Use of Semantic Web technologies on the BBC
Web Sites
Yves Raimond, Tom Scott, Silver Oliver, Patrick Sinclair and Michael Smethurst
Abstract The BBC publishes large amounts of content online, as text, audio and
video. As the amount of content grows, we need to make it easy for users to locate
items of interest and to draw coherent journeys across them. In this chapter, we
describe our use of Semantic Web technologies for achieving this goal. We focus
in particular on three BBC Web sites: BBC Programmes, BBC Music and BBC
Wildlife Finder, and how those Web sites effectively use the wider Web as their
Content Management System.
1 Introduction
The BBC is the largest broadcasting corporation in the world. Central to its mission
is to enrich peoples lives with programmes that inform, educate and entertain. It is
a public service broadcaster, established by a Royal Charter and funded, in part, by
Yves Raimond
British Broadcasting Corporation, Broadcasting House, Portland Place, London, United Kingdom
Tom Scott
British Broadcasting Corporation, Broadcasting House, Portland Place, London, United Kingdom,
Silver Oliver
British Broadcasting Corporation, Broadcasting House, Portland Place, London, United Kingdom
Patrick Sinclair
British Broadcasting Corporation, Broadcasting House, Portland Place, London, United Kingdom
Michael Smethurst
British Broadcasting Corporation, Broadcasting House, Portland Place, London, United Kingdom
Yves Raimond, Tom Scott, Silver Oliver, Patrick Sinclair and Michael Smethurst
the licence fee that is paid by UK households. The BBC uses the income from the
licence fee to provide public services including 8 national TV channels plus regional
programming, 10 national radio stations, 40 local radio stations and an extensive
website, .
1.1 Linking microsites for cross-domain navigation
The BBC publishes large amounts of content online, as text, audio and video. His-
torically the website has focused largely on supporting broadcast brands (e.g. Top
Gear) and a series of domain-specific sites (e.g. news, food, gardening, etc.). That
is, the focus has been on providing separate, standalone HTML sites designed to be
accessed with a desktop Web browser. These sites can be very successful, but tend
not to link together, and so are less useful when people have interests that span pro-
gramme brands or domains. For example, we can tell you who presents Top Gear,
but not what else those people have presented. As a user it is very difficult to find
everything the BBC has published about any given subject, nor can you easily navi-
gate across BBC domains following a particular semantic thread. For example, until
recently you weren’t able to navigate from a page about a programme to a page
about an artist played in that programme.
This lack of cross linking has also limited the type of user interaction the BBC
is able to offer, for example, it is a complex piece of work to recontextualise con-
tent designed for one purpose (e.g. a programme web site) for another purpose or to
extract the underlying data and visualize it in a new or different way. This has been
because of a lack of integration at a data level and a lack of semantically meaning-
ful predicates making it difficult to repurpose and represent data within a different
1.2 Making data available to developers
The BBC, since 2005 through its Backstage project 1 , has made ‘feeds’ (mainly RSS)
available for third party developers to build non-commercial mash-ups. However,
these feeds suffer from the same or similar issues to the microsites namely they lack
interlinking. That is, it is possible to get a feed of latest news stories but it is not
easy to segment that data into news stories about ‘Lions’. Nor is it possible to query
the data to extract the specific data required.
Use of Semantic Web technologies on the BBC Web Sites
1.3 Making use of the wider Web
Developing internal Content Management Systems is expensive, both in terms of ed-
itorial staff required to add and curate data into them, and in terms of development
and integration costs. A tremendous amount of community-curated data is available
on the Web, which can be used to make our sites richer, either by providing a nav-
igation backbone (e.g. Musicbrainz 2 for BBC Music) or by enhancing our pages
with relevant information (e.g. Wikipedia 3 for BBC Music). Also, by involving our
editorial staff in those community-curated datasets, we make sure the community at
large benefit from our use of the data.
2 Programme support on the Web
When commissioning hand-crafted programme web sites for specific broadcast
brands, only a small subset of programme can be covered. Hence, until recently,
only the major BBC brands had a web presence on the BBC web site. Even between
programmes that had a corresponding web site commissioned, the disparity in terms
of programme support was high. Some programmes would have a very detailed web
site, with for example information about cast and crew, about the fictional universe
in which the programme takes place, etc. Some other programmes would just have
a single web page with upcoming broadcast dates.
As the BBC broadcasts between 1,000 and 1,500 programmes a day, this meant
that historically the long tail of programming didn’t get any web presence. Hand-
crafted web sites are also harder to maintain and they therefore often got forgotten
and left unmaintained, or even removed. This meant that when referring to a partic-
ular programme from other content on the BBC web site, no persistent link could
be used.
