July 2005 Archives

July 27, 2005

I'm Gonna DJ - m-orchestra in Shoreditch

Next Wednesday, 3rd August, I am going to be DJing at The Pool on Curtain Road in Shoreditch - which will be the first time I have vexed the decks for around two years. The nearest stations are Old Street and Liverpool Street, and the venue is close to the 26, 35, 42, 47, 48, 78 and 242 bus routes. I'm expecting to play two sets during the night, entrance is free, and it should start at around 6pm and...
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July 26, 2005

Oh, Isn't This A Bit Of A Nuisance

Lunarchy has already noted that when we arrived at work on Monday it seemed that every phone in our BBC building had received an emergency '666' sticker. '666' is the BBC's internal equivalent of '999', and has spawned many a satanic joke in the office. Mind you this was nowhere as alarming as developments on Friday, when we all received an email from 'Safety and Security information'. I appreciate that the BBC needs to keep a track on staff, but...
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July 24, 2005

Putting a F__k Off Dalek on the BBC Homepage isn't big or clever - part 4

This is part 4 of a 4 part article - 1 2 3 4   Download a print version of this article Conclusions I think there are really two points that I'd like to draw out from this that are more generally informative than just a story about how the BBC once put a massive Dalek on the homepage. The first is about how mainstream users deal with change. The Open Tech conference is all about innovation and change -...
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Putting a F__k Off Dalek on the BBC Homepage isn't big or clever - part 3

This is part 3 of a 4 part article - 1 2 3 4   Download a print version of this article Audience Reaction - What We Found You simply can't please all the people all of the time, and we received a lot of contradictory feedback. Some people were annoyed that we had reduced the number of links on the page, and so had removed their regular routes to certain content: "Half the links are gone - I have...
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Putting a F__k Off Dalek on the BBC Homepage isn't big or clever - part 2

This is part 2 of a 4 part article - 1 2 3 4   Download a print version of this article The Dalek Special Homepage - What We Did For the season finale we therefore produced a one-off Dalek version of the homepage. In order to accommodate the large Dalek image we had to make some changes to other areas of the page. We reduced the granularity of the directory section, so that it consisted of the 12 major...
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Putting a F__k Off Dalek on the BBC Homepage isn't big or clever - part 1

This is part 1 of a 4 part article - 1 2 3 4   Download a print version of this article Introduction If you've never worked in the BBC's New Media department it is difficult to know what a "Development Producer" does. In effect we are the 'Babel Fish' of the department. In one ear we receive the editorial aspiration that "Wouldn't it be great if we could do some coverage of Glastonbury on the homepage with the news...
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Martin Belam Presentation at Open Tech 2005

Yesterday it seemed like half the people I know were at Open Tech 2005, where I was giving my talk on the consequences of putting a massive Dalek on the BBC homepage. The things I enjoyed most included The Pod's "Techno Is Not A Joke" movie shown before the whole event got going, Tom Chance's talk on the excellent looking Remix Reading initiative, and Ted Nelson's hour long rant that everything everyone in the room had ever done with computers...
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July 22, 2005

Into The Net In 1995

The fickle hand of fate waved in my direction a while ago, when whilst walking down the street I spotted a small book lying on the pavement. It turned out to be a copy of "Into The Net - Everything You Need To Know About The Internet" given away free with MacFormat 23 in April 1995. So what did learning everything you needed to know about the internet look like ten years ago? Well some of the stats raise a...
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July 18, 2005

Blog Usability Study Doesn't Say Whether Blogs Are 'Useful'

Last week Catalyst Group Design published a report on a usability study of one particular blog - BusinessWeek's Well Spent. The report makes a couple of useful points, particularly around the comment functionality of blogs. - The core purpose of submitting comments to a blog is not universally understood. - Few, if any, blogs declare exactly what will happen when a post is submitted - though some indicate after submission that there will be a review. Doubt about whether or...
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So That's Cycling Over For A Bit Then

Yesterday I beat my time to do the circuit round my bit of Walthamstow on my bike by four minutes. This morning I cycled to the station for the first time as part of my commute to work. This evening I went home on the bus holding what was left of the lock that had failed to stop my bike being stolen from Walthamstow Central. *sigh*...
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Green Fair in Waltham Forest (Quietly)

