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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.


  • Comment number 1.

    This is a really nice application! The categories available at the moment are really good. The database fell over a few times while I was browsing however.
    I really enjoyed putting massive things over my small hometown in Wales. I imagine that this would work quite nicely within /news
    Great work so far!

  • Comment number 2.

    I think I'd like to see a little more processing of the images overlaid. For example, an oil slick needs to be a certain area but would follow contours and therefore change shape. If I overlay "Dubai in 2014" on Dubai, or "Roman Cordoba" on Cordoba, I would expect them to line up! Currently all that is happening is you are geocoding the user's input [badly, you should be using Geocoder, not GlocalSearch] and overlaying a fixed graphic. That's not difficult and is something many Google Maps developers have been doing for a few years.

    However: it's a decent first stab. For the next stage, how about incorporating StreetView and Mapsicle for elevations, so you can show how big the Coliseum was next to the Emirates Stadium?

  • Comment number 3.

    The only big things missing that I can think of is that of linking the data up with the subjects in some way, possibly with RDFa referencing dbpedia URIs in the absence of some real RDF? (And, following on from that, a way to plug in a subject URI and get back a page showing it overlaid on the map, assuming the subject was 'known'). And, some conneg or a would be cool, if there was a sane way of expressing the overlays in KML.

    Beyond this, I think this is one of the best kinds of prototypes: elegant, easy to understand, and not massively technically-complex but conceptually clever.

  • Comment number 4.

    I like the idea, something doesn't seem right though.
    I put the space shuttle runway on "heathrow airport, london", wikipedia claims those are approx 12,000ft runways yet the shuttle runway (15,000ft + 2000ft overrun) looks much shorter.

  • Comment number 5.

    Also I assume you know https://berglondon.com/ has been down much of the day?

  • Comment number 6.

    The first thing I found I wanted to do was drag the overlay around a bit

  • Comment number 7.

    I found it very mono-dimensional, and furthermore, all within a very small range of the single dimension being addressed.

    Whatever happened to the other six: mass, time, duration, electric current, thermodynamic temperature, amount of substance, and luminous intensity?


  • Comment number 8.

    Nice! But doesn't seem to work with my WebKit based browsers (chromium 6.0.486.0 and Epiphany 2.30.2, on Fedora 13). Not sure whose bug that is.

  • Comment number 9.

    Great Idea - Seeing the area covered by the Tora Bora caves made me realise the size of the task in securing Afghanistan in a way that words never could.

    Also the scale of the Pentagon - maybe some 9/11 empiricists need to see this when they watch the video of the plane striking the building and say 'but it isn't big enough.' Its all about scale!

  • Comment number 10.

    conspiricists even!

  • Comment number 11.

    Hi, if you could persist each user's choice of postcode across multiple overlays, it would make it easier and less clumsy to flick from one to another. Retyping the same postcode for each new overlay is annoying and detracts from the enjoyment of the display.


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