Archives for January 2011

What's On BBC Red Button 29th January - 11th February 2011

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Lisa Dawson Lisa Dawson | 15:00 UK time, Friday, 28 January 2011

Becoming Human
Becoming Human


Becoming Human is a brand new companion drama to the third series of Being Human. Featuring two new characters and a crossover character from the main show, watch the mystery unfold on the red button and online.

Vampire Adam is at college trying to get himself back on the straight and narrow. He meets the beautiful, cool Christa - who just happens to be a werewolf. They strike up a friendship with Matt and the three of them become embroiled in a mystery that leads to more than they bargained for...

Viewers can either sit back and watch the 8 episodes, or they can get more involved in the story as it unfolds, with extra clues and materials posted online at

Sun 30th January, 9:55pm-4:00am
Mon 31st January, 11:25pm-4:00am
Thu 3rd February, 1:05am-4:00am
Sun 6th February, 9:55pm-4:00am
Mon 7th February, 11:25pm-4:00am
Wed 9th February, 9:00pm-4:00am (Virgin starts 12.20am)
Sun 30th January, 9:55pm-12:50am
Mon 31st January, 11:25pm-12:00am
Thu 3rd February, 1:05am-1:40am
Sun 6th February, 9:55pm-10:45pm
Mon 7th February, 11:25pm-4:00am
Thu 10th February, 12:00am-4:00am

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BBC Red Button video service arrives on Freesat

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Ronald Bullen | 14:01 UK time, Friday, 28 January 2011

2008 saw the launch of a brand new digital TV platform, with the BBC instrumental in delivering both channels and interactive content on to Freesat.

The BBC Red Button offering on the new platform was not quite the same as that on our existing platforms such as Sky, Virgin Media and Freeview and this has generated some comments since then. In particular, Freesat viewers have been keen to enjoy the same video content that was made available on other platforms. I want to update these Freesat viewers on some exciting developments.

Today, all Freesat viewers (broadcast and IP connected boxes) will be able to access our single stream video services as well as the Sport Multiscreen service that accompanied the initial launch; this brings Freesat viewers a wider range of BBC Red Button video-based services to enjoy.


First for Freesat viewers is the new Being Human spin off, Becoming Human, available from 30 January, along with more exclusive content from comedy show Episodes.

This product development enables us to add these video service links via existing scheduling tools which launches an (MHEG) application allowing the viewer to be taken to our interactive streams and back again.

We are aware that still not all services offered on our legacy platforms are available on Freesat; however this is an exciting development for the BBC Red Button team and one we hope to build on in the future.

All BBC Red Button listings can be found here via our regular What's On posting and we have noted where a service is now available across all TV platforms.

Ronald Bullen is Service Delivery Manager, BBC Red Button

Response to the BBC Trust's Online Independent Supply Review

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Erik Huggers Erik Huggers | 11:11 UK time, Friday, 28 January 2011

Today the BBC Trust has published the conclusions of its Online Independent Supply Review. It represents a fair appraisal and we accept the overall findings.

Whilst the Trust concludes that we are complying with our minimum 25% quota and ensuring that the content commissioned is of a suitable range and diversity, we acknowledge the call for significant and urgent improvements to the way in which we engage with the market, and a redefinition of the long-term strategic goals of the quota system.

On an operational level we've already taken remedial measures. A business review identified a number of shortcomings in the way we work with suppliers. We have recently run a pilot of operational changes to redress these, as outlined in a previous post from October. The focus for improvement is three-fold: the suitability and practicality of our current quota definitions, the overall openness and transparency with the market, and the simplicity and efficiency of our commissioning processes. We look forward to actively engaging with the market so we can better shape and develop our proposals. This will also provide an opportunity for us to communicate in more detail the implications of the new BBC Online strategy - announced earlier this week - for external suppliers.

It is critical that any changes which are proposed reflect the extent to which the online market has changed since publication of the Graf Report in 2004. The speed and magnitude of change in the online industry has been highlighted by the Trust. It's clear that any improvements we make must recognise these shifts in order to be effective, set us up for success and give us a robust framework for the future. For this to be a success, we must ensure that all proposed reforms meet our objectives to make our engagement with suppliers more strategic, open, and effective.

We will submit our detailed response on both improvements to process and the broader strategic goals of our quota to the Trust within three months.

