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Prototyping weeknotes #70

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Chris Lowis Chris Lowis | 11:53 UK time, Monday, 1 August 2011

At the start of the week the News Linking team invited a couple of experts in to discuss how social media could play a part in increasing the amount of external linking we could do on News and more generally across the BBC. Chris G was up to his ears in teleconferences, while Tristan slaved away editing an EU document. Struggling to keep up with the pace, Theo booked himself in for a fish pedicure.

With Vicky now based in R&D Media City Theo, Joanne and Nina Monet (from News) decamped there for the second half of the week to work on the News Companion prototypes. It was a great opportunity to check out the amazing new R&D North Lab. It must be a productive environment because by the end of the first day they had the prototype ready for testing.

Meanwhile Chris G attended another telco.

On Thursday the team used the R&D North testing lab ("posher than my living room" according to Theo), to run 5 sessions with volunteers from the campus. The findings from the discussions they had with each volunteer are being compiled to generate recommendations and further questions for the next prototyping iteration. A productive, fun time was had by all.

A paper prototype ready to be tested

Back in Henry Wood House, Duncan, Olivier and I were working with a simple mathematical model I'd developed to explore some "what-if" scenarios around the News Linking. While we'll still need to check the model against another, larger data set, it proved rather useful in showing which of our ideas would be most likely to have the biggest impact.

Duncan took some time out to set up new work stations for our colleagues Yves Raimond and Pete Warren who will shortly be joining us from other parts of the BBC. It's important to make new starters feel at home with equipment that will be useful to them.

Sean spent the week wrapping up some of the RadioTAG work, which culminated in the release of the source code for our implementation of the RadioTAG protocol. He had an interesting discussion about RadioTAG and its future possibilities with Andrew Scott and Nick Humfrey from the Radio and Music product team.

Chris N has been working hard on the next phase of the P2P/LIMO work, concentrating this week on using server-side javascript to deliver real-time updates to browser clients. He's been using Node.js, express and Socket.io. He's also been tackling the thorny issue of testing javascript - deciding in the end to build a test harness for the LIMO code using the Jasmine framework.

Chris G and the producer team spent some time thinking about the upcoming workplan. Some of the potential areas that come up were "personalisation vs public space", "How can we extend radio on the web to actual radios, and vice versa?" and the rather exciting field of "ubiquitous connectivity experience design"! You'll be pleased to know that Chris G didn't let this get in the way of attending another telconference.

On Friday the engineering team made a lunchtime trip to Google in Victoria to meet our alumnus Sam Dutton and sample the amazing food at their canteen. We bumped into Hemmy Cho another old friend of ours. We had some productive discussions with the developer evangelists in the Android team and with Sam, who now fulfils that role for the Chrome team. George felt immediately at home in their hammocks.

Friday was University of Manchester professor Rachel Gibson's last day in our office, it's been great to have her around and there's been a lot of interesting discussions as a result.

Interesting Links

  • Microsoft Research in Cambridge have produced a magazine. It summarises some of their last 5 years of research and design work around why people communicate.
  • Andy Rutledge produced an unrequested redesign of the NYT, inspiring some interesting discussion around the problems in designing a large news organisations website from Nieman Labs. Brad Colbow's deconstruction of newspaper websites was also interesting.
  • Charles is is an HTTP proxy / HTTP monitor / Reverse Proxy that enables a developer to view all of the HTTP and SSL / HTTPS traffic between their machine and the Internet. We like!
  • We're excited that the low-cost, ARM-based Raspberry Pi has reached alpha stage, and are looking forward to getting our hands on one. Especially fun are the BBC Micro-inspired product names.


  • Comment number 1.

    Just because lots of people link to news does not mean that anyone is doing a good job of news provision. Substance please! Is there any algorithm to indicate the relevance and efficacy of news coverage? Then we would know whether to take any notice.

  • Comment number 2.

    Thank you for your comment Kit. You're right, there's a fine balance to be struck when we consider using "social" sources to augment news coverage. We're working on some research and prototypes to consider these issues, so please watch this space for more in the coming months.

  • Comment number 3.

    As a matter of interest did this
    only get picked up by mainstream media due to a Twitter event or similar?

    Respectable and trusted news organisations must develop high speed verification processes before trusting high speed trending (a word I really dislike) news.

  • Comment number 4.

    Sorry to be the only person commenting at the moment, but I was wondering how research like this:
    fits in with the ethos of "Second Screen"?

  • Comment number 5.

    @Kit Green
    On this subject, we recently prototyped an idea (at a very early stage) for parents to monitor and manage the amount of time their kids spent consuming media, what they get up to on their mobiles, what sites they are visiting, etc. We evaluated the concept with users and it was quite a sensitive subject with the parents in our group of participants, partly because they were reluctant to monitor their kids. Others didn‚t realise how easy it is to click away from an app, like Facebook which is perceived to be safe, to a link on the open Internet. They were concerned with how much time their kids spent on their mobiles, and we are certainly interested in revisiting the idea and do some further testing with users.


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