Tag Archives: bbc

On the tech side…

Birmingham

As some will now as well as talking about e-learning stuff, I also like to talk about the tech side of things too. Over the last few months I have been talking about things I have written about on this blog before.

In my blog post Mobile WordPress Theme I have covered the update to WP-Touch, which adds a dedicated mobile theme to WordPress blogs really easily and looks great. If you have your own WordPress installation, then this plug-in is really easy to install.

Mobile WordPress

In another article I talk about how we melted the wifi at the recent UCISA event on digital capabilities. The conference centre struggled to cope with 120 delegates as the wifi, that in theory could cope with 250 wireless clients, failed to deliver a stable consistent wifi connection.

On this blog I wrote about the fickle nature of the web based on the original article which appeared on the Tech Stuff blog. This was in response to the original decision by the BBC to remove the recipes from their BBC Food site.

Weston Village

In addition to the individual post mentioned above, I have also written about my continued issues with getting FTTC at home. As well as my new Three 4G connection, where I am getting nearly 50Mb download speeds.

So if you fancy a more technical read, then head over to the blog.

The impact of the fickle nature of the web

Broken Web

Over on my tech blog I have been writing about the fickle nature of the web, it is one of those things that I find annoying. You post a link, embed a video and then a bit later you find that it has gone! This was very apparent today with the news that the BBC are, in order to save money, will close down their recipe website. For me this is a mistake, however I also understand how this can happen, not just with textual content, but also media too.

Now as I write this blog post, it would appear that the BBC have climbed down somewhat and the recipes will be moving over to the commercial BBC Good Food website.

Screengrab from BBC Food website - Eton Mess

The impact of archived, expired and missing content may be annoying for me, but it is probably more annoying and frustrating for teachers who have created or curated content using third party links and embedded media and find that the learners are unable to access the third party content. These links need to be fixed or replaced, embedded media needs to be found again, or an alternative discovered. I know when I was working with staff, this was an issue they found very frustrating when creating courses and content for the VLE.

Personally I when writing content for my blog, I try not to use third party sites (in case they disappear) and try not to embed content if I can help it. There are times though when people have removed a video years later and looking through an old blog post you find the embedded video has disappeared as the obscure service you used has shut down, or was taken over.

As I said over on the tech blog, sometimes I think, why do people and organisations like the BBC do this? Then I remember I have done this myself and sometimes you have little choice.

WCC Logo

Back in 2001 I was appointed Director of the Western Colleges Consortium and we had a nice little website and the domain of westerncc.ac.uk and the consortium was wound up in 2006. As a result the website was shut down and the domain lost.

Back in 1998 when I created my first web site, using Hot Metal Pro I used the free hosting that came with my ISP account. A few years later I moved hosting providers (as I was using too much bandwidth) and had a domain of my own. I did leave the old site up, but due to bandwidth usage it was eventually shut down!

I remember creating a course site for my learners using one of those services where you got a free domain name and free hosting, should I have been surprised when they shut down and asked for large fees for transferring the site and the domain. It was often easier to create a new domain and get new hosting. The original site was lost in the midst of time.

We have seen services such as Ning, which were free and well used, but once the money ran out and they started charging, lots of useful sites shut themselves down. People then moved to different services.

For these small sites, it probably is less of an issue, annoying, slightly frustrating, but you can live with it, it’s part of what the web is about. However with big sites, like BBC Food, then it becomes more than annoying, especially if you have a reliance on that content for your course or your teaching.

Since I wrote my blog post yesterday , the reaction on the web has intensified (and it looks like has had an impact). One blog post from Lloyd Shepherd, one of the original team who worked on the archive makes for interesting reading.

It was my team that ran product management and editorial on the new Food site, and the site that exists today is largely the site we conceptualised and built at that time.

He explains the basis behind the site

The idea was very simple: take the recipes from BBC programmes, repurpose them into a database, and then make that database run a website, a mobile site, and who-knows-what-else. Create relationships between recipes based on ingredients, shows, cuisines, and who-knows-what-else. And then run it with as small an editorial team as possible whose job was simply to turn telly recipes into database recipes.

He continues to point out that as far as the remit of the BBC as a public service broadcaster, the food archive hit two key points.

Did we discuss ‘public service remit’? You bet we did. Every day. And it really came down to two things:

These recipes have already been paid for by the BBC licence fee payer, and they’re being under-utilised. A new service can be developed out of them for very little up-front cost.

Nutrition is now a public health issue. Obesity is draining NHS coffers, government guidelines are badly understood and terribly publicised. There is a role for the BBC to play in this, and this is the way to do it.

