music Interactive

Points of View Message Board 7: A New Host

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Nick Reynolds Nick Reynolds | 08:43 UK time, Wednesday, 15 April 2009

So Rowan has said goodbye and the Points of View message boards have a new host in the form of Sarah.

We also as previously discussed moved to reactive moderation for the POV boards last week.

A good time for me to make a couple of points.

The closure of the Radio board has caused some inconvenience to some people and I regret that.

points_of_view_logo.jpgBut I've explained the reasons for this decision many times including on Monday in the comments on Martin Kelner's article in the Guardian. It doesn't make sense to have a radio section on a board called Points of View. Points of View is a television programme about BBC television which does not routinely discuss BBC radio. The board will now be hosted by someone from television who will be working closely with the programme. To ask them to host a radio board is not a sensible use of their time.

This does not mean that the BBC doesn't want to know what licence fee payers think about radio. It simply means that there are better places to do it (as Jem says).

Regarding the technical improvements to the boards (as mentioned by Tom), we are still going to do these, but they are taking longer than I thought they would. We will update you about progress as it happens. Incidentally these changes will benefit all BBC boards not just Points of View.

With hindsight if I'd known it was all going to take this long I might have started this conversation a bit later, rather than way back in November of last year.

But I'm still glad I started it. It's been less than perfect but still worth doing.

I wish Sarah the best of luck, and I expect this to be the last post I write on this subject (although you never know...)

Update 1 p.m. 8th May 2009: Sarah has just posted this explanation on the POV boards of how off topic threads and threads about Radio will be dealt with.

Nick Reynolds is Editor, BBC Internet blog

Welcome to some new initials - DRM, HDCP, DTCP and AACS!

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Danielle Nagler Danielle Nagler | 17:24 UK time, Tuesday, 14 April 2009


This time, no DOGs, just the equally snappy subject of DRM, or for those unfamiliar with the topic, Digital Rights Management (and to clear up the others, they stand for High bandwidth Digital Content Protection, Digital Transmission Content Protection, and Advanced Access Content System). Wikipedia as ever offers a helpful set of guides to the topic - try any of these links: DRM, HDCP, DTCP and AACS.

For those who'd rather stay with BBC HD and the subject let me try to explain the issues and what's going on.

The combination of high quality HD content, and connectivity to high quality copying and distribution devices (through blu-ray recorders and IP connectivity) is - if you are a rights' holder - a potentially pretty lethal one.

At the moment, within the UK, it is impossible to record from HD to unprotected devices or recorders, or to connect to them. That means in practice that SD copies (VHS and DVD) are allowed, that you can copy and time-shift HD content using your PVR internal hard disk, but you cannot connect your HD infrastructure to a home network, or to the Internet.

Maybe that has already caused you some frustration - either actual or anticipated. So I want to reassure you that as the steady onward march of blu-ray technology towards the UK continues, the situation is generating a very real debate within the BBC about how we can best enable you to use the devices that you buy in the ways that you want to, while effectively protecting the content we make, and that in many cases others make for us.

While the discussion is ongoing, we have made one change which I hope those of you focused on the imminent arrival of blu-ray recorders will welcome. It will now be possible to make a single HD Blu-ray copy of one of our programmes, although not copies of copies. An HD connection to a protected home network will also be possible, although an HD connection to the Internet or portable devices will not work. The diagram below I think sums up the various paths you might want your HD content to take - and the extent to which that will be possible. I should add that the partial unlocking of some paths should also enable the high quality standard definition RGB outputs from some set top boxes.

This is clearly not a fully open and connected world - but we are absolutely committed to continuing to find ways to allow you to enjoy our programmes as you choose.

Danielle Nagler is Head of BBC HD, BBC Vision.

R&DTV - New project from RAD and BBC Backstage/ R&D

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George Wright George Wright | 11:39 UK time, Friday, 10 April 2009

Today we launch a new trial aimed at exploring new ways to create, edit and distribute online video. It's called R&DTV. We've done this in collaboration with colleagues in BBC Backstage, part of BBC R&D.

It's a pilot show, designed to be sharable, remixable and redistributable. It's released under a Creative Commons Attribution (Non-Commercial) licence, and looks at interesting tech stories inside and outside the BBC.

Read more and comment at the BBC RAD blog.

