Archives for February 2010

Social Media and Accountability

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Matthew Shorter Matthew Shorter | 11:15 UK time, Friday, 26 February 2010

The BBC Online service licence states that

"BBC Online should enable the BBC to develop a deeper relationship with licence fee payers and strengthen the BBC's public accountability."
It's stating the obvious to note that the BBC has made a big move into social media and blogging over the last few years. And (again at the risk of stating the obvious), it's also a place where relationships are built and developed - the operative word here is social.

The more fanatical readers of this blog may remember me from a previous life as the BBC's Interactive Editor for Music. But I now work for an independent consultancy who have been commissioned by BBC Online to help explore some key questions around accountability and how that relates to the BBC's social media activity.

As part of this work, I'm spending a bit of time studying ways in which BBC is fulfilling that stated mission - developing a deeper relationship with licence fee payers and strengthening its public accountability - through its social media activity, and in particular through its blogs.

accountability.jpgIt's clear from previous discussions on this blog and elsewhere that some of you have strong feelings about this already. It's also clear that it's hard to please all the people all the time. And many of you have thought carefully and coherently and have already arrived at some firm conclusions.

But beyond the heat of the arguments, I'm also very interested in trying to nail the definitions of some of the words and concepts in play.

So here are some questions for you:

What is accountability? (here's one definition from Wikipedia)

What should accountability look like online and in the context of blogs in particular?

Can you think of examples of the BBC getting this right? Getting it wrong? For example is the way the Internet blog has discussed DRM a good or a bad example of accountability? How does what the BBC is doing compare with other organisations?

What would make for a "deeper relationship" with the BBC (assuming you want one)? If you're reading a blog, is the key relationship more with the author of the blog post? Has the BBC's social media offer made you feel you have a "deeper relationship" with the BBC or BBC people?

Please let me know your views on this - especially if you haven't had the chance to do so in previous discussions. I will read every comment, and your views will form an important input into this piece of work, some of which will (hopefully) be shared on the BBC Internet blog.

Matthew Shorter is a director of Doubleshot Consulting.

Picture: "Accountability" from Felix42 contra la censura on Flickr.

Round up: Wednesday 24 February 2010

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Paul Murphy Paul Murphy | 17:00 UK time, Wednesday, 24 February 2010

moore_300.jpgLast week's announcement in Barcelona that the Beeb are going to be producing mobile apps was greeted in equal measure as both a good thing (by smart phone owners) and a bad thing (by newspaper barons). In case you missed it there's a demo of what a BBC news iPhone app might look like on the Internet blog.


Art lovers can find a wealth of cultural goodies about the great British sculptor Henry Moore on BBC Archive including 5live's Richard Bacon, then of Blue Peter, helping to move a Moore sculpture.


Over at BBC News Have your Say has migrated over to BBC iD, the sign in system used across blogs on the BBC. Alex Gubbay, BBC News's social media editor, writes that:

"the switchover will address the most frequent complaint we get about Have Your Say: that comments take too long to appear."

The Register reports on unhappy developers who have been made unhappy by recent changes to iPlayer:

The BBC has quietly updated its hugely popular iPlayer with a verification layer that closes the door on open source implementations of RTMP (real-time messaging protocol) streaming...

So what does this mean?
The tweak means that free RTMP plugins offered by the likes of the XBMC community - whose code is based on the GNU General Public Licence v2 - can no longer stream iPlayer content. The latest iteration of XBMC's plugin was created in May last year and was being used by UK viewers to play TV and radio catch-up content from the BBC's iPlayer service.

The report concludes:
Now, it seems, the BBC has once again picked a fight with openistas by closing the door on freely developed RTMP plugins for the iPlayer, and in so doing has forced users to download Flash if they wish to view and listen to the Beeb's telly and radio shows.

Read the full story at The Register and have a look at the xbmc iPlayer thread on the iPlayer messageboard.

The BBC R&D website has been revamped which should make finding things like White Paper 173 The Challenges of Three-Dimensional Television much easier. You can find out more about this on the R&D blog.


At the Online Journalism blog, Paul Bradshaw writes about a recent visit by MA Online Journalism students to BBC News's User Generated Content Hub:

As we were discussing the changing nature of the hub - it is increasingly looking to engage with users beyond the core BBC audience - it became apparent that there is a paradox at the heart of what the BBC does here - and by extension, any UGC effort. And it's a paradox around objectivity and neutrality.
There's video and audio of the visit linked to from Paul's post.

Paul Murphy is the Editor of the Internet blog. The picture is of a Henry Moore sculpture.

New R&D Website

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Nick Reynolds Nick Reynolds | 15:07 UK time, Wednesday, 24 February 2010

Over at the BBC Research and Development blog Ant Miller has some welcome news:

A couple of weeks ago we very quietly and carefully ushered into the world our new, redesigned, and extended, R&D website. It was a soft launch, carefully introducing a site with most of the content fully checked and complete, but with one or two little teething issues still very much in play... One other big advantage for the new website is the video architecture we sit on has global distribution built in from the get go. Over the next few weeks we'll be porting films from the blog to the website so all our readers across the world will be able to enjoy the films we're making.

Read more and comment at BBC Research and Development blog.

The arrival of Freeview HD

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Danielle Nagler Danielle Nagler | 16:00 UK time, Monday, 22 February 2010

jools_300.jpgThe line up for Jools Holland's Hootenanny this year was particularly well chosen. For those who missed it, do look up Paloma Faith's version of the classic TV is the Thing this Year. There's considerable evidence building that TV - by which I mean old-fashioned big screen part-of-a-schedule TV - is not limping towards the grave, chased by on-demand. I continue to believe that dialling up programmes when you want them - facilitated by great catch up services like BBC iPlayer - and catching programmes when they first become available, or just sitting down in front of the TV in the evening to see what happens to be on, are destined to co-exist peacefully.

