Archives for August 2009

Machine tagging the BBC

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Tristan Ferne | 13:00 UK time, Tuesday, 18 August 2009

I'd like to propose an experiment. If you ever publish a photograph on Flickr that features, or is otherwise related to, a BBC TV or radio programme you might think about machine tagging* it with the programme's unique identifier. First find the programme's unique PID (that's the 8 character ID you find in /programmes or iPlayer URLs; the "b00lj1nc" in, then add a Flickr tag that looks like this...


That's it, the photo is now machine tagged. Machines can now discover that this photo refers to this programme. This is a rather trivial example; my radio tuned to Any Questions on BBC Radio 4. If you click through and check the tags on Flickr you'll see something that looks like the machine tag above.

Any Questions, Friday evening

So it might be that you took the picture because you really enjoyed listening to something, but more interesting would be a location of a show, or pictures from when you were in the audience, or maybe you've taken a picture of something or someone that was featured in a programme...

Francisco de Miranda 1750-1816

Statue of the Venezuelan revolutionary, Francisco de Miranda, as featured on In Our Time

By machine-tagging these photos you will be helping machines connect things together and create new paths for people to find both BBC programmes and your photos. Sites like Upcoming,, Dopplr, MusicBrainz and OpenLibrary already support machine tags and are often connected to Flickr. Some people are even machine tagging sightings of threatened wildlife. An event/place/book page can then point to the machine-tagged photo page on Flickr and the photo page can point back to the event/place/book page. And, of course, it's not just photos that you can tag like this, you could machine tag your blog posts about BBC programmes or your social bookmarks or even your tweets. As an example, the BBC could use machine tags to point to your photos from our programme pages or use them to illustrate a blog post.

All these machine tags will be helping to connect and link different pools of data on the web which are currently unconnected. And that's what the web should be about - linking things.

Search Flickr for bbc:programme machine tags...

* Machine tags are specially formatted tags that people add to their photos (or other things on the web). The format of these tags (a namespace, a predicate and a value) mean that machines can work out what they refer to. Read more about machine tags here and here.

Sketches of a hackday

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Tristan Ferne | 08:53 UK time, Wednesday, 5 August 2009

Last week Radio Labs and RAD held a joint mini-hackday to explore visualising some of our music data. We had several multi-disciplinary teams building quick prototypes and hacks, what I called "sketching with data, designing with code". Here are some snapshots of the results...

Album covers from the charts are laid out as a treemap.
Treemap of chart albums

Filtering the charts by weather conditions.
Filtering the charts by weather

The most played bands for each BBC music show.
Top artists for Later...

Using CoolIris to render a wall of BBC shows.
CoolIris rendering BBC shows

Mapping the bands from BBC Introducing.
Map of Introducing bands

A Wordle of lyrics from the charts.
A Wordle of chart lyrics

Graphing when a band released records (that's my own MacBook Air - no, the BBC doesn't give us these!)
Graphing bands' releases

We're picking this work up again now to take the best of these ideas and try to build something great. More soon.

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