Erik Huggers is Director, BBC Future Media & Technology

Round up: Thursday 27 January 2011

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Nick Reynolds Nick Reynolds | 18:57 UK time, Thursday, 27 January 2011

paidContent has an audio interview with Erik Huggers about the changes to BBC Online: "BBC's Outgoing Huggers Says Cuts Fix A Bloated Website"

Now that the dust has settled it's time for some considered analysis:

Emily Bell(wether): "We're All Mark Thompson Now"

At its worst, the BBC's online presence was a reflection of its confused core. All things to everyone all the time. Nobody seemed to understand the concept of 'no white space on the web', well plenty did, but not those handing out editorial permissions to start sites as it was 'only the web'. If you could have actually seen the output of this labour, if it were made physical, the corridors of White City would be impassable with irrelevant content clutter.

From paidContent: "In BBC's Age Of Austerity, Algorithms Are Axeman's Best Friend"

It's these which are the emblematic measures, signifying the end of an era in which online was considered the BBC's "third medium" after TV and radio... BBC Online is now a highly popular mainstream medium in its own right - but one which, save for a few key services, is part and parcel of the broadcast experience.

GigaOm is optimistic: "How BBC Online Cuts Can Push it into the 21st Century"

A significant portion of BBC web output is boosted simply because it's from the BBC, not because of its innate quality. When services are genuinely good, the public latches on. And those successful areas are largely unaffected by these cuts: the details announced today have barely any impact on BBC News... they also don't really hurt the corporation's biggest success story of recent years, the iPlayer...

The changes got support from a surprising quarter. Classical music blogger Pliable who is (as always) On An Overgrown Path: "Beware of cut and paste culture"

Every BBC website has been reviewed using the three criteria of meeting public purpose, meeting editorial priorities and distinctiveness... It is this focus on distinctiveness... which should be sending a message far beyond Broadcasting House.

853 was unimpressed with plans to cut the BBC's TLDs: "Pulling the plug on the BBC's internet history"

The BBC should be shouting about its role in creating the British web, not sweeping this history under the carpet for fear of offending ideologically-obsessed blowhards.

Daniel Danker's further explanation of what's planned for BBC Radio didn't satisfy eveybody including James Cridland ("The BBC's "new radio product": birtspeak translation") and Adam Bowie ("The BBC and Marketing Speak").

The announcement about H2G2 has been picked up by Slashdot, boing boing, The Register, and Thinking About It who attempts to describe H2G2:

But whenever I try to say more I just end up saying what it isn't... It's not even primarily a social network though it predates just about all of the ones still standing, and it's not "a small town in cyberspace" though that is how I've described it for years.

And finally over at Radio 4 they're doing some "curating".

Nick Reynolds is Social Media Executive, BBC Online

Thanks for all the #tags

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Ian Forrester Ian Forrester | 11:43 UK time, Thursday, 27 January 2011

So we're finally at the very end of a era. There's a few more things to sort out but generally its all come to an end. This blog will be mothballed for the future.

I'd like to thank everyone who took the time to get involved with, be it to rave about what we were doing or shout at us about the DRM stance of the BBC.

Without people like yourselves giving up your time to get involved, hack, tweak and scrape the BBC of its data, it wouldn't have been anywhere near the success it turned out to be. All this will go down in history as a breath taking project with many fingers in many pies which out performanced its very humble start and drove the way the BBC will move forward in the future.

Read more and say farewell at the BBC Backstage blog.

Ian Forrester is Senior Producer, BBC Backstage

Delivering Quality First: plans for online radio

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Daniel Danker Daniel Danker | 15:39 UK time, Tuesday, 25 January 2011

All of the BBC Radio networks

Yesterday we announced the next phase of Putting Quality First. As part of that announcement, we made the first mention of our upcoming 'Radio and Music product', which created a bit of confusion about our plans for online radio: I hope this post explains in a little more detail.

Yes, we do plan to build a new product for radio but this isn't to cut corners, or downplay what we do for radio online - as with everything we announced yesterday it's because we want to make the service better, not worse. In the case of radio and music, we think this means giving radio its own home.

Radio first became part of BBC iPlayer in 2008 because the BBC iPlayer brand was growing, so it made it easier for audiences, and there were benefits from bringing TV and radio closer together. It's not the only way of listening to BBC Radio online and you can access podcasts through the separate podcast website and also stream live through the network sites. We think this can be made simpler.

