Archives for August 2010

Who wants to be Senior Technologist, Internet Standards?

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Paul Murphy Paul Murphy | 17:52 UK time, Tuesday, 31 August 2010

The new role that George Wright mentioned in his recent update on the BBC and HTML5 is now up on the BBC Jobs website:

The Internet Standards role involves liaison with various Internet and Web organisational and technical bodies to allow the BBC to influence and shape future standards, build prototypes to prove or disprove emerging research, and feed into new BBC products and services to create innovative new user experiences.

You can read the rest of the job description on BBC Jobs. The closing date is 12 September.

What's On BBC Red Button 28th August - 10th September

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Lisa Dawson Lisa Dawson | 16:56 UK time, Friday, 27 August 2010

Reading and Leeds Festival*

This festival season music lovers can press the rereadingandleeds_2010_3stack.jpgd button on digital TV to watch coverage from the Reading and Leeds weekend. Viewers will have a choice of up to three streams of music recorded live from the festival, plus we'll be showing extended sets from more than 30 bands including Guns n' Roses, Arcade Fire and the long-awaited return of The Libertines. As well as performances from the Main and NME/Radio 1 stages fans will be able to feast on performances from breakthrough artists playing the BBC Introducing Stage.

And join us from 6am on Monday 30th August for highlights of the very best performances of the festival.

Sat 28th August, 7:00pm-2:00am
Sun 29th August, 7:00pm-2:00am

Sat 28th August, 7:15pm-2:00am
Sun 29th August, 7:15pm-2:00am

(Not available on Freesat)

Reading and Leeds Festival Highlights

Press RED each day for exclusive highlights from this years Reading and Leeds festival. We will be featuring a different band each day so don't forget to keep coming back to check out the action.

Find out more about the Reading and Leeds festival on our website -

Mon 30th August, 6:00am-6:00am
Tue 31st August, 6:00am-6:00am
Wed 1st September, 6:00am-6:00am
Thu 2nd September, 6:00am-6:00am
Fri 3rd September, 6:00am-4:00am

Mon 30th August, 6:00am - 10.35am & 6.40pm - 7.45pm & 9.10pm - 9.45pm & 11pm - 6:00am (31st)
Tue 31st August, 6:00am-8.45pm & 9.40pm - 6:00am (1st)
Wed 1st September, 6am-2pm & 3pm - 6am (2nd)
Thu 2nd September, 6:00am-6:00am (3rd)
Fri 3rd September, 6:00am - midday & 1pm - 6.50pm & 9.10pm - 11.35pm & 1.10am - 4:00am

(Not available on Freesat)

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Round up Friday 27 August 2010

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Nick Reynolds Nick Reynolds | 08:22 UK time, Friday, 27 August 2010

I thought August was supposed to be quiet, but:

"Critics hit out over BBC's HTML5 stance" reports PC Pro magazine.

Mark Watson, CEO of Volantis is quoted in the article:

"No-one is going to be able to say that pressing ahead with HTML5 development is eccentric when the world's dominant video site is backing it, alongside Microsoft, Apple, and Google. Indeed, it's the BBC's stance on this issue that is eccentric or suggests a vested interest.

Comments on the article are worth reading. This from Mikeos:

Until it is established as a standard and open source only a fool would adopt it..

See Erik Hugger's original post and George Wright's update for background.

The new Strictly Come Dancing blog explains why there are no Strictly messageboards this year

A successful FOI reuest on WhatDoTheyKnow reveals a few numbers around "Usage of Flash 10.1 BBC iPlayer streaming on Android 2.2 ('FroYo') devices":

In July 2010, 1,026 hours of programming were streamed from the BBC iPlayer to Android devices... we confirm that in July 2010 6,400 programmes were streamed from the BBC iPlayer to Android devices... In July 2010 there were 5,272,464 programmes requested via the BBC iPlayer from Apple iPhone, iPod Touch and iPad devices.