George Wright is Portfolio Manager, Rapid Application Development, Research & Innovation, BBC Future Media & Technology

Every day is Fools Day

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Martin Trickey | 12:49 UK time, Thursday, 9 April 2009

After the massive success of the iPlayer penguins last April 1st we decided we wanted to have another go but make it last all year round.

Objective Productions resident Head of Magic, Anthony Owen, the man with surely the greatest job title in the world, had pitched us a great idea from a couple of magicians by the name of Barry and Stuart. These guys have a great track record on line with many of their clips on You Tube having done great business .

But what did they have in mind?

Well rather than trying to play a trick on the nation why not give a trick to the nation? The ESP test was designed as a slow burning viral, we would launch it on April 1st when there is a real need from the audience for a something a little unusual, but let it breath so that it could remain online permanently. The ESP test is not just a clip that you pass on but a trick that you have to play on someone else so it will obviously take time to get around.

Now the ins and outs of how the trick works, and how you can play it are far better explained by Barry and Stuart than me and you can watch that clip on the BBC Three site or on You Tube, where it is currently the second most favourited entertainment video.

We used, BBC Three trails, and social media sites to promote the explanation video. We wanted to let as many people in on the trick as possible because there were always going to be more people who didn't know how to do it.

And looking at the comments it has worked. It has been the BBC Three audience who have taken the trick and played it on their brothers, sisters, parents and friends. We have used audience segmentation to our advantage and because you can only do the trick on the BBC Three website we have delivered a whole new audience to the site. In fact it is the most successful BBC Three clip to date.

Hopefully this will continue to get used for the next couple of years. If people start filming themselves doing the trick then it can have a whole other lease of life with video responses.

Anyway check out the explanation and then go and convince that person over there that they have psychic powers.

Martin Trickey is Multi-Platform Commissioning Executive, BBC Vision.

Interesting Stuff 2009-0408 - Erik Huggers Ariel Interview

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Dave Lee | 13:31 UK time, Wednesday, 8 April 2009

Editor's note: In this week's issue of Ariel, the BBC's staff newspaper, Alex Goodey interviewed Erik Huggers, Director, BBC Future Media & Technology. Thanks to Ariel and Alex for allowing us to republish this edited version:

Alex Goodey: What's your reaction to the awards the BBC iPlayer has garnered in the past few weeks - four in total. You must be delighted?

Erik Huggers: More than delighted. They just keep coming in. it's a great recognition of the hard work of the team in FM&T, and of the fantastic programmes that the BBC's content division creates.

At the end of the day the reason the project was so successful in my opinion was a combination of great technology with great programmes, marketed in a way that consumers understand. It's the BBC working together and making a sea change in the industry.

AG: What comes next for the consumers, after a very successful first year you must feel like there is little else left to conquer...

EH: This is the tip of the iceberg. We have about half a million unique users using iPlayer every single day, but there's quite a few more people on the internet who haven't yet used iPlayer, so what comes next is we want to make sure we reach as many people as possible, number one. That's a drive for broader adoption of the iPlayer.

Secondly, we're working on iPlayer version 3. We're looking at a whole new look and feel for the service, and we're also going to introduce some new nifty little features, some of which have been in the iPlayer lab for a while, some of which are new altogether.

AG: We've been hearing a lot about open source recently. Why is it so important, and why is the BBC promoting it?

EH: In a funny sort of way, you get audiences not just to be audiences, but more and more people have capability in writing and developing software, and if you can embrace the power of the many to develop an application, that's a very interesting way of working. We can throw thousands of people at developing an application, but if you can do it in a way where people can build on top of what you put out, it'll get better adoption, it'll get more stable products, it'll be more feature-rich.

We've got a long history of doing that, for example we recently visited Kingswood Warren with Mark Thompson for the BBC R&D folks, and they have build a product called Ingex (automated tapeless production software). That's completely open-source software. We contributed it to the industry, it's getting adoption and people are building new features. So we benefit, they benefit. A very positive thing.

AG: Would you say open-source is an in-house move as well as an external one?

Can software spend be justified when free software in the open-source arena can do the job just as well and sometimes better than paid-for software?

EH: I think without a shadow of a doubt there is still a very important role to be played by paid-for software and even for software we end up developing ourselves.

