Tag Archives: BBC

Smart IoT 2016 Day Two

Today was the second and last day of Smart IoT London. Read here for Day One’s report.

The presenterless presentation... a very odd presentation at Smart IoT
The presenterless presentation… a very odd presentation at Smart IoT

I went to a few of the presentations, but only two of them are worthy of any mention (one, which I won’t name, didn’t have a presenter… the technical support guys simply played a video in the theatre – it was one of the oddest ‘presentations’ I’ve seen).

I recommend the organisers arrange fewer presentations next year, aiming for quality over this year’s huge quantity.

And please, supply more power sockets for visitors to recharge their phones and laptops (especially to help visitors cover Smart IoT on social networks). Continue reading Smart IoT 2016 Day Two

Smart IoT 2016 Day One

Smart IoT 2016 exhibition panoramicI went to the Smart IoT (Internet of Things) event today in London’s Excel centre. The programme of presentations over the two days looked great, so I signed up a while ago. This post is to share with my colleagues and for anyone else who couldn’t make it today.

I’ll start with a summary and then go into detail, because I made lots of notes during the presentations.

Summary of Smart IoT 2016 Day One

On the content:

  • There were some thought provoking content (which I’ve covered below) mixed in with some below-par presentations.
  • I didn’t see any presentations where payments were discussed. I.e how IoT devices will transact with one another/ a service/ a person.

Continue reading Smart IoT 2016 Day One

11 lessons about innovation from the New York Times

The BBC Newsroom. Currently peaceful. And sometimes less peaceful.

Whilst doing some research at work on innovation within the Publishing industry, a colleague of mine found a leaked report from the New York Times from March this year (the full article is at the end of this page).

At 94 pages, it’s a must-read for anyone within Publishing. I took 11 key points from the document:

  1. (page 16) Hallmarks of disruptors… number 4: “Initially inferior to existing products.” This is so true. Almost every time we work on a new innovative project, there will always be someone criticising that product A does things better, or product B is more comprehensive. The answer is twofold – firstly, you can have something more superior, but it will take a lot longer and cost a lost more money; and secondly, it’s part and parcel of developing something new. Remember Twitter’s outages? Remember how basic Facebook looked?
  2. Only a third of NYT readers visit the homepage. Just think of the effort in designing the homepage! Google is great at providing users links directly into articles, and users share articles not homepages. This is the proof. Continue reading 11 lessons about innovation from the New York Times

Mobile first? Don’t believe the hype


Designing websites has never been as difficult as it is at the moment, and it’s only going to get harder.

Think about this for a moment – people born since about the year 2000 are unlikely to have ever walked into a travel agent or mobile phone shop. They’re unlikely to have been inside a bank more than a couple of times in their lives. Couple this with more than 10% of the UK still haven’t used the Internet.

In Q2 2013, AOL earned a staggering $166m from dial up modems. It’s fair to take a decent chunk of that revenue and claim it’s from ‘forgotten direct debits’ (now here’s an irony: a quick search for forgotten direct debits produces some interesting reading from AOL which claims over 2.5m Britons are paying for services they no longer need!).

So we have this strange anomaly where the Internet is being used by teenagers who have grown up using web browsers before they could read and over 75 year olds who are just starting to use the Internet for the first time.

And then they’re the range of screens: from a small Blackberry screen to iOS and Android (my S4 feels closer in size to an iPad Mini than an iPhone) to tablets. These screens demand large contact areas for fingers to select rather than small target areas easy to access with a mouse. Then on to desktops, which have a wider array of sizes than ever before. At work I use a square monitor with a relatively small resolution but when I work from home I have a large widescreen monitor where some sites look really nice and some look like a size zero.

Responsive design isn’t always the answer. I spend time battling against the marketing wave which convinces clients into believing every website needs to be responsive, to fit large and small browsers, touchscreen and mouse driven.

But responsive isn’t the only option. Fire up the BBC website on a smartphone and you’ll see the mobile site which is a quicker and easier to use than a responsive design. And it really comes into its own when you have a weak signal and want the latest cricket or football scores. A responsive design would be slower to download and use than the excellent mobile site. For high traffic websites it also reduces the cost of bandwidth delivery.

As well as fighting the responsive design marketing wave, I’m also swimming against the tide with mobile first initiatives. Yes mobile is increasing, however there are still very significant numbers of users using desktops. And what happens when wearable technology takes off? Or if TV apps really become mainstream?

