links for 2007-09-20

BBCs iPlayer Beta Feedback

The Good:

  1. I get pretty respectably speedy downloads.
  2. The quality is fine for my purposes.
  3. There is some content on there that I want to watch. (Tribe, HardTalk….)

The Bad:

  1. How many different logins do I need to access this service? It seems to be about 3. What’s wrong with one?
  2. The website for downloading files is badly designed – too small, badly organised, over complicated, doesn’t show the useful information for the shows and worst of all is terribly slow.
    1. It doesn’t need to look like it’s done in flash. A simple web page design would be better for browsing a lot of this stuff. Web pages work well with lists going down the screen that you can scroll, and badly with clicking a page button repeatedly to get to where you want to get to. If it really must be fancy, something more like a google maps approach for a timetable display would be much better.
    2. If all the thumbnails for a program are the same, then they add little value. They can be smaller.
    3. I want to be able to view by time or by show.
    4. Interview/debate programs should have the name of the interviewee, or the topic for debate as their title.
    5. All programs that are part of a series should have their episode number and series number as part of the detailed description.
    6. Given we’ve got DRM, why can’t we download shows in advance, and watch them when the license makes them available? If downloading shows in advance is not allowed, then they shouldn’t be listed in advance.
    7. I want to be able to auto download any episode of a specific show as soon as it’s available.
  3. Lots of popular programs are not available. I know it’s a beta, but it’s a shame.
  4. Lots of programs are listed, but then the download for them doesn’t work. I know it’s a beta, but this is very frustrating if it’s an episode you particularly want to watch.
  5. The video chooser site doesn’t work in firefox. It should, and it should open in the default browser, not always IE.
  6. DRM is not a good idea for many many reasons.
  7. Only working on windows is close to immoral. (glad to see you’re going to work on that)
  8. If the first part of the file is already downloaded, and there’s only a few minutes to download left, it’d be good to be able to start watching it while the rest comes down.
  9. Too many of the programs on it are only available in welsh or with a signer standing on half the screen.
  10. The download application is flaky

Final thoughts:

The iPlayer is a great idea, and I’m glad to see that the BBC is going down this route. Remember though that it’s competing with viewer-provided (legally disapproved of) services that allow bittorrent downloading from RSS. With a service like that, you just tell it the series (including many popular bbc series that aren’t on iPlayer) you want to watch, and as soon as the show airs and someone puts it online, your computer will automatically download it for you, and tell you when it’s available (e.g. Miro and They do it because people want that functionality, so you should have it too. You’re also competing with services like tivo, and sky+, both of which have pretty nice interfaces. A well designed interface is not an interface that looks like it’s been done in flash, or an interface that uses AJAX for the sake of it, it’s an interface that conveys the appropriate information in a useful way. If you want to leave behind the webpage way of doing things, you should make sure you’re leaving it behind for something better. And please, make the catalogue viewing fast. If I know I want to download the next Doctor Who that I haven’t seen, I shouldn’t have to click through 6 pages to get to it, especially when each page takes an age to load. I’m using the service because I want to watch TV, not watch webpages load.

Cuff-link dimples

News for the lego lovers (and I know some of you are): Psym, host of the most excellent (although not often updated) [link removed as he no longer owns it and the character of the site has changed] and friend of this blog, started selling some cool lego jewelry a little while ago and got himself some media attention recently. Quite a cunning way to do customizable jewlery. Here’s the article:


The Pinnacle of Human Civilisation

If you’ve been wondering, I’m afraid we don’t make it to the stars. Sorry. We never solve the problems of poverty, environment and food supply that keep our species to such a meager proportion of the earths surface and with a population dwarfed by more successful species such as cockroaches.

In fact, you and I (assuming you’re reading this in the near future, before the cataclysm, since I don’t suppose my blog postings will be among the rare pieces of knowledge passed down) are it. We’re there, at the top. The human race has struggled and achieved remarkable things, amazing expansions in technology, and population, but it will all soon fade away.

The statistical evidence is strong (and adapted from an argument I read recently in a New Scientist). If you imagine everyone who has ever lived – a huge mass of people, and select one at random for you to be, what are the chances that you’d end up living now? Fairly good, since we have a massive population now compared to the past.

Unfortunately, that argument also tells us about the shape of likely futures. Imagine a future where the human race colonizes other worlds and out-lives the burning out of the sun in 5 billion years time. Now, assuming the future turns out that way, imagine all the people who ever exist. It’s a lot. In fact, it’s massive, and the population at the height of humanities spread will dwarf our current population into insignificance. Select a person at random to be out of that huge mass of humans for all time. What is the probability that you’re someone alive now? Tiny. In fact, you’re much more likely to be alive when the human population is at its greatest than now.

So, either we are astonishingly unlikely freaks of statistics, or there is no such future.

By far the most likely scenario is that the population stabilizes for a bit and then declines, making now, of all the times available, one of the more likely times to be alive.

The Golden Age is now. Make the most of it while you can.

Politically Encompassed

Economic Left/Right: -4.38
Social Libertarian/Authoritarian: -4.67

political compass

From The Political Compass test. Anyone else prepared to put their spot on the graph? Please comment.

Oh, and I’m seriously considering donating to the presidential campaign of the candidate closest to me in the political compass (except of course, that would be against the law). It should be obvious to everyone now that who the President of the US is affects the security and economy of the entire world, not just those in the USA.