The British Broadcasting Corporation - purveyors of TV channels, radio stations, websites and more. A huge cultural part of the UK. Oh and I work for them.
Not everything here is about my job. Far, far from it...
It was the day that some of us feared would never happen. But it has. Today BBC Radio 6music has reached the age of ten and it's going strong.
I've been listening to the station since day one - my first show being the mighty Gideon Coe who at that point was on the 10-1pm slot now occupied by Lauren Laverne. I didn't have a DAB radio at the time so initially my listening was restricted to putting on the headphones at work.
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I like stats. Stats are good and fun. Stats tell you things. Stats tell you interesting things. Stats are good and fun. I looked at some stats today. It was the July 2011 BBC iPlayer Performance Pack. They were interesting.
I must declare an interest. Up until 10 June I was the Product Manager for BBC iPlayer on Freeview, Freesat and BT Vision, which were some of the products in the BBC iPlayer connected TV team. I worked on them for quite some time so I wanted to see how my old products were doing.
Very well, is the answer.
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So today is my last day at the BBC. I joined Auntie with a three month contract in January 2000. It was Greg Dyke’s first day too. I like to think that I taught him everything he knew during his stint there. Somehow I managed to last eleven and a half years before saying goodbye.
Whilst writing on the exciting topic of train-ticket-collection-usability, I was reminded of my own recent example of useless usability.
I was about eight when I first stepped foot in the BBC’s New Broadcasting House in Manchester. Having grown up in the area there was a tingle of excitment as we were given a tour of the building and shown the steps which John Munday and Stuart Hall walked up every night in order to watch North West Tonight. We weren’t shown what was at the top of the steps, just the steps themselves.
Baring the minor miracle of getting some dream job, it means I’m likely to be leaving the BBC next June, pocketing a redundancy cheque in the process.
…so says the utterly fantabulous Mitch Benn in his latest track, and with music like this who can disagree?
I was off work last week with a disturbingly early-in-the-season bout of flu but whilst I was sitting on the sofa watching Star Trek re-runs on Channel One and CBS Action my team quietly launched a new version of BBC iPlayer.
Taking a trip back in time to see what 6music was playing back in 2002.
Sssh! Don’t tell anyone but I’ve always had this secret fantasy life. It was that one day I’d end up working behind the scenes at BBC Radio 6 music.
One of the things I’m always keen to do on large work projects is a bit of user testing - where we get real people to come in, try using our services and see what happens. The idea is to see what works, and more importantly, what doesn’t.
Back when I was aged 9 in what we’d now call Year 4 at primary school, we had to get together in small groups to do a project together. The result was to create a sort of combined report on the chosen subject.
It’s been kinda interesting reading the stories in the press about the BBC and its water cooler bill.
Yes there are some.
I recently spotted the addition of an option in the BBC iPlayer which asks you if you like the recommendations it shows on the programme page. It’s currently an iPlayer Labs thing so isn’t normally available.
I’m just going through one of my periodic blogging droughts, not helped by the last week and a half at work just being constant, never-ending hassle and mental effort caused by relentless firefighting. If something could go wrong, it probably did. Oh and to make things worse, half the team are either ill, on leave or exploring the delights of Manchester, on the “familiarisation trips” the BBC is running to try and persuade London based staff that Salford really is the place to be.
I mentioned the other week that I was in the process of digitising my VHS collection, to see what interesting things I could find for prosperity. Amongst it was a trailer from 1996 when the BBC was doing another of it’s “the licence fee is great cos it gives you things no one else would” campaigns.
You’ve just spent two hours getting into the office, delayed due to adverse weather conditions and ironically the worst problems see you stuck about one minute outside your destination station. You get in, past the snow men sentries outside, brush the snow off yourself and realise the office is deserted.
It was back in 2004 that the BBC first announced its plans to move some departments to the North, thus reducing jobs and money spent in London. It’s well known that part of the move, Sport, Childrens, Five Live and a slice of New Media would move from London.
Here’s a depressing thought. Well it depresses me anyway.
