back to article Attack of the Digital People: The BBC goes fully Bong

Imagine this. At vast expense, the BBC launches a chain of launderettes - digital launderettes, that we shall call "BeebWash". Each BeebWash "space" (they love the word "space") would show BBC programmes and no doubt, "facilitate community engagement". So expansive and vague is the BBC's current Royal Charter, that BeebWash …

  1. Joe Harrison Silver badge

    So true

    That comment is absolutely spot on. Next time you meet a hand-waving 2.0 airhead just ask them innocently "Oh sounds great. So what does digital mean?" They go truly spare, especially if you imply that you too are part of the club by sharing with them that "my cooker has a digital clock thing" to demonstrate your own digital creds.

    I've hated these people since the 1990s when I was regularly powerpointed-at by wannabee grandees of the "Information Superhighway".

  2. gerryg

    Too big, too safe

    It's a strange thing, there's a lot of concern out there that [insert your least favourite private sector leviathan] is getting too big and that this cause problems for you, me, world peace and global warming

    However similar behaviour in the public sector tends to be treated differently and I've never understood why.

    If bad outcomes are caused by size then it seems irrelevant what those bad outcomes turn out to be (profits, too many bureaucrats, overpaid "talent", whatever)

    Anti-competitive practice in the public sector is loosely described as illegal state aid

    it's not as if the BBC hasn't been here before with its digital curriculum.

  3. Aristotles slow and dimwitted horse Silver badge

    Excellent

    It's exactly this kind of article that allows El Reg to win my lunchtime "browsing time".

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Excellent

      They always struggled winning my lunchtime browsing until my company introduced porn filters.

      I'm sure it was a Reg conspiracy....

  4. Bassey

    Contradictions

    I think you illustrate the Beebs main problem perfectly, by making the same mistake they seem to make. Firstly, you say the Beeb should " fill a void, providing news and programmes that the market won't make". And I agree, that is what it is there for. But then you say you "want it to...Broadcast, rather than narrowcast to niches".

    Surely this is something of a dichotomy. If something is of general, broad interest to the population then it is something the commercial channels will be making or, if they haven't thought of it yet, will want to make. After all, they want to sell advertising to as many people as possible. The voids, the gaps, the spaces in which you seem to believe the Beeb should be working are, by their very nature, niches.

    The Beeb does the same thing. It seems to judge it's own success by viewing figures and "reach" when you could almost make the opposite argument. Once a program or format becomes successful, the commercial operators will always copy it. Arguably, at this point, the Beeb has carried out its function and should stop and move onto something else.

    Why does the BBC, an organisation whose main function is to make programs nobody else makes, make Eastenders, a southern copy of Coronation St? Why is it allowed to bid for football rights when that uses public money to inflate the value of those rights which are then sold to the public? Why does it have two mainstream music radio stations?

    The BBC needs to be cut back hugely and should not be allowed to enter segments already catered for and should be forced to leave segments if it succeeds in creating new ones that come to be adequately served by the commercial operators.

  5. Danny 14 Silver badge

    Complete waste of fee money. The majority of these will become Frisbees or landfill, teachers wont know what to do with them. It is unlikely that support will exist in schools to plug your own devices in (majority of schools I visit are VGA rather than HDMI), a large chunk of parents will baulk at the idea of plugging a bare exposed board into their 50" TV.

    so what is the point? Don't get me wrong, I love little PCs, I have a PI and a PI2. My kids have rooted cheap Chinese android tablets and I show them how to flash roms, ADB and am slowly showing them scripting. But I doubt even a small minority of parent will be able to install Linux to the degree that it will do something good, let along program a multiline display.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      @Danny 14

      " The majority of these will become Frisbees or landfill, teachers wont know what to do with them."

      Which is good, as those who are interested will have a good supply scrounged from the numpties who think Digital skills is playing a game, usually where the skill is paying credits to achieve the next level.

      However some of the winners will be finding out what you can do when you have several microcontrollers and get them to communicate with each other.

      It's £5 FGS, like a parent giving their offspring a bit of what they pay for the license fee, as as you seem to think that's a waste, nothing's changed. If you want to talk waste it's the money spent on proprietary IT by the likes of BBC and Govt.

  6. nemenator

    Now really!

    At first look the Microbit looks a bit simple, like an Arduino. But there's a lot more- a 32bit ARM and bluetooth for over the air programming. And of course lots of blinkenlights. This is even cheaper than the board-du-jour the ESP8266. 5000 trainers will be needed to spread the gospel, Raspberry PI style,and the BBC is well suited to pull all this together.

  7. Am I Consing Yet?

    Post-Hutton BBC

    Fully agree that it would be preferable for the BBC to concentrate its efforts on numeracy or real literacy, but the Government has decided that all kids should be taught to code.

    It's been commented here many times in the past how cynical that policy is.

