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5 Interesting Stories from the Fortnight

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Ian McDonald Ian McDonald | 17:24 UK time, Friday, 7 October 2011

The BBC test card, seen through ones and zeroes.

Close-up of the Digital Public Space test card slide, which began Mo McRoberts' and Bill Thompson's talks at Over the Air

#1 Launching the Programme List Prototype

On Monday September 26th, BBC Research and Development launched The Programme List as a public prototype. As Kat Sommers blogged, in her weekly round-up of BBC Research and Development:

The Programme List was opened to anyone and got a little tech press coverage. So far there's been some useful anecdotal feedback and quite a number of visitors. Tristan is hoping some of them stick around so we can get some good data about how they use it over time.

Janko Roettgers at GigaOm compared it to TiVo:

[The BBC launched] a new form of electronic programming guide (EPG) today that replaces the traditional grid with automatically updated wish lists. That will allow users to organize their favorite TV and radio shows in the same way a TiVo handles subscriptions to TV shows.

William Cooper's Informitv put it in the context of other reminder services:

Sky+ allows users to schedule recordings of programmes remotely from a web site or smartphone application. The green button is used on a number of digital television platforms to schedule recordings from a programme promotion. A number of online video services have the concept of a queue of titles to watch later. Podcast subscriptions will download all episodes of a programme automatically. The BBC iPlayer has a favourites feature that can show when new episodes of a selected programme become available.

What seems to be missing is a way of remembering programmes that works across both broadcast and online television and radio services. The Programme List attempts to address this.

You can log in with your twitter account and try The Programme List yourself.

#2 Ongoing: The BBC Homepage beta

The BBC Homepage beta has continued. Homepage Product Lead James Thornett responded to feedback on Thursday 29th September, and, replying to your further comments on Wednesday this week, summed up the size of the reaction:

Please believe me that we are very busy reviewing all of the comments on the blog posts (195 comments in total so far), the emails sent to HomepageBetaFeedback@bbc.co.uk (1,149 so far), completed surveys (over 8,000 in the first 5 days), and thousands of other tweets, blog posts and comments across the rest of the web.

At the same time we are trying to keep momentum within our development team by fixing bugs, making changes and developing new features so that we continue to release updates to the beta homepage every two weeks.

On the blog, several commenters said they regretted the loss of customisation and preferred the old page for that reason. Keith, suggested it could be incorporated in the new beta:

Once customisation is enabled it would be nice if there was a 'my BBC' type tab option available, which once logged in allowed us to choose what we wanted to appear in that particular carousel.

James said this was a popular suggestion in feedback and is under investigation.

On Tuesday this week, Neil Crosby explained how his technical team built the home page - how it takes information from across the BBC and brings it together into a resilient modular system.

Over on Radios 1 and 1Xtra, the beta homepage replaced the live page at the start of the fortnight, and the team completed the trilogy of blog posts about the build: Senior Producer Chris Johnson about the editorial challenge, Senior Creative Director Yasser Rashid on the user experience of the sites, and Senior Software Engineer Patrick Sinclair about how the software and servers came together.

#3 A Digital Public Space

There has been much talk of Digital Public Space over the past few weeks - the hope of the BBC and other public sector bodies to open up the shared metadata about their archives. The Guardian TechWeekly podcast interviewed Bill Thompson and compared it to the similar Europeana. Both Bill and Mo McRoberts talked about it at the 36-hour Over the Air Hackday last weekend.

On the far side of the world, Gary Thompson-Sauer picked up Mo McRobert's blog post about Open The Air and asked what a Digital Australia might be like:

We, as typical education consumers, are changing from someone who was satisfied by text and rote learning perhaps ten years ago into someone who now looks to learn from and produce with the gamut of rich media available in his or her daily life.

Mark Thompson also mentioned the digital public space as part of yesterday's DQF proposals:

And also we want to carry on with that partnership agenda ... to work with many others, other public broadcasters, other public institutions, to create what we call the shared Digital Public Space

This week Bill Thompson has been discussing aspects of the Digital Public Space at the Europeana conference in Vienna. Next week, he'll blog about DPS partnerships here.

#4 Net Neutrality

On Wednesday, Plum Consulting published a report on Net Neutrality, as commissioned by the BBC and other content providers. The report criticised ISPs who argued that "growing demand for content and applications is a problem - rather than an economic opportunity".

Figure 3.2 in the report set out five myths it claimed lay behind this belief:

Myth 1: Demand is bad    • Demand is good since it reflects end-user value and  supports revenue growth and network investment.  Myth 2: Costs are ballooning  because of data growth • Costs are not ballooning because of data growth.  For  fixed access they are low and declining on a unit cost  basis, whilst for mobile access they are higher but  nevertheless declining on a unit cost basis.  Myth 3: Application providers

Tech blogger Chris Marsden summed it up as:

Dear telcos: there's no demand for fast broadband without attractive content...

John Tate, the BBC's Director of Strategy, blogged about the launch of the report, saying:

The BBC strongly believes that the open internet needs to be safeguarded to ensure consumers can access all the internet content and services of their choice.

Bobbie Johnson at GigaOm praised the report for bringing facts and research to an often heated debate:

Telecoms firms around the world have spent millions lobbying lawmakers and arguing that they deserve the right to meddle with bandwidth-hungry services. Content providers and open Internet advocates, on the other hand, say this unfairly punishes successful Web companies and promotes monopolistic behavior among broadband providers.

Both sides have been locked in battle for years, but the fight often comes down to a series of he-said, she-said battles based on assumptions rather than facts. A new report published today in the U.K, however, has tackled many of the arguments head on — and it has come to a forceful conclusion.

"The Open Internet: a platform for growth" [PDF] is available to download.

#5 More of you are clicking on links that take you away from bbc.co.uk - and that's a good thing

On the BBC Internet Blog, we make a point of linking out to the conversation around BBC Online. So it's good to hear, from a blog post by Steve Herrman, the Editor of News Online, that after last year's BBC News redesign more people are finding and clicking through links to other websites:

The monthly average is now around 6.1m click-throughs i.e. more than double what it was last year.

Ian McDonald is the Content Producer, BBC Internet Blog


  • Comment number 1.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • Comment number 2.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • Comment number 3.

    Hi Ian,

    I am glad you mentioned the very popular suggestion of customisation being a key part of beta homepage functionality. Does that not raise a question in your mind how such a widely desired feature could have been ignored in the design? It seems crazy that such a critical feature was not included above all else.

  • Comment number 4.

    Quote: "that after last year's BBC News redesign more people are finding and clicking through links to other websites"

    That sounds a bit silly. It 's like saying more people are using the internet than 20 years ago. If the BBC did not include many links last year then of course there will be more opportunity to click external links. Sounds like a self serving PR piece.

    PS - why is it a good thing? (because it supports the latest internal corporate goal of "integrated social media"?)


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