The majority of radio listening comes through the radio station web sites rather than iPlayer. At its heart, iPlayer is a product built for TV and audiences have different needs from TV and radio on the web. For instance, in BBC iPlayer nearly 90% of TV requests are for catch-up, whereas radio requests are around 70% live. Hence our decision to build a new product for radio and music that builds in podcasts and plays to the strengths of live radio.

The teams in Audio and Music and Future Media are working together to shape the product. We've not yet fully decided what it will look like, but broadly speaking, here's what we want the product to do:

  • Better bring out the personality of the networks, presenters and DJs
  • Rich pages for our flagship programmes (e.g. The Today Programme, The Archers)
  • Integrate music events
  • Be highly personalised and available on lots of internet-connected devices (people want radio on the move)
  • Be highly social; pulling in the buzz around live radio
  • Become a home for podcasts (both 'catch-up' and 'archive' content), as well as improve the way we offer clips
  • Make better use of technology to improve exploration, discovery, sharing, and listening
  • Create a new design especially for radio and music
  • Link up closely with the TV & iPlayer product (but not duplicate it), sharing links

Also, as we said yesterday, there are things it won't do. It won't offer track-by track streaming or aggregate third party stations, which brings me onto Radioplayer.

Though the BBC have been the technical architects in this project, it's a partnership. With our partners Global, GMG Radio, Absolute and the RadioCentre we want to bring all UK radio together in one place, and any Ofcom-licensed station can be involved. With listeners able to search by genre, presenter, programme and locality, audiences can discover new programmes and stations, and make use of other features. This has been running in beta for a while now, is looking great, and we expect it to launch very soon.

Though we've not yet worked the details through, we think both projects add up to a vastly improved online radio experience for audiences and hope to share more details soon.

UPDATE: In response to the queries in several comments below. Existing iPlayer/BBC website features including 7 day catch up, live streaming, podcast, clips, selected archive and availability on other devices will remain and be fully integrated into the new product/player.

Daniel Danker is General Manager, Programmes and On Demand, BBC Future Media & Technology

Delivering Quality First: Halving the number of top level domains on BBC Online

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Ian Hunter | 16:50 UK time, Monday, 24 January 2011

In March last year Erik Huggers noted that one symptom of the way BBC Online had grown over the years was the proliferation of TLDs that made up the site.

A challenge we set ourselves was to reduce the number from over 400 to under 200. This is a progress report.

The challenge had two parts. First, it made us ask which parts of the site really delivered in terms of audience benefit and therefore should be kept and built on. They formed part of our "fewer things, better" approach.

It is also true that some sites, for example, /news naturally absorbed older content into its online archive, allowing people to follow stories back in time. Our /programmes site also works in this way, designed to provide a long term record of BBC broadcast output. However, where a site was more stand alone and its content no longer attracted users, was becoming unreliable, or video and audio assets unplayable, it was easy enough to earmark it for closure.

Second, we had to decide how best to manage the legacy content. Even sites which had become out of date were likely to have some historical interest. We looked into possible online archiving solutions but none fitted the bill. So we have decided to store the core content from our older websites offline, allowing interested parties in future to be able to recreate at least some of the experience they offered.

A number of sites which previously had their own TLDs will become absorbed into BBC Online's new products. Their assets, therefore, will continue to be available.

For others, a typical lifecycle is emerging.

This goes from live to a "mothball" state, where the content still has value but is no longer updated, for example /palin.

At some stage mothballed content becomes stale or potentially damaging and it needs to be taken offline. At that stage a "tombstone" tells users what has happened and may offer alternatives.This also avoids breaking the user's journey. The material taken offline is stored for future reference, or deleted altogether.

For the record, here is our current list of TLDs which are earmarked for closure before the end of the year.

Ian Hunter is Managing Editor, BBC Online

Delivering Quality First on BBC Online: Social Media

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Ian Hunter | 11:00 UK time, Monday, 24 January 2011

Following today's announcement about the re-shaping of BBC Online , including the decision to close 606, Video Nation and the BBC iPlayer message board, and the disposal of h2g2, I wanted to share some of our thinking around social media.