    But since Hutton, the BBC has to support the Government's policies, even if it might disagree with them. It's a sad state of affairs, but I don't think the BBC deserves most of the blame for it.

    1. Probie

      Re: Post-Hutton BBC

      Funnily, the last time I looked the BBC was not an outpost nor a sub department under the "Department for Education". (Quoted becuase i find it laughable to that the department educates).

      Whilst I agree with a level of support for government initiatives, please note the use of level. In this case five seconds on newbeat would be enough.

      It is well past time that the BBC went back to, forced, or realized (through epihpany) that its remit is for good quailty broadcastable programming, and not some quasi abortion of an orwellian branch of the government. Or to say it another way

      "FOR GODSAKE, please bring back programing on basic literacy, numeracy and science for children, teach them how to reason and learn and judge for themselves."

  8. Phil_Evans

    Yes, No

    A sign I think of the simplest possible denominator arrived at from too many, poorly connected and direction-less 'stakeholders' homogenising a solution that meets tiniest parts of everyone's agenda. A complicated way maybe of agreeing that we see the Beeb as a solution without a problem in this area.

    I would say, derived by young Auntie minds that don't want to offend the digitally stupid (if there are any) and regarding anything more ambitious as patronising (or more likely beyond their own capacities). Docker, Quantum Machines, Bio-comp, IOT could be some of the more dry matters on the agenda. Less of Stephen Fry's angst of Twitter and Grannies with Oculus rifts.

    But I suspect it's actually the Beeb setting their own rather esoteric and largely irrelevant agenda that estimates we all think in Fisher-Price blocks of logic and need to be preached to accordingly.

    Good article.

  9. Admiral Grace Hopper
    Thumb Up

    "fully Bong"

    I like that. The Bong should be the unit of project stupidity, Impossible.com would be fully Bong, Universal Credit 0.85 Bong, and so on down to something completely unBong such as PGP.

    1. Uncle Slacky Silver badge
      Stop

      Re: "fully Bong"

      Never go full Bong...

      1. Swarthy Silver badge
        Paris Hilton

        Re: "fully Bong"

        "Fully Bong" + "Drinking the kool-aid" = "Drinking the Bong water"?

        That would explain so much...

  10. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    The BBC, dont get me started....

    1. BBC News, aka Ground Hog Day

    2. Time. Really amazing as the 'owners' of Dr Who, a Time Lord, they fail miserably to get their programs started on time.

    3. Website oh how we love all those trackers and surveys to show how wonderful we are.

    FFIFOTTP

  11. Montague Wanktrollop

    If you have been affected by the events in this article please call...........

  12. Jason Bloomberg Silver badge

    Whose initiative?

    It seems to me it is primarily a government aspiration to get people coding and developing. With the BBC in a position to deliver it would be rather remiss of them not to jump on that bandwagon to demonstrate the benefits of public broadcasting.

  13. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    would a digital person know...

    what map, filter and fold are?

    Come to think of it would an oo programmer know?

    :)

    1. NotMyRealName
      Happy

      Re: would a digital person know...

      I'm a vaguely digital person, having tinkered with computers a bit. So I know "what map, filter and fold are".

      Map: a book thingy (AA paper version c. 1999) that you dig out when GPS goes on the blink.

      Filter: a thingy that removes spammy stuff in email. Or, often more effectively, grounds in coffee.

      Fold: what you must NOT do to thingies which have to be digitally-scanned later.

    2. sed gawk

      Re: would a digital person know...

      It might help if you called them by their more common aliases in which ever dialect you are referring to.

      In c++ land, we pronounce "map" as "std::transform", "filter" trips off the tongue as "std::remove_if"

      and "fold" is "std::accumulate"

      Many an c++ dev makes heavy usage of functional concepts without the baggage of forced immutability.

  14. IHateWearingATie

    Hmmmm

    Is this kind of malarky well paid? If so it sounds like the kind of indoors, easy to do, hard to measure work that I like to be involved in. Time ot polish the CV

    I find myself thinking that Wally from Dilbert really has the right approach more and more each day.

  15. Jim 59

    Beeb

    You have done it this time Orlowski. Clarkson is on his way round, and he hasn't had his dinner.

  16. Tromos

    The last people we need...

    ...running the country's IT education are the Apple fan club.

  17. codejunky Silver badge

    Careful

    I am sure you will now receive the wrath of the BBC cult! I doubt their tune will have changed by this topic when it hasnt for the many before.

    However from me- Thumbs up

  18. MattW99

    W1A?

    Have the Twenty Twelve / W1A script writers been put in charge of this laughable idea?

  19. Warm Braw Silver badge

    Why not teach us something useful?

    There are many reasons to criticise the BBC, but you have to be sorry for them when presented with the "why do they not do X?" question.

    Because if X is popular there will be complaints that it should be done on a commercial basis and if it's unpopular there will be complaints about it being done at all.

