A Week on the Digital Planet…

Followers of my twitterstream (@psychemedia may have picked up on the fact that this week’s episode of the BBC World Service programme Digital Planet was also our second co-produced episode of this weekly series (the first being a geo-web special earlier this year).

As with other OU/BBC co-pros, we at the OU get to comment on various aspects of the pre-production of the programme (helping identify possibly story packages, and identifying key themes) as well as commenting on draft scripts. (If you follow presenter Gareth Mitchell’s tweets (@garethm), you’ll know that happens over the weekend before the Monday afternoon recording of the programme (as well as Monday morning itself!)

Unlike most other co-pros, though, we wanted our relationship with the Digital Planet team to extend onto the web, providing a supporting package around the programme, as well as a legacy (Digital Planet programmes are available for at least 7 days after transmission as a podcast, but unlike many BBC (rather than BBC World Service) programmes, a public archive of previous programmes is not available.

We also wanted to try to come up with content that could engage Digital Planet’s international audience in an interactive way. So for example, we provided the Digital Planet listeners’ map to support the geo special, to allow listerners to place a marker to show where they’re listening from:

…as well as how they’re listening:

How people listen to Digital Planet

(Note to self – if we can get a live feed of marker locations and comments, we can maybe post some live mashups…;-)

For more on the first episode, and the listeners’ map, check out Exploring the GeoWeb with Digital Planet.

So, what have we done for the second special? Well the theme this time was “DIY Technology”, with packages from the recent Maker Faire in Newcastle, the story of Microsoft’s Photosynth (did you know there’s an unofficial but accepted iPhone version?!), and a feature all about the fascinating world of font design (the programme will be around for a day or two yet via the podcast feed – you can reach it from the Open2.net Digital Planet pages).

Partly because ace developer Simon Budgen managed to pull so many things together, we’ve actually got a mini-site for the supporting materials for this episode – Digital Planet DIY Technology Special, on open2.net – so what will you find there?

First up, on something font-tastic, there’s an opportunity to see the font Gareth made from his own handwriting – Gareth New Roman – as well as a download link for th font. If you think you can do better, there are links to some online tools to get you started designing your own font.

Secondly, there’s our Digital Planet – Photosynth page, which contains a link to a Photosynth of the studio using photos taken during the recording of the programme, (unfortunately, we couldn’t embed the Silverlight version of the player in the page because BBC Future Media Standards and Guidelines prevent it:-(

The page also includes a clip from the programme that I topped and tailed with a biddly-dee biddly-dee bong, a programme intro, and a closing credit, which had been on my “things we need to demonstrate” list for ages. (There’s a rights story behind that clip too, that I’ll maybe tell one day…;-)

The third (count ’em) page we got up wrapped the Maker Faire package (Digital Planet at the Maker Faire). Rather than embedding another audio clip taken from the programme, this page actually embeds (using the embed code anyone can use) a BBC video report from the Faire:

BAs if that wasnlt enough, the page actually embeds a couple of other things too – firstly , an image feed pulling appropriately tagged images in from Flickr:

(Note the reactive/responsive moderation policy we have in place…)

..and also some Youtube videos that describe how to make some “LED Throwies” that were featured in the Maker Faire package:

So that’s the ‘official’ mini-site. But there’s more…

Over on the Open2 Science and Technology blog, I posted an article about Arduino, a simple electronics development board – ideal for tinkering with. And embedded in that post, another clip from Digital Planet (without the top and tailing credits this time – just a simple cut from the programme):

Just by the by, there are a couple of other things to note about the blog post: first, the embedded image is one we grabbed from Wikipedia; and secondly, we managed to sneak a tease for a forthcoming OU course in there…

So that’s it, right? Well, not quite – over on Platform, the OU’s social site that’s open to anyone (not just members of the OU family), there’s another blog post – reinforcing the font package and mixing in a couple more font related things for people to do. (Note that the Platform post is not linked to from the open2 pages (the open2 blog post is) – it’s there solely as another entry point to the open2 pages.

And finally, just for the record, here’s a note on schedules… I started chatting to the BBC production team about four weeks ago, bouncing around ideas for the programme. A couple of phone calls and a couple of email exchanges firmed things up, and then I got copies of the pre-recorded packages last Friday. Gareth circulated a draft studio script on Saturday, and I sent it back with comments Sunday. Another draft arrived Monday morning, (along with a chaser phone call!), and I sent final comments back before the mid-afternoon recording. Gareth sent a copy of his font to Simon on Sunday (Monday?) and the site went up in draft form (no mini-site at that point) on Monday. Gareth uploaded the studio photos to flickr and let us have them Monday, and on Monday evening I pulled them into a Photosynth that was linked to on the Tuesday. The Platform post appeared Wednesady and the embedded audio clips, Sci/Tech blog and mini-site navigation were in place today (Thursday), having been edited on Tuesday and Wednesday (using Audacity, as it happens…).

Huge thanks to the DP production team (Angela Sain, Rami Tzabar, Michelle Martin) and of course Gareth and billt, and esp. Simon B for pulling the open2 site together so reactively:-)

As ever, great fun… and a wonderful production schedule to work to!

Author: Tony Hirst

I'm a Senior Lecturer at The Open University, with an interest in #opendata policy and practice, as well as general web tinkering...

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