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Good old Kingswood Warren

October 27, 2008

We’re a lucky bunch at the BBC. At least I always think so whenever I explain to friends and associates outside the corporation about how BBC Redux works. “It’s like iPlayer but without the seven day time limit. It’s got an amazing back catalogue of programmes radio and TV” I beam with a predictable air of smugness.

The people I tell always gasp in amazement. “The disk space must be massive. How big is it ? Oh and .. can I get a login to use it?”

The answer to the latter question is no. It’s a BBC only thing – or at least as far as I am aware it is. The former question however, is accurately responded to in Brandon Butterworth’s BBC Internet Blog posting.

Butterworth is King Technologist down in leafy Kingswood Warren and is something of a hero even if he’s not aware of it. When I started working at Red Bee Media as a webmaster I sat next to what was then considered to be the oldest webmaster in the world, a man called George. Approaching retirement, the lovely George would frequently go on flights of fancy talking about how the BBC homepage used to look when he started working on the web. These recollections would always end up with a reference to Brandon Butterworth and how the domain registration for bbc.co.uk was kicked off. How it was Brandon Butterworth’s name on the form – apparently. 

George would speak in such glowing terms about this relatively recent BBC online history that my simple heart would translate the recollections as something of a quaint memory and turn Mr Butterworth into something of a legend. Ridiculous, I know. I am a sentimental old queen at heart.

I’ve never been to Kingswood Warren but always hear people speak highly of it. In my imagination it’s the kind of place where all the important and ultimately vital research necessary for broadcasting developments is carried out. There are no bells and whistles, no designers sticking their oar in about guidelines and pixels and fitting to the grid. It’s just good, honest research which delivers what it says on the tin.

Of course, all of this may need to be hastily rewritten if I ever actually venture down there on a visit. (There was a departmental away day based there a few months ago dedicated to staff bonding – I declined it, convinced I was sociable enough in the workplace without having to go somewhere else to bond with colleagues).

I use Redux nearly every day in my work. It’s reliable. It’s thorough. It’s simple. And, most important of all, it’s interface belies what I perceive to be the complex processes and systems required to deliver such an invaluable resource. Those of us who scan the BBC’s output looking for ideas and checking to see which of those ideas have already been executed rely on a resource such as this.  It’s the kind of thing – especially the interface – which is so utterly perfect (for me, at least) that I don’t want anyone to tinker with it.

In short, BBC Redux is VERY BBC.

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