Central to the new strategy is a tighter focus on the BBC's editorial priorities to make the service better, and a 25% reduction in BBC Online's budget. Both will affect our approach to social media.

We believe there are three fundamental ways social media can enhance BBC Online.

First, to enrich our content. Drawing on the collective knowledge and experience of our users can improve what we publish, for everyone. One recent example of this was A History of the World. Another is comments on blogs which often illuminate or extend or challenge a post in interesting ways.

Second, to bring more people to our content. When a user recommends something to his or her network of friends that is more likely to interest them than when the BBC makes the recommendation. More eyes on the same content means better value for money.

Third, to better engage audiences. Engaged users come back more frequently, increasing the value of the service to them. Richer connections with the user can help us be more open, transparent and accountable.

The next phase of our approach to social will be to move from a site which offers a few fairly circumscribed social experiences to one which is more social everywhere.

We recognise that contributions made off BBC Online can also add value to the content we publish, so we want to converge onsite and offsite contributions better than we do now. You can see the beginnings of this via Buzz and in our coverage of live events like the recent Ashes cricket or the Archers 60th anniversary.

Similarly, we are looking at the potential for broadening the interactions around some of our blogs by exposing a wider range of relevant social contributions.

The most notable changes are probably the closure of 606 and proposed disposal of H2G2. These sites are certainly social and in their own terms, successful. However, neither have strong links to the BBC's content. Ben Gallop on the Sports Editors blog explains more about the closure of 606, and its fit with the broader changes in Sport. H2G2 is a unique community but it does not sit comfortably alongside anything else we do. The site has been created, and is sustained by, its users and our hope is to find a new owner who will nurture it in the coming years. In due course we plan to close the BBC iPlayer message board whose function is increasingly being taken on by new features within the product and BBC Online.

This isn't a sudden change in direction. Sites that have only a peripheral connection with our editorial purposes, don't significantly enhance our content or only engage small audiences can't any longer justify the resources they need. This is why we have closed a number of message boards in the past year or so. This process will continue, selectively.

How, then, can we make the whole of BBC Online more social?

In recent months we have experimented with enabling comments within some news pages. We will be looking to extend this in the coming months, developing the editors' picks feature and the ability to rate other people's comments.

BBC iPlayer users are able to recommend programmes (and add a comment) and have these posted to their accounts in Facebook or Twitter. Again, this is a small start to something we plan to extend more widely. Some programmes and networks will continue to experiment with, and improve, the official BBC pages we manage on Facebook (such as BBC Radio 1 and Eastenders) and Youtube. And we'll continue to explore collaborations like Sound of 2011 with social sites like Songkick and LastFM.

Much of this is standard practice across the web, of course, and we need to evolve to meet the changing expectations of our users. The size of BBC Online, the legacy systems on which it was built, our commitment to maintaining the highest editorial standards and to providing a safe social environment mean that the task is complex. And in a world where we have fewer people and less money we have to focus on doing the things which promise to offer the biggest benefits to all of our users.

Ian Hunter is Managing Editor, BBC Online

Read Erik Huggers' post: "Reshaping BBC Online"

Read Ben Gallop's post: "Changes to Sport Online".

H2G2 Refresh: design and technical challenges

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Paul Goodenough | 17:23 UK time, Thursday, 20 January 2011

Screenshot of the new H2G2 homepage

The new redesigned H2G2 site

Editor's note: this week the refreshed version of the BBC's long running community site H2G2 was launched. You can make general comments about the new site here, and report bugs here.

"Take 1 digital web agency,

2 internal BBC departments,

1,000,000 unique users,

256605 entries

and 12 years of love and enjoyment...

Develop.... but very carefully!"

When we were awarded the H2G2 redevelopment work from BBC, some of the team asked what it "was". Like most things which stem from likening one thing to another, it was fuelled by mankind's predisposition for making things easy to understand.

I've heard it called Wittypedia, which is as close to a true label as one could come.

It's effervescent, brilliant, astounding and a wonderful testament to the beauty that can be found in language and user generated content. Unlike other 'similar' sites, it's a conversation, not a lecture. And in that distinction lays everything.

We inherited H2G2 from its previous iteration, a UGC web 2.0 project inspired by Douglas Adams back in the 1980s. Unfortunately, since that date, no one had really revisited the site's framework and branding - a terrible shame when you consider the love and esteem the fiercely loyal community and greater world hold it in.

