The Day After The London Bombings on the BBC Homepage

 by Martin Belam, 9 July 2005

"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 "No terrorist is going to deprive me of two hours in bed in order to avoid whatever transport chaos they may have caused". I opted to go in later and avoid whatever 'rush hour' there might be. By all accounts there wasn't much of one, and the Victoria and Central lines are unaffected so my fastest (but most unpleasant) route into work remains intact.

I was much happier being able to be involved in the discussions of how the homepage was going to continue to reflect events, although I suspect that at times I was probably an unwelcome extra opinion. The decision was taken to add a 'semi-permanent panel' to the page carrying emergency information, and to carry a 'Breaking News' promo until returning to a regular, if somber-toned, schedule late in the afternoon.

BBC Homepage During The Day After Terrorist Attacks On London

I carried on taking screenshots of the different versions I saw when I wasn't in meetings, and have made a Flickr set of them - the slideshow showing the transformations of the BBC homepage over the course of the 36 hours covered is a useful thing to have a record of.

Mind you, if you were looking at the site around lunchtime you might have also caught us in our underwear. One of the ways that we handle the load on the BBC homepage is by flattening it. Every minute a script runs which parses the page as if it was a browser and flattens all of the includes and dynamic elements (except for those that need to be user specific like the weather and 'Where I Live' information). For some reason around lunchtime the script ran and omitted to parse the first few lines of the page - meaning that for around a minute we didn't have a link to the stylesheet, or indeed the correct opening elements of a HTML document. If you saw something in your browser it would have looked a little like this.

BBC Homepage During The Day After Terrorist Attacks On London - Oops

Of all of the things written about the attacks, my favourite's have been the Mayor of London's speech, and two posts that I have seen on the web, one on Flicker about how I'm a Londoner from a long line of Londoners, and I have a very simple message to the terrorists..."Your grandchildren and my grandchildren will be friends". The second I can't find a link for, but essentially it said if you were a terrorist who prided yourself on your understanding of history and your ability to frighten people, London was pretty much the stupidest place you could have chosen to attack.

In the end, they didn't even get me out of bed early.

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