If you look at what we're trying to do across the entire value chain some of the stuff has never been done before so you can't even go and buy it, even if you wanted to buy it, even if you wanted to get it for free, it doesn't exist yet so some of the - call it the line of business functionalities that are particular to our industry - you just cannot find elsewhere.

Now, over time that will come but I think we have an important role as a catalyst in that space and so what we try to do is try to find the right balance from a value for money point of view with an audience benefit point of view with what do we need for functionality to empower the business to get its stuff done. So sometimes that means we buy existing pieces of software and we do a systems integration job on it, other times we say gosh it doesn't exist yet and we have to build it ourselves and I don't think it's a straightforward answer - it really depends on what situation you're in.

Dispelling iPlayer myths

AG: Is iPlayer likely to be put into the public domain, open source, so the audience can start developing its own add ons?

EH: There's a common misconception as to what iPlayer really is.

iPlayer is not a bit of software that you can stick on a disk and give to someone - 'Here's your iPlayer'. What you see as a consumer is the least complicated thing of the entire service. The most complicated thing of the entire service is the back end, call it the engine room, the plumbing, making all of the proprietary systems that we have in place talk to each other, work with each other and get those workflows to actually work.

We've had many broadcasters from around the world call us to ask 'can we licence the iPlayer?' and we say 'we're flattered that you're asking us but the truth is we couldn't do it even if we wanted to'.

I think what we can do, however, is in the digital Britain response we have posed the idea of sharing iPlayer, in other words, could we help ITV set up their own iPlayer? So literally -, so you go there you'd get the iPlayer but with ITV content.

So there is no such thing as putting it out there. What we could end up doing is a world where we make some of our own, we expose some of the APIs and allow others to build services on top of our services and those are things that we're absolutely thinking about."

Erik Huggers was interviewed by Alex Goodey

Radio 4: The new website, one week on

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Leigh Aspin Leigh Aspin | 16:11 UK time, Tuesday, 7 April 2009

Thank you for your comments. While we're pleased with much about the new site, we always expected to continue work after launch.

Firstly, I'm sorry that so many of you experienced technical problems over the weekend. There were publishing problems on Friday afternoon which affected the availability of radio programmes. We're aware of another problem on Sunday morning which affected our new programme pages for a short time. It isn't any consolation to know that these failures weren't confined to Radio 4. I share your frustration.

I'd also like to pick up a few of the main issues raised in your feedback.

Read more and leave comments on the Radio 4 blog.

Leigh Aspin is Interactive Editor at BBC Radio 4.

URIplay released as free/open source software

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George Wright George Wright | 15:51 UK time, Tuesday, 7 April 2009

Hi all

RAD's really pleased to announce that we've released some recent work as free/open source software. It's a project called URIplay. The code was produced in collaboration with the BBC by an indie startup called Meta Broadcast who pitched the idea to us some time ago. We've been working on this together over the last few months and are delighted that it can now be shared.

Read more and leave comments on the RAD blog.

George Wright is Portfolio Manager, Rapid Application Development, Research & Innovation.

The Doctor Comes To BBC HD

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Danielle Nagler Danielle Nagler | 11:13 UK time, Tuesday, 7 April 2009


I know that for some who read this programmes are a second order issue, compared to the DOG and our broadcast bitrate.

But I hope my instincts are right that for many of you the content that we are able to bring you in HD is what determines whether you want to watch the channel.

I can confirm that yes, the Dr Who Special broadcasting over Easter weekend will be the first appearance of the HD Doctor, and he will be a regular guest on BBC HD (alongside the existing Doctors). You can also catch the Dr Who Prom again on Saturday, and there's a chance to see Finding Nemo in HD quality.

This summer alongside the drama of Wimbledon, we'll also have tennis from Queens' Club (well, just before the lawn tennis event actually) and we'll have the next series of Dragons' Den in HD providing ample opportunity to see the sweat and tears of the entrepreneurs in detail never before possible. The coming weeks will also see a brand new series of children's show Kerwhizz, acclaimed daytime drama Missing, and more of the new series of Robin Hood, together with some fresh Saturday night entertainment shows.

I know there will always be a host of frustrations around what is not made in HD and therefore shown on the channel - frustrations which I regularly share - but we are working across the BBC to bring you the brightest and the best of the television we're responsible for, and to create a channel which combines familiar programmes with those which can most effectively showcase the qualities that only HD brings to the screen.