Amusingly, the site was so closely akin to Douglas Adam's and the Hitchhikers ethos that no one person, including the community, seemed to know all of the various granular functionality offered within its frame - something that would continually bite us throughout the next few months. H2G2 is as unique, funny and quirky as the man himself and our UT work only uncovered about 80% of functionality as we would find out later...

User Centric Design

We spent many long hours reviewing both the existing site's legacy content and functionality. This presented us with a number of key challenges throughout the design stage of the project. The biggest and hardest of which was the love and personality of the brand. We knew that the community were so impassioned when it came to the website that we simply had to involve them at every stage of the design process.

Don't panic!


The knowledge of the existing community with their fantastic passion for the brand, and our cold, logical IA work to detangle the site and increase accessibility to new users yielded surprisingly positive results. Everyone's fear that change could upset the community turned out to be unfounded - in my opinion, this was 100% down to the efforts of Sam, Chris and Nick to involve the community so integrally from beginning to end. This process was a credit to both the community, and the passion of the H2G2 staff.

I personally worked very closely with Sam and Chris, thrashing out ideas for how best to represent the brand. We thrashed out many iterations of the design, ranging from a dusty old antique room full of iconography such as teacups, cocktails, plotting mice and flying dolphins mounted on the wall; to a sea / sky based images with inspired flotsam and jetsam bobbing along the curiously angled sea. All crazy and fun, but not quite right when it came to attracting a new audience - which is key to the site's continued existence.

So, we instead opted for broad strokes of inalienably subtle iconography such as the dolphins leaving earth, and a few subtle nuances lost on all but the most observant of viewers. Whereas on previous projects, we'd found that the BBC GEL offered significant challenges to users and editorial teams who wanted a less formulaic handling of their brand, on H2G2, GEL provided us with a perfect design pattern partner. and despite a few challenges; the site benefited greatly from the uniformity this brought.

The look and feel / UI work tested amazingly well within the community, with sporadic conversations starting up on the site about how pleased they were with what they had seen. We were extremely proud when Sean, one of the original creators of H2G2 wrote on a discussion that he believed

"the whole page - from graduated fade at the top to cloud-covered earth at the bottom - simply oozes graphical class".

Technical and Information Architecture

A key challenge that returned continually was the existing sites ability to allow the community to exhibit their own personality over their presence via use of GuideML, the language that runs the UGC content from the community. GuideML allowed users to put free form (and often malformed) HTML-esque content. This caused incredible problems for us as we could never entirely tell what that content might be. To combat this, Ben Poole, who deserves significant credit, worked tirelessly very closely with the DNA team to create conditional logic to strip out and replace whatever malformations were possible to bring the code in-line with BBC standards and guidelines.

Problems, problems, problems

Unfortunately, a combination of legacy content and our necessity to wait for the DNA internal team's delivery of systems and APIs, meant that the project went on much longer than expected - a key disappointment for us was missing the 10/10/10 (binary code for 42 for us geeks out there) as a launch date or community celebration.

The reasons for this were many, the APIs brought with them a swathe of necessary research, testing and development. This, combined with the ever shifting sands of requirements from both the editorial team and the community at large, meant that the PAL application was a mammoth task that bore yet more tasks in turn. The DNA team continually maintained close links and a great work practice with Ben allowing them to keep up with the ever ballooning brief.

Beta late than never

The decision was taken to present the development of the site to the wider community as a Beta launch. This served many purposes. Firstly, it allowed us to get some amazing in-depth user testing, from testers who often knew features of the site that no one else was aware of; and secondly, it gave us the opportunity to engage in a conversation with them - allowing them to comment, suggest and complain.

The beta launch went better than we could have hoped, with some amazing feedback, both positive and constructive criticism - which allowed us to make the project greater than the sum of its BBC / Aerian Studios parts. However, as you can imagine, it did put us back yet further!


It's hard to talk at length about how much difficulty we had integrating with the API's provided because so much of the problem was hidden in the details. It's also hard to explain to an outsider how hard Sam and Chris (and Ben Poole from our end) worked in making sure the project was delivered with the quality it deserved - I hope that you see for yourself and it's apparent to all.

In conclusion.

