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Building on the Beeb
Jamais Cascio, 21 May 05

backstage.jpgOf all of the various news sources we link to at WorldChanging, undoubtedly the most frequently-linked is the BBC. If you follow the BBC News website, you'll understand -- the coverage breadth is phenomenal, the perspective is global, and the archives are available more-or-less in perpetuity. One could develop a reasonable sense of what the future may hold simply from reading the BBC Technology and Science/Nature sections on a daily basis.

And now, one can develop a whole lot more.

BBC Backstage is a new effort to make visible and available the underlying news feeds and programming interfaces for the BBC website, with the explicit goal of providing them for non-commercial use by the rest of the world. Links for text, radio and video are available; the usage restrictions boil down to (a) you can't resell the content, and (b) you can't remove the BBC branding from it. The slogan for BBC Backstage is "User Our Stuff To Build Your Stuff," and they seem to mean it.

But the BBC Backstage website is more than a simple listing of feeds and APIs. Users are encouraged to submit links to their prototyped work and to offer up ideas for others to work on. It's very much a collaborative atmosphere -- there are already dozens of prototypes and ideas up already, awaiting (and usually receiving) comments and suggestions. Some of them are really useful and interesting; a few good examples are a newsmap of BBC headlines (more detailed than the News Map site we linked to last week), an automated "Podcast" of BBC World News text as synthesized speech, and something called "mint" (mint is not text) -- a tool to download, merge and index video clips from a distributed source for video blogging use.

And, of course, there are RSS feeds for all of the channels: news about Backstage, new ideas, new prototypes, and a combined feed.

Let the news mash-ups begin!

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