Dear BBC why oh Why oh Why

So this week the BBC launched their own smart phone Weather App I downloaded it and its very nice, it seems to work ok but can’t say I was blown away.

What I was more surprised with was that the BBC have made a Weather App at all. I’m not sure that its something the BBC should even be doing.

Let me explain,a few years ago there was this great project called Backstage that was an early project to open up web data and allow individuals to re-mix and re-interpret products and services.

The BBC provided access to xml feeds and APIs such as its weather and traffic data and encouraged people to play,learn and feed back.

I discovered the project quite late on in its life just as I was starting to learn some programming. it was the 1st time i had joined in with something that was real life and not a project out of a book or trivial academic exerscise and it was  a great learning experience.

At the time I used the Linux KDE3 desktop so I decided to make a desktop widget that would display a summary of the weather and the temperature. If I recall correctly it was done in python,  the biggest obstacle was dealing with the XML. It turned out that the BBC XML feed  was a real stinker putting the entire forecast,temperatures, wind strength etc into 1 tag. This meant i had to learn regular expressionsto be able to extract what I wanted, something that still fills me with dread every time I think i might have to use them.

So I built the Widget and it worked ok, although it tended to crash after a while and also the forecast location was hardcoded into it. Very soon KDE3 was replaced with KDE4 that used a different framework for its desktop widgets. Even though I was too shy to post my code anywhere for fear that it would be critiscised by what I considered to be the ‘proper programmers’ I did start to engage with the community and post to the mailing list occasionally.

So the project wound up and I moved on to other things, started to learn Java through the O.U (Tip: don’t its a massive waste of money) ,move onto Android(Tip: do) and dip my feet into various other technologies that  have taken my fancy.

So when the Weather App was Launched I was surprised that the BBC hadn’t learn’t a lesson from its own Backstage project and also looked at the world around them.   They led the way in opening up  data.  I would have much preferred them to offer something as groundbreaking again. What about encouraging hardware Internet of things type  projects, sensors  such as Thermodo or people running their own weather stations to feed data back to the BBC to improve their own data.

Don’t want to get all Point of View but come on BBC could do better.

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