Friday, May 13, 2005

Backstage, The BBC Opens Up a Little More

BBC Backstage hit blogs yesterday with the announcement of their new developer network. The Backstage developer network announcement comes hot on the heels Creative Archive announcement last month, which I blogged about in the context of the eOpen University.

All(!) that's up for grabs at the moment are the Beeb's RSS feeds, and the content they contain, which can now be used to provide content to 3rd party sites. But what's promised is a BBC API in the BBC search engine, and an intriguiing sound postcode related tool.

Already there are several demo sites up giving a taste of what can be expected from a community that is now free to play with the BBC RSS feeds pretty much as it likes... Just like Amazon and Google, the Beeb perhaps realises that the future is closer if its co-invented by the users...

Anyway - one of my favourite early demos is the bbctags service, which allows you to tag news stories as in delicious, though the difference ihere is that tags only apply to BBC stories. Part of the release blurb states: "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." All pretty much as you'd expect, then...

The service is still quirky in places - e.g. I accidentally added the same tag to a page twice and the tag now appears twice as page mark up - but hopefully the site will be being maintained for at least a couple of iterations.

Having to share a login rather than having a personal login is also something of a constraint to usability in the current incarnation, but I guess this was acceptable enough for the site to be released as a proof of concept.

One thing that caught me out was that when I did a search from the bbctags page I got a results page from the BBC that just linked back to the main BBC site. That is, the returns from the search led directly to the story on the BBC site, rather than the tag enabled version on the bbctags site.

So.......for Firefox users with Greasemonkey installed, here's a first attempt at a script that converts BBC news feed URLs to bbctags URLs.

Now I can search the BBC news site for stories, and automatically have the story link redirected to the bbctags site...:-)

PS. to see what the BBC have to say about BBC Backstage themselves, check out this (taggable) report that proclaims Developers to play with BBC wares, or this (taggable) one describing how the BBC eases rules on news feed use. tags:


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