The TV set itself is far from redundant, even though I think most of us appreciate the fact that flat-screen technologies mean that it can take up less of our living space. And HD itself - although of course available on-demand, and packaged cleanly into Blu-Ray - is still mostly it seems bought, and used, to watch programmes live, or to capture them off-air to watch on the big screen with the leisure afforded by a good hard disc storage system.

The availability of HD on Freeview has been one of the most frequent questions to the BBC over the time that I've been in this job. Sky's Supertelly has clearly attracted many, while the majority of those buying into Freesat, and a significant proportion of V+ customers have also chosen HD.

But across the UK more people have chosen to move from the analogue world into digital with Freeview than to any other platform, and that is just for their main TV sets. BBC HD had its technical launch on Freeview in December last year, when HD transmissions began in the Granada and London regions. But technical availability - while interesting and of course testament to all those who have created the DVB-T2 standard - is just the first step.

So it is incredibly exciting to see the first Freeview HD boxes are coming off the production lines, destined for a shop somewhere near you (probably), any day. You can see what is coming first on any number of reviews - you might want to try these for starters: Humax Freeview HD Set Top Box Goes On Sale (From ITProPortal) or Humax HD-FOX T2 review (From TechRadar). And there will be many, many other flavours of Freeview HD (including I'm told TVs with Freeview HD built in, and hard disc recorders) arriving over the coming months.

The ability to receive HD on Freeview is also expanding - over 50% of people in the UK should be in range by the summer, with the rest of the country following at other points to the end of the analogue/digital switchover process in 2012.

A Freeview HD coverage checker is on hand so that every address in the UK can establish when Freeview HD will reach its arial. There's even a handy free Freeview HD TV Guide iPhone app now available to provide you with our full channel listings, as well as those of the other Freeview HD channels.

The BBC chooses to spend a small part of the licence fee income that we have on making programmes in HD, and broadcasting them in HD, because we firmly believe that HD is simply part of the next stage of television's life. Given that we spend your money on it, we want to make sure that you can access HD - if you wish to do so - on whatever platform suits you. It's good to see Freeview there now (or nearly) alongside Sky, Freesat and Virgin, and to know that the choice of how to get BBC HD just got bigger.


Danielle Nagler is the Head of BBC HD.

BBC iPlayer press pack January 2010

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Paul Murphy Paul Murphy | 10:54 UK time, Monday, 22 February 2010

The January 2010 BBC iPlayer press pack is now available to download as a PDF: BBC iPlayer Press Pack - Jan 2010. (Ed's update, 23-02-10: The pack we uploaded originally had omitted an episode of Being Human - as pointed out by the very observant kennyliza in this comment. The pack's been updated and is in the same location. PM)

Here are some of the highlights picked out by the Comms team:

  • Snow helped to deliver the highest week of total requests in the week of 4-10th Jan with a figure of 23.8 million requests
  • BBC iPlayer on Nintendo Wii continues to perform well, increasing to become 4% of total requests for BBC iPlayer
  • Nintendo's January 10 marketing campaign has lead to an increase of 26% in the number of weekly requests from Dec 09
  • The beta product of BBC iPlayer on Freesat is being made available to a wider audience with the removal of the 4 digit code needed to access the product (Ed's update: For technical reasons the PIN hasn't been removed as yet.)

Paul Murphy is the Editor of the BBC Internet blog.

BBC Mobile Apps: a demo

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David Madden | 12:20 UK time, Wednesday, 17 February 2010

Today at Mobile World Congress, Erik Huggers, Director of BBC Future Media & Technology, announced a series of BBC mobile apps.

Our aim is to develop core public service apps that bring some of the BBC's most popular and distinctive content to mobile in a genuinely user-friendly and accessible way.

Mobile apps offer us a great opportunity to extend the reach of BBC Online to people on the move. As more and more of us come to rely on the mobile internet for up to the minute information, the BBC needs to offer its existing web services in a more mobile friendly format to ensure we keep delivering value to the licence fee payer.

In designing these apps we haven't created any new content or developed any new services. It's just the same BBC Online content repurposed to provide a better experience on a mobile phone.

According to M:Metrics, the BBC mobile site is currently the second most popular UK destination on the mobile internet, attracting more than six million visitors a month. As mobile phones become more powerful and connectivity more accessible, mobile has become an increasingly important outlet for the BBC.

So, a little bit more about the apps themselves.

BBC News

The BBC News app is all about the latest BBC news and analysis at your fingertips. The app will have the same distinctive content as the BBC News website with full stories, features and analysis, in pictures, audio and video, plus correspondent blogs and live streaming of the BBC News Channel. We've also developed a neat way for you to personalise the news.

We've put together a demo of the News app to show you what it looks like and how it works. Please bear in mind that this is an early version and the final app will be tweaked and improved as we refine the design.

Click with your mouse, or use the right cursor arrow on your keyboard to move through the screens.

The main screen uses a carousel structure so you can quickly catch up on the news by sliding each row sideways to skim through the latest stories. You can also personalise the experience by reordering the rows to put your favourite news section at the top. So, if you like technology news, like I do, then you can easily move that section to the top.

You can read full stories by clicking on any thumbnail. Stories include embedded video along with options to share stories with your friends and send your pictures and video straight to the newsroom from your phone.

We have also developed a neat landscape view which lets you scan through the headlines when you turn your phone sideways. The idea is to provide a handy way to flick through the latest news without having to jump in and out of each story.

The BBC News app will be released in April and more features will be added throughout the year. You can find out how this will fit into the BBC News offering by reading Pete Clifton over in BBC News blog.

BBC Sport

The BBC Sport app is all about the live match experience. One of the most popular sections of the BBC mobile site is football scores which generates millions of page impressions on a match Saturday. We want to build on this success by developing an app that puts the BBC's live football coverage in the palm of your hand.

