If you run a website you’re going to want to manage your content. You might use an Enterprise CMS, an open source CMS, a blogging platform or a bespoke app, and as you might expect at the BBC the same rules apply. Except some of us have been trying out something a bit different — using the web as a content management system.
As anyone that reads this blog will realise I’m a bit of of Linked Data nut. I believe that the future of web design lies not in webpages but in URLs and resources. If you’re not sure what I’m on about then I suggest you read Tim Berners Lee’s article on the Giant Global Graph or Tom Coates’s presentation Native to the Web of Data.
I and the teams working on BBC programmes and music believe that the web is wonderful because of links — because people can go on journeys of discovery, browsing by meaning — by following links to the things that interest them. We also believe that where existing webscale identifiers exist or where existing ontologies, taxonomies and metadata exists we should reuse those and link to them. This focus on URLs and resources, and existing services has meant the services that we’ve been building are a bit different, as we’ve stated previously:
A core feature of the site is the integration with external services – notably MusicBrainz and Wikipedia. We are using these services to provide core information (discographies, biographical information, membership etc) about artists and releases. We are then combining this data with information from within the BBC – including details about which BBC programmes have played that artist.
The use of community, non-BBC, maintained databases obviously means that much of the data the BBC is publishing on bbc.co.uk/music/beta comes from external services. But what may not be immediately obvious is that the BBC isn’t forking this data, as others have done. Because that would be silly.
So if we want to create a new artist, or edit any of this content then rather than editing that data via some internal CMS we edit MusicBrainz or Wikipedia. Just like you or anyone else, as Nick puts it:
From now on if I want to indulge my love of Frank Sinatra, I’ll just edit the Wikipedia page, knowing it will turn up on the BBC. Collaboration is the future, and not just in music.
Indeed with MusicBrainz we’ve been actively contributing content since June 2007.
[...] In exchange, MusicBrainz receives a monthly license fee that will allow MetaBrainz to hire some engineering help in the coming months to work on new features and to improve the existing infrastructure. This is quite significant since MusicBrainz has been resource constrained for many months now — having paid people on staff will ensure a more reasonable amount of progress moving forward.
Even cooler, the BBC online music editors will soon participate in the MusicBrainz community contributing their knowledge to MusicBrainz. The goal is to have the BBC /music editorial team round out and add new information to MusicBrainz as they need to use it in their MusicBrainz enabled applications internally.
As of today the BBC music team has contributed over 2,800 edits to MusicBrainz. None of this is to say that we don’t need content management solutions for our own, internal (meta)data we clearly do, but it does means that a significant proportion of these services are drawing on data from elsewhere on the web, and that means that if we want to edit it we edit the web improving those services and those provided by the BBC (including search).