See, this is what you can do when you’ve got lots of information, all properly tagged and structured. The BBC’s new /topics pages are entirely automated, and pull together content from across their online offerings – iPlayer, the News site, weather, /programmes – into a nicely presented ‘everything we know about X’ page. A modest 66 topics to start with, by my calculation, but the promise of many more. Try these examples: NHS, Gordon Brown, Liechtenstein. (And check out the pretty addressing, too.)
Over on the BBC Internet Blog, Matthew McDonnell explains how it uses ‘a variety of search techniques to create feeds of the latest BBC content’. I’m guessing a lot of it is down to a subject taxonomy, or free-text search for certain keywords. However it works, its beauty is encapsulated by this section:
Because the overhead involved in maintaining these pages is so low, we can cover many more subjects than we could using traditionally edited pages which had to be manually updated by a human being. As the feeds used in /topics are automatic, we can be confident that all the pages are bang up-to-date.
In many respects, this is the ‘holy grail’ of every taxonomy project. Well done to the BBC for actually making it happen; although it’s likely to encourage others to attempt to follow suit. And most will fail. (Yes they will.) And for the future?
We want to include high quality content from outside the BBC to enhance our pages. We’ll be working on providing feeds of news and blogs from sources other than the BBC. Yes, feeds [for you to build into your own website] will be available soon.
It’s genuinely brilliant: can we call it a hybrid of Wikipedia and Wikinews, with the added benefit of trusted editorial oversight? Just please, don’t try it at home.