Latest project newsThanks to the wonderful BBC Backstage initiative, we can now talk about some rather exciting prototype work we did recently for the BBC that looked at how social tagging might work on BBC News to drive both social bookmarking and user-driven related stories. Details of the project are here on Backstage
You can access the prototype and play with it here (click through to any story to start tagging; use the login ‘guest’/’guest’ or use the signup link to create your own account) or have a look at this example story about Gorgeous George that has been tagged already: bbctags.headshift.com
The protoype uses XML-HttpRequest to allow users to add tags without leaving the news story they are looking at, and it also updates the related stories box based on applied tags so that users can see what others are doing in almost real time. Users have their own tags page to aggregate bookmarked stories, and they can also view a global tags page showing the most popular and recent tags used by all users. There is also a tag search facility across a users’ tags or the whole tag space. For each ‘tag’, users can see their own stories and other peoples’ stories that have been associated with a term, plus there are feeds from Del.icio.us, Technorati and Flickr that pull in content with similar tags
Aside from the implementation, the interesting bits for us are:
- How can users bookmark BBC News stories and organise them using their own categories?
- Can we offer related story links based on social tagging rather than dictated by editorial? (as per Tom Loosemore’s earlier question)
- Is it a good idea to link outwards from user tags to see related content from blogs, social bookmarks and photos, or would this ‘dilute’ the BBC’s wonderful ‘content’?
Congratulations to the Headshift team who built this is a short space of time. We would appreciate any feedback, either here or on Backstage, about the idea or its implementation. Please bear in mind it is just a prototype – it might yet fall over!So, what about BBC Backstage? It is a project led by Tom Loosemore, Ben Metcalfe, and James Boardwell that will provide an API, encouragement and some support to people both inside and outside the BBC who have good ideas for re-using BBC content or building shiny new things with it
“backstage.bbc.co.uk attempts to encourage and support those who have provided most of the innovation on the inernet – the passionate, highly-skilled & public-spirited developers and designers many of whom volunteer their time and effort.”
This is such a good idea and will, I hope, cement the BBC’s leading role in innovating for public good within the mainstream media. It is the latest in a long line of developments that illustrate how the BBC has become a safe harbour for some clever people who are committed to building public value through online media. It also proves, I think, how the internet has revitalised the BBC’s public service remit, which was previously becoming a bit lost amidst the management debates, multi-skilling and the growing obsession with competing with lower forms of commercial media
Ben Hammersley, who was among the first to herald its coming, thinks backstage is so revolutionary it can induce bowel movements
It’s actually a symbol of something much much bigger: it’s laying down the gauntlet for the rest of the world. It highlights the point that on the internet, hiding your content is suicide. It says that you can either open up, and we can all flourish together; or you can remain closed, and die alone.
You can’t redistribute BBC content; only the BBC can do that … [and] the BBC is not distributing full-text content by RSS; only headlines and snippets (this is even true of Backstage’s own RSS feeds). As the BBC itself has said, it expects 10 per cent of its website traffic to be coming from RSS by the end of this year. In other words, RSS is just another effective way of building audience and traffic…
The point about commercial exploitation, I think, is not the most important issue here. The BBC needs some time and space to work out the sometimes complex relationships it has with the commercial sector. Over the long term, I think backstage will play the same enabler role for a marketplace of small innovative developers that Channel 4’s formation played in the independent TV production sector in the 1980’s
But what really matters is that we continue to enjoy the benefits of a world-class public sector broadcaster that remains focused on its important role in society, education and democracy, and I hope BBC Backstage is another step forward for that mission. It is not easy to start opening up such a large and multi-faceted organisation as the BBC, so Auntie deserves much respect for giving people like Tom, James and Ben (and the many other great people in the corporation) the chance to lead the old lady forward, step by step.
What if you could re-organise BBC News?
A social tagging experiment using BBC News content