Archives for April 2011

Desert Island Discs on mobile: A 70 year radio archive in your pocket

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Nick Reynolds Nick Reynolds | 13:18 UK time, Thursday, 28 April 2011

Regular readers will undoubtedly be interested in this post by David Jones on the Radio 4 blog. Extract:

To use the mobile version of the Desert Island Discs archive, you'll need a phone with a web browser and reasonably large screen. It's compatible with almost all "smartphones" (to be technical, it works on Android, Blackberry, iPhone and N-series Nokia devices among many others). Just open the web browser on your phone, and use this address: https://www.bbc.co.uk/radio4/desertislanddiscs

Read more and comment at the Radio 4 blog

Nick Reynolds is Social Media Executive, BBC Online

What's On BBC Red Button 25th April - 9th May 2011

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Lisa Dawson Lisa Dawson | 19:46 UK time, Tuesday, 26 April 2011

BBC Red Button Blog

Royal Wedding Live & Highlights

As well as extra live coverage on our ‘Royal Multiscreen’ throughout the day, Red Button viewers can watch highlights of the Royal Wedding after the event. If you missed any of the action from the big day, or simply want to watch it again - you can catch up on the high points for up to a week after the event.

Find out more at bbc.co.uk/royalwedding

Additional live coverage will be available throughout the 29th April on the normal News Multiscreen for Sky and Virgin Media viewers.

Highlights from the day will be available on all platforms at the following times:

Sky/Virgin/Freesat:
Fri 29th April, 10:00pm-4:00am Fri 6th May (continuous coverage)

Freeview:
Fri 29th April, 11:10pm-6:00am
Sat 30th April, 6:00am-9:50am
Sun 1st May, 4:10pm-6:00am
Mon 2nd May, 6:00am-6:00am (all day)
Tue 3rd May, 6:00am-7:20pm & 10:10pm-6:00am
Wed 4th May, 6:00am-8:15pm
Thu 5th May, 4:10am-9:45pm
Fri 6th May, 4:10am-7:45am & 1:45pm-4:50pm & 9:10pm-4:00am

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My Web My Way relaunch: more accessibility information

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Jonathan Hassell | 11:39 UK time, Tuesday, 26 April 2011

If you've visited the My Web My Way accessibility pages on BBC Online during the last few months you'll have seen a promo inviting users to preview a new version of the site.

This version revealed the beginnings of a more detailed and user-friendly My Web My Way, which I'm delighted to say has just launched in full.

My Web My Way is designed to educate audiences with accessibility needs about how to get the best out of the web - not just BBC Online - by using personalisation features in their browsers or operating systems, or using assistive technologies like screenreaders.

It's estimated that around 11 million adults have a form of disability and that this group tends towards 'heavy' media consumption - increasingly online. The BBC's sixth Public Purpose is to deliver the benefits of technology to the public, and this public must be as wide as possible. Because of this we've invested time in updating our accessibility information for the benefit of users with impairments - whether visual, hearing-related, motor-related or cognitive. Of course there are other providers of this kind of information, but to many the BBC is a trusted guide to the web.

So - what's changed?

Key features of the new My Web My Way are:

Improved signposting and easy-to-use main menu, helping users locate the right 'How to' guide for them based on their needs;

Introduction of informational videos within the guides which will live alongside transcripts of information;

A visual overhaul to increase alignment with other sections of BBC Online and updated user experience;

A 'jargon buster' which provides a definition of commonly-used terms relating to accessibility, disability, and computers in general;

Share functionality allowing users to spread awareness of helpful information.

Overall, My Web My Way is now a more detailed and up-to-date accessibility hub which should be easier for users to find their way through, ensuring they get the best from the web.

Jonathan Hassell is Head of Usability & Accessibility, BBC Future Media

Delivery, innovation and openness - reflecting on #W3CUKI

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Ralph Rivera Ralph Rivera | 12:35 UK time, Thursday, 21 April 2011

On Monday, the W3C launched its UK and Ireland office - an event I believe will prove highly important in the continued development of the open web.

As much as anything, I, along with Matthew Postgate (Controller, BBC R&D), and others from the BBC, attended to affirm our continued support and contribution to the open standards that have fuelled the web's growth since its inception in the early nineties.

