Now for something completely different…

After just over two years I’ve moved on from the Audio & Music bit of the BBC to the Vision bit of the BBC. And for the next 12 months, at least, I’ll be working to improve the BBC’s online natural history offering – a project know as “BBC Earth”.

Another two on the road by beebee. Some rights reserved.
Another two on the road by Sibi. Some rights reserved.

I am really excited about the Earth project, the BBC’s Natural History Unit is responsible for the best Natural History broadcasting in the world — everything from Planet Earth to World on the Move and Springwatch — and frankly David Attenborough is a national treasure. And because I studied Biology at university and worked in the nature conservation sector for the early part of my career in many ways I feel that BBC Earth is the culmination of my career to date, combining my early career and academic life with my more recent career and love of the Web. What more could I ask for?

If I’m honest BBC Earth is just about the only project that would have got me to leave my old job, because while it is an incredible opportunity to build something amazing — bringing great content to the web and making that little bit more coherent — I will miss the people and the projects I’m leaving behind. You see I am immensely proud of and and, what has been achieved by the teams over the last couple of years. We now have a page for every programme the BBC broadcasts (including, as of last week, BBC Local Radio) and a page for every artist the BBC plays – in fact it’s a lot more than that with 400,000 or so artist pages. All available in a variety of formats including RDF and mobile views. And the 5 million page requests per week for is some indication that I’m not alone in the value of the service.

I will miss not being part of that anymore especially since I’ve left before we’ve launched version 1.0. Programmes might officially be out of beta but I’ve always had version 1.0 being delivered in early spring or rather when those features slated to deliver in spring are delivered as being version 1.0. I won’t spoil the surprise but it will be great.

And of course the new music site isn’t yet live – again I don’t want to ruin it for you but the next few months will see more data, more features and more views… and then of course both domains need to be stitched together, lots of lovely linking between the two – transcluding data from one domain onto the other to help people discover the unexpected. Clickable tracklists anyone? What about visualizations of artists played on a programme brand? Oh and then there’s the work to join events (things like the Electric Proms or the Edinburgh Festival) to the programmes and music domains. Next spring is going to be a very, very exciting time – it really will start to demonstrate the power of the strategy. And that’s before… ok enough.

But it is the people that I will miss most. It feels like the end of an era – one that, as Matt Wood reminded me, started on a grassy bank in Cambridge a couple of summers ago. Up until that point work had been progressing but it was over a coffee at the Spa conference where, for me at least, things real changed. And now that I’ve moved onto Earth it feels like the end of an era – even if that’s only an era in my own lifetime. I feel so privileged to have worked with such a talented, and bluntly lovable people. I only hope that I can help do justice to BBC Earth and that my friends in A&M for FM&T continue to be happy and continue to make a better place and a better web citizen. I’ll miss you.

7 responses to “Now for something completely different…”

  1. Nice to see a mention for World On the Move – there is a very rich web offering here:

  2. Congratulations, Tom.
    Both for the accomplishments so far as for the new undertaking.

    You describe your feelings in a very whole manner, and apparently as fulfilling as it gets.

    Good luck!


  3. @Bruno – thank you. It was fun, we did great work.

  4. When can we hear more about this intriguing Earth project? I’m lately doing some work with UN FAO in Rome, they have a huge thesaurus – AGROVOC – covering terms around agricultural science. Would be great if there were some linked data scenarios that made sense here…

  5. @Dan patience – we’ve nothing to show just yet. But soon, very soon :)

    I would be very interested in seeing how we might link up with AGROVOC. One thing that might cause problems is that our domain is the natural world rather than the agricultural.

  6. :)

    Well the agricultural and natural worlds have some overlaps and connection I’m sure, so this should be an interesting opportunity for inter-linking… And maybe the differences in terminology / perspective somehow motivate that linking too? All depends what data’s available attached to each, I guess.

  7. The domains will certainly overlap even if the perspective doesn’t (wildlife vs pests etc.)

    I think the problem might be related to the content — our stuff is more about natural habitats and species in the wild. But you’re of course quite right that that shouldn’t prevent us linking between species etc.

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