Priest in the Church of England. Trustee SPCK. Father, husband, son. "Small acts of Good change the world."

Category: work (Page 2 of 2)

New role for Chad

I had the distinct pleasure of working with Chad Dickerson when we were organising the London Hack Day last year.

 Chad is truly a gentleman and treated me to an excellent meal on my recent trip to San Francisco – I tried to pursued him to let me clean his pool (I have no idea if he has one) in exchange for hiding me from US immigration so I could stay.

Exciting things are ahead as he takes on a new role at Yahoo!

From Chad’s blog.  

 I guess the headline tips my hand. I’m taking on a new role at Yahoo: running the Advanced Products group, a position just vacated by Scott Gatz. Scott has built a great team and I have big shoes to fill, but the groundwork that Scott and his team have laid only increases my excitement about taking on the new challenge.   

Photo courtesy of Mirka23

A lick of paint

New BBC HomepageAs Richard Titus over at the BBC Internet blog explains the BBC Homepage is undergoing a small change… Well it’s not that small – Richard describes it as a lick of paint but actually it’s fundamentally shifting the way we think about how people interact with the BBC Online – and it’s about time.

For a start the BBC have released the new page to the public before it’s going live – just go over to the new page and take a look. Click on the tabs under the main promotion window and watch in awe as the colours change…. yes so what?

Well, actually the big changes start to become apparent when you spot the Customise Homepage link – like me you may think this is just about changing colours or some such frivolity – but no – this is about actually changing the content you see – hardly ground breaking (think myBBC). But when you consider that in order to have your content on the homepage you now need to start thinking about at least creating internal data feeds to push out… then you start to see the pure genius behind the new page.

In order to get on the front page you have to be producing your content in a way that the new page can digest – and that means pure data – from the start that may just be some internal data feeds – but once they’re in place what’s the problem publishing them? As Ian Forrester is working hard on getting the new backstage.bbc.co.uk API Gateway live and working properly there are fewer and fewer excuses for BBC Departments to not make their content available in a workable format.

There’s been some suggestions that this may be a ‘step too far’ that the British user simply ‘isn’t ready’ for personalisation. Bollox.

The UK leads the use of Social Media Platforms (sorry about the site but it’s got the best explanation). The British user is neither naive or unable to comprehend the concept of getting what they want when they want. Being able to drag boxes around on the new homepage to re-order your content around your preferences is hardly ground breaking – and it’s not going to push UK users over the edge.

I do suspect many people will just leave the boxes where they are (if they even work out they can be moved) but I suspect a much greater number of people will be messing with the actual content that they see – and for the first time that I can remember I see a reason to set the BBC homepage as my homepage.

(disclaimer – I work for the BBC and am a sometimes poster on the BBC Internet Blog)

So this is news?

This is newsOkay I know it’s in the ‘entertainment’ section – but since when can a sprained ankle equal news?! 

Perhaps BBC Entertainment News should just rename itself Heat Online and be done with it.

One Laptop Per Child

party 012I’m very fortunate to be in LA right now – the last few days I’ve been in San Francisco. Bragging aside, today I’ve had a chance to play with one of the final units of the One Laptop Per Child scheme over lunch here at the TTI Vanguard Nextgen Technologies conference.

The interesting thing is the conversation around the lunch table as we played with it – apart from a major downer on the Apple iPhone (seriously guys what’s your problem?) – there was a general feeling that the project would fail because no-one would know how to use the thing – and look at it, ‘it’s so damn ugly – who’s going to use that?’

BBC News has quite a nice audio slideshow talking through what happens when it actually turns up in an African village.

From my point of view I found it incredibly difficult to use… it didn’t want to connect to the wi-fi and I couldn’t work out how to access the settings to change things. Then there’s no really easy menu to use, then the keyboard is really strange – nothing is where it should be – and finally there are those silly ‘ears’ that are meant to extend it’s wi-fi range.

But actually… this laptop isn’t meant for me… why would a kid in Africa want to access the wi-fi settings, mess around with the IP address or get under bonnet? They wouldn’t – this is the ultimate ‘just works’ device. Once I gave up trying to ‘work out how to get it working’ and ‘just used it’ – everything came together and for the first time since I picked up a mac I’d found something that is going to have a major impact on the world.

How long before Microsoft, Apple and the various mainstream ‘nix distros have to take a look at the user interaction methods of this device and shift their own systems to match?

Innovation… mmm

So innovation… it’s a rather odd word. You can’t turn around right now without hearing in every direction – “How can we be more innovative?” But if you have to ask that then your pretty screwed already.

It’s easy to be innovative within an organisation where it’s expected from day one. GE for example thrives on it’s employees innovating – everything from better processes to deal with identifying cracks in jet engine blades – right through to the research scientist trying to make a bulb that burns less energy but gives out more light

The BBC is pretty innovative.. don’t shout me down. In TV and radio you have to be – if you don’t come up with the next big thing you’re dead on your feet (yes I know daytime TV doesn’t count). But actually all we (and everyone else it seems) have done over the last few years is re-hash old formats and bring them up to date – where’s the new stuff?

Translating ‘the next big thing’ over to Future Media & Technology often means what’s the best / newest / most exciting way we can showcase our TV content or our Radio content? How can we make the BBC Website the first place people go when they want to watch Spooks? Actually I think that’s a red herring – we go with it because it drives the technology on – but if FM&T is to truly become innovative it has to look beyond just making platforms better.

So what if the BBC created a Yahoo! Brickhouse? What if we took the concepts of Hack Day (another Yahoo! innitive) and just dragged them inside the corporation? I think they’d fail – and I think they’d fail because the BBC isn’t a silicon valley giant – it’s a media company from the UK and that presents a whole host of issues and problems that silicon valley just don’t have to deal with. An agile start-up doesn’t have to argue with Internet Security about it’s delivery method, they don’t have to deal with editorial guidelines, or technological constraints – they have total freedom…. most importantly from the governance of the British public.

So the answer then is to start a ‘start up’ within… well no… because they’ll still ultimately be tied to the standards and guidelines – right now we’ll never be able to build something and get it live to the public within three months.

mmm so what if we did create a team of amazing people, who built stuff in four weeks, put it out there and let people mess with it and break it – then moved onto the next thing. What if we canvassed for ideas from not just the BBC but from the indie sector and backstage? What if we sponsored those people to come work with that team for four weeks and got it built and working? What if we built 12 new ideas over a year and they all failed? What if we built 100 ideas and 1 of them rocked the UK, what if that idea rocked the World? What if FM&T made a difference? What if it stopped amazing developers walking out the door?

San Francisco

Golden GateSo I’m in the states and hitting the tech world hard… well… mainly I’ve been harassing Tom Coates until he tells me everything he knows about the city and where I can get a decent cup of tea (turns out there isn’t one).

But actually that really does seem to be the only bad thing about the city so far… really… I think I’m in love and am wondering how persuasive I’d have to be to get the BBC to put a ‘start up’ office out here. I have the gift of the gab but I don’t think I’m that good.

I’ve spent today at Brickhouse with Tom and I can really see how this thing works – I just wonder if there are any parallels we can pull over to the beeb – probably – but that will require a lot more work than just copying things hook line and sinker.

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