This afternoon I popped over to my local park to visit Waltham Forest's Green Fair. There were quite a few stalls there, a brass band, some Shetland Ponies from the local farm, displays of dancing (African and traditional English) and a host of activities for kids. There was also a knock-out table football competition (although I wasn't sure what the 'green' credentials of that were!).       The crowd wasn't bad, but I think the event had been really under-publicised...
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Boot Fair Virgin No More

Until yesterday I was a car boot fair virgin, but on Saturday we got up at the crack of dawn to join a couple of friends in having a stall at the regular fair in Woodford. Amazingly, we had picked the morning that this particular fair was being filmed for "Car Booty", and even more amazingly, ended up being the stall behind and to the right of the people participating in the show, so there should be some nice shots...
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July 15, 2005

Why Would The BBC Hate Quentin Letts?

The Daily Mail ran a full page piece today from Quentin Letts bemoaning the BBC's "latest drive against middle-class suburbia". Referring to the BBC Governor's Annual Report Letts writes: They effectively told their programme makers to ignore everything that is most normal and routine about British life. (But to depict the freaks, the outsides, the law breakers and convention smashers, by all means) He is reacting to this paragraph on page 24 of the report: Another important genre prioritised for...
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Martin Belam Articles Available Once More On currybetdotnet

I'm very pleased to say that this evening I have been able to make available again three of my articles that vanished into the ether when I had some server support issues earlier in the year. All three look at some of the aspects of my work at the BBC on the bbc.co.uk search engine, and are from between January 2003 to November 2004. The following articles are available: A Day In The Life of BBCi Search - January 2003...
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July 14, 2005

London's Transport, and Passengers Back To Normal in Walthamstow

I knew things were back to normal yesterday morning when the quietly simmering rage of the average commuter broke through once again in Walthamstow. All the goodwill towards London's brave and long-suffering transport staff evaporated as a bus driver on the Arriva franchise 275 route refused to stop outside Walthamstow Central Train station, instead turning straight into the bus station. Before he even managed to turn right there was a cacophony of shouting, pleading and bell ringing. He shouted back...
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Paul Mason Signs Off at Newsnig8t

Paul Mason has published a fantastic final post on his is-it-BBC-or-isn't-it-BBC Newsnig8t blog hosted at Typepad, talking about how and why he did it, and what he learned. the BBC is developing its own blog software platform but I was not inclined to use it: whether it worked or not, and how many forms I would have had to fill in were secondary. I'm interested in the phrase 'the BBC is developing its own blog software platform' - which spun...
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The BBC Homepage Remembers The London Bombings

It's funny how events can overtake you. Last week we were confidently announcing on the Points of View message board that: We do not currently have plans for any more of these special pages. Less than 7 days on from that posting this morning the BBC has launched a special version of the homepage in rememberance of the victims of the bombings in London last Thursday. The main promo area of the page has been expanded, and rotates through various...
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July 13, 2005

Internet and Media Responses To The BBC Closing The Cult Site

The Guardian yesterday covered the 'furore' surrounding the closing of the BBC's Cult TV site - Fans up in arms as BBC axes cult website The BBC has been hit by an unprecedented backlash from viewers over the closure of its cult TV website. About 750 people have so far complained about the decision to close bbc.co.uk/cult, which features news and reviews about TV shows including Doctor Who, 24, Buffy the Vampire Slayer and Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy. It...
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July 12, 2005

BBC News 24 Idents Given An F For Physics

In this thread on the BBC's Points of View message board one poster has started a debate about whether the BBC hates science. According to the Media Guardian website, the BBC is to close the science-fiction website, bbc.co.uk/cult. Recently anything resembling meterology has been removed from the BBC TV's weather service. ... BBC FOUR is supposed to be "a place to think", but the only scant science programs are Open University programs. Does the BBC hate science? Does anybody in...
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Open Source Software at the BBC

Today the BBC launched bbc.co.uk/opensource, which collects together the Open Source software projects the BBC has founded into one place. For the BBC, open source software development is an extension of our Public Service remit. Releasing open source software helps our audience get additional value from the work they've funded, and also get tools for free that they couldn't get any other way. It also allows people outside the BBC to extend projects in such a way that may in...
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July 11, 2005