Though at this time we don’t know for sure where the content will be archived, rumour has it, it will be archived on the Commercial BBC Good Food site, one impact which I know it will have will be on catering courses that use the BBC content to support the learning of the students. A lot of the recipes are from professional chefs and provide guidance and inspiration to learners who are starting out on their careers. Additionally the way in which the archive works, they can find ideas and recipes for different ingredients. Even if the archive is moved, one aspect of the BBC Food site that will be missed, is the lack of distracting advertising.

It would appear that the BBC are moving away from an archive to library of content, which can be “borrowed” for 30 days before it expires. That got me thinking…

In the olden days when I was running libraries, we use to “weed” the collection of book stock which needed replacing, was out of date or no longer been used. We would buy new content to either replace or update existing books, or buy books that were completely new. One thing we were clear about was that we were not an archive, old stock was to be removed and got rid of, usually recycled or sold. The copy of the Haynes manual for the Hillman Imp from 1972 was interesting in its own right, but from a teaching and learning perspective wasn’t actually of any use any more.

Haynes Hillman Imp manual

We didn’t have the space to store and keep books and journals just for the sake of keeping books and journals. Of course with online materials that space argument becomes less critical, but there is still the resources required to manage curate large quantities of digital content to ensure that the content is accessible, searchable and relevant.

I personally don’t think the BBC Food archive is a library that needs to be reduced, refreshed and restricted, I think it is a great archive that should be kept. For me there are two services here, one is the archive and the other is a service delivering current and new content. It’s a pity that the requirement of cost savings means one was planned to go. Hopefully the recipes will be saved and restored when they move over to the new site.

In my post on Ning starting to charge  back in 2010 I mentioned above,  I did say one of the issues with using any free Web 2.0 service is that they may not be here forever.

Gabcast is no longer free, but Audioboo is. Jaiku is pretty much dead, but Twitter is alive and well. Etherpad has gone, but iEtherpad is up and running.

I still think what I said in 2010 is still relevant today when talking about services and web tools.

At the end of the day this is not about a service disappearing or now charging, it’s much more about how when using these services you don’t think about long term, but have the capability and the technical knowledge to move between different services as and when they become available.

Use what is now and in the future use what is then.

Though that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t complain and moan when something like the BBC Food “closure” happens, as sometimes there aren’t real alternatives, especially when it comes to content rather than a service.

What this whole story tells us is that the web can be fickle and relying on the stickiness and permanence of web content can be a challenge for teachers and lecturers. How do you cope with the transient nature of web content?

Image Credit: Broken by David Bakker CC BY-NC-SA 2.0

BBC iPlayer – iPad App of the Week

BBC iPlayer – iPad App of the Week

This is a regular feature of the blog looking at various Apps available. Some of the apps will be useful for those involved in learning technologies, others will be useful in improving the way in which you work, whilst a few will be just plain fun! Some will be free, others will cost a little and one or two will be what some will think is quite expensive.

This week’s App is BBC iPlayer.

BBC TV and Radio programmes now on your iPad.

Watch and listen live, or choose your favourites from over 400 hours programming from the last 7 days.

– Watch live TV
– Listen to live radio
– Scroll through and find Featured and Most Popular programmes
– Add programmes to your favourites and have them ready and waiting when a new episode or series is available
– Drag and drop programmes to Favourites with one easy move
– Browse through the schedule for upcoming programmes

Free

Sometimes you will want your learners to watch a programme that was on the telly in the past seven days. Even if your institution has an ERA licence you may have “forgotten” to have it recorded, or even if you have, you might want your learners to watch it in their own time and a place of their choosing. BBC iPlayer for many is a great service and allows people to watch a lot of stuff from the last seven days and in some cases with some series, catch-up an entire series. What you can see and what you can’t is not a technical issue, but a rights one. The more we have had iPlayer the more the rights issues are been settled for new content.

There is an App for the iPad for BBC iPlayer. Learners, if they have an iPad can watch the programme when they want to. I have used it a few times and it does work as expected. I think it is better than the website version of iPlayer on the iPad and it seems to be a little more stable. A bit easier to go back to a video you have paused for example. Navigation is slightly different to the website version you get on the iPad, but not much really too different.

This is the iPad App.

This is iPlayer on the iPad browser.

So my next question is why?

Why on earth did the BBC spend time and money on an app for the iPad if it adds virtually nothing to the experience that you get from using the website on the iPad?

So is the content different from what you get on the web on the iPad?

So can you download content for offline viewing? Like when you are on a train? Something you can do on your computer. Well no, you have to have a decent internet connection to watch BBC iPlayer. Also you can’t use the service on 3G, you do need to be on wifi.

The main difference is that the app allows you to watch live BBC TV which is probably the main reason for getting the app, though remember you will need a TV licence to watch the live streams!