As new platforms become ubiquitous (mobile, game consoles, etc.), so the BBC
web sites also needed to provide a coherent offering across those platforms. How-
ever, without a single, common source of integrated data and an efficient publishing
mechanism this increase in platforms could result in a parallel and unsustainable
increase in effort.
Hand-crafting programme web sites is inefficient - there is a limited amount of
code reuse between sites but it is not only expensive in terms of actual expenditure,
but also in terms of opportunity costs. The time spent writing HTML files is lost,
and you can’t spend it on developing new features or otherwise improving the site
for its users.
Yves Raimond, Tom Scott, Silver Oliver, Patrick Sinclair and Michael Smethurst
2.1 BBC Programmes
BBC Programmes 4 launched in Summer 2007 to address these issues. It provides a
persistent web identifier for every programme the BBC broadcasts. Each web iden-
tifier has multiple content-negotiated representations, ensuring that a coherent offer-
ing is proposed across multiple devices (e.g. desktop and mobile) and that the data
used to generate our pages is re-usable in different formats (RDF/XML, JSON and
plain XML) to enable building enhanced programme support applications. Other
teams within the BBC can incorporate those programme pages into new and existing
programme support sites, TV Channel and Radio Station sites, and cross programme
genre sites such as food, music and natural history.
2.2 The Programmes Ontology
In November 2007, we launched the Programmes Ontology [11]. The reason for
publishing this ontology was three-fold. Firstly, it exposes the data model driving
our web site as a formal OWL [5] ontology. As BBC Programmes was built using
a Domain Driven Design methodology 5 , this ontology can be seen as a ‘map’ of
the different items we publish a web identifier for and of the links between these
items. Secondly, it allows us to anchor our data feeds within a domain model. The
RDF/XML feeds we provide, as well as the RDFa markup embedded within our
HTML pages, refer to terms defined within this ontology. Thirdly, this ontology
aims at assisting other organisations or individuals to publish programmes data on
the Web. In the following, we give a brief overview of the different terms defined
within our Programmes Ontology. A diagram of these terms and their relationships
is given in Figure 1.
2.2.1 Main terms
We consider a Programme as being the core of our domain model. A programme
is an editorial entity, which can either be an Episode (e.g. ‘Top Gear, first episode
of the first series’), a Series (e.g. ‘Top Gear, first series) or a Brand (e.g. ‘Top
Gear’). All these programmes have multiple Versions , where a version is an actual
piece of media content, either audio or audio and video. A single episode may have
multiple versions. For example, an episode can have an original, unedited, version, a
shortened one, a signed one, etc. Versions can have Broadcasts , each of them being
on a particular Service and at a particular time, and they can have Availabilities
5 For more details on the methodology used to build BBC Programmes, we re-
fer the reader to
make_websites.shtml , last accessed April 2010
Use of Semantic Web technologies on the BBC Web Sites
Fig. 1 Main terms within the Programmes Ontology and their relationships
they can be made available through our iPlayer catchup service for a period of time
on a particular set of devices.
2.2.2 Tagging programmes
In order to generate simple aggregations of programmes, our domain model has
a simple category predicate allowing us to relate a programme to a particular
item in a SKOS categorisation scheme [8]. The Programmes Ontology defines
two different categorisations scheme: genres (e.g. ‘drama’) and formats (e.g. ‘an-
imation’). We also use the subject predicate defined within Dublin Core 6 to re-
late programmes to related subjects (e.g. ‘birds’), people (e.g. ‘William Shake-
speare’), places (e.g. ‘Manchester’) and organisations (e.g. ‘BBC’). Using such
see , last accessed May 2010
Yves Raimond, Tom Scott, Silver Oliver, Patrick Sinclair and Michael Smethurst
categorisations and subject classifications, we can generate pages such as http:
// , aggre-
gating programmes in a particular category (here, in the ‘historical’ sub-genre of
the ‘drama’ genre). Similarly, we can provide an aggregated view of all BBC Radio
4 programmes associated with the subject ‘writer’, as depicted in Figure 2. We are
currently moving to use DBpedia [1] web identifiers as tags [7], so that we can ag-
gregate richer information about them (e.g. geolocation of places and relationships
between artists). By exploiting this ancillary data, we can provide richer ways of
navigating our content.
Fig. 2 An aggregation of BBC Radio 4 programmes associated with the subject ‘writer’
2.2.3 A flexible segmentation model
When describing a programme, it is critical to be able to describe its actual content.
