Rupert Goodwins' Diary

Friday 20/1/2006A while ago, I mentioned that I'd helped a pal out with her iMP problems. iMP is the BBC's experimental broadband programming system, and it's ace.

Friday 20/1/2006

A while ago, I mentioned that I'd helped a pal out with her iMP problems. iMP is the BBC's experimental broadband programming system, and it's ace. I can say this with some confidence, as I've obtained an account on it myself.

I'm not a registered triallist though: the account came my way via a friend on another site, who got media access and then wondered what I'd make of it all. Access in this case involves having a user name and password, which get you onto a bit of the BBC's Web site where you can download the client software.

After using the software for a month, I have to report that it's fab. There's not that much content on it at the moment, but there's enough — it's like having a personal video recorder on your PC, but the system's at its best on a laptop. Set up a few series you want to watch on the electronic programme guide, let it harvest them in the background and you've got tons of telly to watch in bed, on the bus, on the plane, wherever. Stop by a hotspot or the works network, and you can top up. I've watched more TV in the last four weeks than I have in the year beforehand, and that's from a strictly limited selection.

However, I soon found that I was missing software updates. On Wednesday, my pal on the trial told me that there was a new version, so I went to download it — and then spotted on the download page an option to update my email address and password. Reasoning that the reason I didn't know what was going on was that the email alerts were going to the original email address, I changed that to my Gmail account — and changed the password for good measure. And thought no more about it.

Today, I get into work to find my editor keenly awaiting (They do this a lot, I find). "Could you call the BBC?" he said. "They say you've changed their password, and they're locked out." What, the whole BBC? Ooops.

It turned out that although the account I was using had been just another PR registration, events had promoted it. The trial had been scheduled to end a little while ago, but the powers that be decided to extend it: unfortunately, this meant that a lot of VIP accounts, including the ones that the press office was using, ran out. They had to move onto whatever spares they had — which included the one I'd been using. And today, they'd gone to upgrade the software on all their machines prior to a big demonstration… only to find some beast called rupertg@gmail had usurped their access.

I quickly reset things to the old account and phoned James at the BBC to apologise. He was extremely nice about it, and filled me in on what's happening next: trial to finish at the end of Feb, report to go up to various important people including the Ministry of Culture And Orwellian Matters, and the Governors. If they say 'OK' then there'll be a big launch of a major new service including live streamed video of all BBC channels and 7 day archive on demand, to be called MyBBC. So nothing certain, but with luck then 'the latter part of the year' should see iMP grow up to a gorilla of a service.

Can't wait. I'll miss iMP — although probably not as much as James did this morning.


Finally – congratulations to our comrades in ZDNet UK sister site for winning the Work Foundation's Online Workworld Award. The Work Foundation used to be called The Industrial Society, and it exists to improve working life around the country. Other award winners included the Today Programme, the Money Programme, and journalists from Dow Jones and the FT. Top notch result, chaps – certainly improved my working life today.