"People, Places, Subjects" - BBC Topic and Guardian keyword pages: Part 2

 by Martin Belam, 5 July 2008

The BBC recently launched a beta trial of 'Topic' pages, which aggregate content from around bbc.co.uk and the wider Internet about people, places and subjects. They are very similar to the automated 'keyword index' pages on The Guardian's website. I've been looking at some of the features of the two side-by-side.

Italy Pages

RSS feeds

One feature that The Guardian offers which the BBC doesn't is topic-based RSS feeds. Each of the Guardian's keyword indexes has a related RSS feed which you can obtain by simply adding /rss to the URL - http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/austria/rss for a feed of stories about Austria, for example.

Guardian Austria index page with 'webfeed' link and icon

In his piece for the BBC's Internet blog about the project, Search Technical Team Leader Stephen Betts said that feeds were a feature that the BBC were looking to introduce. RSS is also mentioned as forthcoming in ">the Topics FAQ.

It is currently possible to track a topic on the BBC's site using the RSS feeds from their 'News and Sport' search pages - here is 'immigration'.

BBC 'immigration' search RSS feed

You can see from these screen-grabs though, that the topic page and the search results feeds are not in synch.

BBC 'immigration' topic page

It will be interesting to see how the BBC integrate the varying types of content on the /topic pages into one feed.

URL structure

I'm looking forward to Deanna Marbeck and Silver Oliver's presentation at the EuroIA Summit which is discussing URL design within the BBC.

Unfortunately, no amount of taxonomical planning can account for a typo, and when I was testing the /topics beta I found a broken link from the homepage. This was because the world_war_1 page was being linked to as world_war_I. It did at least give me a glimpse of the specific custom 404 page that has been developed for the 'beta'.

BBC Topics 404 page

Interestingly, the fact that it suggests that the page may not have been created yet implies that the team expect people in the future to type in speculative /topics URLs.

The Guardian's 'keyword index' URLs are harder to guess. This is because they are grouped under a primary section. Thus, to guess the URL for the Austria page, you need to know that The Guardian classifies it under 'world' to make guardian.co.uk/world/austria. Likewise, you need to know that the newspaper sees 'immigration' as a UK news issue, with the page being located at guardian.co.uk/uk/immigration.


In the next part of this series I'll be looking at the contrasting approach taken to linking to the wider web on the BBC and Guardian topic aggregation pages.

Keep up to date on my new blog