The app will be released in time for the World Cup with Live, competitions, News, and Audio and Video sections. We will add further sports to the app, such as Formula 1, later in the year. Brett Spencer 5 live's interactive editor talks a bit more about the app and 5 live content on mobile on the 5live blog.

BBC iPlayer

BBC iPlayer has been available on mobile for nearly 2 years and has proved very popular. We're looking at the possibilities around BBC iPlayer apps that would offer an enhanced experience with richer interactions and some new features.

Variants of each app would be developed to ensure they are properly optimised for different mobile platforms.

In other news:

  • Mobile IQ are designing and developing the first variant of the BBC News and BBC Sports apps in the Apple SDK.
  • For the BBC iPlayer apps we're looking at using Adobe Flash Player 10.1 streaming, and are trialling on the Google Nexus One and Motorola Milestone. Flash 10.1 streaming offers a high quality viewing experience and means we can start using the BBC's flash based embedded media player (EMP) on mobile phones.

It's an exciting time for the BBC's mobile team, and I'll blog more about this in the coming months.

David Madden is Executive Product Manager in the BBC Future Media and Technology Mobile team with responsibility for BBC iPlayer on mobile and mobile apps.

BBC Online - our mobile future

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Erik Huggers Erik Huggers | 11:45 UK time, Wednesday, 17 February 2010

As Director of Future Media and Technology, I'm responsible for future-proofing the BBC in many respects - delivering technologies to serve the public in a fragmented digital age and keeping our output online and on air.

Today I gave a keynote address at Mobile World Congress in Barcelona. This event brings together the mobile industry, and I shared our plans to make BBC Online even more accessible on mobiles, and what the industry can do collectively to further open up the huge potential of mobile for the benefit of the audience. I've given an outline of my presentation below, and would be keen to hear any feedback.


The BBC's R&D division has been at the heart of the global broadcast engineering industry for more than sixty years. From the Home Service, one service on one platform, to the multiple services on multiple platforms we run today, we've both innovated in technology to enable us to deliver public services free at the point of use, and innovated in content creation accordingly.

Evolution takes time. Early TV programmes were essentially visual recordings of radio programmes, but programme makers grew to understand the medium and TV took its rightful place alongside radio as a second platform.

We are at a similar turning point in the internet age. We still, in the most part, define our digital agenda through the lens of broadcast output, and rightly so. But times are changing, and the internet is taking its place alongside TV and radio as a third platform in its own right.


BBC Online has evolved throughout its 12 year history. The service licence allows us offer mobile access to BBC Online, bringing increased public value to audiences. Ten years ago, we launched BBC Online's first WAP site. Later, we added graphics and after that audio/ video. This has helped BBC Online to establish itself as the second most-visited mobile website in the UK.


Usage grew fast in mid-2008, as this graph shows - driven by the uptake in smartphones, and developments to user-experience. We expect growth to continue.

Major events create usage spikes. The UK's heavy snowfall in early 2009 and the shock death of Michael Jackson promoted spikes in traffic across all our digital platforms - but particularly mobile. With 2.5 million users on the day of Michael Jackson's death, this was more than twice the previous record level of traffic. Traffic peaks too on Saturday afternoons, as people looking up sports results - particularly football.

Of course, it's the immediacy and accessibility of mobile that delivers real value to our audience.


The geographical distribution is interesting too. Usage, by location for BBC Online on the web (on the left), and BBC Online on the mobile (on the right) differs most strongly because of the popularity of our services in Africa, with Nigeria accounting for 5% of all usage. African countries often have higher internet access via mobile than on fixed lines.

With more languages than any other service, BBC World Service has made good use of mobile.

This slide shows a BBC World Service project in Northern Nigeria. Six villages were given mobile phones, to access our Hausa service. The man in the middle is the village's "mobile keeper" - giving them a window on the world and the ability to report on community life.


I find this mix of social, interactive and location-based services incredibly compelling - and a strong sign of how content you'd receive on your computer - or the TV for that matter - can be reversioned for mobiles and add real value to people's lives in the process.

So back to the UK, who accesses our services over mobiles? Long term, mobile could become the primary point of internet access for the majority. The potential is stronger for the younger digital natives of today who become the licence payers of tomorrow.

But today's mobile audience primarily falls into four groups. "Mobile first" - people who use mobile as their primary access point to the internet. "Mobile lifestyle" - those who love the convenience of mobile services when they're on the move. "Addicted devotees" - the gadget lovers on their phones all the time, even in the internet connected home, and "social animals" - people particularly driven by social networking.

It's with these people in mind we focus on today's mobile propositions.


This year, we intend to move mobile forward by repurposing our core, distinctive BBC Online services for a range of mobiles and smartphones over coming months.

BBC News and BBC Sport applications are already planned, starting with BBC News on the iPhone in April.


The BBC Sport application will follow shortly after, in time for the 2010 World Cup, again across a wide range of platforms and devices. (Ed's note: Read about the Sport app on the 5live blog (PM))

I gave a short demonstration of how we expect the News and Sport applications to work - each is designed specifically to focus on what the audience most wants from the mobile device, taking the BBC's audio-visual content to audiences on the move.

My colleagues Pete Clifton in BBC News and David Madden from the BBC Mobile team go into more details on the product features on the News Editors blog and BBC Internet blog. There's also a flash demo of the BBC News application within David's blog.

These applications of course will complement our existing presence on web-based platforms. The news and sport applications will initially be made on iPhone and will follow on Blackberry and Android platforms and a range of other devices later in the year: of course the BBC will work with all companies in this market.


A BBC iPlayer application is already available in the Nokia Ovi store, and we are looking at the possibilities around further BBC iPlayer applications, for release later in the year.

But of course, mobile is one part of a bigger picture. With a service like BBC Online, we can deliver rich, interactive content to the web, to mobile and to TVs - with a user-experience tailored to the platform that carries it to the device.