By chance I noticed the an interesting case of BBC related database overload. And it’s in the form of recipe databases. Boy, is there a lot…
As I mentioned recently, the BBC’s Doctor Who website recently redesigned and moved their XML feed, without putting a redirect or message in the old feed to point people to the new one.
Launched in 1999 as freebeeb.net, and later renamed beeb.net, BBC Worldwide’s ISP slowly and quietly kept chugging along. By 2001 it had entered profitability with 140,000 users. And it’s been around ever since. But this year will be its last - on the 30 June 2008, Beeb will close down and be no more.
One of the wonders of having XML feeds is that you can keep up to date with what’s going on quite nicely from one place instead of having to go through hundreds of different bookmarks, remembering what you’ve seen and what you’ve not. And it’s something more and more sites are now realising that they should provide, and which will bring them traffic.
Recently finding the BBC mailing list subscription page I coded in 2001, reminded me of another blog post I’ve been meaning to write. Some time ago, I telneted in to one of the internal web servers at work where I had my own webspace years ago and which I occasionally still use for various bits and pieces. A lot of my old code is still there, mostly templates for long defunct CGI scripts. However one particular page caught my eye.
It’s coming up for five years since I coded my last web page for the BBC, and very little of my work remains. This is probably a good thing given the code isn’t exactly what people these days would be impressed by.
Whilst sitting down to a nice, homemade green Thai curry last night, we happened to catch the second half of “Eurovision: Your Decision” last night which meant I got to see a strange woman in a corset and an extremely short skirt, Michelle Gayle and Andy Abraham battle it out in front of Terry Wogan sat on a throne in a programme format which was clearly designed to try and stop the UK public from voting for some diabolical crap again.
Blogs for me are a great way for the BBC to communicate with the people who use, and pay for, its services and it’s great that they’ve been a success. Indeed, probably too much of a success if the continuing comment problems are anything to go by. The problems in trying to put up a single comment are, frankly, terrible. Timeouts… Server problems… You’re not even sure if your comment has even got through to the server backend half the time.
There’s a piece in the Daily Mirror today, in outrage about the fact that apparently (and there’s no source quoted, so who knows how true this is)…
Anyone reading the BBC Internet Blog will have noticed a flurry of posts celebrating the 10th aniversary of bbc.co.uk. All the reminiscing has, to be honest, got me reminising about my old memories of working on the BBC website
On Tuesday, the front page of the BBC staff newspaper, Ariel, was devoted to the relocation package on offer for staff affected by the BBC’s move to Salford. Basically it’s quite a good package in some respects, mainly because the one thing the BBC is not going to want to do is start several departments completely from scratch when they move them from the glamorous world of London’s W12.
Lots of people have blogged about it - with comments ranging from celebrating about the lack of the bbc.co.uk logo, and celebrating that lovely retro clock. So here’s my bit.
It was June 2004 when the BBC’s move of several departments from London to the north west was first announced. The department I worked for (and still work for) was one of those highlighted.
With the latest series of Doctor Who getting ever closer, news is creeping out about cast and enemies. Like this little one today - according to BBC News, Billie Pipper is popping back for three more episodes.
I’m probably paying far more attention to the whole iPlayer saga than my sanity allows, but I do find some of the comments interesting.
There’s an interesting article about complaints in the BBC staff canteens, in the Sunday Telegraph.
Many many many many years ago (well okay two and a half years ago), I wrote something on this blog about the whole work/blog thing and how it would be nice to be able to talk about work projects on a proper, BBC hosted work blog. A proper engagement between the BBC and its audience on all sorts of things. To discuss why certain things were done the way they were. To talk about how it all fits together. To say “Whoops!” when things went wrong.
Ever since the BBC’s iPlayer’s TV programme download service launched in beta format a few months ago, its use of digital rights management has been a hot topic across various parts of the internet for all sorts of reasons.
As a GNU/Linux user myself, the thought of the BBC’s iPlayer being Windows XP only, wasn’t one I particularly relished. So I was particularly interested in the reports that the BBC Trust have told the BBC management that iPlayer must take a more platform agnostic approach.
The BBC’s Fifteen Web Principles
As my job doesn’t allow me to get out of the Broadcast Centre in W12 very much, I usually take whatever opportunity I can to leave the building and visit people in their own offices.