Sir Tim Berners-Lee opened the event, talking about HTML5, net neutrality and the role open data can play in driving transparency, while other presentations included Adrian Woolard, head of BBC R&D North Labs, who gave a tour-de-force presentation of BBC innovation focused on accessibility, but reminding us all of the huge positive impact BBC R&D has had in driving innovation across the industry over the years. Today's news that R&D has received a seventh Queen's Award, for the development of Piero, the graphics system that has transformed sports broadcasting, underlines this fact.

For me, Monday was an opportunity to connect the dots between my digital technology journey, the BBC's aims and place in the digital public space, and the W3C mission; my objective being to explicitly call out the philosophical alignment, and thus shared sense of purpose, that underpins our commitment.

At the Guardian Changing Media Summit last month, I used a series of tweets - curated through Flipboard, - as cues. Though technical problems preventing the audience from seeing them, the presentation was uploaded here and an outline (with links to the tweets) is below.

First, a bit about me

Finally, I've been waiting for this since 1983 - Computer Wins on 'Jeopardy!': Trivial, It's Not

As a Star Trek fan and computer science major in the early eighties I was very much into the notion of Artificial Intelligence. At that time we worked on things like domain knowledge and inference engines for expert systems, and believed that computers that would talk, listen and reason were just around the corner. All of this obviously is taking much longer than expected, ergo the tweet about IBM's Watson winning on Jeopardy. But much like the semantic web now, the AI aspiration was about figuring out how to effectively capture, store, analyse and share data to create meaning.

I guess knowing who Gene Amdahl is and why the reference is appropriate, dates me a little

I continued to pursue this aspiration at IBM, where we focused on information processing. It was here that I first encountered the notion of disconnected islands of information and how the lack of standards contributed to fragmentation and the inability to share and combine data. This was exacerbated by the ecosystem wars of the day (e.g. IBM SNA vs TCP/IP ).

The key take away being that "open" wins over time, that standards are critical to making victory possible, and that there is always a new set of open vs closed battles waiting to replace the ones going on now. As such, the effort on behalf of open standards needs to be continuous.

Vision without execution is hallucination - Steve Case AOL-Time Warner 10 Years Later

Nowhere is this more important than in digital media. Starting in 1995 when my team launched internet operations at Simon and Schuster, and continuing through 10 years at AOL, the goal was convergence - old media and new media come together, have a baby and change the world. While the vision was noble, the execution was not. Part of the issue is cultural - organisational change is hard. And part of the issue is that convergence has been accompanied by fragmentation.

The answer to both the cultural issue and the fragmentation issue is the same - getting on the same page. For organisations the same page means shared goals and objectives. To address fragmentation the same page is shared standards that enable heterogeneous devices, transport mechanisms and content creators/consumers to exchange data, information, knowledge.

My media CEO litmus test: Imagine an "Internet off - like it never existed" button. Do you press it?

After leaving AOL, I wasn't keen to join another media company. I came up with an "internet off-button" test, and felt most media companies would fail it as they struggle to reconcile the vast opportunity of the web, with the need to preserve their existing business models.

Proud and privileged to join the BBC and its mission to inform, educate and entertain

And then the BBC shows up. An iconic global brand, with a rich history of great storytelling, world class journalism and technical innovation. A noble mission to inform, educate and entertain. And the pursuit of that mission for the public good. It's clear that the BBC passes my internet off button test, that its mission spans time and platforms and that it has both the editorial capabilities and technical know-how to be a leader in embracing the web.

Execution & innovation: The priorities for BBC future media

"The best strategy is the one you can execute." - Ralph Rivera

Having spent a year setting, and seeking approval for, the BBC's Online strategy - we're now firmly focused on delivering it. London 2012 is firmly in focus here, we think the Olympics will do the same for online that the coronation did for TV. This comparison was as much about bringing many audiences to a new medium for the first time, as much as the scale of our output. We have the vision to take us up to 2012, we have the strategy, and (more and more) we have the culture; my priority now is to bring this together and deliver on it.

In case you're wondering what people want iPads for
ABC To Revive Sync iPad App With 'Grey's Anatomy'

The Art of Immersion: Why Do We Tell Stories?

