This is the blog of Ant Miller, senior research manager and dilettante geek at large at the BBC.
I wail moan and cuss about the challenges and fun to be found here.
These are my personal opinions, and not those of my employer. Or anyone else here for that matter.

Monday, December 17, 2007

More R&D Opportunities!

The way I do most of my projects here is that they're part funded by some national or international organisation, and I put in a proposal with a consortium of interested parties and we do the work as a virtual team. Lot's of drawbacks in terms of culture clashes, managing expectations etc. but it's worth it to get the mash up of expertise and the extra cash. Lots of extra cash.

So right now I've very interested in the fact that the EU has two calls for projects that are of very focussed on archives, and that the Tech Strategy Board (part of what was the DTI) also has one coming up for 'The Creative Industries'. I'm also a bit worried, because this will be a ton of work to get appliocations together for all three at once!

EU calls:
Forever Yours- digital eternal storage!!!- very interesting, we have some work that heads in this direction, but the challenges are collosal.
Information and Communication Technologies Call3- includes media semantics and digital libraries.

TSB Call:
Phase 3 of the Autumn Program- Creative industries

Monday, December 10, 2007

Recruiting at the BBC

There are some seriously senior R&D positions coming up at the BBC in the next few months. I really hope we get some good candidates. I know some people who'd be great in these roles, but I just don't know how I ca help get them aboard.

A Greener Way to Italy

So last week I was in Genoa for the SAMT 2007 conference, a very good review of the work going on across Europe's universities to develop the technologies to allow people and computers to make sense of content in any format. Fascinating highlights included a great deal of work now coming up in the semantics of 3-d shapes, and a whole new language to allow interactive markup of music, MX. I actually missed the industry day, which was a mistake because the academic stuff, while great, is still way ahead of anything we have the infrastructure to support or provide services on to our audiences. Still I did get one thing right- I traveled there and back by train!

Brighton-London, London-Paris, Paris-Ventimiglia, Ventimiglia-Genova on the way out, and Genova-Milan, Milan-Paris, Paris-London, and London-Brighton home on Saturday. Lots of learnings from this: The new StPancras is much better than the old Waterloo for departures (light and airy and well designed) but rather worse for arrivals, having an overlong and annoyingly tortuous exit. Not all TGVs are equal- the one from Paris to the Riviera is a modern double decker that's fantastically swift and very well maintained, but the Milan to Paris one is a bit of a clunker with stinky chemical loos. Almost all the TGV lines have slow bits, especially at the far end from Paris. In fact, they turn into stopper services in Italy. It can be expensive compared to flying, because you eat more on the way, get through more magazines, batteries etc. (I'd need a bigger music player, or better low bit rate codec, if I did that trip again). It really feels like traveling- when you fly it's like being teleported between airports, and the space in between doesn't exist. On the train, and especially with multiple stops, the journey is one of constant transition and change. Landscape, language and culture are all churning over as you go, and it really is landscape too! I do love the look of the land and sea on a god flight- I've had some extraordinary flights over the Alps, the mountains of New Zealand, and over the far northern Atlantic, but traveling through a real place is rather different.

Tips- Take spare batteries. More spares. Give yourself about forty five minutes to an hour for every changeover. Any less can get a bit sketchy and un-nerving. Avoid sandwiches on trains. Do try the hot chocolate on TGVs. Don't bother hiring a PSP on a TGV, the games selection is rubbish. Don't expect to be able to charge your laptop- power coverage is very variable (2 of 18 coaches on any Eurostar have it, none of the TGVs I was on did, but half the Italian local trains did). Enjoy yourself, take in the scenery and lie back. It's a trip!

BBC Homepage update update

Have been playing with this a little lately and it's growing on me. It's certainly more 'come back to' able than the old page, which really felt like a weird mix of a table of contents and an index, and wasn't really able to get across any sort of 'feeling' about the relationship between the user and the corporation. I had the very great pleasure of meeting Bronwyn, the art director, at an event run in collaboration with radarstation giving us training in design led innovation- she seemed very capable in this area, and I think it shows. Of course it will get flack, everything we do does, but a lot of us are giving constructive feedback and I think it's a real step forward. Huzzah!

Monday, December 03, 2007

The new BBC homepage

The new BBC homepage, originally uploaded by adactio.

I saw this first via Adactio's flickr feed into my netvibes (how web2.0 is THAT!) and it's generating the most interesting discussion. Adactio is Jeremy Kieth, a prety well now web designer and engineer, who also happens to live in Brighton. As do I. But I've only met him a couple of times and both at work in London.

Anyway, one thing I've picked up is that you can't tell much abut a web page from a screen shot- I've been playing with the beta for a few days now, and the key thinks that I'm bumping my shins on are nothing to do with the look and feel as you can see in a screen shot, but much more around the way it works- the functionality, the responses to imput etc. I'll be honest, it ain't there yet! Lot's of the simple relationships between elements are slightly off kilter- instructions are laid out differently to the things they control, bits aren't as configurable as you might have expected from their presentation, or from what yu can do elsewhere on the web. Don't get me wrong- it's good and a better representation of ALL the BBC than the previous home page was and includes great features that are a real advance. However, within its limits, that 'glass wall' design felt perhaps more cogent and complete. Enjoy while you can:

p.s. Apologies for te typos- laptop has lost backspace and it'll be 2 weeks for a replacement (bloody outsourced IT!)