Sarah Boxer Writes About The 7/7 Community On Flickr in The New York Times

There was a very odd article published by the New York Times in the Arts section over the weekend, where Sarah Boxer reviewed the London Bomb Blasts Flickr group - On the Web, Photos Strain to Connect 7/7 and 9/11*. It was bought to my attention as it name-checked my Flickr-self as one of the top posters. Her argument is that the group have collectively tried to put something together to echo the iconic images of New York on September...
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UK News Website Traffic On 7th July 2005

More figures have been emerging in the press about the volume of news-seeking traffic there was on the internet last Thursday following the terrorist attack on London - Record traffic to BBC News site The figures reflect the findings of Hitwise, which said that BBC News accounted for 28.6% of all news page impressions in the UK on Thursday. Traffic to the BBC homepage made up a further 6.42%. Sky News was third with 3.8%, and Guardian Unlimited fifth with...
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Graffiti on Novy Most -> Wormfood

The ability of Flickr to keep people in touch with events around the world really came into its own last week during the terrorist attacks on London - several news outlets linked to, or borrowed pictures from, the London Bomb Blasts Pool. It isn't just big events though, it is also the small details. I noticed last night, via Meneldur leaving a comment on one of my photos, that Nový Most in Bratisalava has been repainted a dull uniform steel...
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Haunted Malta

Our recent trip to Malta and Gozo would not have been complete without a spot of ghost-hunting. Before we went away my wife acquired a second-hand copy of 'The Ghosts Of Malta' by Joseph Attard. It wasn't, to be honest, the easiest of reads, as the prose style was quite difficult to get into. The thrust of the book was a narrative of how a newly independent Malta had shunned the heritage of ghost stories around the island as belonging...
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July 10, 2005

Haunted Cockfosters and Enfield

Last Christmas I bought my wife the Richard Jones book "Walking Haunted London". It is a great excuse to wander around bits of London that we wouldn't otherwise visit on foot - and luckily for me, many of the haunted locations in this city of ours are pubs. This weekend we visited some of the haunted locations in Enfield. It is one of the walks in the book that is so spread out that Richard Jones doesn't specify a route,...
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July 9, 2005

The Day After The London Bombings on the BBC Homepage

"The Day After" is always a strange one. I went to bed on Thursday night with all my cycling gear laid out downstairs, with a plan to set off very early, cycle to Blackhorse Road, and catch the overground across North London to get to White City. "No terrorist is going to stop me getting to my office twice in a week" I vowed. However, when my alarm went off at 5:30am I re-considered my vow and changed it to...
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July 8, 2005

Audience Reaction to the BBC Homepage Live8 Special

It seems incredible with all that has happened this week that last Friday I was writing about the special Live8 homepage that the BBC had just launched, to promote the streaming coverage of the concert at the Eden project, and to provide the latest news updates from the events all around the globe. At the time we promised to publish a summary of the audience reaction on the Points of View message board, as once again we had coupled changing...
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How the BBC dealt with Internet traffic on July 7th, 2005

Yesterday's terrorist attacks on London caused a massive spike in internet traffic to news sites in the UK, which was covered in a couple of articles published today: BBC News - News sites toil as visits rocket Net Imperative - UK news sites swamped after London blasts According to Sky News they had 1.7 million unique users during the day - "That's the equivalent of a month's traffic on the site". We haven't crunched the numbers on our logfiles yet,...
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July 7, 2005

London Bombings on the BBC Homepage

A very frustrating day today. I was lucky to be turned away this morning from Walthamstow Central as the emergency spread in London, and so I headed back home. It was the second day in a row that I'd been at home when a major event unfolded on the BBC homepage and I was powerless to help. The team worked very hard today, and made many iterations of the page. By the end of the day the homepage was carrying...
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July 6, 2005

Olympic Round-Up

The BBC wasn't the only site to suffer from the volume of Olympic related internet traffic just after decision time this afternoon - whilst we had to switch to our frankly ugly mini-me version of the homepage to help the servers cool off, london2012.org died completely. Elsewhere on the web the DCMS opted for a massive splash graphic to announce the news, whilst london.gov.uk went for a more restrained approach.    Meanwhile the official Olympics site used the iconic image...
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It's London! How BBC.co.uk Broke The News

In the build-up this morning the BBC homepage ran with a standard promo anticipating the developments of the day: After the announcement we switched to a pre-prepared It's London! promo - (we had an It's Paris! promo in reserve to prepare for that eventually and to avoid jinxing the London bid) <ADDED> Then in the face of server meltdown, we are able to switch to a lite version of the page, with less graphics so lower bandwidth and fewer servers...
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July 5, 2005

BBC To Splash The Cash Online

The trade press were today reporting 'BBC Raising External Online Work Commitment'. One thing that pleases me is that the department has set aside a fund specifically for commissions from smaller companies - this should help us get out of the situation television is in, where it is open to accusations of repeatedly commissioning from the same so-called "Super-Indies". The New Media Age coverage of the story carries some quotes from Shar, our finance director: We recognise that we have...
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£29.1m For Rio Ferdinand. Surely some mistake?

