One of the things I’ve always found that makes watching television online more special than watching it … well on a television, is the social aspect of it.
The ability to watch with a group of people and talk about it while it was happening – I did it with the Eurovision song contest on Twitter and again more recently with #bbcqt (Question Time) as well.
This social element makes for a much more enjoyable, and in fact worthwhile experience – especially when you have no shared televisual interests with your wife!
Where a show requires, or warrents more concentration – like Top Gear – there is still the social element of going to the message board, or Twitter and finding out what other people thought of the show, share what you thought about the show and then join the with the overal melee.
The first of these two social video approaches is the simplest to discuss. Basically you all agree to watch the show as it goes out on television or at the same time on demand and talk about it while it is happening.
But the second can be a little more complicated. OK so you can write about something that happened and then share your thoughts on that moment – but what about people that haven’t seen it yet (outside the UK, watching on demand) but still want to get an overview?
Or if you say ‘don’t look here unless you want to be spoiled’ it would still be nice to have a more visual link to something that happened – screen grabs help and in an age before heavy duty BBC takedowns – so did YouTube – but both require a fair amount of effort and technical knowledge.
Well now there is a simpler way. The ever increasingly brilliant (partly because of the speed they can get changes through on a BBC product, partly because of the product itself) iPlayer team have added another cool feature to the on demand system.
They’re allowing you to deep link to an exact point within a programme without having to tell your mates on that message board “yeah go to this url and scan through about 25 minutes in.”
Instead you can send them a url, and in fact a BBC short url (no need for bit.ly or tinyurl) that includes a timestamp that will then open the iPlayer video at that exact point.
I know this has been available for YouTube videos for a fair while now but the fact that the BBC have made it happen in the iPlayer really is something to celebrate.
It really is very simple. iPlayer boss Anthony Rose said: “To use this new functionality, just click the Programme Information link below the video playback window in iPlayer to reveal the new Send to a Friend options.”
And of the Short URL system he went on to say: “We created our own “short URL” system to save you the trouble of having to use a 3rd-party service, and also to ensure that your users see a trusted bbc.co.uk link instead of one of those obfuscated short URLs that could take you anywhere.”
Aside from the ‘highlight’ of a programme on a message board for discussion, another area were it really is interesting is when it comes to music.
For example during the festival season I’d be able to write about an amazing (or piss poor) performance of a band and give you a link directly to that performance in the bigger video.
In fact I have a prime example. the BBC Three Intimate stage at T in the Park this year included performances from Franz Ferdinand, Little Boots, ting Tings, Glasvegas and Doves.
I want to share the Doves performance with you so I can give you a time stamp, you can click it and it will play on the iPlayer from that point – in face 8m42s.
What I haven’t worked out yet is how to embed iPlayer video with a timestamp so instead have a need to embed the entirity of that 55 minute long T In the Park video – well worth watching in full though.
UPDATE: I managed to work out how to embed to start at a specific timestamp you just need to put ?t=8m42s after the human readable part of the URL path.
I’ll try and incorporate a timestamp element into the PIP embed code tool when I get time.
The function will also be coming to radio eventual. Anthony Rose: “The new direct link functionality is available at the moment for iPlayer TV programmes. We hope to add support for radio as soon as we can.”
I’ll break down the short URL for you as well while I’m here – as they’ve designed the thing to be human readable, as they have with the new, longer main iPlayer URLS.
So what you’re sending someone is http://bbc.co.uk/i/lpm89/?t=15m14s
So lets get rid of the bbc bit and look at everything after /i/ (which is obviously the iPlayer bit). The first bit is the PIP in a shortened version – basically ditching the b00 of the full URL and isntead leaving you with lpm89.
then you have the timestamp and it is about as simple as they could have made it. t= (time equals) 15m (minutes) and 14s (seconds) or the bit where Tom Reilly is on.
On the subject of social television viewing – I’m going to write something about the new 4ip product – Test Tube Telly – at some point later this week when I’ve had a chance to play with it properly.
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