Using the BBC as a Technology Benchmark

BBCNew  internet technologies and social media websites seem to be springing up at an almost exponential rate. With these ever expanding ways to communicate and stay in touch, how do you decide which to adopt and which to ignore? Which will stand the test of time and which will be destined to obscurity by the time your morning coffee’s gone cold?

Social media, new media, web 2.0; whatever you choose to call it, there are now so many ways of keeping in contact with friends and family and keeping up to date with the latest news and events, that you could spend all day doing just this and not achieving anything productive.

So how do you choose which of the latest new media offerings to adopt, and which are the ones that are likely to stand the test of time and become mainstream?

Why Follow the BBC?

Radio

The BBC have been in broadcasting for an awfully long time, since 1922 in fact, and they are the world’s largest and most respected broadcaster. The BBC have always been keen to adopt new and emerging technologies as transmission media for their news and entertainment offerings.

Television

In 1932 the BBC commenced transmissions on the then new fangled television, at the time having no real concept of what a global and ubiquitous format this would prove to be. In 1967 the they started transmitting television signals in colour and in 1974 added the teletext service to their TV signals.

Internet

Being an early adopter of emerging technologies, the BBC first embraced the internet with an online presence for some of its shows in 1994. Bearing in mind that this was only two years after the public release of the world wide web, this definitely shows their foresight in adopting this new medium.

In December 1997, the BBC officially launched BBC Online,which has gone from strength to strength since, with the website now containing over two million pages and being one of the most visited and popular websites in the world.

Web 2.0

While the term web 2.0 is quite common, its actually very difficult to pin down exactly what it means. In common parlance, it generally refers to the modern, interactive nature of the web, for example social networking sites, blogs, podcasts and RSS feeds.

Since their first foray into the wonderful world wide web, the BBC have been early adopters in many new internet technologies such as RSS, blogs, podcasts and even social media websites.

The BBC obviously do their research before moving into any new area. As such, if the Beeb are adopting a new internet technology, then it’s a pretty safe bet that they’ve thought things through and it has a good chance of becoming mainstream, if not already.

Podcasting

Podcasting is an obvious fit with the BBC and provides them with another useful distribution mechanism for their content, enabling people to catch up with their favourite shows at their own leisure.

Out of all of the new internet technologies, the podcast is probably the best known and most widely adopted, thanks to the ubiquitous iPod. If you’re still struggling to work out what it’s all about though, then my previous post on What is a Podcast? may shed a little light.

RSS News Feeds

RSS logoRSS feeds are a very useful way of keeping up to date with your favourite websites, without having to check them all individually every day. If you’re not sure what RSS is all about, then my previous post on What is RSS? maybe just what you need.

I’ve been a proponent of RSS feeds for a long time and regularly include them in websites that I develop. While the BBC have provided RSS news feeds for a long time also (where I first encountered RSS), unfortunately RSS feeds still don’t seem to have broken through to mass adoption, despite features being included in all new web browsers allowing you to read them.

Social Media

Some people love it, some people hate it and some people just don’t get it.

I was probably in the latter category; didn’t really understand it, so couldn’t really see the point, until about a year ago when the BBC started putting a little toolbar at the bottom of every article on their news website:

BBC Article bookmarking toolbar

I was immediately intrigued and decided to investigate, on the principle that if the BBC were adopting it, then it’s really something that I should be paying attention to if I didn’t want to get left behind.

StumbleUpon

Stumble Upon logo StumbleUpon was one of the social networking/bookmarking websites that the BBC included in their new toolbar, so I took the plunge and setup my own profile on the site as an experiment.

Once you’ve set up your profile telling the system what sort of topics you are interested in, the system will suggest new websites that you may like and probably would never have discovered otherwise.

While I haven’t really done much “networking” on this site, I have found it to be an amazing resource for finding new and informative websites.

Twitter

It’s not immediately obvious that the BBC have adopted twitter, but they have. Twitter is a web service that you can use to send short messages of up to 140 characters and is touted as a micro-blogging system, although this belies its true potential.

twitter logoTwitter has gained popularity because you can use it on your mobile phone with text (SMS) messages and it can also be integrated with your own websites, Facebook or your web browser.

If you subscribe to someone’s twitter feed, like the BBC for example, you can be alerted anytime they post something new. The BBC have numerous twitter feeds, which can act a bit like a personal news ticker service. Some examples of their twitter feeds are:

Into the Future

Guaranteed, things in the internet world are going to continue expanding and changing at an alarming rate. If you’re struggling to keep up with all of the latest fads on the internet, then pay the BBC a visit to see what they’re up to.

If the Beeb have adopted the latest internet offering, then it may be well worth investigating it yourself. While they may not get it right every time, they are probably heading in the right general direction.

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Comments

  1. cathy commented

    Now I know why Terry Wogan called a show Auntie’s Bloomers – it must have been referring to BBC mishaps – it was a show of funny outtakes.

  2. commented

    Even though I’m from the US, I like the BBC. I really like your thorough explanation of all these components of Web 2.0.

  3. commented

    @Cathy: I thought the term Auntie referring to the BBC was quite well known in the UK, obviously not as well known as I thought; at least you found something useful in my post though :-)

    @Simon: Thanks for the Ubuntu link, it’ll be interesting to see what it offers. I think I need to upgrade the graphics card in my Linux PC to make use of it first as it’s 8 years old and not really man enough for the job at the moment.

    @Shayne: The BBC do seem to have a global appeal, which is nice to know. Thanks for your comments about the web 2.0 stuff, although I was only scratching the surface with this post really.

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