For mobile, read location-based, simple and personalised user experiences. The web, a rich experience that navigates through the breadth of content. And TV, augmenting a passive experience with the power of on-demand services.


By adding social functionality and the seamless integration of your BBC experience across all your devices, we start to imagine what BBC Online can be. But that's the future.

So how do we get there? We have a real opportunity to improve what we offer younger audiences in particular, those traditionally underserved by the BBC but often use mobile devices to access the internet. Today's audiences expect us to go to them, not come to us.

For us, the 2012 Olympics in London will be the most connected, most digital event we've ever been involved in - and the potential is huge. But the industry needs to change if we are to deliver on this potential.


First, we exist in a fragmented market, that's not easy for content providers and developers to operate in and we must embrace common standardisation of platforms, handset features, and performance.

Second, increased usage and higher quality content puts increased pressure on the networks we rely on for delivery to audiences.. Compression solutions won't be enough and investment in mobile networks will continue to be necessary.

I was very pleased to hear news at the start of the week that two of these issues are beginning to be addressed. The announcement that 24 of the world's largest mobile operators have joined forces to launch an open international applications platform is a great move toward standardisation. In addition AT&T CTO John Donovan's interview with Mobile World Congress Daily suggests that they are taking steps to upgrade their networks to reduce congestion and ease data traffic which is also an excellent step forward.

And finally, network operators and content providers need to overcome location problems. If a network reports a UK customer as being in Canada or Germany, because that's where the traffic is routed, we can't the deliver that content to the consumer - no good for either of us.

I don't pretend these problems are easy to fix, or look to any one sector of this industry to solve them. But I do believe the opportunity is there, and by working in partnership we can go a long way toward unlocking mobile's vast potential - and I hope that this is the first step on this journey.

Erik Huggers is Director, BBC Future Media & Technology.

A new global visual language for the BBC's digital services

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Bronwyn van der Merwe | 18:10 UK time, Tuesday, 16 February 2010

The BBC website began its official life back in December 1997 with this very simple design.


It was a basic offering with two sections to the site. Over time it has grown to encompass a great deal more. However due to the organic way in which the website evolved and the old structure of the business, with dozens of small design teams working independently of each other, the site had a fairly schizophrenic nature once you delved into its depths.

About 2 years ago, after printing out the site onto what has now become jokingly known as the 'Wall of Shame' we decided to embark on an ambitious project, called Global Visual Language 2.0, with the aim of unifying the visual and interaction design of and the mobile website.


We created a new wider, centred page template to take advantage of wider screen resolutions and for the first time created an underlying grid.


We rationalised the hundreds of different banner styles into a new global and local branding and navigation system.


We discontinued the scores of different audio and video players and created a universal embedded media player.


And we redesigned the homepage creating a visual style that began to ripple through the site and onto the mobile platform.



We've lived with and loved the distinctly 'web 2.0' design for a while now and it's done us proud. However, time's moved on, and in autumn last year we decided it was time to resurrect the project.

We set out to broaden our ambitions; to create a design philosophy and world-class design standards that all designers across the business could adhere to. We wanted to find the soul of the BBC. We wanted something distinctive and recognisable; we wanted drama. We knew whatever we created needed to be truly cross-platform and that we needed to simplify our user journeys.

We didn't do it on our own. We pulled together representatives from across the business, led by the project's Creative Director, Ben Gammon, to form a Global Design Working Group, and we created a GVL Steering Group to help manage and direct the course of the project. We also went out into the industry to find a partner to co-create the styleguide: Neville Brody and his agency, Research Studios.


After going through a tender process in which we invited six agencies to pitch for the work, we chose Research Studios because we felt they had demonstrated a good insight into the BBC, its public purposes and they way in which it functions. We were also impressed with the work created for the pitch and Neville's back catalogue of work.

Together, over the last four months, we've spent countless hours and created countless iterations of designs, components, mastheads, footers, polar maps, word documents, pdfs and grids... and whilst it's still a work in progress, I'd like to share with you where we're at with both the design philosophy and the latest version of our global visual language styleguide.

We wanted to create a design philosophy, or a set of values, to unite the user experience practitioners across the business. We settled on nine keywords which we think sum up what we're about and what we're trying to achieve:

Modern British
We want to create a modern British design aesthetic, something vibrant and quirky that translates outside our national boundaries.

It needs to feel current and reflect what's happening in the UK right now, in real-time. We curate a timeline of Britain and create links to the past - to our rich archive.

Wherever we are heard we need to sound authentic and relevant, warm and human. We want to reference the BBC's iconic design and broadcasting heritage. We value the trust placed in us.

We engage our audiences with compelling storytelling. Our voice ranges from serious and authoritative through to witty and entertaining.

We stand out from the crowd. We strike a balance between overly templated, cookie-cutter design and beautiful anarchy. We are bold and dramatic.

We pioneer design innovations that surprise and delight. But we take our audiences with us.

We view all services and platforms as one connected whole but deliver experiences that are sensitive to their context of use.

Our services are open and accessible. Our interfaces are simple, useful and intuitive.

Our ambition is to be the best digital media brand in the world.

Armed with our new philosophy we began creating conceptual designs for various properties: BBC news, homepage, search, iPlayer, programme pages and the embedded media player.


Through doing this work we began to distill the essence of a new visual style. I'm going to take you through some of the key elements, starting with the page grid.

We took inspiration from many sources. What we were trying to achieve is an underlying grid system that was flexible enough to enable many unique design variations whilst still feeling coherent and considered.


The new grid is based on 31 sixteen pixel columns with two left hand columns that can be split into four, and one wider right hand column, which accommodates the ad formats that appear on the international facing version of the site.


We're looking to create the effect of interwoven vertical and horizontal bands, making a feature of the right hand column across the site.


Along with the 16 pixel vertical grid we've also for the first time got an integrated 8 pixel baseline grid so that we can align elements on a page both vertically and horizontally.