Therefore, a good segmentation model which can accomodate track listings in a mu-
sic show, points of interest within a programme, or editorially relevant sub-sections
of a programme, is critical. The Programmes Ontology defines such a model, mak-
Use of Semantic Web technologies on the BBC Web Sites
ing use of the Event and Timeline ontologies 7 created within the scope of the Music
Ontology [10]. A version of a programme has a temporal extent, which is defined
on a Timeline . On the same version timeline, we can anchor Segments — classifi-
cations of particular temporal sections of a version. Most links to other ontologies
are done at the segment level, as we might want to describe e.g. the recipe being
described or the track being played. For example, it is at the segment level that we
link to the BBC Music web site described in section 3. We can also classify seg-
ments using the same mechanism as described above, to associate a segment with a
particular place, subject, person or organisation.
2.3 Web identifiers for broadcast radio and television sites
Human-readability is often deemed important when creating web identifiers. In the
case of programmes this could mean that identifiers could be created from pro-
grammes titles. However, when a programme title changes, the corresponding web
identifier would also change, which would make external links to that programme
break. Programme titles can also clash — it can happen that two distinct pro-
grammes share the same title, e.g. many episodes don’t have a distinct title, for
example long running weekly shows such as the ‘Today programme’ 8 . We could
imagine creating web identifiers from other literal attributes, such as broadcast dates.
However, those identifiers become ambiguous when a programme gets repeated.
Those identifiers would also break for off-schedule content — programmes only
available through on-demand services such as the BBC iPlayer.
Any web identifier that assumes some structure of the object it is representing is
likely to break when that structure changes 9 .
In order to keep a level of indirection helping us to deal with such changes, we
use opaque unique identifiers such as b00cccvg to construct our web identifiers.
Given an opaque identifier, we need to consider several web identifiers for a single
programme. We need to identify the actual programme (e.g. a particular episode
of ‘Doctor Who’), and a page about this programme, as we want to state different
things about both of them — the creation date of the page will not the be the same as
the creation date of the programme, for example. We adopt the following scheme:
/programmes/b00cccvg#programme – the actual programme;
/programmes/b00cccvg – a document about that programme;
/programmes/b00cccvg.html – an XHTML page about that programme;
/programmes/ – an XHTML Mobile Profile page about that
7 See and
See the web identifier opacity section in [6]
Yves Raimond, Tom Scott, Silver Oliver, Patrick Sinclair and Michael Smethurst
/programmes/b00cccvg.rdf – an RDF/XML document about that pro-
We also need to identify the associated versions, segments, broadcasts and avail-
ability windows. We use a similar mechanism for those, by generating unique iden-
tifiers and constructing web identifiers from them.
From /programmes/b00cccvg to one specific representation (e.g. XHTML
or RDF/XML), we use content negotiation [12]. The representation that is most ap-
propriate for the user agent will be sent back, along with a Content-Location
HTTP header pointing to the canonical web identifier for that particular representa-
The use of content negotiation and the use of the fragment identifiers firstly re-
duces the number of requests the server needs to process compared to other methods
for publishing Linked Data, such as the redirection-based method described in [12];
but more significantly it ensures that there is one web identifier for a resource. We
only want users or automated user agents to see and work with the programme web
identifier or the generic document web identifier. So that if a user bookmarks a web
identifier on a desktop machine they can access that bookmark on a mobile and
get an appropriate mobile representation. Similarly, an automated user agent aggre-
gating BBC Programmes data needs information in a more structured format than
an HTML document, so it will access an appropriate structured representation, e.g.
3 BBC Music
The aim of the BBC Music website 10 is to provide a comprehensive guide to mu-
sic content across the BBC, linking information about an artist to those BBC pro-
grammes that have played them. BBC Music follows the same principles as BBC
Programmes, and provides a persistent web identifier for primary objects within the
music domain, and integrate those with the other BBC domains our audience is in-
terested in, namely programmes, events and users. These primary music objects are:
artists, releases and their reviews, and editorial genres.
On the BBC Music Beta, there are three sources of information: Musicbrainz,
Wikipedia and the BBC. Musicbrainz is used as the backbone of the site, providing
data such as artists’ releases, relationships with other artists and links to external
websites. Wikipedia is used for artists biographies. The BBC provides additional
information, such as audio snippets for tracks, images, album reviews, details about
which programme have played which artist and links to related content elsewhere
on the BBC site.
