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Round Up Thursday 7 October 2010

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Nick Reynolds Nick Reynolds | 15:36 UK time, Thursday, 7 October 2010

According to the Daily Telegraph the BBC iPlayer is the "best catch-up service in the UK".

The research, which was carried out by Webcredible, a user experience consultancy, scored iPlayer 88 per cent in usability stakes, closely followed in second place by STV Player, the Scottish TV broadcaster's VOD offering, which is gave 76 per cent. According to Webcredible's analysis, the BBC iPlayer currently offers viewers the "most usable video on demand offering".

The full report and a podcast can be found at Webcredible's own website.

On the one hand Scholars and Rogues waxes lyrical, saying iPlayer is "Yet another great and wonderful thing about the BBC". While on the other Steve's Ponderous gives his view on "Why I hate the new iPlayer".

A Freedom of Information request from What Do they Know has revealed how much the BBC spent on digital marketing between 2009 and 2010.

Econsultancy's view:

By keeping its SEO in-house, and making the most of Twitter feeds, the BBC has kept its digital marketing spending to just over £1.6m last year, which is surprising considering the size of the organisation.

Steve Bowbrick (ex blogger in residence and now working on BBC Radio blogs, including the new radio blog) explains how twitter can come in handy:

...at about 0645 yesterday morning, while eating my cornflakes, I noticed a lot of tweets mentioning Radio 4 and complaining that there was something wrong with the network's FM stream on Internet radios and mobiles...There was a to-and-fro of tweets from listeners (using semi-private @replies and public @mentions as appropriate). Although there was no official line on the problem yet, between us we were able to figure out that the only streams affected were the Windows Media ones used by devices that don't support Flash... And somewhere in the middle of all this, BBC staffer James Hart (@syzygy on Twitter) noticed all the fuss and picked up the phone to exactly the right engineer who proceeded to switch the streams back to their proper locations. By 0915 everything was back to normal."

Nick Reynolds is Social Media Executive, BBC Online


  • Comment number 1.

    Users of iPlayer Desktop have not experienced a "great and wonderful thing about the BBC"

    Since the all new iPlayer web site was first introduced as a "beta" option all those months ago, there has been a persistent problem with downloaded programmes.

    Five days (almost to the second) after the time they are downloaded programmes are deleted as expired.

    This nasty bug persists after I think five new versions of iPlayer Desktop (including optional beta releases) because it is a problem with your servers!

    Somewhere in the calculation of 30 days expiry into milliseconds remaining before deletion; 3600,0000 becomes 600,000 or some such error. Maybe a multiplication by 10 rather than 60? I don't know, but the result is that iPlayer Desktop calculates the downloaded programme has reached 30 days when only five have passed.

    Or is it that time runs six times faster inside the BBC bubble?

  • Comment number 2.

    Are the changes to the Messageboards not worth a mention in Roudup.
    The R4 messageboard was improved this week.
    Users have not been able to open new threads at all on the improved messageboard.
    Users have however posted some 400 comments about the improvements in a single thread within the last three days
    A thread the R4 Host started, but has only commented in I think twice.
    (There are two blogs about this this 1 & 2 )

  • Comment number 3.

    Do I take it Nick that you consider tweets to be more effective than using the 'contact forms'?

    Does BBC now monitor Twitter 24/7 for contact support questions?

    Steve Bowbrick (ex blogger in residence and now working on BBC Radio blogs, including the new radio blog) explains how twitter can come in handy: BBC staffer James Hart (@syzygy on Twitter) noticed all the fuss and picked up the phone to exactly the right engineer who proceeded to switch the streams back to their proper locations. By 0915 everything was back to normal."

    That will be despite the BBC insisting that contact forms are the official way of reporting such problems and as I quote from a BBC post:

    As mentioned a few times - you *must* log your problem using the contact form. This is the only way that our operations teams can hear about problems in a structured way.

    The information submitted on the contact form is monitored and acted upon 24 hours a day, 365 days a year.

    The message boards are not actively monitored for support requests
    { BBC blogger Alan Ogilvie ]

    I am sure users will be happy to use twitter if they are assured it is going to be acted upon by the BBC, however we all know the 350 characters limit already produces problems on technical enquiries, even when augmented with the rest of the contact form information. I would have thought contact forms will remain essential for the reasons quoted above.

  • Comment number 4.

    John99 - twitter has not replaced the contact us form as a way of giving feedback to the BBC. But obviously the BBC uses lots of different ways to assess what licence fee payers are saying and if useful information is picked up in other ways and results in a problem being solved than that's a good thing. The fact that I have posted a link in one of these round ups to someone using twitter in this way should not be interpreted as any kind of "official" BBC position. Like all of the material included in round ups I simply think that readers of the blog might be interested in it.