The BBC iPlayer has been a great example of the power of the internet (as a distribution platform), but really this is just a first step in realising the potential of the internet as a medium in its own right. Now we want to push on and create experiences native to the medium that complement their linear counterparts - such as "second screen" experiences such as this created by ABC - as we move towards the truly immersive storytelling through products that are social, interactive, and non-linear, as outlined here by Frank Rose.

The long view: The BBC, Digital Public Space and the W3C

The BBC and the Public Space - Director General Mark Thompson's introduction to the BBC Strategy review

Mark Thompson's introduction to "Putting Quality First", the strategy review announced in March 2010, spoke of the importance of Digital Public Space. Mark was speaking about an online space for licence fee payers to enjoy public service content from the BBC and other public institutions, a digital equivalent to the public spaces such as museums and galleries that have contributed so much to our culture and collective understanding.

This also says that while the BBC's storytelling and the services that connect those stories with the public will always be the BBC's lifeblood, we mustn't lose sight of the environment in which those services are experienced. We must ensure audiences can continue to enjoy those services in an open environment, free at the point of use.

This overarching sense of inhabiting a digital public space shapes our work. In R&D, we are upgrading our infrastructure for the connected age - a new broadcasting system that brings together internet and broadcast technologies. By nature this system will be more open than the linear networks that preceded it.

The BBC Archive team are developing partnerships and working on projects to knit together the archives of the UK's public institutions through common metadata standards, layer meaning through semantic web technologies and build a portal to give audiences access to it; all within the digital public space. And we expect that open standards evolved in partnerships with the W3C will be the building blocks on which this public space is built.

Tim Berners-Lee Believes Web Access is a Human Right

Sir Tim Berners-Lee recently said that access to the web should be a human right. I believe there is no more important digital public space than the web itself, and the BBC believes that the spirit of openness and collaboration that made the web a success will also safeguard its future.

Ralph Rivera is Director, BBC Future Media

BBC Research & Development wins Queens Award for Enterprise: Innovation 2011

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Matthew Postgate Matthew Postgate | 10:58 UK time, Thursday, 21 April 2011

I am always immensely proud of the work of the teams within BBC Research & Development and still marvel the impact the group manages to have upon international broadcasting.

Today I am particularly proud as it has been announced that our sports graphics system Piero has won a "Queen's Award for Enterprise: Innovation 2011".

These awards are extremely coveted; they are made annually by Her Majesty the Queen and are only given for the absolute highest levels of excellence demonstrated in each category. I'm very happy to say that Piero certainly lives up to these accolades. Since it debuted on Match of the Day in 2004 Piero has been used to enhance the coverage of RBS Six Nations Rugby, last year's World Cup in South Africa and thanks to Red Bee Media who licensed the technology is now used by broadcasters in over 40 countries.

Although it is not the first time the department has received this honour, it is the first time we have received a Queens Award since 2001 so I would like to take this opportunity to thank the superb team of engineers and technologists who have made this happen by working on Piero during its development. Led by Graham Thomas these are: Peter Brightwell, Jigna Chandaria, Robert Dawes, Hannah Fraser, Oliver Grau, and Chris Pike. I'd also of course like to thank the Piero team at Red Bee Media for taking the Piero technology to the world. RedBee have been a great partner in the process of technology transfer that turns the ideas created in BBC R&D into things that shape the world around us.

Finally I would like to acknowledge the wider effort it takes to achieve engineering excellence at this level. Within the department we recognise that creative engineering is about a team working together. It is in the chance interactions between engineers where the best ideas are created and when one team is engaged in a deep investigation their colleagues often support them by taking on the day-to-day activity that many other parts of the BBC rely on BBC R&D providing.

Finally we are really lucky in that we have a great support group around our researchers who amplify their efforts through providing everything from the right working environment to securing the budgets we need for the work. In this instance I would like to thank Caroline Green and her team for helping the Piero through the application process.

To celebrate the win Graham Thomas has written an excellent post about Piero on our BBC R&D site and you can also access the official BBC press release here.

I'm looking forward to some of our other innovations sharing similar success in the future!

Matthew Postgate is Controller, Research & Development, BBC Future Media

BBC Digital Public Space project

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Mo McRoberts Mo McRoberts | 10:00 UK time, Tuesday, 19 April 2011

(Editor's note: It's a delight to welcome Mo to the blog with this, his first "official" posting).