Use of Semantic Web technologies on the BBC Web Sites
3.1 BBC Music as Linked Data
We are publishing Linked Data for most of the resources on BBC Music using a
variety of different ontologies and vocabularies. The Linked Data community has
developed several vocabularies around the music domain that we have been able to
reuse. For example, we use the music ontology [10] for describing artists and release
information, the Reviews Ontology [2] for describing album reviews and SKOS [8]
for defining the BBC music genres.
3.2 Web identifiers for BBC Music
As with BBC Programmes, we decided to use opaque identifiers for constructing
BBC Music web identifiers to improve their persistence. MusicBrainz uses a glob-
ally unique identifier (GUID) scheme for its resources. When it came to BBC Mu-
sic, instead of coming up with our own identifiers we reused the MusicBrainz artist
/music/artists/:musicbrainz artist guid#artist – the ac-
tual artist;
/music/artists/:musicbrainz artist guid – a document about
that artist;
/music/artists/:musicbrainz artist guid.html – an XHTML
page about that artist;
/music/artists/:musicbrainz artist guid.rdf – an RD-
F/XML document about that artist
For album reviews, we have minted our own URL keys (e.g “b5rj”) and use the
following scheme:
/music/reviews/:url key#review – the actual review;
/music/reviews/:url key – a document about that review;
/music/reviews/:url key.html – an XHTML page about that review;
/music/reviews/:url key.rdf – an RDF/XML document about that
We also have similar scheme for other resources such as reviewers and BBC
content promoted through the site 11 .
respectively at /music/reviewers and /music/promotions
Yves Raimond, Tom Scott, Silver Oliver, Patrick Sinclair and Michael Smethurst
3.3 The Web as a content management system
The use of Musicbrainz and Wikipedia to provide the underlying data for the site has
allowed us to cover a much wider range of artists that would otherwise be possible.
It is beyond our resources to maintain a biography for every artist heard on the BBC.
It also ensures the data is kept up to date and doesn’t go stale. For instance, when
an artist dies their profile is updated within a few hours by the community and this
change is reflected on our site.
BBC Music takes the approach that the Web itself is its content management
system. BBC editors directly contribute to Musicbrainz and Wikipedia, and BBC
Music will show an aggregated view of this information, put in a BBC context.
3.4 Using the BBC Programmes and the BBC Music Linked Data
The BBC Programmes Linked Data described in section 2.1 links to the BBC Mu-
sic data. A programme that features an artist will be linked to that artist within
BBC Music, using the segmentation model described above. Moreover, BBC Music
artists are linked to corresponding resources within DBpedia. A number of proto-
type applications demonstrating the use of such links have been built, both within
the BBC and outside.
3.4.1 Programmes and locations
When aggregating DBpedia information about BBC artists, we can access related
geographical location (current location, place of birth, place of death, etc.). Using
this information we can display programmes on maps, according to the locations of
the artists played in those programmes. We can also build geographical programme
look-up services 12 which, given a place, give a list of programmes featuring an artist
related to that place.
3.4.2 Artist recommendations
As mentioned in [9], Linked Data can be used to generate music recommendations.
From BBC Music artists, a number of music-related datasets can be reached. By fol-
lowing links leading from one artist to another, we can derive connections between
artists (e.g. ‘this artist has had his first music video directed by the same person
as that other artist’) that can be used to drive recommendations. The path leading
12 an example of such a service, using Ordnance Survey, BBC and DBpedia data, is available
at , last accessed July
Use of Semantic Web technologies on the BBC Web Sites
from one artist to another can then be used to explain why a particular recommen-
dation has been generated. This is a fundamental shift from most current music
recommender systems which, given an artist, return an ordered list of related artist
without any clue for the user as to how these recommendations were generated. Al-
though recent work has been done in trying to make music recommendation more
transparent, such as the Aura [4] recommendation engine from Sun Microsystems
Labs, the generated explanations are limited by the use of simple textual tags, which
discards explanations derived from potential relationships between such tags.
Two prototypes have been built by the BBC to ilustrate such music recommen-
dations generated from Linked Data. LODations 13 provides a collaborative way to
specify editorially relevant connections between artists. New musical connections,
such as ‘if two bands were formed in June 1976 in Manchester, then they are musi-
cally related’ can be specified, and music recommendations along with their expla-
nations are derived from these connections. An example of LODations recommen-
dations is depicted in Figure 3. The ‘MusicBore’ 14 derives connections between
artists in a similar way and use them to generate an original radio programme. An
automated DJ, built using an off-the-shelf text-to-speech software, uses these con-
nections to explain how the next artist in the tracklist relates to the previous one (e.g.
