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26 June 2012

UK Internet List 20 year anniversary

In June 1992 I started the UK's first guide to getting online. It's 20 years old today

See also and Facebook timeline, 1992

23 June 2012

Music for the London Olympics

The list of music for the opening ceremony for the London Olympics has been released. It is a list which misses an opportunity in front of an audience of about a billion.

This is the London Olympics, the UK is the host nation and the national team is team GB. The concept of England does not exist in the Olympics yet looking at the list of music there is not much more diversity in musical taste than you would find in a home counties pub juke box or the iPod of someone who didn't get out much.

The UK is home to 7 indigenous languages, (English, Scots, Welsh, Irish, Scots Gaelic, Cornish, British Sign Language) yet I can see only one of these represented in the list, to the complete exclusion of all the others.

The UK is also home to a wide variety of musical styles, and you might have thought even Mull of Kintyre or Amazing Grace on the Bagpipes would get a look in, something on the Northumbrian pipes or a brass band from England. It's mostly pop music from the last 50 years. So much for over a 1000 years of musical and linguistic diversity being showcased. I like pop music too, but not to the complete exclusion of everything else.

The torch did a really great job of including the whole UK, it's a pity the opening ceremony, seen by many more did not have such a wide cultural remit. The Cambridge folk festival does a better job of showcasing a wide variety of music from across the UK.

I expect though that the Irish won't be complaining. London does not speak for Ireland and hopefully soon after Yes Scotland, then Scotland won't have to complain either.

I leave you with this music from the Disney/Pixar film Brave. They sought fit to showcase Scottish music to an international audience. Somehow it's good enough to have music particular to Scotland in an international film but not in a London based Olympics. I was offered a job running the IT for the Olympics opening ceremony. It's too bad I got a better offer, perhaps I could have bent a few ears.

The music for the opening ceremony only serves to portray the UK as a narrow, mono-cultural land, something that of course isn't true at all, unless you favour the BNP view of the world.


17 June 2012

BBC iPlayer and Gaelic. Must do better

Dear BBC. 

I am a licencepayer who lives in the UK. Your attempt at an iPlayer service for Gaelic is a disgrace. 

1. The iPlayer itself is only available in English, a Gaelic version would not require much effort.  Open source free software has already been translated free of charge by volunteers. The same could apply to your software. Thanks for providing a Gaelic version of the iPlayer website but remembering my choice via a cookie would be helpful.

2. The iPlayer service needs to be better for the non satellite/cable users who cannot get BBC Alba on Freeview. Anyone outside of Scotland still can't get BBC Alba on Freeview.

3. When I looked just now pretty much the entire back catalog of Gaelic programmes consisted of programmes for children, learners, gardening or sport. Where are the music programmes ? Where are the news programmes? Where are the factual programmes? 

4. I might have been able to record "An La" but there was no "future record" or "series record" facility. I can do a "series record" for English programmes such as Trooping the colour which is on once a year, but not for a daily news programme to catch up and watch in the evening? Why?

5. Watching anything on an android device with flash installed? Site is hopeless! I have chrome, I have flash, your site says I don't have flash. I request the desktop site and I get "your mobile isn't supported". There's no "download and watch later option" when you do get it to work. Did you test this? You don't even mention tablets or phones on your supported browser list. Shocking.

6. None of the Eorpa programmes can be watched. Why? This is one of the best examples of Gaelic broadcasting. Your standard "See our FAQ" doesn't actually explain the specific reason why this internationally acclaimed programme isn't available to download. It's as if you want the people who are able to get it to actually put it on youtube for the benefit of everyone else. Your policy is indirect censorship

7. When I am on the BBC site I can filter for "Scotland" but can't subfilter for Gaelic within this. Why is this? Do you think the Scots are one homogeneous audience?

8. You're probably not obliged to provide input into the national plan for Gaelic, broadcasting not being a devolved subject, but it would be helpful if you detailed what your strategy was in relation to Gaelic as the media (particularly the excellent Radio nan Gaidheal and BBC Alba if you are lucky enough to receive them) are one of the key parts of the Gaelic revival.

9. The Piping Live programme, which I eventually found, has an English title and English description. Sorry, this made me think it was actually in English. Would it be possible to actually have Gaelic names for Gaelic programmes? Only when you click on more information do you get a hint it might be in Gaelic.

10. Since Gaelic is a language of Scotland, how about using the colour of the Saltire to represent the channel rather than a rather dull grey? This is what tourist attractions which have Gaelic audio guides such as the Clan Donald centre on Skye do. When was dull grey the national colour?

11. I click on a Gaelic news programme and your recommendation engine then thinks I should watch Top Gear in English. Some work required? How about a "top watched" on the Gaelic channel - this should be easy to implement, like so many things on your English medium news site there is a "most read/shared" facility. Missing from the Gaelic equivalent. This should be a simple plug in, can't you reuse on the Gaelic news site and for Gaelic iPlayer content?

12. The excellent Litir do Luchd-ionnsachaidh (all 674 weekly episodes) is available here on your podcast site but not on your iplayer site. Please make the iPlayer site consistent. Even a link to the podcast site would help.

I still believe that Gaelic should be promoted (not "Gaelic roots should be unearthed", that sounds like pulling a plant up and killing it). This includes you doing your bit too.

many thanks

Craig Cockburn

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