According to CrunchGear: "The BBC Is Going To Wait This 3D TV Thing Out For Just A Little Bit Longer". Broadband TV News has the full story.

On the Radio 4 blog Leigh Aspen announces "Some Changes to the Radio 4 website".

The eagle-eyed amongst you will notice that we've added a fifth term to our top navigation - a page we've called "Comment", which aggregates a lot of the comment and conversations around Radio 4 - on our messageboards and blogs, and on social networks.

The R&D blog has another in their series of videos: R&D North Lab: The Move to MediaCity:UK

And this from Media Guardian's Data Blog is simply wonderful: a spreadsheet of every single Doctor Who journey through time detailed by Information is Beautiful.

Nick Reynolds is Social Media Executive, BBC Online

Update: BBC and HTML5

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George Wright George Wright | 15:20 UK time, Thursday, 26 August 2010

[Ed's Update, 31/08/10: The role of Senior Technologist, Internet Standards that George mentions below is now on the BBC Jobs site.]

Erik is away on holiday but he's asked me to update you on what else the BBC is doing to further support the development of HTML. (Ed's note: Read Erik Huggers' earlier post HTML5, open standards, and the BBC)

This is a research area that my section, R&D, has been working on for a while, and we really want to embrace and support HTML5. Erik is so serious about the BBC supporting this project that he's already putting extra resources behind it and we are bringing on board a Senior Technologist for Internet Standards, to support increased involvement on the W3C and other standards bodies as needed. This person will work within Future Media & Technology's R&D team, where there is a history of the BBC making significant contributions to standards initiatives.

We hope the person can draw on their existing experience and knowledge of the cutting edge of Web technologies and Internet services, while working closely with colleagues inside and outside the BBC to feed through production area's perspectives. They'll represent the BBC on various standards bodies as well as create experimental interfaces which address some of the issues Erik mentioned with current standards and guidelines.

This role will be advertised on the BBC's external jobs website soon and we look forward to many interesting applications. I'll follow up with a link to this job when it's live (in the next couple of weeks).

George Wright is Head of Prototyping, BBC Research and Development.

BBC iPlayer stats pack, July 2010

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Paul Murphy Paul Murphy | 12:43 UK time, Thursday, 26 August 2010

The BBC iPlayer stats pack for July 2010 (it's a PDF) is now available. The headlines, put together by my colleagues in Comms, are:

  • In July 2010, the BBC iPlayer received 114 million requests for programmes across all platforms, including both online platforms and devices and BBC iPlayer on Virgin Media TV.
  • Requests still remain significantly higher than July 2009 with 68 million requests for TV programmes and 27 million were for radio programmes, whilst requests on Virgin Media were up to 19 million.
  • The most-requested TV title for July was Top Gear, with some episodes attracting over 1 million requests reach. New BBC one drama titles also performed well, as did comedy, and the start of the BBC Three Adult Season.
  • Live TV, viewing via the BBC iPlayer fell back to relatively normal levels in July as the World Cup came to a close.

Download the BBC iPlayer stats pack for July 2010 (PDF).

Paul Murphy is the Editor of the BBC Internet blog.

Radio 4 comedians hit the red button

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Steve Bowbrick Steve Bowbrick | 18:48 UK time, Wednesday, 25 August 2010

The red button isn't off-limits to radio. Plenty of radio programmes have used it to bring their content to new audiences, to 'visualise' their output and to enrich the experience for listeners (lately: Weekend Wogan, Danny Baker, the Proms and the Asian Network's coverage of the Summer's Melas, for instance).

Radio 4's latest red button effort is the first in two years, though, and it's different.