Yesterday, the BBC's Director of Future Media, Ralph Rivera, gave a speech at the newly-opened offices of the World Wide Web Consortium (W3C) in Oxford.

His speech emphasized the BBC's support for the organisation and its philosophies in the context of the BBC's work on a 'new broadcasting system' that can reach everyone, is free at the point of use and makes BBC programmes available to all those who can benefit from them. The speech also discussed the ways the BBC is seeking to get the maximum value from its archive and asked the audience 'what good is it to retain this archive it if can't be shared?' before describing the 'digital public space' within which the BBC now sees itself as operating as it delivers its services online.

As Ralph noted, the digital public space can mean different things to different people. To some it's a philosophical ideal, the belief that UK citizens have the right to access and interact with the countries social and cultural assets online. To me in my role as Data Analyst within the BBC's small Archive Development team it's something very specific.

I and a couple of colleagues work on the Digital Public Space project. This is a partnership between the BBC and other cultural institutions in the UK, including museums, archives, libraries, galleries and educational bodies, all of whom share a vision of not simply using Internet technology as a distribution channel, but instead being part of that digital environment as it evolves: being part of the Web, rather than just on it.

It aims to be an access point for all of the UK's cultural archives, marrying together both the rich information which has been carefully collated, checked and double-checked over the years by experts in their respective fields, with the more immediately-accessible higher level information and audio-visual material, both from the partners and around the Web.

The first step along the way in achieving this is a prototype which is being developed that brings together the archives and catalogues of some of the partnering institutions (including the BBC's) within an 'Umbrella' data model and creates a platform on which applications and interfaces for navigating, annotating and curating them can be built. Eventually, you would be able to access and add to this information through an online gateway, but there could also be specialist entry-points.

For example, there might be an iPhone or Android app for exploring the history of your local area, or a YouView interface focussed on "British Ballet". Part of what makes the project so exciting is that we really don't know what kinds of interfaces and applications will end up being developed for the platform.

The Semantic Web lies at the very heart of this. It provides the toolkit for describing real-world things in a machine-readable way, just like ordinary web pages describe those things in a human-readable way. Like the "Web of documents" we are generally used to, the Semantic Web is built on the fundamental principle that anybody can publish anything about anything else, without having to go through layers of bureaucracy and paperwork. Even the language used to describe these things -- RDF -- uses vocabularies which are often developed independently of one another, and come into existence by being published somewhere on the Web, and having RDF documents begin to use them. There is no central "ontology authority" who decides what does and doesn't form part of the Semantic Web's vocabulary: if there isn't an ontology in existence which is able to describe the things you need to describe, there's not much, beyond time and effort, standing in the way of you creating one.

Within the digital public space prototype, RDF gives us a common language that institutions can use to describe their catalogues in their own terms. The prototype aggregates these catalogues, finding areas of overlap, and presenting the things described by them in a unified manner, not organised in terms of the catalogue entries that are best suited to archivists, but instead in terms of the people, places, events, things and collections which those entries describe.

First and foremost, the aggregated information is itself published as RDF. Being intended for consumption by software, RDF isn't terribly exciting for most people to look at, so as part of the prototype we're also developing a number of user interfaces to explore different ways in which the catalogues can be navigated.

The aggregation engine doesn't have any special knowledge about the partnering catalogues, though. As far as it's concerned, there's no fundamental difference between an expert institution and anybody else. There's a language for making statements about things (RDF), a way of identifying the things in the catalogues (URIs -- of which what we know as "Web addresses" are a subset), and a way to publish those things (the Web).

There are some practical hurdles to be overcome, however.

With institutions, it's quite easy to mandate that the software that feeds catalogue information to the aggregator must push RDF documents to a RESTful Web service, using a digital certificate which provides a strong identity so that the information can be attributed to them. For individuals, things get a little more complicated. We know that user interfaces can be built to take care of the heavy lifting of generating RDF and pushing it to the aggregator, but that still leaves problems with certificates -- most people don't really use public-key cryptography on a day-to-day basis, and so we need to settle upon an approach to identity that everybody can get to grips with.

Beyond that, there are aspects of RDF which haven't been finalised yet -- attaching digital signatures to different parts of an RDF document, and specifying the source of a set of statements ("named graphs"). With all of these issues, we're looking forward to working with the Web community to find solutions.