‘they were both born in Detroit in the mid-1960s’).
Fig. 3 Artist page for Busta Rhymes, along with recommendations generated from Linked Data
13 see , last accessed April 2010
14 see
shtml , last accessed April 2010
Yves Raimond, Tom Scott, Silver Oliver, Patrick Sinclair and Michael Smethurst
4 BBC Wildlife Finder
BBC Wildlife Finder 15 , provides a web identifier for every species (and other bio-
logical ranks), habitat and adaptation the BBC has an interest in. The information
presented is aggregated from data within the BBC and across the Web, including:
Wikipedia, the WWF’s Wildfinder, the IUCN’s Red List of Threatened Species, the
Zoological Society of Londons EDGE of Existence programme and Animal Diver-
sity Web. BBC Wildlife Finder repurposes this external data and puts it in a BBC
context adding to it with programme clips extracted from the BBC’s Natural History
Unit archive and links to programme episodes and BBC news articles.
An underlying principle behind the design of Wildlife Finder is the notion that
people care more about real world concepts than abstract web pages, by providing
web identifiers and associate documents about things that people care about, think
about and talk about, it is more likely that the site will be intuitive and more likely to
be discovered via search. As a result the Wildlife Finder provides web identifiers for
real world natural history objects — animals, plants their habitats and adaptations.
Each of these resources are then linked to adjacent concepts within the ontology, for
example, a web idenfier for Lions links to web identifiers for the “tropical grassland”
(because lions live there) and for “pack hunting” because that’s one of the lion’s
behaviours; this is in addition to BBC programmes and news stories about lions.
Wildlife programmes (clips and episodes) are transcluded and linked to from the
Wildlife Finder web site. The programmes are identified by ‘tagging’ the clip or
episode with the appropriate DBpedia web identifier. Programmes are identified as
“coming soon”, “catch up” or “archived” by checking the BBC Programmes RDF
described in section 2.1 to extract the relevant broadcast or catch-up details. RDF
was found to be a convenient approach when it came to integrating two separate but
related domains within the BBC.
4.1 The Wildlife Ontology
As noted above, BBC Wildlife Finder was designed following similar principles to
BBC Music and BBC Programmes - that is modeling the site around real world
concepts, in this case that means the animals, plants, habitats and adaptations the
BBC films. We recently published the Wildlife Ontology [3], describing how those
different concepts we are interested in relate to each other. Our objective in publish-
ing the ontology is similar as what we described in section 2.2 for the Programmes
Ontology. It should be noted that although the Wildlife Ontology was designed with
the BBC Wildlife Finder application in mind it should be applicable to a wide range
of biological data publishing use cases and to that end care has been taken to try and
ensure interoperability with more specialised ontologies used in scientific domains
such as taxonomy, ecology, environmental science, and bioinformatics.
Use of Semantic Web technologies on the BBC Web Sites
4.1.1 Main terms
Biologists group organisms based on their current understanding of a species evolu-
tion. This has resulted in a hierarchical grouping or taxonomy of species. However,
in addition to the absolute hierarchy the relative hierarchy when compared to other
species can also be of interest and as a result each of these groups, or ranks, have his-
torically been given their own names. Ranks are useful because they help you know
how far down in the tree of life you are (e.g. a Class is further ‘down’ than Phylum).
Certain ranks also allow you to usefully lump groups of organisms together. For
example, the rank of “Class” (Class Aves, Class Mammalia, Class Insecta etc.) is
convenient and useful to biologists.
Of all the biological ranks that of “species” is the most significant to us. Al-
though there are a number of different definition for species the most common is
that of a group of organisms capable of interbreeding and producing fertile off-
spring of both genders. The classification for all other ranks (e.g. Genus and Class)
are not as strictly codified, and hence different authorities often produce different
In addition to the Linnean taxonomy the wildlife ontology also describes a
species’s habitat, grouped into terrestrial, aquatic (freshwater) and marine habitats;
their adaptations to their environment, their conservation status (as defined by the
IUCN 16 ) and the habitats and species found within an ecozone 17 .
The core to the Wildlife Ontology, however, is the species. Species, in addition, to
being for us the most significant biological rank also tend to be the point of interest
with regard to other areas of research, for example, both conservation and distri-
bution studies tends to focus on the species. It is therefore the species which links
to other classes (habitat, adaptations, conservation status etc.) within the Wildlife
Finder application. However, it is worth noting that this level of linking is not en-
forced within the ontology and it is acceptable to link habitats to other taxonomic
4.1.2 Species as Classes vs Species as Instances
One perennial problem associated with modeling biological taxonomies using RDF
is whether to attempt to model individual species as Classes, or whether to simply
model species as instances of a generic Species class. The latter approach is simpler
and avoids creating a huge ontology that attempts to model all biological organisms.