To celebrate the network's contribution to the character of the Edinburgh fringe over forty years, Radio 4 organised a kind of comedy flashmob on The Royal Mile, with a gaggle (a giggle?) of Radio 4 comedians performing in amongst the Edinburgh crowds. Some of the comedians involved: Mark Watson, Susan Calman, Stephen K Amos, Miles Jupp, Doc Brown, Richard Herring, Andrew Lawrence and - in a special outdoor performance of Just a Minute - Paul Merton, Giles Brandreth, Jenny Eclair and Radio 1's Scott Mills (in town for his one-man show). The producers marshalled seven High Definition DSLR cameras and one 'Red Cam', a high-tech digital video camera used to make cinematic films.

The result is a dynamic, genuinely immersive half hour programme that includes a remarkable sequence shot from many angles during the flashmob and a slightly unhinged al fresco performance of Just a Minute.

To watch the video, press the red button on any BBC channel on Virgin, Sky or Freeview - you've got the rest of today, tomorrow and Friday (27 August) to see it, then the video will be published on the Radio 4 web site and (in high definition) in the BBC channel on YouTube. The hastag is #R4redbutton in case you're tweeting. Thanks for watching.

Steve Bowbrick is blogs editor at BBC Audio & Music

Pulling related web content into a live TV stream

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Nick Reynolds Nick Reynolds | 12:21 UK time, Wednesday, 25 August 2010

Max Gadney's post about the Dimensions prototype last week got some reaction, including this from Wired.

Here's another interesting prototype released via BBC Backstage.

Andrew Littledale on the Backstage blog explains:

Like everyone else, we have been wondering what set top boxes connected to the internet will look like for the user. What kind of interfaces will work best when TV and the web become bedfellows?... So we created a Flash application that pulls in live subtitles from an IRC channel and places them underneath a live feed of News 24. Thanks very much to Andrew McParland and his team in R&D for making the subtitles available.
Read more and comment at BBC Backstage blog

Open Source Release of MHEG+ Toolkit

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Mark Hatton Mark Hatton | 15:00 UK time, Monday, 23 August 2010

Today the BBC Red Button team is pleased to announce the open source release of the MHEG+ toolkit under the Apache 2.0 licence.

MHEG+ (pronounced: em-heg plus) is both a programming language and a suite of tools developed by the BBC for building interactive television services. If you have ever used the Freeview or Freesat Red Button services such as the interactive news & weather and even the CBeebies games and Formula 1 alternate commentary, you might be surprised to learn that you were using an MHEG+ application.

MHEG+ started its life in 2005 as a BBC Research & Development project aimed at creating a programming language more palatable and modern than its predecessor, MHEG-5. The '+' suffix in the MHEG+ name is meant to suggest it is a superior language to MHEG-5, often referred to as simply "MHEG".

Today MHEG+ is not just a programming language but also a comprehensive suite of tools for developing interactive television applications. The toolkit includes a compiler, debugger, emulator, automated testing tools and also a code editor that integrates with the Eclipse IDE.

The toolkit's emulator, named MHEG Player, emulates both Freeview and Freesat set-top boxes. It features an MHEG graphics engine, a virtual tuner (so users can 'virtually' switch from BBC One to BBC Radio 5 Live, say) and even a virtual remote control that doesn't get lost down the side of the sofa! The integrated debugger too is feature rich and can be used to debug both MHEG-5 and MHEG+ code.


Until today, MHEG+ was only available for use by BBC staff for the benefit of our own interactive television applications. But we think MHEG+ is too useful a tool to keep just to ourselves. Open sourcing MHEG+ is another example of the BBC's drive toward openness and demonstrates our eagerness to give something back to the technical community.

Further, we hope to encourage the community to get involved in MHEG+ and make it better. There are many ways to participate, from simply developing interactive applications (and possibly reporting bugs), to documentation writing and code contributions.

The MHEG+ source code can be browsed and downloaded at the MHEG+ SourceForge project page. Here you can also find a forum for discussing MHEG+ and getting help.

Mark Hatton is a Senior Software Engineer working in the TV Platforms Group.