One thing is really bugging me about the Gerrard transfer saga. Virtually every media outlet I read is claiming Chelsea's bid is set to be a British record. It certainly is a record bid. However, nearly every media outlet is also comparing the bid to the transfer of Rio Ferdinand from Leeds United to Manchester United. The Independent: with Chelsea rekindling their interest with an offer that beats the £29m Manchester United paid Leeds for Rio Ferdinand in 2002 The...
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Haunted Great Portland Street and Theatreland

Last Christmas I bought my wife the Richard Jones book "Walking Haunted London". It is a great excuse to wander around bits of London that we wouldn't otherwise visIt on foot - and luckily for me, many of the haunted locations in this city are pubs. Last weekend we did the walk called 'Great Portland Street to Theatreland'. Our trip started with an exciting bit of transport drama. We got to the platform at Blackhorse Road to hear a tannoy...
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July 3, 2005

Martin Belam at Open Tech 2005

I'm pleased to confirm that I will be speaking at the Open Tech 2005 conference later this month, which is being sponsored by backstage.bbc.co.uk. I'll be doing a 15 minute talk entitled "Why Putting a F__k Off Sized Dalek On The BBC Homepage Isn't Big And Clever". It is a fairly light-hearted look at how we changed the bbc.co.uk homepage to promote the season finale of Doctor Who, and what the audience thought about it. It does contain some serious...
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Brilliant Bookmarklet For The BBC's New Message Boards

At the moment the BBC is in the process of moving all of the messageboards on the site from the out-dated, clunky and very broken howerd2 system, to the DNA software the BBC bought when it acquired h2g2 back in 2001. One of the strengths, and problems, of DNA is that it is very complex and feature rich. Each of the different skins the sites powered by DNA use implement different subsets of the functionality. Compared to sites like h2g2,...
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July 2, 2005

Firefox Search Plugin For Yahoo! My Web 2.0 Beta

Like many Flickr people I was intrigued by the Flickr Blog suggestion to try out Yahoo!'s My Web 2.0 Beta test. I love the idea of trying to use collaborative filtering with search results - at one point within the BBC we spent a lot of time trying to work out whether we could leverage the use of our search by teachers and the like to improve the Best Links we provided in specific areas. Anyway, like Lloyd, I also...
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Live8 On Flickr

Just another reason why Flickr is awesome. Already there are over 1,000 photographs that have been uploaded with the tag Live8....
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Pete Clifton, Podcasting, backstage.bbc.co.uk, iTunes and a Dalek

I'm concerned that Pete Clifton may be writing his "From the editor's desktop" column for BBC News purely to make it impossible for me not to blog it - this week he managed to talk about Daleks, online voting, podcasting, iTunes, backstage.bbc.co.uk and being a gay icon. Only the last of these items wouldn't immediately compel me to put fingertips to keyboard. The reason backstage.bbc.co.uk, podcasting and iTunes got into the mix was because one of the prototypes - -...
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July 1, 2005

BBC Live8 Homepage

Late this afternoon we launched an adapted version of the BBC homepage to cover the Live8 events taking place across the globe tomorrow. Firstly we've added a panel carrying links through to news about the events during the day. We've done this based on the Live8 RSS feed that our Radio & Music Interactive department are producing. It's fantastic that we are starting to re-use these RSS feeds as content providers around our own site. A couple of years ago...
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Malta and Gozo - Day Six

Earlier this year I spent a week in Malta and Gozo with my wife and a couple of our best friends. We'd made all sort of provisional plans for the Sunday, our sixth and last full day, but in the end the sunny weather dictated that we head for Golden Bay. This was much more developed than Ramla Bay on Gozo, and a lot less relaxed, with big parties of teenagers with blaring radios, and a hideous shrieking family group...
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