A quick nod towards today’s New Opportunities (micro)site, in support of the white paper on Social Mobility. Most of it is fairly straightforward, ‘pages in a hierarchy’ stuff; well done, certainly, but nothing particularly special. There are a few points definitely worthy of note, though.
One is the root address: www.hmg.gov.uk – one of many domains pointing to the Cabinet Office’s webserver. It’s a very odd choice indeed; and somewhat ironic, given that the earliest government domains were hmg.gb. Presumably it’s because of the cross-departmental nature of the initiative itself; that would also explain the use of that lesser-spotted HM Government logo.
Another is the inclusion of Flash-based streaming video, direct from the host site itself – as opposed to the usual embedded-from-YouTube method. It’s quite a timely move, given COI new recruit Ross Ferguson’s reflections on that very subject this morning. Here’s one embedded example…
Streaming your own video can get expensive: at respectable quality, that’s a lot of data eating up your monthly bandwidth allocation. But I suppose the DIY approach means you can customise the appearance, see the usage stats, and (crucially in this case, I suspect) get around corporate IT networks’ blocking of YouTube et al.
Then there’s the ‘social media press release‘, which proclaims: ‘We want to encourage debate online and offline about the issues raised in this document, and have made the following resources available for bloggers and journalists to use within their own coverage of the White Paper.’ In practice that means a bullet-point summary, a dozen streamed videos for easy embedding, plus links to external resources and external coverage. It’s a nice package.
To be honest though, I’m not sure the fluffy ‘ordinary people’ video content is right for this sort of thing. I don’t see why anyone would want to include these case studies in their coverage. Surely you’d have a better chance with some pieces to camera from insiders / experts / Ministers? (Not that those are ideal, necessarily…)
As for ‘social mobility for bloggers’ – well, it’s always amused me how easy it is to get yourself some profile in this business. If you can crank out a half-decent blog, people will find you, and your name will become known. There aren’t that many people talking about the subjects I cover here. There’s no magic recipe: just demonstrate that you know your subject, and it’ll pay off. But that’s enough career advice from me… 🙂
Steve Herrman, writing on the BBC’s Editors blog, is absolutely right: the move to video embedded on the page is ‘quite a significant moment’ for the Beeb’s website. Except that, judging by the first visible example, it’s got issues. It’s either failing to buffer, or returning an error message.
As explained in more detail on the Internet blog, the move to Flash video means faster processing for them, better quality for international users, and better usability for everyone. Clips will all have their own ‘permalink’ pages on the site, which makes for easier linking – but if you’re thinking of embedding clips on your own site, you’ll be disappointed.
It’s a welcome improvement from the Beeb: the News site’s use of video was starting to look ridiculously dated, when compared to the iPlayer… or indeed, to competitors like Sky, who went down this route almost a year ago. But I think Sky still has the edge in terms of usability. The Beeb’s pages already feel too long to me; I doubt many people ever read to the bottom of a story. By embedding video at the top of the page, as they seem to be doing, it pushes the text content even further down. Sky’s ‘rich sidebar’ treatment gives the best of both worlds.
I’ve written before about Deezer.com, the French ‘so good it can’t be legal’ jukebox website. Search for a song, click on the play button and er, that’s it. The music is encoded and uploaded by users, and streamed via Flash by the site… so you can’t download (er, exactly). Sound quality can be variable, but the reality is astonishing.
The v2 site has another great addition: web-based permalinks. So if you ever wanted to point someone to a specific recording of a specific song, now you can. Click the link, the song plays, the advertisers pay. By way of example: here’s Page & Plant’s live, unplugged version of Kashmir, which compares more than favourably with the Led Zep original… and comes with an extra 50% free.