    In this case, I think the punters are no longer prepared to devote their full attention to a TV screen for more than a few minutes at a time and any broadcast attempt at "worthy" education is doomed to failure.

    Now, whether the BBC would be better putting its resources into doing more education online (where all its language courses, for example, are described as "archived"), rather than attempting to breathe digital life into BBC 3, is another matter...

  20. knarf

    Gravy train

    You must admit it would be a great gravy train to get on, you don't even have to show it works, could work or even provide results..... just howl "think of the children"

    Most of those micrbits will end up on ebay or in the soles of their parents feet.

  21. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    "The Register asked the BBC's comms department how much "Make It Digital" would cost, whether BBC Trust approval was needed (as it is for initiatives costing over £50m), and if it was, whether approval had been sought. We have yet to hear a reply."

    Of course you haven't heard a reply; they're still working out how to count to fifty.

  22. Steve Crook

    House of Fail

    Take a Raspi, some of the available commercial components and distributions, create a few more to fill gaps if needed. Mix the lot together with a series of TV/WEB programmes that provide the detail on how to write the code that interfaces w, x, y to get a working z.

    FFS they could have gone to the Raspi foundation and handed them £10m to produce packaged kits. But no, like any monopoly, the BBC only sees good in things it has complete control over.

    It's about time they stopped looking back at the BBC micro. It was a different world with different rules.

  23. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    The BBC can do this kind of thing pretty well when they're not being railroaded by vested interests - compare this scheme with the BBC Performing Arts Fund (which is financed by the telephone voting income from BBC TV shows).

  24. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    A slight correction

    I thought the saing wnet "If you can't do, teach. And if you can't do or teach, become a journalist"

  25. Boris the Cockroach Silver badge
    Thumb Down

    Trouble is

    IT is'nt just coding or using an office app, no matter what some egos may think

    IT is about being able to come up with a solution to today's problem in your tech area.

    We have a robot that somehow loses position during the day resulting in a re-boot every so often, is it a coding problem? nope..but its still an IT problem because the mechanics are fine.so it must be IT

    The thing is... a lot of kids are not suitable coders, if this project finds the 1 in 10 000 kids who are suited to it , then fine, but then it will put off the kids I need for robot fixing from ever doing IT ever again.

    Perhaps a better method would be teaching the kids the STEM skills they really need, and allowing them to find their own way in life rather than having this coding stuff forced down their throats.

  26. d-type

    bbc + digital = fail

    this all comes in the month that BBC turned off the digital ip streams that so many of their audience relied upon. They assumed everybody has an iDevice.

    1. TheProf

      Re: bbc + digital = fail

      Or a web browser. It works with web browsers. You should try it.

      1. Pete 2 Silver badge

        Re: bbc + digital = fail

        > It works with web browsers. You should try it.

        Correction. It works occasionally with web browsers (I use, or used, this for Radio 2, straight off the website). However, it frequently drops the stream or halts with the message "this content is no longer available".

      2. Graham Dawson

        Re: bbc + digital = fail

        Because internet radio appliances are known to have a built-in web browser...

  27. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Re. bbc + digital = fail

    (Gets the salt)

    Damn you Sneaky Uncle Beeb, Damn you to Hell. Extra hot Hell with lashings of plutonium hexafluoride rain for good measure.

    (hopes that a medium sized asteroid takes out Television Centre very, very soon)

    1. Jean Le PHARMACIEN

      Re: Re. bbc + digital = fail

      Unfortunately for you, they've left the old Television Centre and moved to the newly 'Digital'ised (is that word permissible?) Broadcasting House...

      1. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

        Re: Re. bbc + digital = fail

        "moved to the newly 'Digital'ised (is that word permissible?) Broadcasting House..."

        That's only a temporary location. They are currently designing their new home, Digital Multicasting Mansion.

  28. keithpeter
    Windows

    Fibonacci

    "One Reg reader we're aware of, with a distinguished software career in household-name tech companies, teaches 10 year olds Fibonacci sequences after hours."

    Good for him/her. But the Fibonacci sequence is just one topic, although one that threads a huge range of maths (Google Ron Knot's Fibonacci page). Any other topics needed? I'd recommend Adam Spencer's Big Book of Numbers for around 100 starter ideas.

    My own view is that we need less targets and more teaching in education (but then, I am a teacher, and therefore suspect).

    Go

    1. Flatpackhamster

      Re: Fibonacci

      Fewer. Fewer targets. Not less targets.

      I hope your'e not in charge of grammer and spolling teeching.

      1. DavCrav Silver badge

        Re: Fibonacci

        "Fewer. Fewer targets. Not less targets."

        Not necessarily. If by 'targets' the OP meant the culture of targets, rather than the discrete list of them, 'less' would be right.

