TV on the radio

Not the most original title for a blog post but hey. As Yasser posted on the Radio Labs blog, this morning we launched a new visual radio player running alongside the Chris Moyles show this week and Annie and Nick on Sunday. This is the first stage trial in a new project and we are keen to find out what the audience thinks of it.

Visual radio player

The pop-up player presents a webcam feed of the studio so you can see Chris and the team as well as hear them alongside which we display images, now playing track information and incoming SMS messages. In addition to this you will also see barcharts and swingometers representing a public vote or poll.

I joined the project to develop the front-end which is an AS3 flash application built in Flex Builder 3. The components are made up of individual SWFs loaded as necessary and the client is driven through messages sent over the same infrastructure which powers the live text widgets on network pages and the Radio 1 tag cloud.

Early comments on the Radio Labs post and elsewhere have been really encouraging.

Radio Pop: social radio listening from BBC Radio Labs

Radio Pop homepage

Today we launched Radio Pop, a social network around BBC radio. Its a project which has been around for over a year now and its great to finally get it out for people to start playing with. Listening to BBC radio through Radio Pop gives you some (hopefully) interesting information and what you’ve been listening to and what your friends have been listening to. When you hear something you really like you can ‘pop’ it – that’s Radio Pop vernacular for bookmark ;)

The Radio Pop site is about displaying your listening, your friends’ listening and everyone’s listening. Your profile displays your recent activity along side your favourite stations and programmes (or brands to be more specific). Here’s my profile:

Radio Pop profile

It also displays what you’re currently listening to so anyone visiting the site can see what you’re up to.

Radio Pop listening to

At the moment, we’re not doing all that much with all this listening data but in the future we are looking to provide recommendations and personalisation (no self-respecting web app can be without them!) and perhaps more integration with other BBC services. In fact its a good point to make that Radio Pop would not be the service it is without our excellent BBC programmes catelogue which provides us with schedule data and unique IDs for every programme, series and brand. While we’re not using the data in interesting ways as yet, we set out to make Radio Pop accessible and extensible so you can use your data for your own apps and mash ups.

For example, here’s my profile (including what I’m currently listening to):
And here’s my recent listening:
Its also available as an RSS feed.

I built an example app using user profile data so you can tell your blog readers what you’re listening to:

Check out the API documentation for more information on our feeds. The blog badge is available from the extras page where you can find an OS X widget which allows you to listen to BBC radio through Radio Pop from the comfort of your desktop.

Radio Pop desktop widget

So that’s Radio Pop. But how does it all work?

Radio Pop is a Ruby on Rails application (because that’s where our experience lies) which runs on nginx with the fair proxy balancer module and memcached caching (because its needs to handle a large number of requests). We support OpenID for login (along side a standard username and password) as well as OAuth for communication between Radio Pop and any clients which post data to it (including the desktop widget). This means we have an input API as well as an output API, should you want to build an on-demand Radio Pop player… ;)

Tracking your listening is done quite simply, through a ‘pulse’ sent every 60 seconds. When you change the station you are listening to or listen over a programme boundary, the pulses are combined into a single ‘listen event’. Once this happens it will appear on the graphs on your profile and in your listening history. When you stop listening (and therefore stop sending pulses) a listen event is created after 5 minutes of inactivity.

I should point out that a lot of the initial development for this version of Radio Pop was done by Mint Digital, who worked from our initial internal prototype. Thomas from Mint also advanced my Rails and nginx knowledge ten-fold. At least.

Please check it out, sign up and start listening.

  • 2:18 pm, 6th August 2008
  • blog, web
  • No Comments

How to triple your readership overnight

In migrating my blog over to WordPress and with the power of Apache redirect from my new hosting, I finally merged all my RSS links over to feedburner.

Feedburner stats

Behold! I suddenly have three times the subscribers I thought I had! And no-one has had to change the feed URL for my site either :)

  • 8:26 am, 10th April 2008
  • misc, web
  • No Comments

Links and things

  • Super Mario in 14kB Javascript
    That pretty much sums it up: someone has recreated (some of) Super Mario Bros in a very small amount of JavaScript. Amazing.


Last month, Tom Kershaw and I worked on a project for Silent Studios called Resonate. Resonate represents the studio’s music services and the web site showcases it very nicely, accompanied by some beautiful illustrations.

Resonate logo

The site is written in AS3 and uses a page template structure so that any additional pages or structure changes can be done very easily. If you look closely when you load the site or resize your browser window, you should spot my favourite feature: the lines slowly redraw to the edges :-)

  • 3:59 am, 23rd October 2007
  • bbc, web
  • No Comments

BBC Web API: Officially the 18th best API in the world

According to the latest issue of .Net magazine at least. That’s a whole place higher than Twitter! Naturally Google Maps and Flickr take the top spots, but 18th place for our back-of-an-envelope prototype is something I’m immensely proud of.

  • 7:36 am, 3rd August 2007
  • flash, web
  • No Comments

Gravity Pods

Keith Peters has provided my first proper ‘friday forward’ 18 months after registering this domain. I’m in the middle of writing my own AS3 game and Keith’s Gravity Pods is the perfect example of what casual, addictive flash games should be about.

A word of warning though, it really is addictive and quite a chanllenge. So much so that I have felt the need to prove my achievement of completing the game. A very productive friday afternoon :-)

Gravity Pods - completed level 50!

Radio 1 wins Webby

In much-belated news, Radio 1 won the Webby award for radio. This is a great achievement and I’m really proud because the homepage contains a couple of flash apps written by your truly :-)

Hack Day London

Tom has just announced the first Hack Day to be held in Europe. The event is a partnership between Yahoo! and BBC Backstage and will be held at Alexandra Palace over the weekend of June 16th and 17th.

The two day event will see hundreds of creatives, designers and developers come together and attempt to build some fun, cool and interesting stuff. To get everyone in the right mood for rapid prototyping, there will be a number of speaker sessions from Yahoo! and the BBC. Tristan and I will be presenting one of the sessions so you don’t need any more reason to sign up for a place! If that’s not enough for you, Tom has promised that there will be beer, pizza and a band. And all for free.

This is all really exciting. I’m proud to be a part of what is sure to be a fun and rewarding weekend! Hope to see you there.

  • 3:33 am, 12th April 2007
  • bbc, web

Radio 1 nominated for 2 Webbys

BBC Radio 1 has been nominated for 2 Webbys. Some might say its all down to the SMS tag cloud on the homepage… Don’t know who though.

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