Doctor Who and Britain, yes. Sarah Jane and London, no. The mystery of what makes a BBC top-level 'site'...
Yesterday, Erik Huggers posted to the BBC Internet blog some further details of the site closures announced in the recent BBC strategic review, which, for me, served only to illustrate even more starkly how arbitrary they are.
He listed 400-odd top level BBC URLs in a text file that was by no means comprehensive. The logic of what is or isn't included as a "top level directory" is unfathomable outside of the Corporation.
Put it this way - there is a prize for anyone outside the BBC who can explain to me why bbc.co.uk/doctorwho (Sci-fi/fantasy TV show produced by BBC Wales shown on BBC One) and bbc.co.uk/torchwood (Sci-fi/fantasy TV show produced by BBC Wales shown on BBC One) are in the list, but the Sarah Jane Adventures website URL bbc.co.uk/sja (Sci-fi/fantasy TV show produced by BBC Wales shown on BBC One) isn't.
And as Tom Loosemore pointed out on Twitter, the BBC Vision site launch blog lists 242 new BBC sites deployed in the last two years alone.
Other notable absentees include anything local, like bbc.co.uk/london or bbc.co.uk/leeds, and specific sport areas like bbc.co.uk/football, updated daily. However, included in the list are places I used to hang out like /cult (closed 2007) and /collective (closed 2008) - and as Robert Andrews noted on PaidContent, a fifth of the list fall into this category of already dead site.
Mind you, who knew there was bbc.co.uk/zombies?
The list only seems to confirm the BBC continuing to commit one of the cardinal sins of IA - having a navigation and URL structure that is all about a representation of the internal organisation structure, and nothing about ease of use and transparency for the audience.
The intention may be, as Erik states, to produce more 'significant, coherent, regularly updated' websites in the future - but missing lots of the sites you currently update every day from the official list of BBC top-level directories is only going to lead to confusion.
On a more positive note, in the post, Huggers asks for ideas on preserving the currently mothballed sites as they change technology platform. My tuppence:
- Write something that crawls and parses them client-side to capture all the assets and store flat HTML.
- Put those flat HTML files on a couple of specific webservers set up with the old-fashioned BBC LAMP stack, and direct requests for bbc.co.uk/some-archived-site there. Load isn't going to be a major issue for these newly static pages.
- Set up a generic redirect to any request for bbc.co.uk/cgi-bin/* or bbc.co.uk/cgi-perl/* whilst in those directories, to produce an HTML message that the site is archived, thus killing 96% of links to any interactivity that existed.
Sorry, couldn't resist the geek joke at the end of the list there...