BBC Radio Player + Last.fm Yahoo! widget

UPDATE: I’ve updated the Yahoo! Widget and built one for OS X. Read all about it.

We all love Last.fm. But you can’t update your profile with songs as you listen to the radio.. until now. We have built a Yahoo! Widget which does just that. Sign in to your Last.fm account and choose a BBC Radio station – Radio 1, Radio 2, 6 Music or 1Xtra – and the widget will display the current track along with some similar / recommended artists. The current track will be uploaded to your Last.fm profile automatically (but you can always opt-out), or you can manually add each track.

BBC Radio Last.fm widget

This is still an experiment / prototype / beta so I can’t guarantee that it will behave itself or that the service will continue, but please have a play and let me know what you think.

As the widget requires communication with multiple sources asynchronously I created an Ajax class which allocates an XMLHttpRequest object for each request and releases it once the call has returned. Feel free to unwrap the widget and dissect the code…

BBC Radio Player + Last.fm Yahoo! widget

Telling you what you’re telling us… in tags

Midnight last night represents quite a landmark for myself and Tristan in the BBC Radio & Music interactive R&D team. The launch of Radio 1‘s new web site also saw the first piece of content written by our good selves.

Radio 1 incoming text tag cloud

The content in question is the tag cloud representing incoming SMS text messages to Radio 1. We process each message and collate a database of all non-offensive and non-common words. The top 15 words are displayed every minute and represent the last ten minutes of incoming texts. Tristan first built a prototype a few months back using Processing, running as a Java applet. The live client is written in Flash and was adapted from the livetext client which is part of most BBC radio homepages.

The layout of the tag cloud is meant to be random and non-overlapping as some words link to other Radio 1 pages. This was not something I was able to achieve using a fancy algorithm. In the end I created three ‘battleships’ layout patterns in which the words can sit anywhere within their allocated box. The four words with the highest frequency are given the largest spaces on the screen and are allowed to fill them, while the remainder are randomly positioned in their boxes and scaled proportional to their relative frequency. In the end the most important thing I learned is that throughout the layout procedure, words must be placed at random if there is the opportunity to do so.

It will be interesting to see how people react to it, because the tag cloud could display the (probable) answer to a competition or it could display some contentious opinions or simply an unfortunate group of words.

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