For me at least, H2G2 was like a night out: it went on a little too long, it was sticky and uncomfortable in places and your head is still spinning - but you wouldn't change it for the world.

So you'll have to excuse me, I'm off to concoct another Pan-Galactic Gargle Blaster to celebrate the new look of an old friend.

Cheers - to H2G2!

Paul Goodenough is Managing Director of Aerian Studios - a mostly harmless web agency

December 2010 BBC iPlayer monthly performance pack

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Nick Reynolds Nick Reynolds | 10:36 UK time, Tuesday, 18 January 2011

The BBC iPlayer stats pack for December 2010 is now available as a PDF.

Here are some headlines put together by the BBC FM&T Communications Team.

In total BBC iPlayer received 145 million requests for TV and radio programmes in December 2010. This was the third month in a row that BBC iPlayer broke its total number of requests record, and is a year-on-year increase of 27%. Three more records were smashed in December:

Total number of requests for TV programmes were at an all time high 89.7 million requests

BBC iPlayer on Virgin Media saw a new record of 23.9 million requests received

Requests for programmes via BBC iPlayer on Sony's Playstation 3 reached 7 million, which is an increase of 31% month-on-month...

Rounding out the top ten most popular programmes were Matt Lucas and David Walliams's new airport based comedy "Come Fly With Me" charting at number 5, with over 780 thousand requests for episode one and the traditional Christmas Day episodes of Doctor Who and EastEnders, receiving over 700,000 and 600,000 thousand requests respectively...

Nick Reynolds is Social Media Executive, BBC Online

What's On BBC Red Button 15th - 28th January 2011

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Lisa Dawson Lisa Dawson | 15:17 UK time, Friday, 14 January 2011

Mozart Uncovered


Mozart enthusiasts can get even more extra content on BBC Red Button. Charles Hazlewood examines and conducts Symphony No 40 in G Minor, together with an enhanced visual view of the performance using graphics and information as the music unfolds.

Sky/Virgin Media/Freeview:
Fri 21st January, 7:30pm-8:30pm

Read the rest of this entry

BBC Trust gives provisional views on syndication of on-demand BBC programmes

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Nick Reynolds Nick Reynolds | 18:52 UK time, Thursday, 13 January 2011

The BBC Trust has announced its' provisional conclusions on the BBC's on demand and syndication policy, after their consultation last year. From the press release:

... on-demand BBC programmes should only be made available to TV platform operators through the BBC iPlayer, and should not be made available on a programme-by-programme basis... The BBC iPlayer should be made available in standard formats that the great majority of other TV operators can readily adopt... 'Bespoke' versions of the iPlayer should be developed only in exceptional cases.

The full conclusions are available on the BBC Trust's website.

A four week consultation on the provisional conclusions was launched yesterday.


From Broadband TV News: "BBC will refuse requests to build bespoke iPlayer versions"

From Rapid TV News: "Trust proposes iPlayer as sole source of BBC on-demand content"

From paidContent: "BBC's VOD Syndication Refusal Backed By Regulator". Quote:

The BBC has refused to help such third parties build bespoke installs of its VOD because it is fielding a burgeoning number of requests. The issue is partly cost - it has now taken its iPlayer on to 31 different technology platforms, but usually only via a one-size-fits-all web experience...

From Reg Hardware: "BBC Trust says no to kit-specific iPlayer apps". For trenchant opinion head for the Reg Hardware forum.

Nick Reynolds is Social Media Executive, BBC Online.

New home page for BBC blogs

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Jessica Shiel Jessica Shiel | 07:22 UK time, Thursday, 13 January 2011

Today we're launching the Beta of our newly designed blogs homepage and we've added a popup survey to capture your feedback (NB you will need to click through to the blogs homepage to see the relevent survey).

Please take a look and let me know what you think.

Once we're happy that this page is stable and fit for purpose we will begin linking to it from other BBC blogs.

Why we did this

There are nearly 300 BBC blogs on a wide variety of different subjects. We wanted to create a page which showcased the very best BBC blogs but also made it easier for you to discover new content which you might not know about.

The design

There are two use cases for this homepage: the top half of the page showcases what is being talked about in blogs at the moment; this section is dynamic and constantly changing as new content is published. This is for those of you who are looking for some interesting content but without a particular subject in mind.

The lower half of the page is more static to help those looking for something more specific. Blogs are organised by topic and title which can be navigated using tabs or scoped search.