The answer to many of these questions is to make sure that any digital platform has a complete API to support all these output devices. This can help multiple teams develop user interfaces in parallel. It also helps store the ‘state’ where users switch devices.

The best in class example of this is Facebook. Open the Facebook app on your phone and you’ll see the number of notifications in your activity feed. Click on some of them. Then look at Facebook on a desktop and you’ll see the new number of notifications. It’s the way it should be, but still so many sites struggle with these concepts.

So while it’s currently the hardest it’s ever been to design user interfaces, there are some great examples out there of how to do this properly, just don’t get too sucked into all the marketing hype.

The best video player

Cycling_bbc_iplayer

So the Olympics are finally here. 7 years ago and around 9 billion quid later, we got to see an opening ceremony that was educational, humorous and grand (how did they convince the Queen to do that?), and a first day full of world records, surprises and disappointments. Fantastic.

On the digital media side, we’ve seen the BBC revamp their homepage (which became the same template as their microsites), and the video player has slowly been improving too. But when the Olympics started for real, the BBC video player sprang to life.

First, some background.

I don’t really subscribe to the second screen theory – I’ve seen some crazy stats that TV viewers use related apps on their mobile or tablet, to what they’re watching.

I do believe people (especially my family) sit on the sofa on their iPhone playing games or on Facebook – unrelated to the TV programme they’re watching.

We’ve seen interactive TV in various shapes and sizes. From crude red-button implementations (e.g. Sky Bet) to TV apps which mimic a web browser interface.

I’ve seen demos of TV apps which allow you to tweet or watch a Facebook activity feed during a programme – really annoying and disruptive.

However the BBC video player for the Olympics provides the perfect level of interaction, additional – read ‘relevant’ – information. Then throw in PVR-style functionality (for non-techies – it’s like Sky+ with rewind, etc.)

I watched the Tour de France on the ITV website and sometimes it was frustrating not knowing who was in the lead and the peloton – I wasn’t necessarily interested in specific positions, but you need to know if the camera is with the leaders or not.

The BBC player shows event information and allows you to look at a summary of a specific athlete as well. All in HD.

Here’s to the next fortnight, with super weather and medals galore for Team GB!

TV version 1, 2 and 3

5663134445_729f23ab411

For the last few weeks Mrs H and I have been watching TV programmes almost exclusively using on-demand services. We have BT Vision at home, which includes a comprehensive iPlayer ‘application’ as well as catch-up players for the other channels.

I often refer to catch up players/ on demand television as TV version 3. Version 1 was standard, or linear television… switch the box on to any channel, sit back and watch it.

Version 2 was the invention of the Personal Video Recorder, or PVR. No tapes were required, yet you could instantly record or pause live television. In the US, PVRs took off with Tivo, and in the UK they took off with Sky+.

TV v3 is very different though – you sit down and then choose which programme you want to watch. There’s absolutely no planning involved. There’s also no monetisation… there are no adverts whatsoever.

For the BBC iPlayer this doesn’t make any difference because if you watch a BBC channel there’s no monetisation in the first place. Though watching any other channel such as ITV, Channel 4 or 5, or Discovery – it’s very strange to watch a 44 minute programme in… 44 minutes, without using a DVD.

If you watch the ITV player online (i.e. on a computer), they ‘hard code’ (you can’t skip them or speed them up) advertising breaks into the programme.

Perhaps the audience using the TV to watch catch up programmes is small – which is a real irony in itself.

I think it’s one of the reason why product placement on TV programmes is becoming so important. For the last few years – since TV version 2, we’ve been skipping through ad breaks, and with version 3 we don’t see them at all, so advertising needs to move inside the programme.

On “I’m a Celebrity…” next year, start getting used to the idea of the contestants wearing branded clothes, drinking specific beers in the evening and seeing low flying jumbo jets overhead!

Photo courtesy of cmun_project on Flickr

New BBC Homepage review

Bbc

So, the new BBC Homepage has now been rolled out for all users as the default landing page for bbc.co.uk.

The BBC have a huge usability challenge. The site covers everything from the most popular news website in the UK to CBeebies, from the excellent iPlayer to detailed microsites on most scientific explorations.

