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IRFS Weeknotes #134

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Olivier Thereaux | 16:21 UK time, Friday, 8 February 2013

I haven’t been around the office much this week, and my attempts to glean photographic evidence of what had happened in my absence provided me mostly with very puzzling material.

Thus, volunteering to work on our weeknotes was a rather selfish way to know a little more about what the team had been up to: new radio functionality in snippets, the world service archive taken over by radio drama enthusiasts, internet of things, conferences, website, and more!

Photo: There might be popular programes about... squirrels

The problem with squirrels


Along with bug fixing and improvements to the existing site, Team Snippets has started the first phase of our new Radio functionality. This is the ability to quickly search radio shows by programme description, contributor and episode title and then facet those results.

Matt H has been collecting data on the project, and James has been working on the transcode service.

The big internal debate this week was on the best way to present this functionality - do you force users to pre-select or do you combine search results from all the datasets? Next week we’ll be roughing out the work in anticipation of prototyping effort in an upcoming sprint.

Photo: ... through the archive

... through the archive

World Service Radio Archive Prototype

Tristan and Michael have been watching with fascination our World Service archive prototype being picked up by the radio drama community, starting with someone creating a curated collection of the radio drama and plays in there.

Photo: working on the R&D website

Andrew N, hacking on the website

R&D Website

Work is continuing on the R&D website. Akua has been patiently editing content, while Chris Needham authored pages for some of our past projects, notably RadioVIS.

Meanwhile, Andrew has been refactoring the CSS on the R&D website and making use of Microsoft’s recently upgraded testing options.

Photo: cables and remotes

The Internet Of Cables

Internet of Things, Radios and other devices

Jasmine sent me an enthusiastic summary: "This week", she writes, "we have been scoping, exploring, building. We are in an initial phase of research into building a connected sharing and saving device for radio listeners."

This has sparked the exploration of how a single-touch contextual interface (with feedback) could be embedded in BBC programming, and as a route to network/ brand engagement.

We've also been testing and networking microcontrollers via bluetooth.

Also in hacking-devices-land, James is off to the European Broadcasting Union’s Radiohack event in Geneva on Monday to talk about an open source radio contribution link tool (OpenOB), Raspberry Pi radio development, and to learn more about some other projects being undertaken by the maker/hacker community to make radios.

Talks and Conferences

on Thursday, I joined Jory of html5audio.org on stage at the AES “Audio for Games” conference.

We kept our talk about the history of audio on the web to a minimum, preferring to spend most of our hour slot showing cool demos such as Step Daddy, the Infinite Jukebox or Fist Pumper... Most of which currently only work in Chrome by the way, and the latter on iOS6 devices - but the fact that these are using an upcoming standard still being implemented by other browser engines was, well, the point.

Pete has been helping to prepare a presentation for the British Library ‘Opening Up Speech Archives’ conference, which he is attending with Chris Lowis and Theo today.

Photo: Open

Lest we forget

In Other News...

  • Matt Haynes has also been helping BBC News stabilise their triplestore for the next round of “Labs” prototyping.

  • Andrew N has been thinking about tools to wireframe TV-like experiences using laptops, web browsers and remote controls.

  • Tristan, Michael and others had a meeting with the Netherlands Institute for Sound and Vision (Nederlands Instituut voor Beeld en Geluid): lots of crossover with their work on making archives available and useful online.

  • Barbara, ChrisG and others have been working on the preparation for phase 2 of the FI-Content mega-project. This apparently involved a marathon-like teleconference. Oh, European projects have all the fun...

Our curator of links this week is... Tristan:


  • Comment number 1.

    I'm curious to know how the radio snippets dilemma plays out - personally I think the best approach is combining the search results from all the datasets available. May I ask what is the expected launch date of this functionality?

  • Comment number 2.

    Hi Michelle,

    Thanks for your interest in the Snippets project. We've come to the same conclusion as you. Users increasingly expect a 'Google-like' experience from applications (i.e. a single search box that magically anticipates what you're looking for). However, all design is compromise and what you gain in simplicity you can often lose in functionality. For example, we might assume that a user searching for 'Jeremy Clarkson' is interested in programmes starring him (and so prioritise these shows in the results) when, in fact, they're actually interested in programmes that mention him. There are ways round this, but what you sometimes end up doing is moving complexity from pre-search selection to post-search filtering. A really interesting challenge to have, though.

    In terms of timings, we're aiming to have Phase 1 of Snippets for Radio live in early April. As Snippets is an R&D prototype system it's only open to authorised BBC-staff. However we may be presenting our work at conferences later in the year and hopefully it'll inform the BBC's public-facing work down the line.

    Rob, Project Lead, Snippets


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