It’s not my job to tell the BBC what to do, says politician telling BBC what to do

There’s been a BBC climbdown over removing 11,000 recipes from the internet. Now, just the links to them will be obliterated, with the bulk of the recipes moving across to BBC Good Food, so that the main BBC website doesn’t compete with commercial companies that freak out at the prospect of actually having to make something good, diverse, reasonably ad-free and usable.

According to the Guardian’s article on all this, culture secretary John Whittingdale, who told the BBC what to do, attempted to distance himself from what was going on: “It’s not my job to tell the BBC whether [or not] to broadcast The Voice, or Strictly Come Dancing or indeed to put recipes up on its website,” he told a conference in London. “We have said firstly that the BBC needs to be more distinctive. And also it has to be sensitive to its market impact and not be directly going out of its way to compete with commercial offerings,” thereby essentially telling the BBC whether [or not] to broadcast The Voice, or Strictly Come Dancing or indeed to put recipes up on its website, just like he did before in the White Paper that essentially told the BBC whether [or not] to broadcast The Voice, or Strictly Come Dancing or indeed to put recipes up on its website.

May 18, 2016. Read more in: Politics

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iTunes shuffles deckchairs again

It’s funny to think that iTunes was once a focussed piece of software. In an age of media players with a million windows, iTunes was a breath of fresh air. Now, it’s a bloated mess, due to being forced to do too much.

As Kirk McElhearn notes, iTunes 12.4 has some improvements, some which are focussed on navigation. The best of them is back/forward arrows/shortcuts, which now work across the entire app. Bafflingly, though, each media type does not remember its state, instead switching to the equivalent used elsewhere without your say-so.

For example, if I’m my ‘My Music’ in Music and then visit Apps and click App Store, my assumption as a user would be that on returning to Music, I’d still see My Music. Instead, iTunes thinks “well, you’re in the store already, so how about I show you loads of music you can buy?” via the iTunes Store tab. This despite me having never clicked the iTunes Store tab. THANKS, APPLE!

As someone who flits back and forth between App Store and Music, this is infuriating, but at least a couple of stabs on Cmd+[ now makes the process slightly less awful. Ironically, this would all be solved if I could have an extra window.

May 17, 2016. Read more in: Apple, Opinions

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iOS 9.3.2 fixes Game Center, bricks iPad Pros

So iOS 9.3.2 has arrived, in a flurry of news. MacRumors states that some iPad Pros are getting bricked by it (and I’ve heard a few people saying the same about iPhones). As always, back-up your devices prior to upgrading, not only to iCloud but also iTunes.

From a personal standpoint, assuming all my devices don’t get bricked, I’m looking forward to using Game Center again. I’ve been writing about Game Center for a while, and it had been broken for a great many users since the tail end of the iOS 8 cycle last summer. It sprang into life again in the iOS 9.3.2 betas (due, I’m reliably informed, to someone actually working on it rather than Apple essentially ignoring it).

Naturally, then, because Apple cares so much about Game Center and games, the fact iOS 9.3.2 fixes Game Center isn’t even mentioned in the release notes.

May 17, 2016. Read more in: News

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The day BBC Food died

So it begins. The BBC Food website is to be axed. 11,000 recipes on a usable, inclusive website are to vanish, because Tories have been convinced by their rich friends that competition is only acceptable when the BBC is out of the running, and that the BBC Food website apparently is too dominant (i.e. not rubbish).

According to the BBC, scrapping the website is part of a plan to cut £15m from the corporation’s online budget, even though leaving the website up would cost naff-all. Furthermore, a BBC source stated:

What we do has to be high quality, distinctive, and offer genuine public value. While our audiences expect us to be online, we have never sought to be all things to all people and the changes being announced will ensure that we are not.

This is a rocky road the BBC is heading down — being forced to head down. The Conservatives would prefer at most for the BBC to become a broadcaster of last resort — a small PBS-style outfit that only creates content that others cannot or will not. Now, it’s being urged to not compete with other terrestrial broadcasters in prime-time slots, to pare back its website, and to focus on more niche fare.

We’ve seen this play out before. In a few years, Conservatives will be slamming the BBC for not having enough TV audience share/overall website users to justify the licence fee. The BBC will be told it is a broadcaster that’s supposed to cater for everyone, but now it’s only serving the few. And it’ll be ordered to pivot accordingly. Rinse and repeat.

All the while, the general public — still largely pro-BBC — will gradually get increasingly irritated by the corporation, and see less value in the licence fee. If enough people are hoodwinked, there’ll be a call for it to be scrapped entirely. And Rupert Murdock will crack an evil grin, while figuring out how he can somehow close down The Guardian and The Mirror.

Update: As Tom Pride notes, Murdoch has a couple of recipe sites waiting to launch. I can’t imagine that had anything to do with getting the BBC to scrap its recipe website, and also only have future recipes online for 30 days.

May 17, 2016. Read more in: Politics, Television

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Instagram’s new logo: about fitting in, not thinking different

The Guardian reports on Instagram’s new logo. I’m not going to comment on the specifics of the design — there are far more qualified writers for doing that kind of thing. What disappoints me, though, is any sense of individuality has been eroded from the icon, in a desire to ‘fit in’.

instagram logo

I recently wrote a piece about inspiring icon design (yet to be published), and praised Instagram:

Thumbing its nose to Jony Ive, Instagram’s icon remains resolutely old-school (as far as an app icon can be), suiting its retro nature. Even if it sticks out a bit, the icon may stand the test of time better than minimal rivals.

As of now, this is no longer the case. Instagram’s icon is yet another slice of flat design. It doesn’t look distinct, now resembling dozens of other camera app icons.

Two blog posts outline the reasoning for the changes. The new logo apparently intends to reflect the evolution of the service and “how vibrant and diverse your storytelling has become”, while “staying true to Instagram’s heritage and spirit”. Notably, the company argues that it wanted to

create a look that would represent the community’s full range of expression — past, present, and future.

It certainly succeeds on the present, in that Instagram’s logo now looks much like any other app logo in this era of flat design with occasional gradient use. But it’s largely jettisoned Instagram’s past (suggesting the gradient recalls the old logo’s rainbow is a stretch). As for the future, I suspect Instagram will find itself redesigning again once the next interface design evolution takes hold.

May 12, 2016. Read more in: Design

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