Existing ontologies have taken different approaches to resolving this issue, some
choosing one style, others another. At present there doesn’t seem to be a consensus.
With this in mind, the Wildlife Ontology adopts the simpler of the two approaches,
i.e. modeling species as instances of a Species class, as this maximises interoper-
Yves Raimond, Tom Scott, Silver Oliver, Patrick Sinclair and Michael Smethurst
ability with many of the existing Linked Data sources, particularly DBpedia, which
adopt similar approaches.
4.1.3 Web identifiers - using DBpedia as a controlled vocabulary
As noted above DBpedia provides a controlled vocabulary to help link programme
clips and episodes, and news stories to web identifiers within Wildlife Finder. All
resources within Wildlife Finder are constructed using the corresponding Wikipedia
web identifier slug. A URI slug is the fragment of a URI that uniquely identifies a
resource within a domain, for example, in the case of Wikipedia the URI slug for
the entry Stoat: is “Stoat”.
By using identifiers that are already widely used across the Web it means that:
1. The BBC can effectively outsource a significant proportion of the effort required
to maintain a controlled vocabulary to the Web;
2. It makes it easier for third party developers to integrate with BBC content be-
cause of a shared definition of a resource;
3. The BBC can contribute its knowledge to the Web by linking data to those
common identifiers and by creating new identifiers where necessary.
The added advantage in using Wikipedia is the addition of a large evidence set.
The Wikipedia article text defines the meaning and use of the identifier and hence
allows the BBC to confirm which identifier to use in which context.
DBpedia URIs are used to categorise programme episodes and clips and, news
stories. The cagorisation is used to assert that the programme, clip or news story
is ”about” the concept identified by the DBpedia URI i.e. it is about an animal,
plant, habitat or adaptation. This categorisation is thus used to identify news stories
and programmes before transcluding the relevant information on Wildlife Finder
pages. The canonical web identifier for a clip, news story etc. remains with BBC
Programmes (see section 2.1), news site etc. The clip is therefore discoverable both
in a BBC Programmes context and within a Wildlife Finder context (a clip can be
about both a species and an adaptation).
4.2 Web identifiers
As mentioned above, in addition to using DBpedia as a controlled vocabulary to
tag content, Wildlife Finder also reuses Wikipedia URI slugs to construct its web
identifiers. The high level web identifier scheme is therefore as follows:
For biological taxa:
/nature/rank/:wikipedia slug#:rank – the actual organism;
/nature/rank/:wikipedia slug – a document about that organism;
/nature/rank/:wikipedia slug.html – an XHTML page about that
Use of Semantic Web technologies on the BBC Web Sites
/nature/rank/:wikipedia slug.rdf – an RDF/XML document
about that organism
For habitats:
/nature/habitats/:wikipedia slug#habitat – the actual habi-
/nature/habitats/:wikipedia slug – a document about that habi-
/nature/habitats/:wikipedia slug.html – an XHTML page
about that habitat;
/nature/habitats/:wikipedia slug.rdf – an RDF/XML docu-
ment about that habitat
For adaptations:
/nature/adaptations/:wikipedia slug#:adaptation – the ac-
tual adaptation;
/nature/adaptations/:wikipedia slug – a document about that
/nature/adaptations/:wikipedia slug.html – an XHTML page
about that adaptation;
/nature/adaptations/:wikipedia slug.rdf – an RDF/XML doc-
ument about that adaptation
The only exception to this web identifier scheme is with collections (editorially
curated aggregations of BBC content):
/nature/collections/:pid#:adaptation – the actual collection;
/nature/collections/:pid – a document about that collection;
/nature/collections/:pid.html – an XHTML page about that col-
/nature/collections/:pid.rdf – an RDF/XML document about that
Programme identifiers similar to the ones used in BBC Programmes (PIDs)
where chosen to identify collections because, like a programme, a collection is an
editorially curated entity created by the BBC. The provenance of a collection means
that not only will Wikipedia not have an entry but also that its ownership resides
with the BBC not with the Web at large, since it is the BBC who chose the clips and
edited the introductory video. It is therefore appropriate that the BBC provide the
identifier for these objects.