A key feature of the new GVL is a much more dramatic use of typography. As well as Gill Sans we've introduced big bold type in Helvetica or Arial and restricted variations in size so that we have much greater consistency across the site.


Here's an example of it all pulled together on a new story page, and examples of typography styling in promo drawers. We focused on signposting and articulation; you can see the time stamping treatment and signposting for live content.



This is an example of a call to action for a piece of video and a pull quote. You can see again the dramatic use of typography and big bold iconography.


Here's another couple of examples of typographic styling; type over images and the use of scale to create hierarchy and drama in link styling.



We've developed a highlight colour palette for non-branded areas of the site, or areas where the BBC masterbrand talks directly to the audience (eg the BBC homepage, search, some of our genre areas). Each colour has a tonal range to be used in contrast or in unison with each other.


We've also got a neutral palette and a much more restrained usage of gradients where the colours are situated next to each other in each tonal range on the colour wheel.



Our recommendation is that pages have a predominantly neutral colour palette with colour being provided by large and dramatic imagery. The highlight colour is used sparingly to create vibrancy and draw the eye to key areas of the page.


We're moving away from left hand navigation to consistently placed, horizontal navigation across the site. Here's an example from Sport:


We're designing a new look and feel for the embedded media player - it's still a work in progress but you can see the bold calls to action and typography.


We've got four types of carousel - one that fits right hand column, one for the double left hand columns, a full-width version and one that breaks out of the page grid and extends to the browser edges to create a cinematic, full screen experience.


And finally, we've created a new set of icons.


This style guide is a set of page elements that can be pulled together in any number of ways. We wanted to create something that is flexible enough to allow all our brands their full expression whilst uniting them into a coherent user experience. We also wanted to strip out any superfluous decoration and allow the content and imagery to shine through. To me, this new visual language is exciting and refreshing. It feels timeless, yet very of the moment. I hope you agree.

Next steps; we need to finalise the masthead and footer. We're looking at mobile and IPTV as well how we treat social elements on the page (social bookmarking, share functionality, comments, ratings, reviews etc). We'll also be working through the components in the glow widget library and pulling it all together into an audience-facing design and code patterns library along with a new set of standards and guidelines.

I hope you like what you see. We're always interested in your feedback on both the philosophy and the styleguide.

Bronwyn van der Merwe is Head of Design and User Experience, Central Team, BBC FM&T.

More on the BBC Online Suppliers Design Expo

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Seetha Kumar Seetha Kumar | 12:00 UK time, Tuesday, 16 February 2010

suppliers_600.jpgWhat a great start to the week. I started my morning yesterday at the BBC Online Suppliers Design Expo, looking at work showcased by Aardman Digital, Ico Design and Magic Lantern amongst many others. A visual treat and a pilot initiative - the first BBC online supplier exhibition focused on design.

About 30 suppliers were present, hand-picked from over 100 applicants - no easy feat as the judges had been overwhelmed by the standard on offer. There was real enthusiasm and ambition and I am hopeful the showcase will lead to a host of creative opportunities to work together.

User experience and design is core to what we do - it's our touch point with our audiences. What better way to raise the imaginative and quality bar than by exploring inspired partnerships with the industry.

A case in point is the creative partnership we've had over the last few months with influential designer Neville Brody. You may recall the BBC Trust tasked us about 2 years ago, to make the BBC website greater than the sum of its parts, so the user had a more coherent experience via better navigation across the site. Neville and his agency, Research Studios, have been working with us on this journey.

In the following post, to be published later today (Ed's update: it's now available here), our Head of UX&D, Bronwyn Van Der Merwe, introduces the new global visual language for the BBC's digital services.

Seetha Kumar is Controller, BBC Online.

Picture of the Day: BBC Online Supplier Showcase - Focus on Design

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Paul Murphy Paul Murphy | 17:20 UK time, Monday, 15 February 2010

I spent the morning meeting some of the independent design agencies that work with BBC online as part of a supplier showcase and I saw some great work, both projects that had been done for the BBC and for other clients. There were also presentations from blog regular Jonathan Hassell, Jason Fields (Head of UXD, FM&T Vision) as well as the one (almost pictured above) from Adam Powers (Head of UXD, FM&T Audio and Music and Mobile). I was looking forward to Adam's presentation as I'd heard a bit about it and was waiting with camera and notebook ready. Then came the fateful words across the PA: "This isn't public yet so no pictures and no blogging - at least not for a few days." Talk about knowing how to build tension. But I promise that we'll be blogging about the things Adam covered in the next day or so.

Ed's update - Wednesday 17-02-10: Last night we published the post A new global visual language for the BBC's digital services which was the subject of Adam's presentation that I wasn't able to tell you about. It was worth the wait. (PM)

Paul Murphy is the Editor of the Internet blog.

Changes to Have Your Say

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Nick Reynolds Nick Reynolds | 13:02 UK time, Monday, 15 February 2010

Over at The Editors blog on BBC News Alex Gubbay has some news about Have Your Say debates:

The technology we currently use to host debates will be replaced by the system we use for our blogs - including this one. That system includes BBC iD, our sign-in process for comments and other user-generated content... Some elements of the current service - including recommendation - will not be carried over to the new system, but we hope the switch-over will address the most-frequent complaint about Have Your Say: that comments take too long to appear.

Read more and comment at The Editors at BBC News

Round up, Friday 12 February 2010: Space, the final frontier

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Paul Murphy Paul Murphy | 17:24 UK time, Friday, 12 February 2010

tompk_300.jpgStephen Tompkinson plays Erik, a Dotcom entrepreneur in the Radio 4 play Say What You Want to Hear. Erik and his partner Mike's big idea is that you get to hear something that you've always wanted to hear being said to you ('Harrison Ford says "I love you"'). You input a text file, it comes back as a sound file. Anyway, you've got six days left to hear it on the iPlayer and you can join in via the Say What You Want to Hear website.