Social Media & Accountability #2

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Nick Reynolds Nick Reynolds | 09:13 UK time, Friday, 20 August 2010

Thanks to everyone who commented on Matthew's previous post.

And my apologies for the delay in publishing this one.

As I previously said in comments the research that Unthinkable Consulting carried out contained confidential interviews and so I'm not going to publish the complete report. However I thought you would be interested in reading the executive summary which you can download as a PDF.

The summary contains a number of recommendations. I gave Unthinkable a completely free hand to suggest anything they thought would be useful. Their ideas are a useful sense check on how the BBC's approach to accountability using social media might be developed.

I'm pleased to say that in the past month we've made good progress on the two that are probably most important to people who comment regularly on this blog.

"Tighten Up Complaints Process". As Paul explained here we now have a new appeals system up and running. This means that users who disagree with moderation and hosting decisions that affect them now have a much clearer route of appeal.

"Host better". Last month I sat in on a revised and expanded training course designed to help people who run the BBC's social media spaces manage them better. The course has been revised with a particular emphasis on blogs and we now have people booked on it up until Christmas and plan to take it on the road. My sense is that hosting on the BBC's blogs and message boards has improved significantly in the past six months and there's now an opportunity to improve them even further.

Rather than me going through each of the points made in the summary in detail I thought it would make more sense if I engaged with you in comments. So give your reactions and I will respond.


Nick Reynolds is Social Media Executive, BBC Online, BBC Future Media & Technology

Round up Thursday 19 August 2010

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Paul Murphy Paul Murphy | 17:25 UK time, Thursday, 19 August 2010


Apparently it's archive week at the BBC and there are blog posts all over the BBC and an excellent Guardian Tech weekly podcast to mark this auspicious occasion. In case you missed them (and there are a couple more to come before the end of the week) here they are in full:

Update: 20th August: see also Peter Skinner's post "A New Home For the BBC Archive" on the About The BBC blog (NR).


Nevali has not only been making some salient points on this blog he's also been busy on his own blog, most recently responding to BBC online boss Erik Hugger's post HTML5, open standards, and the BBC. It's worth reading Line-by-line: HTML5, open standards, and the BBC in full.

And nevali's previous post is a nice follow up to Meet the Green Button! New Developments on Freeview+ and Freeview+HD: Trailer Booking which featured on the R&D blog (and I missed cross-posting it because I was on holiday).


Max Gadney from BBC multiplatform introduced the prototype of Dimensions, a juxtapostion of historical data with stuff you know based on your location. Matt Jones from BERG, the people who created it, explains all on the BERG blog. Go have a play with it.

Paul Murphy is the Editor of the Internet blog. Before you ask this is the info I have about the image from the archive:
"BBC News Editing 01/01/1998 BBC, BBC News Editing, News VT Tape Transfer in BBC TV Centre London. Beta Video Recorders."

Safeguarding the BBC's archive

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Adrian Williams | 11:45 UK time, Wednesday, 18 August 2010


The BBC's legacy Radio and Television programme collections have resided at the Windmill Road Archive in Brentford, West London, for 42 years. There are almost five million items held on a wide variety formats including film, dating back to 1936, videotape, first introduced into the BBC in the late sixties and numerous audio tape and disc including a small collection of wax cylinders which date back to the early 1900s.

Despite the age of some of the components it is very much a working collection with over one million items loaned, to production departments for repeat or re-use within new programmes, every year.

The collection is made up of 650,000 film components, 2.4 million videotapes and 2 million Radio sound items. 75% of the holdings reside in London with the rest deposited around the BBC's Nations and Regions in smaller local collections.

This year will see us begin the re-location from our 42 year old Windmill Road home to a newly built Archive Centre three miles up the road in Perivale. The move will take 7 months to complete but once there our programmes will live in especially tailored storage and environmental conditions designed to prolong the lifespan and integrity of the material. You will be able to read more about Windmill Road and our move to Perivale tomorrow courtesy of a post from my colleague Peter Skinner Head of Archive Operations Information & Archive over on the About the BBC Blog.