Tom Coates’s post, ‘Who’s afraid of Ashley Highfield’, has resulted in some comments which for me, are rather depressing reading. There’s quite a few people out there who don’t know what the department I work for, actually does!
So it appears the department I work for will be changed from “New Media and Technology” to “Future Media and Technology”.
There I was looking through some of the entries submitted to the BBC’s homepage redesign competition thinking that many of them shared a common theme - customisation along the lines of the old myBBC which I worked on back in 2000 when I first started working for Auntie (three month contract… still there six and a half years later…. hmmm). And lo, whilst I was at a barbeque in the pooring rain, there was Martin doing a post on the reboot:bbc.co.uk blog talking about exactly the same thing.
In accordance with the the new BBC ‘Guidelines on Employees Personal Weblogs and Webspaces’, I am hereby informing you that I, Andrew Paul Bowden, have a personal website that includes a weblog.
I’ve been watching reboot:bbc.co.uk (a competition launched last week for people to submit their ideas of how they’d redesign the bbc.co.uk homepage) - especially as I had (a rather small) contribution to the homepage myself.
So BBC News’s first ever proper mainstream blog launched today, as Nick Robinson’s Newslog appeared, cunningly hosted on on blogs.bbc.co.uk.
A month ago I blogged about a project we’d launched on BBCi on Satellite where the result would be that the average user wouldn’t have been able to tell the difference between what was there before, and what was there now.
I’m rather saddened to hear via the old currybet.net, of the death of the bbc.co.uk Big Red Button.
Okay I’ll admit it. I have big red button envy. I want a big red button of my own that will rush BBCi into breaking news mode too.
What with one thing and another, Friday turned out to be a pretty hectic day at work and as such, I completely forgot about asking if the big red button, is actually big and red.
The bbc.co.uk homepage has an option of a ‘big red button’ which BBC News can use to publish a news story into the main promo slot. One press of the button and it all happens in a flash. Over on BBCi, we do things a bit more manually.
The BBC’s new Open Source portal went live today, giving the public a single site to look at for all the software projects that the BBC has released under various open source projects.
Having had a few similar conversations on this recently…
With todays strike at the BBC naturally being a story I’m interested in, I thought I’d keep an eye on the press and websites for some interesting quotes.
Well you didn’t have to wait long. Backstage.bbc.co.uk went into public beta today. Pretty much everything I said about opening up the News and Sport feeds to do cool things with, applies also for the plethora of feeds listed on backstage.bbc.co.uk - be it the extensive travel information available, or the Doctor Who RSS feed.
A press release about RSS feeds isn’t going to set the world alight. One that starts off telling you to go off and reuse the feed in exciting ways might just.
Was it really 2001 that I spent months working away on the new, amazing BBCi web search?
One thing has to be said - the internet can be a very powerful tool for finding information. But you’ve got to exploit the medium - make the most of it. The BBC until recently has been a bit, well… traditional in its approach, but times are changing especially with the arrival of two more websites from the organisation dealing with complaints.
On the day that we found out about the first UK blogger to be sacked by his employer (well that we know about anyway) it’s fittingly appropiate that the hot topic on part of the BBC’s internal message boards was guidelines for BBC staff who blog about work stuff.
Oh course you can never say never. Who knows what the future may hold - especially in five years time. But there are times you have to think about that future. And right now, it doesn’t matter what the BBC says or does. I don’t want to go back to Manchester.
I love Bush House and I will miss it when we leave.
The news that Michael Grade will be the next chairman of the BBC was (as has been reported by the media) welcomed by most of the staff at the BBC.
It was perhaps the biggest example of the BBC staff ‘making it happen’. A full page advert in the Daily Telegraph yesterday paying tribute to the work done by Greg Dyke, and asserting their belief that the BBC should continue to be independent, and continue to be an independent organisation that best serves the public who pay for it.
Many people will have seen the staff response to the resignation of Greg Dyke as Director General of the BBC. I like many people were completely gutted by his decision, but he made it and I respect that and his reasons for doing so