You're probably wondering when you'll get to experience the digital public space, and in particular this prototype. The answer is "it depends". This phase of the project is due to end in June, at which point we will have something tangible that can be shared amongst select individuals in the partnering organisations, to act as a proof of concept. While the details have yet to be finalised, we hope that the next stage after that will be to make it available to everybody in each of those organisations on a permanent basis. If that's successful, then we are looking to open it up to the many schools, colleges and universities in the UK.

As you can imagine, the legal and rights issues surrounding both the catalogue information and associated digital media are complex and varied, and navigating them means working closely with rightsholders and industry bodies, and will take some time. However, the BBC remains committed to the aim set out in Putting Quality First ("Opening up the BBC's library of programmes") -- and this is a vision shared by all of the project partners -- of providing permanent access to the UK's cultural archives in a digital environment that's available to everybody.

We know that the digital public space can only become a reality if we build on open technologies and standards as championed by the W3C -- the digital environment in which we're creating this already exists, and so co-operation and partnership is absolutely key to the success of the project.

Mo McRoberts is Data Analyst, BBC

March 2011 BBC iPlayer performance pack

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Nick Reynolds Nick Reynolds | 08:39 UK time, Monday, 18 April 2011

Let's start a bright new week with a spring in the step and the information pack about BBC iPlayer performance in March.

Click here to access a PDF.

Here are some headlines selected by my colleagues in the communications team:

• March 2011 saw a new record being set, with 38 million requests for Radio programmes, boosted significantly by World Cup Cricket 2011 coverage and Chris Moyles' Longest Show Ever for Comic Relief


• Overall, BBC iPlayer received 160 million total amount of requests for TV and radio programmes across all platforms, up from 148 million in Feb.

• Live streaming on BBC iPlayer was at the highest levels seen to date for both TV and radio - for TV making up 15% of all requests, and for radio, up to 75%.

• Wonders of the Universe was the most requested programme, with Comic Relief in second place. The rest of the top 20 included children's (Tracy Beaker Returns), and new titles from comedy (How TV Ruined Your Life, Mrs Brown's Boys), drama (Silk) and factual (Attenborough and the Giant Egg)

Nick Reynolds is Social Media Executive, BBC Online

(Hopefully) no more tears: CBBC website relaunch

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Phil Buckley Phil Buckley | 09:09 UK time, Tuesday, 12 April 2011

Relaunching a children's website is a surprisingly perilous business. A relaunch, which is normally accompanied by a large amount of promotion and razzmatazz, often brings a huge spike in traffic to certain areas of the site, in particular to any place where you are able to complain.

To give you a sample, when the CBeebies website was relaunched in 2007, the message boards, also here, were hit by comments like:

Cbeebies comment

 

cbeebies comment

 

cbeebies comment

 

And this is the saddest story I have ever heard:

cbeebies comment

 

These reactions can reflect real problems: sometimes when sites go live, users see things straight away to which you have become blind while working on the project. At the very least it can provoke the same anger and frustration you get when you walk into a supermarket and discover that they have moved all your favourite stuff around.

So it is with some trepidation that I tell you that we have just completed the relaunch of the CBBC website.

Why have you done that crazy thing?

I wrote a Blackadder-esque romp through the history of the CBBC website a while ago - but to summarise, the feedback we got from children was that while they loved our content, they couldn't find a lot of it. So we have concentrated on unlocking this content by making it easier to find, and when children have finished enjoying a game or a something creative, suggesting something that they might like equally as much Or Even More.

How have we managed the audience through this?

Like most releases, the new work has been heavily user tested, and we have also been warning children of the changes via our message boards.

However, the main thing we have done in an attempt to avoid tears has been to release the new website in stages. So, we began by leaving the design exactly as it was, but improving the functionality. This meant that in January our section of great creative things for children to do went from its old design and being in two sections called 'Grab' and 'Create':

Old Cbeebies Things to do page

 

To a new and clearer name of 'Things to Do', still within the old design but with better functionality and all the content ordered:

BBC Cbeebies Things to do page

 

This means - hopefully - that children have become used to moving their mouse into a particular space to do a particular thing. This week we have released the new visual design onto the site, so Things to Do now looks like this:

BBC Things To Do page

 

Similarly, on February 21 our fantastic children's Games section went from this:

CBBC games website

 

To this

BBC Cbeebies games page

 

And yesterday to this:

New CBBC games home page

 

And in theory at least, children will not have any problems getting around the new site as they have already been doing it.

