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IRFS Weeknotes #135

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Tristan Ferne | 10:23 UK time, Monday, 25 February 2013

These are weekly notes from the Internet Research & Futures Services team in BBC R&D sharing what we do. We work in the open, using technology and design to make new things on the internet and the web. You can follow us on Twitter at @bbcirfs

When I asked people what they'd been doing this week I had a bumper crop of responses from the Snippets project team so I'll start there.

Snippets - tools for finding, snipping and sharing any moment

We have released a new version of our search page and genre filtering tool. This decision was based on user feedback and we believe the new design offers a much simpler experience. Chris F also noticed a lot of performance bottlenecks and the new release takes a much more efficient approach to displaying results in HTML. Anthony is finishing up on the keyframe tool, a new feature to make clipping really fast.

Matt H and Gareth are still working on indexing radio programmes and it is looking like we'll have close to 800,000 programmes available soon, doubling our current dataset size, so we are investigating how well it will perform and how we manage such a large set. James has been working on evaluating speech-to-text transcripts and looking into using some machine learning techniques to help us identify the most useful data in these automated transcripts.

The Internet of Things - for media, entertainment and storytelling

Vicky and Jasmine, from our Salford lab, were in London for a couple of days and updated the team on their progress and plans. This week Jasmine has been "Testing and playing with accelerometers and other sensory hardware exploring the interfaces for our connected prototype. Also dabbling with a python interface for the Firmata protocol on Arduino" and exploring the "continuum of awe" with Lancaster University (no, me neither).

World Service experiment - using machine-generated and crowd-sourced metadata

Dan and Chris L attended an elasticsearch training course run by its core developer, Shay Banon. We're using elasticsearch on the World Service project to act as a fast index of the aggregated data from our users (stored in a MySQL database) and our automated tagging system (a 4store triple store). Pete's been doing "behind-the-scenes bits and bobs", Mark's been gathering some stats, I've been writing some words, one of our top users has been helping us plug some gaps in the archive and Michael's been trying to get a feel for the shape of the archive by looking at the data so far...

The shape of an archive?

R&D Website - developing a sustainable and world-class R&D web presence

We are getting very close to making the beta site public. Olivier has been reviewing quotes for security and accessibility testing, adding and tagging content and talking with people across R&D, while Matt P and Chris Needham get the infrastructure ready to host the site on bbc.co.uk. Meanwhile, the team at Kite are helping us on the next stage of development.

VistaTV - using real-time audience data

Chris Newell has started a study of temporal changes in the performance of collaborative filtering - "The recommender models we build rely on having a representative sample of audience data. The question we need to answer is how long after broadcast is this achieved?"

Developing new ideas

There were at least three workshops, that I know of, developing new ideas and projects. Unfortunately I missed all of them because of other forms of meeting people. On Wednesday most of the team were at a workshop imagining future experiences and services based on metadata, facilitated by our friends at Superflux. Andrew N says "I learnt some great ways of structuring these sorts of exercises and how producing tangible models can be a powerful way of exploring and explaining ideas". And on Thursday there were two more, very nearly overlapping in time; Libby ran one on media technology for kids and Barbara ran one thinking about new forms of radio.

Prototyping the future?

All the things that didn't fit...

Libby has been looking into getting more music data and doing some strategic things. Barbara and Chris Needham have been working on documentation as the FI-Content project wraps up. James says "The dashboard is coming". Andrew N got an interactive TV prototype, from colleagues in the TV Platforms team, working with a remote control gadget. And he got an LED to flash using a Raspberry Pi. And we shouldn't forget the impact of our older work. Last week's "6 Music Live" season used RadioVIS, which we helped invent and develop, to send out pictures of the bands to radios with screens.


Lastly some links from the team. Well, actually no-one sent me any so they're just links from me...

I watched a programme on BBC Four about Google Books and discovered that in Barcelona they keep their supercomputers in deconsecrated churches.

Debate was sparked in the team after reading this article on how AMEE use Trello to run their projects. We tend to use a combination of Trello for tasks and Gitlab for issue tracking but end up with some redundancy. If and when we settle on a stable method, maybe we'll write something about our workflow for building protoypes.

And from Make magazine, the Offbot: "Offbot contacts you once a day and asks you what you've been up to. It's not a task management tool. It's more a tool to reflect on your own work, and how your team works together. And because it contacts you out of the blue - it emails you at random times of the day - most of the time, people reply with the first thing that comes into their minds.". Look out weeknotes, here come the robots.


  • Comment number 1.

    Just read robbycoops comment on the previous post - I'm quite looking forward to seeing how the snippet project develops from a technology point of view. Have come across quite a few news articles on broadcasting and convergence - a lot of them speak about the importance of search functionality as the volume of content grows at an incredible rate... I see the snippets project as a stepping stone to some kind of Natural Language Processing capability for search in the future... all this has to end up with users asking in plain English for what they want and the search technology accurately interpreting the request.

    The VistaTV project sounds exciting too - holds so much potential for more interactivity with viewers than play-along auction shows.

  • Comment number 2.

    When is the new BBC R&D website being launched Tristan? I see mention of the beta in this post - is there anywhere we can see the new layout?


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