In the end I can’t see what the app adds that viewing on the iPlayer on Safari doesn’t have already, apart from “favourites”. What’s the point of that as most content disappears in under seven days anyway…

Neither the App or the web version of iPlayer support AirPlay which is what you would use to stream content to your Apple TV. Now that would be useful especially as BBC iPlayer is not native on the Apple TV (and in the UK it should be). Of course if we could put Apps on the Apple TV then we could put this BBC App on the Apple TV! Sometimes I wish life was a little easier and simpler.

The BBC iPlayer App is an App it currently doesn’t support AV-Out. You can do AV-Out with the web version. If you have an iPad 2 then you can mirror the app using the Digital AV Adapter.

Disappointingly for some this app is only for the iPad, you will need to rely on the web version if you have an iPhone or an iPod touch. Though for those with an Android handset, there is a BBC iPlayer App for Android.

Get the BBC iPlayer App for the iPad in the iTunes App Store.

BBC iPlayer – Android App of the Week

BBC iPlayer – Android App of the Week

This is a regular feature of the blog looking at various apps available. Some of the apps will be useful for those involved in learning technologies, others will be useful in improving the way in which you work, whilst a few will be just plain fun! Some will be free, others will cost a little and one or two will be what some will think is quite expensive. Originally this feature focused on iPhone and iPad apps, however I have now expanded to include Mac, Windows and Android apps.

This week’s App is BBC iPlayer.

Free

The BBC have released an App for Android devices for BBC iPlayer. I have now used it a few times and it works okay, however it’s not perfect. If you have a Froyo 2.2 Android device then you can install Flash and access the BBC iPlayer site through that, but to be honest when I tried that a few months back, I wasn’t too impressed either.

The main difference between the web version of iPlayer and the app is that you can watch live TV on the app, though you will need a TV licence.

The main problem is you don’t get the smooth playback that I get on the iPhone or the iPad. If I play videos direct from the phone I do get smooth playback, so I don’t think it’s an underpowered hardware issue.

However if you read the BBC blog, it maybe the reason…

To download and use the app you’ll need a device that uses Android version 2.2 and has Adobe Flash 10.1 Player installed. Our Flash streams need a powerful mobile phone processor and a Wi-Fi connection to ensure a smooth viewing experience, which means that only newer, more powerful Android 2.2 devices connected via Wi-Fi can support the Flash 10.1 streaming experience.

Having said all that I am pleased to see the BBC not ignoring Android and just producing the iPad app. It’s free so check it out for yourself and see if it works better for you.

I do wonder though if we ever see similar apps from ITV or Channel 4? Possibly?

Stephen Fry: The Internet and Me

Stephen Fry

I quite enjoyed reading this article by Stephen Fry on the BBC News website (even though it is 18 months old) when I found it for the first time.

Stephen Fry – wit, writer, raconteur, actor and quiz show host – is also a self-confessed dweeb and meistergeek. As he confesses “If I added up all the hours I’ve sat watching a progress bar fill up, I could live another life.”

One of the main reasons I like it is one particular quote that I have used time and time again in meetings.

This is an early thing I said about the internet at the time things like AOL were still huge. I said it’s Milton Keynes, that’s the problem with it. It’s got all these nice, safe cycle paths and child-friendly parks and all the rest of it.

But the internet is a city and, like any great city, it has monumental libraries and theatres and museums and places in which you can learn and pick up information and there are facilities for you that are astounding – specialised museums, not just general ones.

But there are also slums and there are red light districts and there are really sleazy areas where you wouldn’t want your children wandering alone.

And you say, “But how do I know which shops are selling good gear in the city and how do I know which are bad? How do I know which streets are safe and how do I know which aren’t?” Well you find out.

What you don’t need is a huge authority or a series of identity cards and police escorts to take you round the city because you can’t be trusted to do it yourself or for your children to do it.

And I think people must understand that about the internet – it is a new city, it’s a virtual city and there will be parts of it of course that they dislike, but you don’t pull down London because it’s got a red light district.

For me this is a nice analogy of how institutions should look at the internet when thinking about their learners. It’s not about closing off the city to our learners. It’s much more about informing and making learners aware not just of the benefits of the city and the wonderful places that can be seen, but also that there are places in the city they may want to avoid.

When I was teaching European Studies many years ago, we took a group of students to Amsterdam to look at European culture. There are some wonderful things to see in Amsterdam, however myself and my colleagues made sure we were just as aware of the “not so nice” places to ensure that we could provide the right information and advice to our learners.

There is of course those learners who will ignore you and go where they shouldn’t (and this also happened on our trip to Amsterdam) and the key here is to ensure that those learners know what to do and to whom they should seek help and support if they do decide to ignore the advice and venture into the sleazy areas.

The internet has many wonderful sites, tools and services. In my opinion an institution needs to provide the right guidance and advice (digital literacy and information literacy) to our learners to make sure that they can make the most of and find the best of what the internet has to offer. They also have a duty of care to inform learners about the less desirable areas of the internet and how to deal with those parts too.