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Prototyping Weeknotes #51 (25/02/11)

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Chris Lowis Chris Lowis | 10:58 UK time, Friday, 25 February 2011

We start two new projects in earnest this week.

The "Watch Later" team are looking at how we find out which new programmes we want to watch (and listen to) and what methods we use to organise that list. That project started, as they often do, with a long meeting first thing on Monday morning. Tristan discusses how he remembers what to watch and the rest of the team, including Chris N, Duncan and Kat, start thinking about how they do the same. Theo and Vicky head over to TV Centre to do some "guerrilla user research" with people queueing in the rain to attend tours.

Meanwhile team "RadioTAG" start looking at interactivity with Radio using RadioTAG, part of the RadioDNS suite of proposed standards. Kat is meeting our colleagues from A&M and Future Media to discuss how a "Tag" button could enhance the relationship between radio listeners and the BBC. The team gets together on Wednesday for a workshop. Two hours and a wall full of post-it notes later we have the beginnings of some great ideas. Sean and I get our teeth stuck into some ideas for technology. Bouts of insomnia this week were cured by revision 13 of the OAuth 2.0 Authorisation Protocol document and we start thinking about a standard way to manage resources in a RESTful style using Sinatra.

As always there's a multitude of other tasks and commitments to work on. At the start of the week Duncan's flexing his HTML and JavaScript skills tidying up the UI for the forthcoming AudioSync trial. He then gets cherrypy to run under Apache and mod_python ready for the demo app. Mark meets some R&D colleagues to see how the work could be used with some "second screen" synchronisation projects.

A photo of the AudioSync application running on a laptop next to a radio.

AudioSync in action.

We're looking to do some further user research around last year's Mythology Engine project. Tristan and Jo are shortlisting responses to a brief that's gone out to tender.

Olivier is looking at HTML5 and starting to think about how to benchmark those technologies.

Open questions this week, answers in the comments please!

  • How do you remember what TV shows to watch?
  • If there was a button on your radio labelled "Tag" what would you expect it to do?
  • And where do you buy post-it notes that actually stick?


  • Comment number 1.

    Mostly I use the Radio Times (the magazine, not the Web site). Each week I sit down with my PVR remote and first check the weekly programmes already set in my PVR to see if I need to adjust or delete them. Then I go through the RT, looking at the BBC4 schedule and the picks of the day, then the other Freeview channels.

    The process isn't perfect. I don't go through the schedules in meticulous detail, and I have missed programmes. For instance, without the "pick of today" feature with the ever-interesting Alice Roberts, I would probably have missed setting up Horizon this week because it's moved to Tuesday. (Why does the BBC mess with the schedule so much? Horizon's always been on a Monday... except when it hasn't been.) I've missed other Horizon programmes in the past, through assuming the series had finished when a programme wasn't broadcast on the same day as the previous week. It would help if RT were to print the programme number, e.g., 8/12 or whatever.

    I've tried a couple of RSS feeds, with limited success. The More4 Documentaries feed was OK for a while after I started using it, but it hasn't had an update for over two years. (I've just checked it, and it's still alive, showing the last update from 18/11/2008.) The Culture Show feed I set up a while ago has never worked, and I've never seen any articles from it. I haven't felt encouraged to look for other feeds.

    I recently signed up to the Radio Times Web site, hoping I could set it up to remind me of programmes I'm interested in. I have to say, though, that overall I'm disappointed with the "Your Programmes" feature (maybe I was hoping for too much). For instance, each week I would like to see if Horizon is on, and when. However, the RT site only allows me to add individual Horizon programmes to my schedule. Looking now, I see the one Horizon programme I added as a test a few weeks ago, "How to Survive a Car Crash", is on on Saturday as a repeat, but Tuesday's programme, "Are We Still Evolving?", isn't on my schedule.

    The RT Web site is *almost* working the way I'd like for The Culture Show. Unlike Horizon, I see each week's programme in my schedule, automatically, after adding one sample programme. However, I was only able to add it to my schedule when the series was running. Somehow, I overlooked most of last year's series in the RT magazine, so I signed up to the Web site a few months ago hoping to get a nudge when the current series started. But because the series wasn't running, I was unable to add it to my schedule. Similarly, I'm currently unable to add Bang Goes the Theory to my schedule, so unless there's a splash in the RT it's quite possible I'll miss the first programme of the next series, or more.

    So although I've experimented with RT's "Your Programmes" feature, it's not currently something I use for real.

    One feature I'd really like to see, whether on radiotimes.com or bbc.co.uk, is something to give me the schedule of forthcoming programmes by particular presenters. Looking at Jim Al-Khalili's Web site, for instance, I see he's working on a number of very interesting-looking programmes this year. Tristan on his blog mentions Niall Ferguson's Civilization, and maybe I'd like to look out for other programmes by Ferguson.

    I've added Civilization to my PVR's schedule, thanks, since it's now in the EPG. It's an interesting example, to answer your question "How do you remember what TV shows to watch?". I had previously read the Guardian article referenced in Tristan's blog, and even though it gave the date of the broadcast, I just thought I should try to remember to record the programme when it appeared in the EPG, or, more likely, that I would see a splash in the RT. It's quite rare that I'll set up my PVR without the RT in front of me.

  • Comment number 2.

    @Graeme - thank you very much for you comments. It's interesting to hear about the differences between the physical copy of the Radio Times and the online version.

    With regards to finding programmes by particular presenters, there are some ways of doing that on /programmes, for example this list of Radio4 presenters:


    But it does rely on the appropriate metadata being there. It's an interesting avenue for us to explore.

  • Comment number 3.

    1. There are typically 3 nights a week when I want to watch an hours TV before the news at 9. I tend to just remember which series that I like are on (Horizon, Top Gear, Outcasts at the moment) and I pick an episode of those if available.

    2. If it was the middle of a programme I'd want the tag button to add it to some sort of iPlayer queue of things to listen to. If it's the bit in between programmes where you plug other programmes I'd expect it to add the programme they're talking about to the queue.

    Alternatively, it could create a draft tweet or Facebook status update (not that these exist within those sites yet) and fill it with a URL. Later I could go an add some text and tweet/update it for all to see.

    3. Maybe the original 3M ones?


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