From /nature/rank/:wikipedia slug etc. to one specific representa-
tion (e.g. XHTML or RDF/XML), we use content negotiation, exactly as described
in section 2.3. The format that is most appropriate for the user agent will be sent
back, along with a Content-Location HTTP header pointing to the canonical
URL for that particular format.
Yves Raimond, Tom Scott, Silver Oliver, Patrick Sinclair and Michael Smethurst
4.3 The Web as a Content Management System
The data that makes up a page on Wildlife Finder is taken from a range of range of
sources, both inside and outside the BBC. Some of this data is in effect read-only
that is the BBC nor its audience is at liberty to modify it. This includes, for example,
the information about the conservation status of a species and is used, as supplied,
by the IUCN. Other sources of data notably Wikipedia can be edited by both the
BBC and its audience - this has the effect of making Wikipedia part of the BBC’s
content management ‘system’.
The use of Wikipedia on Wildlife Finder means that the BBC and its audience
benefits from access to (generally) high quality content about things in the natural
world and additional, contextual links to that content. People can continue their
journey and discover information elsewhere on the Web. In addition, the rest of
the Web also benefits because where the BBC is able to improve the content on
Wikipedia, it does so not on but on Wikipedia directly and in doing so
users of Wikipedia also benefit.
4.4 The importance of curation
It is not always possible nor desirable to automate all aspects of page building. It
is sometimes advantageous to curate specific collections of content - for example
a collection of David Attenborough’s favourite moments from the last 30 years 18 ,
as depicted in Figure 4, or a collection highlighting one of the worlds endangered
animals, the tiger 19 .
While in theory both these collections could be separately modeled and codified
within the ontology it wouldn’t be practical to do so - there would be little additional
benefit in modeling one off collections. Instead it is sufficient to define a collection
as a group of editorially selected and sequenced clips, habitats, adaptations and taxa
introduced through a bespoke clip i.e. one edited specifically for the collection.
Collections add a personalised context to the content within Wildlife Finder —
they are not simply a set of aggregated clips, they have been selected, sequences and
used to tell a specific story. This added layer adds a level of trust to the content and
helps guide the users of the site through particular aspects of the site. Without this
layer the site would remain largely encyclopedic, providing information to those
that know what they are looking for but not introducing people to the content and
acting as a guide through that content. With the addition of collections the BBC
can guide people through some of that information, to present it in a different light
and add a new context to the raw information; and in doing so the collections not
only provide the audience with an easier route into the site but can also facilite a
conversation by positioning the content within a specific light.
Use of Semantic Web technologies on the BBC Web Sites
Fig. 4 A collection of David Attenborough’s favourite moments from the last 30 years
5 Journalism
BBC Journalism incorporates News, Sport, Travel and the Weather. The majority
of this content (News and Sport) consist of stories published out of a content pro-
duction system. Once published these stories are manually managed on to a small
number of topical indexes. For years this has been sufficient but recent business
requirements have created an impetus for more sophisticated publishing and navi-
gation strategies. For example:
Automating the creation of lower profile indexes;
More sophisticated information architectures with many more topical indexes;
Merging data (sports statistics for example) with stories to create a more coher-
ent product;
Linking to other BBC sites and external sites.
The starting point has been sporting events like the Winter Olympics and World
Cup. These are easier to model and populate with data because you know when they
will happen, who will participate and where the event will happen. For example
Yves Raimond, Tom Scott, Silver Oliver, Patrick Sinclair and Michael Smethurst
the model for the Winter Olympics includes athletes, sports disciplines and sports
venues. For the 2010 Winter Olympics we published a page for every sports dis-
cipline. These pages consisted of stories, statistics, other BBC content and links to
external sites.
The process of creating these pages was to first model the event. Working with
domain experts we established the key concepts and relationships important to the
event. This was then turned into a formal OWL ontology. Where possible bits of
existing ontologies were reused and the Winter Olympics model was based largely
on the Event Ontology mentioned in section 2.2. This will make it easier for others
to query and access the data in the future as well as reducing the number of design
decisions required.
5.1 Populating and using the ontology
The modeling of the Winter Olympics was relatively low cost in terms of design
time but populating the ontology would involve significant effort. Because of this
we looked to consume data freely available on the web. The primary source is
Wikipedia but there were gaps that we would need to fill with data the BBC would
author. To facilitate the integration of the Wikipedia data and BBC data we are using
the Uberblic service 20 . This means live updates from Wikipedia can be combined
along with data created in a local MediaWiki 21 instance. The data can then be con-
solidated in real time and the resulting RDF used by services producing the Winter
Olympics site.