    Changes to message boards are off topic on this post, but thanks for your feedback, which I will pass on.

    Squirrel - thanks for your comment which I will pass on to the iPlayer team.

  • Comment number 5.

    Thanks for the reply, your comments noted.

    I did think the messageboard changes were topical, but can appreciate your wish to keep comments on that in existing threads and blogs rather than here & did included relevant links in the original post.

  • Comment number 6.

    You really must address the iPlayer fault reporting system, it's heinously complex to fill in the report form.

    Additionally the message board is full of Sony Fault reports with no reply on the board from a BBC person. Someone's had to trawl through the FAQs to find a response. That response is woefully inadequate as it gives no indication of work in progress or a fix time.

    (Sony devices have stopped working with the iPlayer for well over 24 hours incidentally which is poor)

    Please get to the bottom of communication within the corporation it's not good, and that's being polite.

  • Comment number 7.

    .... and the report form doesn't have the option to report the Sony issue anyway.

  • Comment number 8.

    This round-up seems to ignore the two big stories of the last few weeks... the roll-out of the new iPlayer and the massive infrastructure changes currently rolling out to all the message boards. They are news. Perhaps Nick could link to the two very popular threads on those items as they will be of more interest than a news item about the old player being the best.

  • Comment number 9.

    Hello - I asked the DNA team for an update. They are aware of the bugs you mention and they are working a release for early next week which should hopefully fix most of them.


  • Comment number 10.

    Nick, as requested in post 8, you could link to the 3 topical issues that are on the minds of many visitors to the blogs.. the design changes to the BBC website, the message boards and the iPlayer. These are very pertinent and evidenced by their popularity are more relevant to us than the subjects mentioned in this blog.

  • Comment number 11.

    Thanks for the response @4 above Nick, it is nice to know that somebody at least reads comments.

    I wonder if it would be possible to pass the comments on UP the management structure? The iPlayer team are very well aware, if they ever look at their own message board..

    How many e-mailed log files, comment forms, posts on blogs and boards, even telephoned complaints, does it take?

    Maybe a word or two to Erik Huggers
    ( https://www.bbc.co.uk/blogs/bbcinternet/erik_huggers/ )
    who does not seem to have visited this blog in the last six weeks.

    James Hewines doesn't seem to have been able to read the couple of hundred comments on his entry:
    all about how " BBC iPlayer gets even better "

    The response of the iPlayer team, seen from this end, is really poor. They just post on the message board (and archive complaining threads) or via a [very]FAQ in the iPlayer [no]help section that the latest new version of iPD has resolved all the problems.

    Five months and counting..

    Maybe BBC Watchdog should be investigating BBC iPlayer or THE watchdog, is that OFCOM or The BBC Trust?

  • Comment number 12.

    I agree with Squirrel. We should add the BBC news iphone app to the above list. It has not worked since the upgrade.

  • Comment number 13.

    Nick: Your comment to me at #4 above lead me to believe someone from the iPlayer team would be popping up here to respond about the state of iPlayer Desktop.

    Another week has passed and the iPlayer team don't even comment on their own message board any more!

    Closed eyes and fingers in the ears while shouting "la la la I can't hear you!" repeatedly is not really a solution.

    The only reference to a problem is in the FAQ:


    Where it says.. "Please ensure you are using the latest version of BBC iPlayer Desktop (version 3.0.7)."

    That is the version I have re-installed three times in the last two weeks! It has NOT resolved the problem..

  • Comment number 14.

    Squirrel - I got a response from the iPlayer team on Friday to your comment which I will be posting on Monday.

    Incidentally, rather than putting their fingers in their ears as you suggest, I know that they are actually putting their fingers to work trying to fix the issue. As always they have to balance their time between time spent investigating and fixing things and time spent telling people they are doing so.


  • Comment number 15.

    and where do we ask about the BBC News iPhone app that still crashes for everyone?

  • Comment number 16.

    OfficerDibble: the BBC News iPhone app is off topic for this post. This page gives more information about the BBC News iPhone app. There is an email address there to send queries to.


  • Comment number 17.

