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Radiotagbot - Bookmarking Radio and TV using Twitter

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Libby Miller | 16:58 UK time, Friday, 9 November 2012

Radiotagbot is a way to bookmark the current point in a programme that you're listening to (or watching) live, by using twitter. To create a bookmark, you send a message to @radiotagbot with the name of a BBC radio or TV station in in it (e.g. "radio 4" or "r1x" or "BBC1") and it will tweet back to you with the title of the programme and a link to the point in time on iPlayer at which it will (usually) appear. If it's on Radio 1, 1x, 2, 3 or 6 Music, it will also attempt to reply with the music track playing.

Here are some sample exchanges:

Libby Miller ‏@libbymiller
@radiotagbot hello! what's on radio 3?

radiotagbot ‏@radiotagbot
@libbymiller Symphony No. 4 in A, Op. 90 'Italian' by Felix Mendelssohn https://bbc.co.uk/i/b01npj13/?t=5373s

Libby Miller ‏@libbymiller
Interview with Daniel Craig on #radio4 @radiotagbot

radiotagbot @radiotagbot
@libbymiller The Film Programme https://bbc.co.uk/i/b01ngnwd/?t=593s

Libby Miller ‏@libbymiller
I am definitely going out to buy some sweets in a minute @radiotagbot #bbcfour /cc @realnigelslater

radiotagbot @radiotagbot
@libbymiller Nigel Slater: Life Is Sweets https://bbc.co.uk/i/p00y4hd1/?t=634s ... cc @realnigelslater

You can leave it at that, or if you then go to the Radiotagbot site you can login using Twitter and see the tags you have created.

Screenshot of radiotagbot website.

Screenshot of radiotagbot website.

This work derives from RadioTAG, which makes it possible to select a point in time on a channel on a physical internet-connected radio, and then connect that via the DNS system to services that allow you to do something with that information. These services could be bookmarking something for later to resume playing, or to find out what was playing (or who was speaking) at the time, or something else. Currently RadioTAG can only be used using a few specific types of radio (with specific software), and only within our trial system.

For wide adoption it's important for us to know whether this type of service would actually be used, and what it would be used for. This Twitter version of it is a lightweight way for us to gather feedback on the ideas.

This implementation is a relatively small change to the codebase used in RadioTAG, and uses the same backend infrastructure:

  • A tagging web service, which uses an Solr-powered database of metadata about programmes, channels and iPlayer availability
  • An authentication server
  • A web site

The main difference is that the physical device authentication is not required. Instead, any tweet to @radiotagbot is stored, and authentication only occurs when you log into the site to view your tags. The other addition is code that connects to Twitter's API every 30 seconds, looks for messages directed at @radiotagbot, parses those tweets looking for variants of radio and tv channel names, creating a tag and responding on Twitter if it finds a result.

If you're on Twitter, we'd be delighted if you'd give it a try. Feedback should go to me at @libbymiller or by email to irfs@bbc.co.uk.

I'd like to thank Richard Northover, who had the idea to use Twitter in this way, and provided many helpful comments on the implementation, and Steve Bowbrick, who provided great feedback as well as help in deciding on the usecases to target.


  • Comment number 1.

    A mention should also go to Ben Smith (@thesmith), who helped make a similar thing a couple of years ago...

  • Comment number 2.

    An excellent idea but it seems iPlayer doesn't allow you to use the time bookmark to be used when the program is still on air. The link I created for a Radio 1 program gave me the "Available soon after" message and failed to work. This limits the real life scenario use of the links.

  • Comment number 3.


  • Comment number 4.

    thanks for such a nice for such a nice post.

  • Comment number 5.

    Sorry, can someone please help me? Why is it that these blog posts on this site and also those of the BBC Internet Blog stay open for some considerable time whilst our Blog - the Being Human Blog posts keeps closing for comments after such a short time.

    Oh, and by the way Research and Development Team - why haven't you changed your Blog to the GEL format yet? Let me guess - you are not that daft - but hey - the people commenting on the 'Vision' Blogs will stomach it. Yep.

    A reply would be nice. Thank you.


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