BBC R&D's move out of Kingswood Warren to Centre House, just over the road from Internet blog Towers, continues and has been covered in a few BBC reports. Ant Miller writes on the R&D blog:

First up is Material World, hosted by our good friend and presenter of several of our own videos, Quentin Cooper.  Their show today includes a report recorded at Kingswood Warren and will be available from 4:30 this afternoon on the radio (naturally enough) and on iPlayer.

Also onsite that day was Zoe Kleinman of BBC News Online with a camera team.  The BBC News Online video is available online now.  Zoe has done a great write up of her interviews with Andy Bower, head of Operations, and Graham Thomas, who leads the Production research section.


In advance of part three of Virtual Revolution on BBC Two Saturday night you can still catch up on episode two on iPlayer until tomorrow night. On the Virtual Revolution blog there are links to the extended interviews which were edited for the broadcast programme.


On a personal level this week's Internet blog favourites are the new Solar System website which boldly states:

"Explore the Solar System with clips from BBC programmes"
and the BBC Archive collection Space: Flying Visits which has chosen
"A roller-coaster ride through the galaxy"
as its tagline. Enjoy.

Paul Murphy is the Editor of the Internet blog.

BBC iD on 606 and h2g2

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Nick Reynolds Nick Reynolds | 15:12 UK time, Thursday, 11 February 2010

On Tuesday we moved two of our biggest communities 606 and h2g2 to the new sign in system BBC iD.

With blogs, message boards and these two communities successfully transferred there are only a small number of sites left to go.

Thanks to you all for your patience throughout this process. The BBC iD help pages are here.

And if you are of a technical bent you may be interested in this recent blog post from Web Developer about the CSS used in the BBC iD status bar.

I think it's gone well and is going well. But as always I'd welcome your comments.

Nick Reynolds is Social Media Executive, BBC Online

R&D (South Lab) - Those wires!

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Nick Reynolds Nick Reynolds | 10:48 UK time, Wednesday, 10 February 2010

3rd_floor_wires_stroke.jpgIf you're the kind of person who likes looking at pictures of data centres - and my guess is if you're reading this you might be - then you should head straight for this latest blog post on the BBC's Research and Development blog.

Ant Miller says:

We've just received some pretty cool images from the wiring work, and we thought you may like to see what 130+ miles of cabling being wrestled into a small office building looks like!

Read more and view more at BBC Research and Development.

Drama on BBC HD

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Danielle Nagler Danielle Nagler | 17:10 UK time, Monday, 8 February 2010


I've been absent for a little while. But I've been thinking about the next stages for the BBC and HD, and particularly about drama - how the way that we are working in that area provides a direction for what we need to do across all the programming that the BBC is making in HD.

Drama has moved faster than any other area of programming in the UK to working in HD. If you leave out the soaps, the BBC probably makes a higher proportion of drama programmes in HD than we do any other type of programming. Over the last couple of months alone, we've shown Silent Witness, Cranford, Larkrise, Wallander, Rock and Chips, and Hustle from BBC One, Churchill: Into the Storm, Heroes and Nurse Jackie from BBC Two, Being Human from BBC Three, and the biopics on Margot Fonteyn, Enid Blyton and Gracie Fields from BBC Four, to name but a few.

The drama production community has taken to HD fast and wholeheartedly for a couple of reasons: HD can offer producers a closer approximation to film than any other format, and therefore help production teams to produce work which looks like cinema on television drama budgets. But HD has also proved popular because those working in drama have recognised that they can use it creatively. Technology is only transformational once we really start to bend it to what we want to achieve regardlesss of it.

wallander_300.pngLet me take just a couple of examples to illustrate the point. Wallander represents truly masterful HD, this year even more so than last. We could say that was because the visual quality alone is stunning - the framing of shots, the light, the colours, the grading and post-production effort. All true of course. But for me one of the key things that Wallander demonstrates is the way that it has used what HD can add to television drama to change the way it tells the story.

We're used in film to lingering close ups. In SD television we have tended to do that less, because of the loss of detailing. Battered and bruised emotionally by his own investigations, it is Kenneth Branagh's interior monologue which powers the narrative, to a much greater extent than the action itself. It is HD's capacity to bring people as well as objects to full emotional life on the small screen which supports and encourages the approach that has been taken, the camera held repeatedly on Branagh, allowing the story of the crime and our response to it to be encapsulated by him.

Margot takes a very different approach - particularly during the stage performances, the combination of lighting and filters and camera set up manages to create a sense of theatric distance from the ballerina, while the detail which HD can provide is used simultaneously to show (at least to those viewing in HD), the hairs of her arms, and the lines of concentration in her face.

In Hustle, the HD look absolutely reflects the rhythm of the story-telling - it is crisp, and precise, a slighly heightened reality but not lavish and glossy. Whilst in Being Human, I have a sense that there has been a bit of a journey in relation to the use of HD. The pilot made for the series was extremely theatric in style. Last year, when the programme was first broadcast on BBC Three and on BBC HD the supernatural and the ordinary were quite evenly balanced, and HD used to build a more cinematic look in parts. This year, as the balance of emphasis seems to have shifted further on the normalisation of lives that are somewhat less than everyday, I'm seeing that HD is being used more extensively to enhance reality, to show the regular backdrop to a vampire attack, the greyness of real days rather than the glittering darkness of fantasy nights.

Across what we are doing in the BBC, I intend that we shall focus this year on mastering HD. There will be new programmes making the move to HD - even in drama - but I think that we are now at a stage at which across the full range of programmes we make, we can start to do what drama is already doing and develop what we can achieve creatively with the HD tool set. I'm hopeful too that we will find ways to address the barriers to moving to HD for many of those programmes - including the continuing dramas - which have remained outside the HD universe so far. And I can reassure you that there is lots to come.