    I too have repeatedly asked for help, the iPlayer worked fine on my Linux Ubuntu 10.04 system. Since I was given no choice but to "UPGRADE" it has not worked at all. It doesn't download directly from the website as instructed and when I go through to appalling "help" service there are no FAQs (I don't believe that) and when I found and followed the "special" instructions to download the Adobe Air software from the Adobe site and download the iPlayer package from a web address that seems to be missing from the "help" pages now I managed to install both. However it doesn't download any programs and insists that I "Install" it again from the website which fails. Every time I have checked in the last four attempts to re-install it (as suggested) I get a different version of the Adobe Air software.
    What are we supposed to install when it clearly doesn't work anymore.
    I still fail to see why the "pretty" new website is more important than getting the software that it is supposed to supply working.

  • Comment number 18.

    Hi Squirrel - The technical team at BBC iPlayer tell me that they think they have found an issue that is causing iPlayer downloads to expire. It's a very subtle issue and they are working on it now. They hope to have a release to fix it ready for testing on Friday this week and after that it will take a further couple of weeks before its ready to go live, subject obviously to it passing testing.


  • Comment number 19.

    For those of a technical persuasion here's more detail of the issue.

  • Comment number 20.

    #19 Nick

    How does that explain anything at all about the iPlayer problems ??

    The deletions and expireys have been problematic since before July and BBC has repeatedly failed to get this to work for all users. Why not look at this BBC post which was prematurely archived "Early Expiry of BBC iPlayer Desktop Programmes Posted by Dave-iPlayerOps 25th July 2010" ( or my post)

    I appreciate the none technical comment #18 where you say the problem may be fixed in a few weeks, but we have heard similar for months.

    Rather than link in your comment above to some public code fragment if you wish to provide some insight into what is happening "For those of a technical persuasion" how about a short blog from someone from the BBC technical department or iPlayer team.

    Or even PLEASE just a comment within these blog comments.

    I am sure whatever is causing the problem is not a general fault in Air, but if I am wrong in that assumption, how about links to reports of this, and the Adobe bug reports. etc.

  • Comment number 21.

    John99 - I am hoping to get an update from the iPlayer team by the end of the week.


  • Comment number 22.

    Nick, thanks for listening and resoponding, John

  • Comment number 23.

    Does this update actually mean an "update" or just another "try again" message, this has been going on since 6th September when the working system was replaced and we were forced to use this "non working option" that fails to download on Linux systems and and has all sorts of disc memory release problems in Windows. Perhaps it was only tried on an iPad or something it does work on, it must work on something?

  • Comment number 24.

    I guess the problem is getting another coat of looking at.

    The iPlayer announcement this afternoon :
    "Expiry Date - Why has my downloaded programme expired early? 22 October 2010 12:35"

    I think the change to the wording is in the final paragraph:

    "For users who continue to experience issues with downloaded content expiring prematurely, despite having the latest version of BBC iPlayer Desktop installed, then please note that this is being actively investigated"

    PS look in my posts above (#20) , even the BBC had acknowledged the problem by July, users had reported it earlier.

  • Comment number 25.

    Hi John99 - the iPlayer team have been working on this and send me this quick update just now:

    "We have found and worked around an issue in the Flash runtime that is causing timers to fire early. We use these timers to know when content should expire. The issue only happens on certain combinations of operating system, hardware and Flash version so it’s been incredibly difficult to find. Find it we have though and we’ve written code to get around the problem. We’ve been testing this new version of iPlayer Desktop internally this week. It takes a week for the bug to appear so we couldn’t make a version available to you earlier. If the testing passes we’ll upload it on Monday. "

    So it looks as though there could be a new version on Monday.

    I hope this helps and I'm hoping for some more information next week.


  • Comment number 26.

    Thats good news,

    [I also copied your message onto iPlayer messageboard :) . ]


  • Comment number 27.

    Keep it quiet !
    There is a iPD v3.0.8 for tweeters

  • Comment number 28.

    If it is the one I downloaded this lunchtime it appears to be numbered 3.0.7? on my Linux machine, but as it now downloads programs and was installed without any "circling icon" continually returning me to the download "Install BBC iPlayer" circle something has changed, it also "correctly" asked my approval before installing, so maybe it is the Adobe Air Installer that was at fault again.
    All I can say is I hope this works properly this time.

  • Comment number 29.

    The installer I downloaded (as a Windows user) was "bbc_iplayer_desktop_v308.air" so it did mention 3.0.8
    However I have not yet installed it.
    (I would want to do a bit of houskeeping and backing up before risking installing it)

    Seems, BBC is ignoring the messageboards and blogging and tweeting instead. I did comment in message #3 above about BBC tweeting & Nicks reply #4 did not mention abandonment of the messageboards.

  • Comment number 30.

    Messageboard cottoned on this morning.
    "New BBC iPlayer Desktop beta 3.08"


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