The styling of the new Homepage uses the BBC's Global Experience Language, which brings it in line with the rest of the BBC website.

What's new?

We have added several new sections to this page. Towards the top, there is a featured section which consists of interesting, dramatic or intriguing quotes from editorially chosen blogs to wet your appetite and encourage you to click through and read more.

BBC Blogs home page pull quote

The most recent post appears on the left with its quote displayed as a default. If you roll your mouse over any of the other blog images you will see quotes from the other posts.

'Latest on blogs' highlights up to three of the most recently published posts and includes the first few words from these to give you an idea of what they are about and whether you want to click through to read more. This section will be constantly changing as new posts are published, demonstrating the vast amount of content running through blogs.

'Most read' shows you the details of the blog posts which have had the most audience views and is generated from data captured by Livestats (the same BBC tool which is used to populate the 'Most Popular' section on the BBC News pages).

The idea behind 'my recently viewed' is to be personal to you, to remind you about the blogs you've visited before and may want to visit again. This saves you having to check specific blogs to see if there are any updates; when a new post is published it is reflected here.

The lower half of the page is to aid navigation. We have kept the A-Z and organised the blogs into topics based on the results of a card sorting exercise.

The navigational section of the blogs homepage showing quickfind results

'Quick Find' uses the AutoSuggest widget from the BBC JavaScript library, Glow. It allows you to search for a specific blog's name or author, suggesting results after a minimum of five characters have been entered in the box. Clicking on any of the results will take you to that blog.

We want to hear from you

Please have a look at the newly designed homepage. When you access this page you'll be asked to answer some questions about it. We'd like to gather as much feedback as possible so that we can ensure this page is useful to you.

If you do not see the popup survey, refreshing your browser several times should trigger it. If you have answered a similar survey on a different BBC web page in the last six weeks you will need to delete your browser cookies first.

Jessica Shiel is Product Manager for Blogs, User Services, Programmes and On-Demand, BBC Future Media & Technology

CES 2011: the view from the Blue Room

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Roland Allen | 12:57 UK time, Monday, 10 January 2011

Smart: the word that predominates at this year's Consumer Electronics Show, CES 2011 in Las Vegas.

Smart is everywhere, on banners, in product names and marketing slogans and perhaps reflects recognition amongst hardware manufacturers that they needed to simplify overall control of the raft of devices, technologies and services that they have on offer and present them in a coherent and useful way to the consumer.

Smart is mostly being used to describe a type of TV interface which enables the consumer to easily control and share content between key devices such as TV's, mobile phones, MP3 players and computers. These control panels are typically called a "Hub", "Dashboard" or "Media Link" and are either proprietary to the TV manufacturer or provided by a third party service provider such as Yahoo!. As well as acting as a portal to the ubiquitous App Store which every TV manufacturer now seems to offer they bring together easy access to Internet based service as well as media storage devices on the home network.

Smart IPTV

The connected TV as the hub of a multimedia home therefore seems to be becoming a reality and for those with existing TVs LG, for example is offering the Smart TV Upgrader, which brings applications and the Internet to "legacy" devices.

3D TV is again increasing its profile on the consumer technology agenda this year, being the dominant technology being exhibited by the big Korean and Japanese manufacturers. From my perspective working for a broadcaster like the BBC this is somewhat perplexing to see given the relative complexity and cost involved in producing 3D content.

Sony in particular has a significantly revamped and much larger presence than in previous years, emphatically promoting 3D as the core of its product line up. In Sony's case the focus on 3D is lent credibility by the fact that they own a significant slice of the content business in terms of 3D film production; this is not a position enjoyed by most of the other 3D TV manufacturers however and there is little evidence at CES that volume 3D content is a reality.

Tablet computing devices proliferate, largely on the back of the success enjoyed by the iPad (Apple, as usual, isn't at CES) and it seems that every manufacturer is having a stab at producing their own version. Reactions to these range from the positive such as for the BlackBerry Playbook to the rather less successfully received Panasonic Viera Tablet. Typically a range of screen sizes is on offer from each manufacturer, perhaps hedging their bets as to which is going to prove most popular. A slightly different take on the concept is on offer from Lenovo where the screen of a Laptop can be removed and used as a Tablet PC, and from Dell where the screen pivots within its frame to offer a Tablet interface. Clone devices are available by the dozens but there seems to be an identity crisis evident as to whether they are Tablet PCs or multimedia players. Touch screen devices in general continue to make steady progress, with a notable large surface example from LG with its Pen Touch Multi Board.