Archive activity is not solely around storing, conserving and delivering back to production and play-out, it is also about preserving and digitising for future use and persisted retention. We started a digitisation work programme for the Radio Archive ten years back and have so far migrated (or as we say 'ingested') over 280,000 Radio items to digital media.

The Television programmes presented us with a much tougher nut to crack but with the help of BBC Research & Development we came up with innovative and cost efficient factory processes which have so far digitised 50,000 news items held on Hi Band U-Matic (a news gathering video format used throughout the 1980s) and over 60,000 from the first digital broadcast format used by the BBC, D3. There are over 340,000 tapes in the D3 collection and it was used throughout 1990s up to 2005 as the analogue terrestrial delivery format. It is no longer mechanically supported by the manufacturer so 100,000 tapes were selected for digitisation.

Technology development has to have a bi-directional approach when dealing with legacy archive collections. Looking back at old formats and technologies to inform processes for extracting as much, or more information from the original carriers and looking forwards at ways of future proofing, storing efficiently and releasing back to digital production over the network.

You can hear more about the BBC Archive in this week's Guardian Tech Podcast after their recent visit to Windmill Road.

Finally, we are always interested in your feedback so if you are Tweeting about us please use the #BBCArchive hashtag so we can join in. You can also leave a comment below.

Adrian Williams is BBC Digitisation Group Manager.

  • The image is itself from the BBC Archive. The caption info reads: "Access All Archives - Information and Archives at Windmill Road (02/08/1999 BBC) Members of staff at Windmill Road hold up various articles from their archives. I&A can dub material onto various formats such as D3 tapes (Digital), One inch and two inch film stock, and Beta cassettes. They also provide recordings on CDs (Compact Discs). I&A have recently organised Access All Archives demonstrations so that customers can see what services are available and the formats which can be supplied."
  • Watch a video tour of the BBC Windmill Road archive.
  • Read Richard Wright's post Intimations of the Archive on the R&D blog
  • Read Roly Keating's post In Their Own Words: British Novelists, from the BBC Archive on the About the BBC blog

The prototype of Dimensions

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Max Gadney | 15:55 UK time, Tuesday, 17 August 2010

Today we are launching the prototype of Dimensions.

When I took over the online History commissioning job, I knew that we would need a mix of traditional, trusted BBC content with some attention-grabbing digital stuff to get people to it.

It's easier said than done. Many technologists and designers are not really interested in history. Like much of the audience they were turned off by dull lessons at school. Our challenge was to make it relevant to audiences.

This is a common desire. Commissioning editors often want stuff 'made relevant' - TV producers might translate this as putting a celebrity in it - one we can relate to (Who Do You Think You Are does this very well). How does digital media make something relevant?

Following a development session with BERG about a year ago, we were most excited about this particular project.

It used the central premise of digital media - that of connection. Connecting by juxtaposing two datasets:

Historical plans, events and routes
Where you are.

The prototype as launched is an application made by BERG with plans drawn by Keltie Cochrane.

It sits by itself at the moment but we are discussing using on BBC History and maybe News pages (even off the BBC?) when we can make sharable modules in version 2.

The BERG blog discusses the tech and design reasoning more.

What I would like is feedback on this prototype:

  • What do you want to see?
  • What doesn't work?
  • How can we make it better?

We think this is a decent first attempt but it is one so rich with possibility that we want your voice in the room when we take it to the next step.

Max Gadney is Commissioning Executive, Multi-Platform Team, BBC.

What's On BBC Red Button 14th - 27th August

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Lisa Dawson Lisa Dawson | 17:50 UK time, Friday, 13 August 2010

Here's our regular look at what's coming up under the red button...