        1. unitron
          Headmaster

          Re: Fibonacci

          Then the OP should have said "we need less of the 'culture of targets'...".

          Targets are discrete, countable units. You have more of them or you have fewer of them or the number of them is unchanged.

          1. DavCrav Silver badge

            Re: Fibonacci

            "Targets are discrete, countable units. You have more of them or you have fewer of them or the number of them is unchanged."

            Oh, you want to be a pedant, do you? I claim that targets are neither discrete nor countable. As a proof, I must demonstrate an uncountable continuous region of targets. I take 'the pass rate must be n%' as my region. Firstly, since percentages are real numbers this yields uncountably many targets, so your first point is wrong. Secondly, I can place a natural topology on this space homeomorphic to the interval [0, 1] under the usual topology, so the space of targets is naturally non-discrete.

        2. keithpeter
          Childcatcher

          Re: Fibonacci

          @DavCrav

          Many thanks.

          @The others: please, for the sake of the children, pay attention to the content rather than the form of messages from the chalkface. There are 500,000+ of us and I would be the first to admit that we cannot all complete the Times crossword before breakfast.

          There are certainly gramatical errors, typographical errors, and even numerical errors to be found in the 1,107 LibreOffice files I produced in the academic year 2013/14. My work was fit for purpose judging by the pass rate last summer.

  29. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    what's with all the BBC bashing on here?

    Not sure what's with all the BBC rants on the Reg these days. Love a lot of the BBC programming. Don't see why it should only make niche programs. - only it's rivals will benefit from that. BBC should keep making a great mix of programmes that entertain, amuse and, if they must, educate. Not bad for 40p a day. Have a many more objections on how a hell of a lot more tax money is spent. If the BBC want to do a bit of marketing/educating/cross-promotion I don't see what the big fuss is - especially as it doesn't seem to be costing fee payers anything. Some people seem to be proponents of the idea that public services must be rubbish otherwise it's unfair on the competition. Well, I don't know what that says about the competition or the tax payers.

    1. Boris the Cockroach Silver badge
      Happy

      You are

      Stephen Fry and I claim my £10

  30. Pete 2 Silver badge

    Omit the remit, dammit

    > So expansive and vague is the BBC's current Royal Charter, that BeebWash would actually tick all its boxes (not only the "mission to inform, educate and entertain", obviously, but also "sustaining citizenship and civil society") and happily sit within the corporation's remit.

    I have the sneaking suspicion that whoever wrote the BBC charter naturally assumed that the phrase " ... by making programmes and broadcasting them " was such a blindingly obvious limit to the scope of the British Broadcasting Corporation's charter that it simply did not need to be explicitly stated.

    However, the BBC has always had a penchant for jumping on trendy bandwagons (sometimes even creating them, then jumping on). When it involves something that few of their "customers" understand, then it allows them to go into full patronising mode, too. As well as collecting "charter" brownie points to make up for all the crap they push out, which clearly has no (positive) charter content, at all.

    But it is just that: a bandwagon. The BBC has many more influential ways to promote "digital" stuff. The most effective, cheapest and least popular with its management and programme makers would be to present "techies" in a positive light. Have someone on Eastenders who does more than argue in cliches with the other characters and (say) gives them advice on how to fix their PC, or load apps onto their phone, or scan for viruses. They could even have programmes (gasp!) that don't ghettoise "geeks" by either assuming a set of interests, being banished to obscure channels and times (e.g. Click), talking to people as if they were 8 years old and limiting each "segment" to a sound-bite friendly couple of minutes - with all the annoying electronic background music that is used to inform us that this is a technical subject, and the worn-old theme of a literal "journey" of discovery.

  31. Naughtyhorse

    Bong is as Bong does...

    so full of contradictions...

    Are you really pissed off about the beeb's latest favourite buzzword, or pissed off that you didn't think of it first?

    a genuine question, by the way

  32. ecofeco Silver badge

    Is this the same BBC?

    Is this the same BBC that also has a rather poorly organized website?

    Oh. The. Irony.

  33. David Ringrose

    In case anyone is less than impressed by blithe assertions about the usefulness of DG CONNECT, you can check out what we actually do here http://ec.europa.eu/dgs/connect/en/what-we-do

    Needless to say that the Digital Agenda ( http://ec.europa.eu/digital-agenda ) pre-dates the BBC's "Make it Digital" initiative by about 5 years, so comparisons are not exactly germane.

  34. LukieLew

    Great article, as usual. Although I do think that projects like the Raspberry Pi, Arduino, etc are needed to teach kids more about programming and electronics. I don't have kids, but when I do I'd rather they were building and programming electronic devices than browsing social media and playing video games when spending time in front of a computer screen.

    I don't know a huge amount about this BBC project, so don't know how effective it might be, but I do get the feeling that it's largely political, and partly designed to prop up the government's crappy spending in our education system.

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