There’s a huge amount of content on the site, and sections of the site aimed at toddlers who can’t read to silver surfers.

In my opinion, the new homepage addresses the usability challenge very well. I like the 3 tabs along the bottom as different ways to browse content (Most Popular, What’s On and Explore).

Bbc_toolbar

The new toolbar at the top is very Mac/ Google-esque, providing the most common links throughout the entire BBC web estate. At the moment you can see the style of the toolbar changes across this site, and I expect this to become common over the coming months.

Finally, there’s the scrolling features area at the top of the site. Very iPhone-ey (no pun intended). Great on a touch screen but with a mouse it’s quite fiddly. It’s the same as the new version of Chrome, with the ‘Apps’ and the ‘Most Visited’ sliding navigation. Great on a phone, poor with a mouse.

Chrome

Next year will see an explosion of touch screen PCs once Windows 8 is released. Earlier this year I considered buying a touch screen PC for home, but human hands (and especially my children’s hands) are too greasy to consider using on a flat surface. We bought a standard PC in the end and it still annoys me how many fingerprints appear on the [non-touch] screen.

I was in a meeting yesterday with a few people, one of them with an iPad. One of the guys turned to the iPad user and said “You use the letters ‘e’, ‘u’ and ‘s’ a lot, judging by the state of your screen”. The iPad user replied with “Interesting you say that, because my boss’ name is Sue”.

Back to desktop touch screens – I don’t think we’re ready for touch screen’s yet. It’s solving a problem that doesn’t exist – I’m faster typing and navigating with a mouse and keyboard than colleagues with an iPad.

In summary, I like the design of the new BBC homepage. It solves a huge challenge really well, by consolidating a huge site into a number of easy to use components and promoting some of them nicely. Now I need to use it with clean hands and a touch screen.

 

Why Publishers and Broadcasters need to change

It’s been absolutely crazy busy at work for the last few weeks, mainly on the new business front. I’d like to add this is a report, not a criticism. Anyway, when it gets this busy at work I often remember Bill Gates’ book The Road Ahead where he discusses how future business will all be conducted by electronic systems exchanging data with each other.

The truth has turned out to be quite the opposite – customers want ever increasing levels of detail before signing up to a product or service.

I did get a chance last week to go to an interesting technology event run by Vizrt. The event was aimed at their large publisher and broadcaster customers – many of the broadsheets and tabloids use their system (or similar competitors) for creating content for their newspapers or TV news snippets. We were there because we work with some large publishers, integrating their systems together.

One of the speakers at the event was Morten Holst who is a Product Strategy Manager for Vizrt, and raised some interesting points which are paraphrased below.

Morten’s first point was to wake up the audience with the following video:

His point was that whilst the video is amusing – a baby who knows the iPad interface so well that she can’t use a paper magazine, and even checks her finger to see if it’s her finger that’s broken – this baby is going to be a consumer in ten years. Publishers and broadcasters need to wake up and realise their consumers are changing very quickly.

His next demonstration was a comparison of a web site 10 years ago and nowadays. I’ve used the BBC News website as an example below.

Bbc_news_2001

Bbc_news_2011

Look at the two homepages for a few seconds, and you can see many similarities. In fairness, over the ten years, not a huge amount has changed.

I’m not particularly targeting the BBC (it’s still my favourite news site). The point here is that publishing hasn’t actually changed very much in 10 years.

Now look at another entertainment industry over the last ten years. Look at the video below – if you can, try to watch it in HD.

Morten’s point here is that 10 years ago these kinds of graphics and sound effects were considered motion picture quality. Now they are considered the acceptable standard of computer games – this year’s Battlefield 3 (the video above), FIFA 12 and Call of Duty Modern Warfare 3 are good examples.

The video games industry has recognised a number of times that it needs to push the boundaries of user interfaces, presentation and design – think of an Xbox 360, the revolutionary Wii controller, then the revolutionary Kinect controller. To put that into perspective, the Xbox and Wii were launched within the last 6 years.

His final point was about comparing printed content to digital content. If you read paper magazines, the photography is usually outstanding – full, double page and high quality. That same image will be shown as a 2 inch square on the web, and won’t get a second glance.

The iPad is encouraging publisher’s to think more creatively, by designing beautiful interfaces. In truth there’s no reason the iPad can encourage creativity and a web browser can’t. However the iPad has been disruptive enough in digital terms to make editors want to push the boundaries.