What didn't we worry about?

Releasing these sections one by one has led us to at times some very lumpy user-journeys. Children will have seen new functionality on some sections before others, animations and noises coming and going, and as each section has been released it has moved to the new BBC masthead which is shorter than our old one.

The old (below)...


old bbc masthead

 

 

...was 58 pixels...

 

 

...while the new (left) is 38.

 

 

So as children have gone between old and updated sections over the last couple of months, the masthead and the content underneath it will have gone up and down like soufflé.

The team did worry about this, but amazingly, we haven't had a single complaint or even comment on the topic: children have apparently just got on with it.

So what has been the audience reaction?

We have directly asked children both in user testing and via our message boards what they thought, and what reaction there has been to the section releases has so far been positive. Things to do's message board got:

things to do comment

 

While the games messageboard said:

cbbc games comments

 

And when our section of funny video clips for kids, Watch was released, the watch comments were:


cbbc watch comments

 

But let me not deceive you.

The main reaction to the releases has been an ocean - an ocean! - of indifference, a pacific lack of comments. We had message board threads open and stuck at the top of the page for days before someone took pity on us and commented. Still, we have user tested and have been able to fold in feedback, and the usage statistics for each section have increased on each release. So, we are optimistic that the lack of comments is because children have had no problems using the site and are simply delighted; but our optimism is cautious.

What has happened now?

Yesterday we layered on the new design across the site. Design changes are the most obvious, and also the homepage itself has not had an interim update, so we expect to hear a bit more about the changes. The homepage did look like this:

Old cbeebies home page

 

And now looks like this:

New CBBC home page

 

[Note that the legendary 'pull' navigation system I blogged about earlier has somehow survived in the 'try this' section at the bottom right]

The site has been heavily user tested to positive reactions, but in case we have missed something, we do have still have people working on this project and will be able to fix it. However, there may be a delay of up to a month for our next release as the BBC gears up for a frenzy around the CBBC complaints area Royal Wedding.

Personally I am hugely proud of this release and I hope that the way we have managed the change and the website as a whole are testimonies to increasing collaboration between tech and editorial - great content, easily surfaced - as promised in the recent announcements around Putting Quality First. I would again like to thank the team for their tremendous efforts in getting it out; do let me know if the changes have made you laugh or cry.

Phil Buckley is Portfolio and Product Manager, BBC Childrens and BBC Future Media

What's On BBC Red Button 11th - 25th April 2011

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Lisa Dawson Lisa Dawson | 12:41 UK time, Monday, 11 April 2011

BBC Red Button Blog

Cbeebies Quiz

Press the Red Button to play a quiz featuring some of your favourite CBeebies characters!

Viewers can press the Red Button to play along with a quiz, hosted by CBeebies' presenters Sid and Cerrie.  The quiz features 10 questions on a variety of CBeebies favourites e.g. Something Special, Numberjacks, Big and Small, ZingZillas and many more. The quiz is choc full of great clips from all the shows. 

It's just for fun but viewers can play again and again to improve their score.

Get more info on all the CBeebies characters right here:  bbc.co.uk/cbeebies
The quiz will be available from 6am to 7pm daily on Freeview and Sky.

Sky:
Mon 11th – Fri 15th April 6:00am-7:00pm (daily)

Freeview*:
Mon 11th - Thu 14th April, 6:00am-7:00pm (daily)
Fri 15th April, 8:45am-12:00pm & 1:00pm-5:30pm

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Making the right products in the right way: a consistent product lifecycle

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Chris Russell | 10:00 UK time, Thursday, 7 April 2011

This week, BBC Online meets another important milestone in its plan to fully embrace and adopt the discipline of Product Management across the BBC Online Portfolio - the implementation of full Product Lifecycle Management across all ten BBC Online products, outlined in the Putting Quality First announcements of January this year.

You may ask why I am blogging about our business processes. If you are familiar with product or software development you may well think that the lifecycle is a fairly standard approach.