Do watch, and I hope enjoy.

Danielle Nagler is Head of BBC HD, BBC Vision.

Interesting Stuff 2009-04-06

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Dave Lee | 10:56 UK time, Monday, 6 April 2009

The recently re-launched Radio 4 website was one topic of discussion on this week's Feedback show. Drag forward to 11:55 minutes to hear the segment. The online discussion is to be found on the Radio 4 blog.

"If it ain't broke...." is the cry from many users -- as it was back in 1998 when we re-designed the homepage. For some nice nostalgia, take a look (thanks to the Internet Archive). Will Radio 4 listeners warm to the new design in the weeks to come? Time will tell.



Over on the Press Red blog, Shalim Khan introduces a project that has been born from the One-in-Ten scheme.


High fives all round at the BBC Internet Blog office this morning when we found out that we've risen to number 13 in the top twenty UK tech blogs according to search engine Wikio. Our good friends over on are placed neatly in at number 6.


You can now watch live BBC telly on your mobile (is it still television when it's not on a television?), From Which?:

The BBC TV channels now available for live mobile streaming are BBC One, Two, Three and Four, plus CBBC, CBeebies, BBC News and BBC Parliament. The radio stations are are Radio 1, 1 Extra, 2, 3, 4, 6, and 7 and the BBC Asian Network.

More info here.

Dave Lee is co-editor, BBC Internet Blog, Future Media and Technology.

Open Post 2009-04-03

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Nick Reynolds Nick Reynolds | 10:46 UK time, Friday, 3 April 2009

As the Online board of the Points of View Message boards is being closed today I thought I would try an experiment of an "open post".

So this post is for any of your comments or questions about anything concerning BBC Online, BBC iPlayer, BBC HD, the BBC's digital and mobile services, and the technology that powers them. You might also find the BBC iPlayer message board and the Press Red blog useful.

If it works we'll do it regularly.

Even though it's a pretty broad field, please try and stay on topic!

Nick Reynolds is editor, BBC Internet blog


Rowena Goldman | 09:28 UK time, Friday, 3 April 2009

As the eight co-funded projects under the AHRC/BBC Knowledge Exchange Programme have now started to deliver their outcomes across academia and the BBC we thought it would be a good idea to set up a blog to help communicate the findings as well as provide a platform for future discussion about knowledge exchange and collaborative research.

We'll upload the research papers here soon but in the meantime we thought that now would be a good opportunity to tell you how we got here.

It's been a thoroughly fascinating journey so far as we'll be highlighting at our showcase event on April 27th in London.

Read more and comment at the (new) Knowledge Exchange blog.

Rowena Goldman is Innovation Executive, BBC Research and Development, BBC Future Media & Technology

New mobile homepage launched

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Ulyssa MacMillan Ulyssa MacMillan | 15:40 UK time, Thursday, 2 April 2009

Today we relaunched the BBC Mobile homepage. Devices that store cookies will get a homepage with the customisation options that we have been beta trialling for the last month, and devices that don't store cookies will get a redesigned non-customisable version. Users who want the desktop rather than the mobile version can go into the preferences section of the site and choose to always get the desktop version. We'll be making another update soon so that cookies will store your chosen preference.

The full list of content and functionality is on the previous blog post about the beta version of the page. Additionally, devices connecting over Wifi will be offered podcasts and the latest BBC iPlayer content.

We've used your feedback about the beta to make improvements to the homepage, including tightening up the design and customisation features, losing some confirmation screens and streamlining the user journey.

Who can use it

The customised homepage will work on iPhone, iPod Touch and Google Android; handsets running the Opera browser; all Nokia N Series and high-end Nokias; Sony Ericsson and Samsung running the Net Front 3.3+ browser; Blackberry 4.2+.

To get it, type into your device browser, or text MOBILE to 81010 to receive a link to the site. Text messages to the BBC cost 10-15p, depending on your network

What's next

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'll make it possible to customise the mobile homepage from a desktop PC and, in the future, to share preferences between mobile and the fixed line (where appropriate to do so). We'll also introduce an element of implicit recommendation - telling users about more content they might be interested in that they may not be aware of. We'll 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, high-end or touch-screen device.

We're exploring ways to let users to add more content whilst being mindful of page weight. We'll tie this into device detection too, so that users can get the best experience possible for their handset's capabilities.