This trail (see below) - for new drama from the BBC - is currently playing on a number of our channels: I can reassure you that it is all in HD, and will all be appearing on BBC HD in the course of the year.


Danielle Nagler is the Head of BBC HD.

In order to see this content you need to have both Javascript enabled and Flash installed. Visit BBC Webwise for full instructions

Ed's note: Comments about drama on HD and the areas that Danielle writes about should go on this post. Comments about picture quality on HD should be made on this post of Andy Quested's: The Hitchhiker's Guide to Encoding: The Salmon of Style (Or how programmes styles can change your view). (PM)

Name that tool: forthcoming 'BBC Accessibility Settings Tool' needs you

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Paul Murphy Paul Murphy | 11:31 UK time, Monday, 8 February 2010

Over on the Ouch! blog Damon Rose has written about the imminent launch of a tool that'll make the BBC website easier to use. Read the rest of the entry, leave your comments and suggestions for a name on the Ouch! blog. (PM)

"The BBC are about to launch a whizzy new accessibility tool across the whole of its website. It'll make easier to read and navigate. You'll be able to 'have it your way' as a big burger chain used to say.

But the big question is ... what would you call it? The word 'accessibility' doesn't work well for everyone and it even puts some people off. We need something snappy and immediately understandable so that as many people as possible get it straight away. We also have to be careful not to use a name which might put people off ever using it.

We'd love to hear your ideas: Tweet us, email us or leave comments below. We'll be reading them all.

Let me tell you a bit more about the new accessibility tool...

Much of the Ouch website already has a control panel at the top of the page that enables you to change colours and font size to make it as easy to read as possible. But this new control panel will be rolled out across the entire BBC website - from messageboards to news and iPlayer so you can personalise everything. The guys in the BBC Usability & Accessibility Team have been working hard on this for a while now, testing it vigorously with all 'flavours' of disabled people."

Read the rest of this post Name that tool: forthcoming 'BBC Accessibility Settings Tool' needs you and leave your comments and suggestions on the Ouch! blog.

Round up: Thursday 4 February 2010

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Paul Murphy Paul Murphy | 15:20 UK time, Thursday, 4 February 2010

bigbritishcastle_300.jpgEpisode 3 of R&DTV is now available to view and download via the Backstage blog:

"Building on the TEDxManchester conference footage, we have a small interview with Stephen Fry from the bundle of videos released under creative commons as part of the BBC's Digital Revolution project. A interview with Michael Sparks of BBC R&D on the open source project Kamaelia and finally a short look back at BBC Ceefax as most of us in the UK experience Analogue TV switch off.

As always there are several edits and all the assets (eg full length interviews) available for your remixing use and pleasure.


There's a review of the Freeview HD box from Humax on Crave - CNET UK. We covered the launch of Freeview HD at the end of last year on the blog as well as the follow up coverage.


We'd also like to welcome the most recent addition to the family of BBC blogs so say 'Hello' to the Lauren Laverne 6 Music blog which promises much for music fans out there. In the words of Lauren:

"This blog is going to be flippin ace. We'll be putting videos, links to MPFrees, Indie Travel Guides, your Workers Playtime artwork and our musings up here as we go along. But today, as an extra special treat, we offer up to you, our dearest and most beloved of all the people in the world, the premier of The Hot Rats live session video that was recorded when they visited us on Tuesday. I think you'll agree it's momentous.

So bookmark this bad boy of a blog and keep checking in for regular updates..."



You can watch Victoria Derbyshire on the 5 live blog talking about her use of social media as part of her programme. There's also a Q&A with Up All Night presenter Rhod Sharp as part of social media week on the 5 live blog.


There's a video of Erik Huggers, boss of Future Media and Technology speaking at the Nations and Regions Media Conference last month where he announced that there'd be over 2,000 hours of coverage of the Vancouver Winter Olympics on red button services. There's also a report on the InteractiveTV Today website.


And finally, as we like to say on the Internet blog, you've got until Monday to listen to the brilliant Ed Reardon's Week on iPlayer which finds freelance writer Ed immersing himself in the joys of the BBC's messageboards. As Ed says:

"I find that now that 12 year-olds have taken control of all other media outlets, the messageboard is one of the few remaining democratic forms of communication available to the common man."

Paul Murphy is the Editor of the Internet blog. Today's picture is of the BBC White City building taken from the other side of the road.

Three interesting things to share from BBC blogs

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Paul Murphy Paul Murphy | 18:03 UK time, Tuesday, 2 February 2010

Not so much a round up but a few things I thought you might be interested in hearing about.


Virtual Revolution aired this week and is available on iPlayer for the rest of the week. Dan Biddle has written a new post on the Virtual/Digital Revolution blog summarising some of the feedback they've had so far. There's a lively debate going on it the comments so if you saw the programme you might want to check it out.


According to the 5 live blog it's Social Media week:

"So, starting today with Richard Bacon, I'm publishing five interviews with important 5 live figures about their use of social media. We caught Richard in his studio right after he came off the air last Thursday. He talks mainly about Twitter, his principle means of interacting with his audience while off-air and a genuine source of stories and reactions for the programme itself."

There's also a chance for some of the Radio 4 blog's followers on Twitter to meet up in real life this Thursday as part of the week. There are a few places left on the free tour of Broadcasting House the same evening. All the details are on the post A Radio 4 Tweetup in London.


Closer to home (well, on the same floor as the Internet blog) on the Web Developer blog there's the excellently titled post by Mark Stickley CSS for widgets: friends don't break friends' styles that relates to one aspect of the rollout of BBC iD across the entire BBC site:

One of the important features of BBC iD is the status bar, which sits in the top right of every page. The idea is that if you click the sign in link, or a relevant link anywhere else, we bring up a JavaScript overlay which allows you to sign in without leaving the page. It's designed to be a seamless experience, and we think it comes pretty close.