However we think it is significant for a few reasons:

• It is a mechanism to ensure efficient spend against the BBC Online Service Licence. Put simply - making the right products, in the right way.

• Our partners and external suppliers can now more clearly understand where they can engage and with whom.

• Product management is being taken more seriously across the industry and being both adopted and adapted for the different needs of audiences compared with the users of purer software products.

The BBC's Product Lifecycle Management process describes the way in which the Product Lead and Editorial Lead for each product should work together with their team, and their stakeholders inside and outside the BBC, to define and deliver the strategic goals for the product.

Product management lifecycle

The BBC's product management lifecycle

Creating a world class BBC Online depends on teams from diverse backgrounds working together, and this demands clear and consistent terminology, processes, and governance structures across all products in the BBC Online portfolio.

The Product Lifecycle Management provides a framework for collaboration between technical and editorial disciplines.

We have worked hard to ensure that we maximise the efforts of our skilled software engineers, developers, designers and content producers by properly 'shaping' the product to articulate its evolution through a set of important lenses: audience value and performance, feasibility, deliverability, cost, technical and experience design. Whatever the scale of the output - a BBC News guide to breaking news stories or a longer-term deployment of something like BBC iPlayer to a new platform or device - this process ensures we are focussed on giving the audience what we believe they need in the most cost-effective and innovative way.

Last year the BBC Academy told the story of how the media industry is adopting and adapting product development to fit the cultural differences found in creative organisations whose reputation has been built on content and not software.

While some purists insist that a software product has to have a single owner accountable for success or failure, we believe that each product should be equally led by an editorial expert, accountable for the content and its production, alongside someone with more "traditional" product development expertise. The Product Lead and Editorial Lead - united in a Product Direction Group, reporting up to the Online Direction Group - both have shared targets and devolved budgets to deliver.

BBC Online's product direction groups

How the BBC's Online Direction Group and Product Direction Groups work with each other

We also think the process and governance models can be applied to our 'technical products' which provide underlying services to power the products which our audiences immediately recognise - for example BBCiD, which allows users to log in and personalise their experience, or our content management systems.

It's true that the aims and performance targets for these products and services are defined differently, but the process by which we arrive at these is the same. A clearer, consistent process will be in place to make communication, collaboration, planning and integration easier and we will measure our success here by focussing on more efficient sharing of fewer and more robust technology products than we have managed in the past.

It is also important to make the process more transparent to our partners, suppliers and audiences outside the BBC. During recent consultation with the market concerning options for our future external supplier strategy, I presented this lifecycle making the following key points clear:

• Where "build or buy" decisions are made - after the Definition and Discovery review.

• That their proposals and ideas will be considered using this process.

• Who to contact and who makes decisions. We have also shared details of the Product and Editorial Leads on our commissioning website so partners can easily get in touch with the right people.

The suppliers' feedback was positive, although one person did point out that deploying this process was a significant undertaking. I can certainly identify with that! Recent weeks have been busy for product managers and a small Portfolio Planning Group within Future Media, which is responsible for monitoring our delivery performance and helping product teams adapt. We help to create templates and training for product teams, encouraging everyone to learn from our successes and failures, by copying each other where it makes sense!

While there's more to do, and some teams are further ahead than others, we're pleased with the progress we've made so far, and excited by the potential for dramatically improving the way we work, and the results that could be delivered by the Product Lifecycle Management process.

Coming to a BBC Online Product near you...soon!

Chris Russell is Head of Product Management, BBC News and Knowledge


BBC iPlayer on TV in your living room: update

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Gideon Summerfield Gideon Summerfield | 15:15 UK time, Tuesday, 5 April 2011

A clutch of BBC iPlayer on TV developments marked last week out as a real milestone in our efforts to get the BBC's on demand service onto more of the big screens in the country's living rooms.

Our latest figures show there has already been a 10-fold increase in consumption of BBC iPlayer content on connected TVs, set top boxes and BluRay players since June last year, so we are certain these efforts are well placed.

• Customers of Virgin Media digital cable and BT Vision are now able to get access to the full BBC iPlayer experience on TV

• BBC iPlayer is being rolled out onto more and more connected TVs and Bluray Disc Players thanks to growing support for HTML and Flash. This includes new devices from Panasonic, Sony, LG, Toshiba and Syabas.