LG Pen Touch Multi-board

A Blackberry Playbook

Underpinning many Tablet computers, as well as being the platform of choice for many other devices is the Google Android operating system, which seemed to be everywhere - in TV interfaces, mobile phones and Tablets. Skype too is becoming a standard feature of many Internet connected TV's, a set-top camera being available as an accessory for most

Wi-Fi connectivity seems to be seeping into the kitchen with notable forays into enabling domestic appliances. The idea is that you can download recipes and wash cycles (hopefully to the appropriate appliance) and control and monitor these from your Tablet device. Both Samsung and LG were displaying examples of Cookers, Fridges and Washing Machines with these capabilities offering the potential for energy savings, optimal cooking times and even being able to text you when your food is cooked.

CES 2011 is certainly much more busy than in the previous two years and there is a much more upbeat atmosphere which suggests that confidence is returning in the ability of the consumer to spend their money...

Rolland Allen is Head of Technology Liason, BBC Future Media & Technology.

Some BBC News stories about CES 2011.

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Round up: history of BBC Backstage

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Nick Reynolds Nick Reynolds | 16:03 UK time, Wednesday, 5 January 2011

Back in October it was announced that BBC Backstage was to close.

Well that's happening today. But not without a celebration of Backstage's history.

Jemima Kiss on the Guardian's PDA blog: "BBC Backstage: The end of five years of hackery, mischief - and true innovation":

Originally conceived as a way of 'getting the BBC's data out', it was based around the Backstage website which offered a range of APIs for BBC services and content, documentation about experimental projects and later organised large-scale hack events, where external developers and designers would intensively code and compete to build yet more experimental tools.

There's an ebook "Hacking The BBC: A Backstage Retrospective" available here:

This ebook is a snapshot of some of the projects and events that Backstage was involved in, from its launch at Open Tech 2005, through the triumph of Hack Day 2007 and the shot-for-web R&DTV, to current visualisation project DataArt. We take a diversion to Bangladesh to see how a Backstage hacker helped the World Service keep reporting through the horrendous Cyclone Sidr, and look at the impact of the 'playground' servers, used inside the BBC.
BBC Backstage ebook cover

Front cover of BBC Backstage ebook. Design by Nicola Rowlands

Ian Forrester of the Backstage team has more on the ebook on his personal blog. As you'd expect the book is mentioned on the Backstage mailing list and the BBC Research and Development blog.

And finally on the BBC Backstage blog itself:

"It's been an amazing five years but finally the servers are powering down on the (to be official) project.The legacy of backstage will live on..."

Nick Reynolds is Social Media Executive, BBC Online

Open Post Wednesday 5th January 2011

Post categories:

Nick Reynolds Nick Reynolds | 13:30 UK time, Wednesday, 5 January 2011

Thanks to Bridget and others who kept the blog going while I was poorly.

It's true to say that because I was absent interaction with commenters was perhaps not up to its usual standard.

So in the optimistic spirit of a brand new year (and because some people have asked for one), this is an "open" post.

What's on topic on this post

You can use this post to comment or ask a question about any aspect of BBC Online, BBC iPlayer, and the BBC's digital and mobile services.

What's off topic on this post

Anything else.

More specifically BBC HD picture quality and DOGs are both off topic as these subjects have been exhaustively explored both on this blog and elsewhere.

If you want to comment about BBC television use the BBC TV blog or the Points of View message boards. For comments on BBC Radio try the BBC Radio blog.

So if you are about to publish a comment that starts "This is off topic but...", please don't.

Please obey the house rules and respect other commenters and BBC staff. Remember that different people may be interested in different things.

While I'll try to get answers to all reasonable questions it may not be possible to answer every one. If your comment or question is not responded to that does not give you the right to break the house rules.

If you wish to make a formal complaint use the BBC's complaints website. If you wish to appeal a moderation or hosting decision do so using the process outlined here.

I'll leave this post open for a week and then think about whether it should be closed.

Over to you.

Nick Reynolds is Social Media Executive, BBC Online

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