BBC R&D

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

"In case you feel the need for inspiration"

It's sprint number 7 since we re-organised into four sub-teams. We had our end-of-sprint demos on Thursday - these weeknotes are based on those and the internal summaries the teams sent round. 

The Content team

Ant showed some initial sketches of the interface for their Highlights tool, something that automatically picks the best bits of live and on-demand TV. Denise is working on the live processing needed for this. And Thomas showed the BBC's Standard Media Player synced to peaks.js in use as a clipping interface. 

The Data team

COMMA, the media analysis platform, now successfully processes US English and works on local hardware. And this week its been processing some long-lost Letters From America. Jana has been successful with a TSB bid for funding video fingerprinting work and she showed how to use fingerprinting to automatically reconstruct an episode of Africa from the raw rushes. Yves has been enhancing the Mango topic extraction engine by powering it from Wikipedia rather than DBpedia, which makes it more up-to-date, and is now pretty confident the crowd-sourcing in the World Service archive is improving the quality of tags. Michael and I have been designing a continuity database for TV and radio dramas and kicking off the development. As part of Zillah's Letters from America research she asked Jana to pull out some data about Friday and Saturday nights on BBC1 from 1974-1978...

The Discovery team

The team completed their notifications experiment, where half the group was curating videos, based on a short list of preferred topics, and sending notifications via Twitter to one person in the other half of the team. Most concluded that being a personal curator was in equal parts hard and engrossing. The hit rate of watching the videos amongst recipients was low, but there were a few encouraging cases of serendipitous delight. They've also been sketching interfaces, workshopping and using vast numbers of blue sticky notes. Olivier showed a bit of this video on paper prototyping - "Not only is it awfully cute, it's the best demonstration of the value of paper prototyping I've seen in a while".

The Devices team

Chris Needham was deconstructing scenarios to identify each interaction for Mediascape. On Radiodan, Andrew W continued on the web app design, Andrew N finished the latest physical interface prototype and Dan worked on provisioning and the services API we use to get real-time streaming info on programmes, live text and now-playing track information. We also kicked off some product design work with Victor Johansson for a kit of parts. Here's one prototype made from laser-cut plastic and MDF.

Elsewhere

After our demos Thomas practiced his talk on README-driven development which he'll be giving at Write the Docs at the end of the month. A number of people were out and about this week. Chris Needham was at the W3C Web and TV workshop hosted by IRT in Munich. George, also in Germany, was speaking at CeBit on the hybrid broadcasting future. Chris Newell met some Flemish colleagues from VRT to share what we know about personalisation. Michael's words on radical transparency and sausage factories were spoken by Bill Thompson at the BBC data day and Zillah talked about the WS archive and Speakerthon to her former colleagues in Radio 4. 

Interesting things

Libby brought in a set of Giles Turnbull's strategy cards. The photo at the top of this post is not one of them. I liked this quote from "MIT vs. IDEO: Opposing Approaches Design the Internet of Things":

"I have worked in various other places since, but those two experiences showed me the key opposing attitudes towards technology when designing with or for it. The first approach is actively looking at culture, using humanity’s core principles as guidelines for a conscious decision about where technology could take us, and seeing where it could solve problems that couldn’t be addressed otherwise. The second approach is more focused on pushing the features of technologies and creating new things by exceeding previously impossible tasks — and by that creation, change the part of culture that a technology is occupying. This philosophy is best described by the phenomenon that if something is passing the threshold of a certain low price or a certain speed, it will become something else entirely."