• We are even able to offer a version of BBC iPlayer for new Freeview HD devices that don't support HTML or Flash

First off, last week saw Virgin Media formally launch its new TiVo-powered set-top box. And the great news is it has Flash built in and supports our Flash-based BBC iPlayer. If you get your hands on one of these you can find BBC iPlayer in the Apps and Games area or by pressing the Red Button on a BBC channel.

BBC iPlayer as it looked previously on Virgin Media

Above: BBC iPlayer as it looked previously on Virgin Media

BBC iPlayer as it now looks on Virgin Media TiVo

Above: BBC iPlayer as it looks now on Virgin Media

For those familiar with the BBC iPlayer experience on existing Virgin cable boxes, this is an evolution designed to make the most the most of a 'connected' experience.

With a new user interface that makes it easy to find programmes, and an increase in the amount of programmes available, (up from around 600 to 900 hours on average, bringing it in line with BBC iPlayer on other Connected TV devices), catch-up radio, plus popular features such as subtitles and Most Popular listings.

Whilst one of the first, Virgin's Tivo-powered box is not alone in supporting our standard Flash app. Another device we've recently certified is the Popcorn Hour media player from Syabas and we expect to certify more soon.

I'm also very happy to confirm that the roll-out of BBC iPlayer on BT Vision is ramping up in earnest now that BT has started to upgrade the software on those boxes. By the end of next week, 100,000 homes should be able to access BBC iPlayer and by the end of June it should be available to pretty much everyone in the UK with a BT Vision box. If you have one, check out channel 990 to see if it's arrived in your area yet.

BBC iPlayer on BT Vision channell 990

BBC iPlayer as it looks on BT Vision channel 990

The BBC is encouraged that device manufacturers continue to adopt HTML, allowing us to more easily build rich IPTV apps, especially where standards for video control - such as HTML5 - are supported. This year, Panasonic and Sony have joined the likes of Samsung, LG, and Toshiba in launching connected TVs in the UK that support HTML.

And I'm glad to say that we have been able to certify the standard HTML version of BBC iPlayer for TV on these in recent days.

Last week we also made an important release for Freeview HD. We can now offer BBC iPlayer to new connected TVs and set-top box receivers that conform to the latest Freeview HD specification, known as Dbook 6.2.1. This standard version of our application relies on MHEG-5, the same technology that powers BBC iPlayer on millions of Freesat HD boxes, and the technology long used to deliver Red Button services on Freeview and Freesat.

The first product to be certified for this version, accessed via the Red Button from a BBC channel, is a new Freeview+ HD PVR from Sony (see below).

App of BBC iPlayer MHEG

As you can see we are working hard to deliver BBC iPlayer on a variety of devices that you connect to your living room TV.

And in future we hope to use the same technology to bring you even more enriched IPTV services from the BBC.

So keep an eye on our Where to Get BBC iPlayer page, which we will be updating soon to list every single model certified for BBC iPlayer.

Gideon Summerfield is Product Manager, TV iPlayer

#bbcblackout outage maintenance work

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Richard Cooper Richard Cooper | 19:04 UK time, Monday, 4 April 2011

Following on from the BBC Online technical failure on 29 March, I want to make people aware of further work currently scheduled to take place in the early hours of tomorrow morning (Tuesday 5th April), and explain what will happen.

Between the hours of 0200-0500 (the quietest time for BBC Online), the equipment that failed on Tuesday night will be replaced, and if you happen to be on the BBC website at that time, you may experience some disruption in service.

Here's what's happening, in case you want more details.

Part of the network will be shut down to enable the faulty equipment to be replaced, and this will result in some route re-convergence as the core network works out the best path from the hosting centres to the internet. This will happen twice: once when the equipment is shut down, and a second time when full resilience is restored. Each re-convergence could take a few minutes, and while this is happening you may experience some interruption to service.

Despite some reports, the technical teams within the BBC and Siemens worked very well on Tuesday night to rectify the situation swiftly and effectively. There are incident management processes in place to handle failures such as this one, and while we hope not to have to use them too often (!), this was a good example of close collaborative working.

Richard Cooper is Controller, Digital Distribution, BBC Future Media.

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