Many users want to be able to add favourite football teams or to follow the latest sports news and results direct from the homepage, We hope to add these options in the very near future.

At the moment, these changes only affect the homepage but, if someone spends 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. Over the next few months we'll be looking to offer a more customised experience across other areas of the site too.

We'll also be looking at other ways to help users find what they want from 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 see their homepage change later this year - making it more customisable using the functionality we've developed for the new 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 previous 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, mobile browser.

Interesting Stuff 2009-04-02

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Dave Lee | 12:36 UK time, Thursday, 2 April 2009

Reaction to our Formula 1 coverage has been great so far. James Howard takes a moment to reflect on the first weekend of action:

The first Grand Prix is over and the wires have been burning with emails flying back and forth late at night between developers, product managers and editorial on the weekends action. A few late nights for everyone but we feel it has been worth it to get the live experience as smooth as possible for users of the site.


The BBC Backstage Blog is now up and being tweaked, and they've recenly announced the release of Homura, an Open Source Java game engine and IDE:

Homura produces natively 3d games that can be exported to Java WebStart for deployment over the internet. The IDE is a plugin for Eclipse, which provides the Homura libraries and tools for game development. The game engine code is derived from JME.


We featured this tool a while ago, but it's had a few tweaks and is working pretty well now (although it's still very much in beta, so be nice). Steve Hermann writes in the News Editors blog:

The point is that it shows all the latest stories published anywhere on the BBC News site, both new stories and updates to existing ones. How useful is this in its current form? Would you use it? We'd be keen to hear what you think.

Check out the News Radar here.


Steve Bowbrick spent some time yesterday taking snaps as the Radio 4 web team relaunched their site. His slideshow of the day is below. Plenty of coffee consumed, and we think Steve Bowbrick bears an uncanny resemblance to that monkey...

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

BBC iPlayer now available on a toaster

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Anthony Rose Anthony Rose | 10:44 UK time, Wednesday, 1 April 2009

BBC iPlayer is now available on so many devices that we thought... what next?

We've ported iPlayer to iPhone, Wii, PS3, Nokia N96, Sony Walkman, Virgin Cable and all the other gadgets and devices at "where to get iplayer" - what's the next big thing?

Our marketing team identified breakfast television as an emerging market segment for on-demand viewing and asked the iPlayer team to see if we could come up with something new in this space.

After months of top-secret development and testing, and many burned developers, we're finally ready to bring iPlayer Toaster Edition out of labs.

The iPlayer Toaster Edition looks at first glance like a regular toaster, but with the front panel sporting a 7" 1280x800 OLED display.


The touch-sensitive display is protected from the heat by special thermal insulation located behind the front panel. Device power consumption is a very eco-friendly 2 watts... until you hit the Toast button, when it rises swiftly to 2000.

The iPlayer Toaster Edition features built-in wi-fi, allowing you to stream your favourite BBC iPlayer TV and radio programmes direct to the toaster front panel. Audio is provided by two heat-proof speakers cunningly concealed within the toaster slots, which has the added advantage of shaking the crumbs off the toast - this feature can also be triggered either by the Shake link in the UI.

In keeping with the small form factor and 7" display, the UI makes use of our so-called "bigscreen" display, which is ironically optimised for small screens:


(The BigScreen version of the iPlayer UI is also available for PC - see it here

The built-in USB port is compatible with most portable media players, allowing you to transfer downloaded BBC programmes to your media player while your bread is toasting. As soon as your toast is ready, butter it, unplug your media player, and you're good to go with food and media on the move.

Our marketing team keep telling us about the importance of branding, so the iPlayer Toaster Edition can optionally burn the iPlayer play button logo into the toast using our new HD (High Darkness) rendering mode:


Another cool feature is the Digital Retraction Mechanism (DRM) which automatically withdraws and shreds any uneaten toast after 7 days. Initially the retraction mechanism was only compatible with some types of bread, but after criticism from organic bread consumers we managed to develop a full cross-comestible DRM.

Developing the iPlayer Toaster Edition has been hot and demanding work and our test team is glad it's done - frankly they've had it eating burnt toast, even though they did manage to catch up on the entire MasterChef series.

Anthony Rose is Controller, Online Media Group and Vision, Future Media & Technology

N.B. Editor's note - readers may be interested in other significant developments in media and technology today.

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