Disruptive Technology – BBC News Wiki Proxy

New media activist Stef Magdalinski has produced a great example of the way new technologies allow people to interact with broadcasters in different ways – the News Online wikiproxy

The site proxies BBC News online and does the following things to pages retrieved through it:

  • retrieves a page from News Online, and regexes out “Capitalised Phrases” and acronyms. It then tests these against a database of wikipedia topic titles. If the phrase is a topic in wikipedia, then it’s turned into a hyperlink. This way you can see in-context links to definitions of terms or background information on topics discussed.
  • uses the technorati API to add a sidebar of links to blogs referencing the story – this way from the same page as the story you can see who else is talking about the story

For a good example of it working see here

Magdalinski, who amongst other things led the They Work For You project, explains his rationale:

News Online has decided to start linking to other news sites.

News Online is the most trafficked site in Europe, easily the most successful new media venture the BBC has produced, but to my mind has failed to really innovate since launch. They’ve added clutter, an RSS feed or two, but it’s still flat news articles with a few video clips, using hyperlinks only for navigation, much as CEEFAX use 3 digit numbers. News Online is exactly what I would expect as a baseline from any news site, commercial or otherwise.

News Online doesn’t engage with its users, it doesn’t provide tools that allow me, the licence payer, to slice and dice their stories, and by refusing to link from its body text, it fails to understand how hypertext works.

Also, with its conservative link policy (I can’t show you an example of the news stories where the tech described above is working, because the links get removed after 2 days, because they might break), that only connects the BBC to established brands, it snubs the wider web, the great teeming mass of creativity. Patrician is not authoritative. Aloof is not respected. Conservative and fearful is not engaging. The gap between the BBC’s utterly laudable self image and ambitions and delivery could not be any clearer than at News Online.

Finally, by not really allowing user interaction or commenting, News Online forces that debate and activity away from its site, and out onto the wild wild web.

Now think a year or two ahead and imagine this sort of thing done with moving pictures…

[via Cory Doctorow, Matt Jones, Alex Halavais ]

Proactive application of technology to business

My interests include technology, personal knowledge management, social change