Tag Archives: BBC

How we browse the web


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.

Defending the licence fee


Photo courtesy of Marco Bernardini on Flickr

The public (and press) are too quick to criticise the BBC for the licence fee. I’ve said before that I think we get fantastic return on investment for our £150 a year – with top quality radio, TV and Internet content.

This week though, I got another pleasant surprise from the BBC. Despite having a two year old flat screen TV without the latest Internet-apps capability, I pressed the red button whilst watching one of the BBC channels because I saw ‘iPlayer’ on the red button prompt.

And there it was – iPlayer. On my TV.

So I browsed around and started watching something from iPlayer on the TV. Completely on demand, with pass and play functionality – everything you get from the website equivalent.

The impressive-ness of the experience was that iPlayer was streaming content over the Internet on to my TV without me realising that the TV could do it!

Quality is OK – although Mrs H didn’t find it a problem, I could see that the bandwidth needs to be increased to give a TV-quality experience.

So a round of applause to the BBC for once again delivering something beyond expectation. A special commendation should go to Panasonic of course for also delivering beyond expectation! And both for doing it without increasing the cost.

iPlayer downtime last night


Last night I sat down with the wife to watch Top Gear. We realised we hadn’t recorded it, so we went to iPlayer to watch it. Unfortunately iPlayer was down last night, presenting a rather humble and plain looking ‘403 Error’.

We look after some rather large sites at Endava, and I can only imagine what the poor techies at the BBC were going through last night – undoubtedly trying to roll back the latest code or environment changes, or work out where the extra traffic was coming from (simultaneously trying to work out what to do with it).

At times like that, I think that I think differently to other users – I start feeling sorry for the service provider (and specifically, the individuals there) rather than a ‘typical’ consumer complaining about where the service has gone.

The infamous England goal during the World Cup was the same – as soon as the advert on ITV HD came on during matchplay, my stomach curled up and I thought “someone feels really bad for this” – despite me missing out on the England goal at the time… although I must add that the conspiracy theorist in me questions whether it was a publicity stunt or not.

A client (who came from a traditional TV background) once said to me that the difference between the web and TV is that TV never goes down. With iPlayer on my TV at home – is that still really true?

The award for the most user friendly website

My kids are under 10 years old. As they’ve been growing up, I find their use of the web interesting.

If there is an award for the ultimate way to design a website for the masses, it should go to BBC CBeebies. For those of you who don’t know (because either you don’t have kids, or your kids are a little older than mine), CBeebies is aimed at under six year olds.


The CBeebies website amazes me because it enables under six year olds to navigate their website as quickly as adults navigate their favourite sites.

My kids were all able to use the website well before they could read letters. They simply go to the top right corner of Internet Explorer, can type ‘CBeebies’ very quickly, and then they click the top result. Once they are on the website, there is an index page of their favourite shows. Most of the icons have a clear voice over as well.

Watching a three year old navigate the web with such ease is amazing to watch. It’s a cliche to say that the new generation will be web-literate, but as far as my kids are concerned, it looks like a pretty sure thing.

The BBC – damned if they do, damned if they don’t

I felt sorry for the BBC this morning. For months they have been attacked by MPs and the media for being all too powerful, and were asked to scale back their operations to give commercial organisations a chance to compete.

So they’ve announced a number of cutbacks including closing a couple of stations, and suddenly they’re berated for doing so!

Maybe they should offer BBC 6 and the Asian Channel to commercial organisations to continue running them, rather than simply closing them down. Or maybe that would be interpreted as providing a state funded start up corporation (hmmm…. reminiscent of BT, O2, British Gas, National Grid, etc. etc.)

Last night a number of MPs stepped forward to say that closing BBC 6 was a travesty, and the BBC should leave the station alone. One can only speculate whether these MPs knew the writing was on the wall, and they simply joined the side of the public to scrounge a few more votes later this year.

One of the changes at the BBC that I disagree with is continuing Children’s BBC for a further two hours to 9pm. Kids need sleep, and TV (at least in my house) is the enemy of going-to-bed. I would imagine that the daily 7pm ‘shutdown’ is a signal to thousands of children across the country to get off the sofa and go upstairs to bed.

Talking About a Virtual Revolution

The BBC have been showing a TV documentary over the last few weekends called Virtual Revolution discussing the origins of the Internet, as well as the issues it currently faces (commercialisation, IP & ownership).

I’ve been quite surprised about how few people in the industry have seen the programme, or even knew anything about it.

It’s presented very well by the natural-born-presenter Dr Aleks Krotoski who judging from her Twitter feed is clearly passionate and proud of the series. Some parts are presented over-simplistically to anyone who has some level of knowledge of the industry, but even then, every few minutes there are some thought provoking comments from the likes of Bill Gates, Jeff Bezos (Amazon), Tim Berners-Lee, Krotski and many others.

Well worth a watch on iPlayer: http://www.bbc.co.uk/iplayer/search/?q=The%20Virtual%20Revolution