So, on to the future, Morten encouraged the audience to start pushing the boundaries, to stop doing things the same way because that’s how they’d always been done. The functionality has moved on enormously, yet the editors aren’t using the new features, yet.

Superbrands on BBC

_52783290_superbrands1

Last night on BBC3 (why BBC3??) was the first part of a three part documentary on Superbrands, and why they mean so much to us. Last night’s episode was on Technology, with next week investigating Fashion.

You can watch the Superbrands: Technology version here on iPlayer.

The series is well produced with a Louis Theroux style presenter, Alex Riley, who you can’t tell if he’s mocking his interviewee or being serious.

In case you don’t watch the episode, (and even if you do, I’m not giving too much away), the crux of the episode was “Why are Apple, Google, Microsoft, Facebook and Sony such powerful brands, and Nokia not so powerful? After all, Nokia is still the largest handset manufacturer in the World, and has more handsets out there.

One of the light hearted parts of last night’s programme is that various groups of people were asked to describe these brands as if they were a personality. These groups included primary school children and older children, to people in the street. Facebook was described as “your mate in the pub who knew everything about everyone and bought you a drink as you walked in, but you weren’t sure if your wallet was safe with them.” Microsoft was the “middle aged BMW driver” – not bad for the company who produce the hippest games console.

The programme’s conclusion was about Control:

  • Apple own the entire user journey from turning on your phone to the app, to the advertising on the app.
  • Apparently Sony lose around $200 per PS3 unit because they want to use the highest quality components including a Blu-Ray player which costs almost $100 per unit. Its a small price to pay when it provides a mass market desire to buy Blu-Ray discs, of which Sony has a revenue sharing model.
  • Microsoft was interesting because of its image as an Operating System vendor (yawn, and please look at the recent Windows 7 launch video) and a generally ‘boring’ application stack. Except for Xbox that is, which interestingly has no Microsoft branding near it.

Yet Nokia only own the handset. They are a hardware manufacturer. A non-exciting consumable manufacturer.

The programme was highly entertaining however I can’t say I learned anything new from it, except the Xbox-has-no-Microsoft-branding and the scientific (via MRI scan) similarity with brand loyalty and religion.

Thinking of other superbrands with similar levels of Control, Visa is another great example. It’s a Superbrand in the Control category because as soon as you pay for an item in a supermarket with your card, or online, you have regular reinforcement of the brand. The logo on your card, to Verified-by-Visa (I’m not saying V-B-V is a good thing) if you’re shopping online. And Visa has similar levels of Control of the successful technology superbrands because they understand spending data across retailers, which virtually no one else has. Actually, Akamai has probably more data about consumer behaviour, but is a B2B brand rather than a Superbrand.

I’m looking forward to next week with Superbrands: Fashion.

How we browse the web

CaptureCapture2Capture3

The FT have started using a good implementation of a tag cloud on some of their blogs. E.g., if you go to the FT Alphaville blog, look on the right hand side under ‘Tags’ – and the most commonly used tags appear larger than other text. It’s quite useful for browsing and looks quite nice. The FT uses WP-Cumulus to do the tag cloud, which is a free plugin.

However the nicest implementation (which admittedly, is of comments not tags) I’ve seen is on The Economist. Go to their ‘Comments Homepage’ and you can see how all the comments posted on to the website relate to each other. Very nice, and pretty guaranteed to find something in there of interest.

Navigation such as tag clouds, or The Enonomist’s ‘comment cloud’, or the BBC’s Most Read (again, look on the right hand column of most BBC News articles) lists are an excellent method to promote a longer visit on a website and more pages per visit.

The web started with a browsing navigation style. There wasn’t a huge amount of content, so users meandered around the web looking for interesting content. Next came searchable navigation style. Google recognised the explosive amount of content on the web, and we started using Google to search for our data nuggets – deep diving into sites for our specific information, and then moving to the next site. We’ve now moved back to browsing. We use Facebook Activity feeds to burn five spare minutes, or our Twitter feeds to spend 15 minutes looking for recommendations from those that we’re following.

Groupon have capitalised on this – sending out broadcasts to say “Hey, this product is 80% cheaper – why not buy one?” Within two years we’ll be back to a search based browsing experience, which will be fine because Google or Bing (Microsoft) will own Twitter by then.