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5 Interesting Stories: Olympic Plans, Prototypes, Privacy, and iPlayer stats

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Ian McDonald Ian McDonald | 11:43 UK time, Friday, 1 June 2012

Men putting electronics together.

Preparing the Palace of Arts for broadcasting the 1948 London Olympics

It's been a fortnight of long-laid plans. It's been the first fortnight of the torch relay, kicking off the BBC's digital coverage of the Olympics; the Connected Studio have had their first "build studio", and we've caught up with four months of iPlayer stats.

1. Olympics Plans

On Sunday May 20, Owen Gibson of the Guardian interviewed the BBC's Director of 2012 Roger Mosey about his ambitious plans for the Olympics. Owen wondered how the audience will find their way through so much content.

The Olympics will all but take over BBC1 and an extended-hours BBC3 for 17 days this summer, and 24 new dedicated channels besides on cable and satellite. Mosey promises "every event from the first thing in the morning to the last thing at night", offering 2,500 hours of sports coverage alone – 1,000 more than from Beijing.

The huge choice, including a new digital dashboard that will allow viewers to build their own schedule of live and recorded events, could lead to paralysis or diminish the ability to tell the "story" of the Games. Mosey concedes navigation is "a major challenge" but thinks his team have got the balance right.

Staff have blogged here about those 24 live streams (and how capacity is being increased), the Sports product on web (update) and on Connected TV, and given an inside look at the semantic logic that underpins both.

Bloggers and online magazines shared a preview of what the BBC's digital plans will look like on different devices.

Pocket Lint’s Hunter Skipworth gave readers a hands-on review of the BBC's Olympic apps and sites on a range of mobiles and connected TVs:

At the moment the application is going to be running on Sony smart TVs, Virgin Media TiVo via the red button and the PlayStation 3 via an app. No Xbox sadly.

PaidContent's Robert Andrews interviewed Phil Fearnly:

But the BBC News & Knowledge general manager is promising a buzzword right on-message with London games organisers themselves – “legacy”.

Robert expanded on this in his main article:

Much of the BBC’s digital Olympics offering is merely the result of the continuous iterative product development that the corporation undergoes. The platforms that have been built are also expected to be redeployed for upcoming live events including Euro 2012 and Wimbledon.

2. The Connected Studio's first "build studio"

On May 21st and 22nd, the successful participants from the first Connected Studio day came to Salford for two days to work on the next stage of their homepage and search proposals.

The team tweeted from the build studio: 

The Connected Studio aims to fund innovative projects and prototypes that might become part of BBC Online's ten products.

If you are interested in the next connected studio, for Weather and Travel News on June 12th, have a look at Adrian Woolard's latest blog post, which has more information including how to register your interest.

Simon Hopkins of Unthinkable Consulting compared the first one-day studio, on May 4th, to a hackday:

I should emphasise that while the day took something from the hack day idea, it wasn't strictly one. Rather it was a "concept hack day", if you like; the hope was that by the end of the day teams would have ideas which, if approved (more of this in a moment) might move on to the early development phase.

I particularly liked the fact that ideas in any state of preparation were welcomed, from the vaguest notion through to fully fledged paper prototypes.

Picture of light brown chocolate chip cookies

Chocolate chip cookies. Pic by Kari Sullivan, used under licence

3. Cookies and Privacy

Last Saturday (May 26th), the UK implemented the new EU cookie law

Ian Hunter, Managing Editor BBC Online, blogged ahead of time about changes to how Cookies were handled on bbc.co.uk:

From today users of BBC Online will be presented with a banner telling them about the use of cookies and how they can change their settings at any time, on first use of their chosen browser (e.g. Internet Explorer, FireFox etc). 

Several commentators compared how different sites had tried to say within the law, including the BBC.

Graham Charlton of e-Consultancy called it a "good solution":

Crucially, it doesn't impact the user experience. Even after turning all cookies off, the site still functioned reasonably well.

The BBC possibly feels it has to set an example here, and it has gone further than other sites have so far. Still, it has managed to do so while not interrupting the user experience

Claudiu Morariu of PadiCode subtitled his summary "BBC is my favourite": 

What I love about BBC is that they went a step further. For those users who do care about their privacy they have created a dedicated privacy page, in plain language, where they can learn details about all the cookies and they can control which ones are setup and which not.

But Christie McMonagle of Attacat noticed a cookie to which she didn't think she'd explicitly consented:

BUT during an Attacat test before getting consent the BBC website had already set the S1 “analytic” cookie on the main page – so maybe not as clean as they seem (but in lines with revised guidance) 

Commenters on Ian's blog post queried whether the BBC had implemented the rules correctly; one criticised the classification of log analytics cookies as "strictly necessary":

Now, I see completely why you'd find that useful information to have, but it's flat out untrue to say that your ability to get good log analysis is strictly necessary to a user's browsing of the site.

Ian Hunter responded to comments:

Our approach seems to us, and of course we have taken legal advice, to meet the terms of the new regulations in a sensible way.

First, we believe that our approach would have been compliant even before the ICO issued their revised guidance on 25 May ...

Second, to Ewan's comment, we have designated these cookies as "strictly necessary" because they are sometimes used in conjunction with other cookies to provide a service that has been explicitly requested by users. However, their use for log analysis would not be enough to make them "strictly necessary" and we'll amend the wording here to make that clear.

4. Four Months of BBC iPlayer Performance

On Tuesday, the Media Centre released the iPlayer statistics for the first four months of 2012.

They showed growth in alternatives to desktop - from connected TVs to mobiles, as Matt Brian of The Next Web noted:

During that time, smartphone and tablet devices accounted for 15% of total programme views, with Internet-connected devices — including your Smart TV, games console and Blu-ray player — contributed a further 11%.

The figures are impressive when you factor in that mobile device use almost doubled (94%) in one year and Internet-connected devices saw 57% growth from April 2011.

Alex Francis of Plugged In was excited by the news

Traditional TV viewing is actually at a ten-year high, according to Ofcom, but that doesn’t seem to have stopped us from catching up on missed programmes, or simply enjoying them a second time around. Long live BBC iPlayer!

Even more excited were the Daily Mail and the Sun, who noticed that the most popular show on BBC iPlayer was the episode of Sherlock in which actress Lara Pulver was naked (bar shoes), giving them an excuse to illustrate a story about iPlayer stats with pictures of a naked woman.

"Lara Pul-s in Viewers" declaimed the Sun. The Daily Mail, despite including two stills, thought viewers might be re-watching the show for the plot (spoiler):

It is thought thousands watched the series back to try to uncover clues as to how Holmes was able to fake his own death.

5. Echoes of the Radiophonic Workshop 

On Wednesday, Olivier Thereaux of BBC Research and Development blogged about his team's work on audio metadata and researching the Radiophonic Workshop. As well as recovering plans for the devices they used to create their unique sounds, they tried to track down a Radiophonic Workshop journal mentioned on Wikipedia:

We looked everywhere we could for the mythical journals, even enlisting the help of our R&D librarian Louise Martin, to no avail. Louise helped us find plenty of material such as articles and books on the workshop, but the journals were nowhere to be found. It eventually took a conversation with radiophonic workshop veteran Dick Mills to dispel our dreams of poring through a pile of workshop journals: the workshop team did not publish its own journals, but had, through the years, contributed a number of articles to magazines such as Practical Electronics, Studio Sound and the Dr. Who Magazine 

Remember that Wikipedia doesn't expect you to trust them, and enjoy the Jubilee weekend.

Ian McDonald is Content Producer, BBC Internet Blog


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