Radio 4 Comedians Storm Edinburgh*

Radio 4 Comedians Storm Edinburgh Red Button viewers can watch highlights of Radio 4's exciting Edinburgh Fringe showcase from Wednesday 25th for a one-off comedy experience introduced by the marvellous Mark Watson.

This will include a selection from two open-air editions of Radio 4's iconic panel game, Just A Minute, with legendary host Nicholas Parsons on a specially constructed stage on Edinburgh 's Royal Mile. Resident panellists Paul Merton and Gyles Brandreth will be teaching Stephen K Amos and Scott Mills and others how to play the game.

In between Just A Minute comedians Miles Jupp, Doc Brown, Tom Wrigglesworth, Abandoman and Andrew Lawrence and Scotland 's own Susan Calman will perform the best bits of their stand-up. Look out for some familiar faces popping up in the crowd just before the stage show begins.

Find out more from the Radio 4 website

Wednesday 25th August, 6am - 4am 28th August, continuous coverage

Wednesday 25th August, 6am - 7.50am & 9.10am - 3.50pm & 5.10 - 7.50am (26th)
Thursday 26th August, 9.10am - 3.50pm & 5.10pm - 9.45pm & midnight - 8.45am (27th)
Friday 27th August,10.45am - midday - 6.50
(Not available on Freesat)

Read the rest of this entry

HTML5, open standards, and the BBC

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Erik Huggers Erik Huggers | 08:25 UK time, Friday, 13 August 2010

Recent commentary on this blog has suggested that our use of Flash on BBC iPlayer and across BBC Online in general, betrays our commitment to open standards. Is this a reasonable assumption? I do not think so.

Open standards have always been part of the BBC's DNA. They are fundamental to driving market innovation and will always be important to the BBC's mission to introduce the benefits of new technology to society. Open standards have the ability to transform our lives for the better.

Our use of Flash is not a case of BBC favouritism, rather it currently happens to be the most efficient way to deliver a high quality experience to the broadest possible audience. Let's also not forget that we already support a very wide range of other formats and codecs to deliver BBC iPlayer and other services to variety of devices.

The fact is that there's still a lot of work to be done on HTML5 before we can integrate it fully into our products. As things stand I have concerns about HTML5's ability to deliver on the vision of a single open browser standard which goes beyond the whole debate around video playback.

Driving open standards is in our DNA

The BBC has a long history of working with standards bodies; both contributing to development and adopting the standards across systems that support our work. It is a tradition we continue to be very proud of and is even reflected in the BBC's Charter that charges our R&D department to promote open standards in its work. Most recently we helped to ratify a new standard for digital terrestrial broadcasting across Europe (DVB-T2).

HTML5 can deliver so much more than a new way of delivering video playback in a browser. Its aims are rooted in the philosophies of Netscape (the browser as the operating system) and even Larry Ellison's (Network Computer concepts) - you take complexity out of the client and deliver it from the cloud. This speaks to a far greater cause than the delivery of video content. The potential democratising power of cloud computing (to make technology and services easily accessible to anyone on the planet) is a noble cause that we support.

For this reason we are committed to the aims of HTML5. In combination with CSS3 and Javascript it promises a step forward for the web. A truly interoperable experience would materially advance the capabilities we can offer to our audiences, by ushering in a new class of rich interactive experiences on the web. The benefits are not one dimensional. As HTML5 promises to allow us to create new online products with the confidence they will work across the web, the savings in our development and operating costs mean we can spend less on reversioning for different browsers and focus on product development. HTML5 can bring the web together in a way that will better allow us to serve our audiences and business partners.