While building the HTML, CSS and JS for the project, a key part of my job has been to ensure that our code doesn't break any of the pages into which it's included. What's more, I have to be confident that the CSS defined for the page doesn't break any of the BBC iD components. Actually this is pretty tricky, but I'll explain how I approach this problem.

Paul Murphy is the Editor of the Internet blog.

Case study: Use of Semantic Web Technologies on the BBC Web Sites

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Tom Scott | 13:00 UK time, Tuesday, 2 February 2010

nathistdomainmapped_600.pngThe BBC has long been an advocate of Linked Data, an approach to using the Web to connect related data, or as Wikipedia puts it "a term used to describe a recommended best practice for exposing, sharing, and connecting pieces of data, information, and knowledge on the Semantic Web using URIs and RDF."

Anyway W3C has just published a Case Study: Use of Semantic Web Technologies on the BBC Web Sites.

If you are interested in a bit more background to our work you might be interested the presentation Nick Humfrey and I gave at XTech back in 2008 entitled 'The Programmes ontology'

Or the subsequent work to make BBC Music available as linked data, quite a lot has been written. Both Matthew Shorter and I blogged about it at it's launch (The all new BBC music site where programmes meet music and the semantic web and BBC Music Artist Pages Beta) and ReadWriteWeb recently featured it here.

Patrick Sinclair's also gave a great presentation of our work to date at last years 1st W3C Brazil Web Conference and I spoke at the 20th anniversary of the Web celebrations at CERN on making computers human literate.

Finally if you would like to develop your own site along similar principles a good place to start is Michael Smethurst post 'how we make websites' which details the process we've used to deliver, and

Caption: "By using DBpedia as a controlled vocabulary we are able to tag our programmes (or clips from them) and news stories with DBpedia URIs so that we can mesh-up content across the BBC to create new journeys across," writes Tom Scott.

Tom Scott is Executive Product Manager, BBC.

BBC iPlayer, Connected TVs and Project Canvas

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Rahul Chakkara Rahul Chakkara | 17:30 UK time, Monday, 1 February 2010

The BBC Trust's consultation of Project Canvas closes tomorrow so it's your last chance to contribute to the debate and have your views considered by the Trust when they decide on Canvas's future. It also seemed a good time for me to reiterate why we believe the opportunities that Canvas presents to content providers and software developers are great.

For the TV industry, the New Year begins with the Consumer Electronic Show (CES) in Las Vegas where new products are showcased on their way to our homes. This year, one of the highlights was the ubiquity of internet connected televisions and television devices like the set top boxes. Internet is arriving onto the television. I expect that a large share of televisions and set top boxes sold in the second half of this year will be ready for Internet connection.

Television manufacturers are at the forefront of this innovation. This year, they are introducing a variety of models enabled for content and applications via the Internet. Some of the applications were interesting where you could see consumers using them regularly, while others needed work to make them suitable for the large screen. At the BBC, we recognise this innovation as an opportunity and we have started using it by making the BBC iPlayer application available on Samsung TV, the Freesat platform and hopefully on other devices soon. We are using our standard products to deliver these.

While these devices innovate and evolve the television experience, what the market wants is an open platform. Instead of working with different technologies and gatekeepers, the content industry wants the existing Internet model on the television. We want to be able to publish directly to the consumers. This ensures that anyone with an idea can participate, enabling a flood of creativity. This is what the BBC - along with its partners ITV, C4, Five, BT & Talk Talk - aims to address in UK with Project Canvas, granted a provisional approval by the BBC Trust just before Christmas.

If approved by the BBC Trust, Canvas will provide the opportunity for software developers and content publishers to create applications to sit upon this platform according to published technical specifications: there will be no editorial gatekeepers, and without the need to do a commercial deal with the platform, we expect this to be an open platform of real scale. Further, the platform's innovative user experience and mainstream brand will, we believe, truly bring together broadband and broadcast content in a seamless way.

The innovation taking place in the market today is truly exciting and we expect next-generation, Canvas-compliant devices will have the potential to move the dial once more.

If you want to know more, the Project Canvas website aims to answer any of your questions about the proposals and keep everyone up to speed with development. If the answer isn't there, you can also contact the Canvas team via the website or the dedicated Twitter feed @canvasinfo.

Rahul Chakkara is Controller, TV Platforms, BBC FM&T.

Round up Monday 1 February 2010: "Move over Maggie Philbin"

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Paul Murphy Paul Murphy | 16:45 UK time, Monday, 1 February 2010

An apology to the R&D blog's Ant Miller for missing out on what we take to be his presenting debut as he takes us through BBC R&D's move from leafy Kingswood Warren to the urban joys of Centre House in W12. Highlights include the installation of many many miles of cabling to ensure the relevant connectivity and a tour of the team's new television studio playground TC Zero.

brandon_300.jpg"People may regret bringing us this close to them though," says Chief Scientist Brandon Butterworth (pictured).


Regular blog commenter nevali has published his Response to the BBC Trust's Third Consultation on the Project Canvas Proposals on his blog Tumbled Logic. The rest of you have until tomorrow to let the BBC Trust know what you think.


On the NetMums Forum people are excited about iPlayer on the Wii, specifically as it means they're no longer watching on the laptop but on the telly:

"My friend and her housemates were amazed when they found it. She's at uni and they used to sit one night a week all together and watch merlin on iplayer, they'd put it on a laptop and all gather round lol. they're much happier now they can put it on the tv!"

If you've ever been at dinner with your loved one and wondered what the BBC should be doing with the BBC Twitter profile and its 19,000+ followers despite never having tweeted then you are not alone. Maybe with too much time on your hands but definitely not alone.


Speaking of BBC Trust consultations there's a public survey on the BBC's on-demand offerings over on the Trust website. Do the survey but don't hold your breath:

"The Trust is not considering any changes to the on-demand offerings as part of this review. The review is an assessment of their performance to date."

Paul Murphy is the Editor of the Internet blog.

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