HTML5 is starting to sail off-course

Not too long ago some browser vendors were showcasing proprietary HTML5 implementations; which in my view threaten to undermine the fundamental promise. Recent activity in the HTML5 Working Group and the apparent split between W3C and WhatWG suggests HTML5 might not be on the path we expect, or deliver what I believe our industry requires. Despite grand overtures from Microsoft toward HTML5 support, their new browser is yet to ship and so the jury is out. The tension between individual motivation and collective consensus has brought an end to many noble causes in the past, and here, the pace of progress appears to be slowing on bringing HTML5 to a ratified state. History suggests that multiple competing proprietary standards lead to a winner-takes-all scenario, with one proprietary standard at the top of the stack, which is not where most of us want to be...

Let's keep HTML5 on track

So my request to the W3C, HTML5 Working Group, and major browser vendors, is to continue fervently on the path you began. Understand you are representing the future of the web, as well as businesses like ours with your efforts. HTML5 is more important than any one motivation. Speed is of the essence. Professional integrity is of the essence. We are counting on you to bring one HTML5 to the web and the W3C to help make this happen.

Erik Huggers is Director of BBC Future Media & Technology.

BBC Online - Putting Quality First

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Nick Reynolds Nick Reynolds | 12:42 UK time, Wednesday, 11 August 2010

A blog post has just been published on the About The BBC blog from Erik Huggers, (Director of BBC Future Media & Technology) called "BBC Online - Putting Quality First".

Here's an extract:

...I'm proud of what this organisation has created online. One of the first "traditional" media companies to embrace the web, I continue to be impressed with its ability to innovate and BBC websites such as News, Sport, iPlayer and others are highly valued by our audiences.

But the service as a whole has sprawled. In striving to stay relevant, we have sometimes not been clear enough about our limits and boundaries. We're getting a better sense of what BBC Online should be for and I believe it's possible to make the service better with less.

Many of you will be familiar with the headlines of the Strategy Review. By 2013, we propose a BBC Online that:

• Does fewer things better, against the BBC's five editorial priorities
• Has half the number of top-level directories (i.e. /sitename) down from the 400 we have today to 200
• Costs 25% less (i.e. the BBC Online Service Licence for 2010/11 is £135m - we intend to cut spend to £100m)
• Will send double the traffic we currently do to other websites, helping the broader UK digital economy

While it's natural that people focus on the 25% and which directories will go it's worth noting that this strategy is not called "Retreating From the Web" or "Cutting BBC Online". This is because the web is an important part of our future.

Read more and comment at About The BBC blog

Inspiring innovation with BBC Audio & Music Interactive

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Steve Bowbrick Steve Bowbrick | 08:30 UK time, Wednesday, 4 August 2010

Moyles and Obama

UPDATE: yesterday's BBC Audio & Music Interactive (A&Mi) departmental meeting, held in the Radio Theatre at Broadcasting House, was an unusual one. It had a single theme, suggested by staff - 'innovation' - and we ran the whole thing much more openly than usual:

  • Attendees were encouraged to tweet publicly throughout - providing a kind of running commentary for the event. Two sessions - during which management discussed issues of obvious sensitivity for staff - the BBC's strategic review and proposed pension changes, for instance - were flagged as 'not for tweeting' - and this was respected. Switching from 'open' to 'closed' during the course of the meeting seems to work, although I'd anticipate some disagreement about this for future meetings!
  • I publicised a nice, short hashtag (#amint) and many people who weren't at the meeting used it to contribute comments, questions and suggestions.
  • I provided a 'real-time' commentary on the meeting here on the blog (using live chat software from Candian company Cover it Live which is widely used for live events at the BBC and elsewhere). Click 'Replay' above to see all the comments and tweets from the event.
  • We also used an SMS shortcode (we borrowed Radio 3's, since it wasn't in use for the duration of the meeting) for staff to send in questions and comments. In the end it wasn't used seriously and I didn't publish any of the comments that came in - all the action was on Twitter. I think it's probably worth keeping the SMS element for future events, though, since it's good for anonymous contributions.
  • In addition to publishing the whole conversation here on the blog, much of the chatter was visible to Twitter users following the hashtag - and we threw it up onto a big screen in the Radio Theatre too (with the expected hilarity and potential for distraction). Immediate feedback on this part was that it made the meeting a bit more fun. It certainly felt more inclusive to have participants' views scrolling down the screen in full view (and using Cover it Live to 'curate' tweets neutralised the now well-understood risks inherent in automatically publishing tweets!).
  • Many of the morning's 'breakout' sessions took place in the offices of interesting businesses around Central London - from Media Trust to The Telegraph - and attendees were encouraged to keep tweeting from these sessions - hosts also joined in - click 'Replay' to see their contributions (and here's the full running order).
  • As to practicalities: getting dozens of people onto the specially-provided wifi was a challenge so I retreated to a network-connected computer in the control booth to type my commentary and this meant I couldn't use Cover It Live's very neat iPhone app to control things from my seat in the auditorium. On the big screen in the theatre we displayed the conversation using Cover it Live itself and some very handsome word clouds from Visible Tweets. We'd love to have been able to display a dynamic wordcloud - one that updated as we tweeted - but couldn't find a service that would do that.
  • A final round-up at the end of the morning (Radio 1 creative Hugh Garry talking to Controller Mark Friend - someone tweeted "It's Jedward!"), back in the Radio Theatre, brought all the themes together and used the morning's tweets as material: they form an interesting and permanent (although obviously partial) record of the meeting and it strikes me they're a bit like the forest of sticky notes usually left behind after any kind of corporate meeting these days.

If you joined in, or just watched proceedings from the side, do leave a comment to let us know what you thought? Is opening BBC meetings in this way valuable? Should we do more? Would you like to see more everyday meetings opened up? Would you watch a video stream if we published one?

Credits: the event was produced by Alan Phillips and Clare Bousfield and Richard Morland made most of the interactivity happen. Vox pop videos shown at the meeting were shot by Clare and Siddharth Khajuria.

Steve Bowbrick is blogs editor at BBC Audio & Music

  • The picture shows Radio 1 producer Laura May Coope presenting the network's Facebook figures. It was taken by Sam Bailey.

A day about innovation at BBC Audio & Music Interactive

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Steve Bowbrick Steve Bowbrick | 15:40 UK time, Tuesday, 3 August 2010

Innovation sign

BBC Audio & Music interactive is the department that looks after all the activity on the web, the red button and on the social networks for the BBC radio stations, music programmes on the TV and all the big annual events (The Proms, Glastonbury and so on).

Four times a year the team meets to share ideas, case studies and war stories. The meeting is imaginatively called the 'departmental' and it takes place in Broadcasting House - big presentations in the Radio Theatre and smaller 'break-out' meetings in various conference rooms. It starts at 0900 and finishes at 1300.

Tomorrow's 'departmental' is all about innovation - showing off the good stuff we've been building lately, learning from friends and partners who are innovating and talking about ways to innovate better ourselves. Mark Friend, Controller of the department, will chair. He says:

We've decided to make our departmental meeting as open as possible so that we can share some of the projects and ideas that we're excited about - both in the BBC and in other companies. Using social media to do this is an obvious step for us, and I'm excited to see how readers of this blog will engage in it."

So, this is a first. Some of the break-out meetings will take place outside the BBC (hosted by friends and partners like Absolute Radio, Media Trust, The Telegraph and radio production company Somethin' Else), everybody invited will be encouraged to use Twitter to share what they're learning and we're inviting everyone else to join in by using the hashtag #amint on Twitter.

I'll be hosting the discussion here on the blog (using live chat software from Cover It Live) and I'll publish as many messages from inside and outside the BBC as I can, from 0900 tomorrow and the hashtag is already pretty busy. Please join us here tomorrow for an insight into how the BBC learns and innovates.

And if you have any insights into innovation in a big media organisation or reflections on innovation in general, please post a comment here or tweet with the hashtag #amint.

Steve Bowbrick is blogs editor at BBC Audio & Music

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