The Uberblic service provides DBpedia identifiers for those entities that are in
Wikipedia. This ensures Winter Olympics data can interoperate with other BBC
systems that work with DBpedia identifiers. For those entities not in Wikipedia new
BBC identifiers were created. This means we are not restricted to entities existing
in Wikipedia alone. This approach is taken, as opposed to creating new Wikipedia
pages, because the concepts are considered to be unlikely to be of significant cultural
interest to justify the existence of a page in Wikipedia (for example Canadian Winter
Olympics Team at the Winter Olympics 2010).
The populated ontology was primarily used to provide data for an auto-
categorisation system. The presence of various entities in a document could be
used, once compared to concepts and relationships in the ontology, to help disam-
biguate the entities extracted. This service suggested concepts to journalists to tag
stories with. Once done, tagged stories were then dynamically included on Winter
Olympics pages.
Use of Semantic Web technologies on the BBC Web Sites
5.2 Future developments
In future projects greater use could be made of the ontology and the common
web identifiers. Sharing common identifiers across the BBC ensures the aggregated
pages contain as much variety of content as possible. For example the use of DBpe-
dia identifiers by the BBC Programmes service and sporting events like the Winter
Olympics allow for the transclusion of BBC programmes in to the sport event pages.
In addition if there was a requirement to add a rich navigation structure linking the
aggregated pages we have the option of using the relationships in the ontology. For
example the relationships in DBpedia could be used to generate links between Win-
ter Olympic athletes and the sports disciplines they participate in.
An easily achieved use of Linked Data for news organisations would be to make
their topic aggregation pages available as Linked Data. This is something the New
York Times have already done 22 and there are now established design patterns for
publishing lists of stories associated with a particular topic. This will offer a clear
and simple path for other news organisation to follow the New York Times lead.
Once we have a number of organisations publishing stories as Linked Data it will
be increasingly easy to link from a BBC topic index to the most recent stories on
other news sites. The key here will be the use of common web identifiers. We can al-
ready see in the BBC, New York Times and Reuters the use of DBpedia as a way to
commonly identify topics and entities. The publishing of established controlled vo-
cabularies (like IPTC) as Linked Data and mapping them to common web identfiers
will also be critical to lowering the barrier of entry to those organisations already
using these vocabularies.
Going beyond the syndication of lists of stories the next stage for a news organi-
sation would be to take advantage of the data freely available as Linked Data. Data
sets like DBpedia, CIA Fact Book and the recently released UK Government data 23
could all be used to add context and navigation to otherwise dry aggregation pages.
For example an aggregation page for an MP could be enriched with a personal pro-
file, data about their previous election results and the policies they have voted on.
In addition links between an MP aggregation page and a constituency aggregation
page could be provided for free from the Linked Data sources. This is a technique
already used by Wildlife Finder and BBC Music, as described above, and Linked
Data makes this process considerably easier than collecting distributed data sets in
different formats (for example CSV files and custom database dumps).
Not only will this improve the user experience but could also significantly im-
prove the process of story creation for the journalists. If common Government iden-
tifiers are provider for a politician and we tag our assets with the same identifier then
when a journalist is researching a story about a politician it becomes increasingly
easy to pull data to them. By identifying the politician a journalist is interested in, it
would be trivial to pull together all assets created by their news organisation as well
as Linked Data about the politician from trusted web sources. This goes beyond the
Yves Raimond, Tom Scott, Silver Oliver, Patrick Sinclair and Michael Smethurst
document retrieval of Google as it could merge useful data and documents to pro-
vide context regarding the politicians career, popularity with voters and impact on
their constituency.
The question of trust regarding Linked Data is very important for journalism.
Where sources like Wikipedia may not be acceptable by editorial standards it puts
even more emphasis on trusted sources. For this reason the recent publishing of
UK Government Linked Data sets is critically important to journalism, providing
trusted identifiers, labels and relationships for things like politicians, schools and
UK locations.
6 Conclusion
Creating web identifiers for every item the BBC has an interest in, and considering
those as aggregations of BBC content about that item, allows us to enable very rich
cross-domain user journeys. This means BBC content can be discovered by users in
many different ways, and content teams within the organisation have a focal point
around which to organise their content.
Reusing data from existing online sources such as Musicbrainz or Wikipedia
means that the community at large benefits from our use of the data, as our editorial
staff is directly contributing to those sources. It is also more efficient than maintain-
ing an in-house Content Management System, which would require development
and integration costs, and which would be very difficult to bootstrap, curate and
maintain up-to-date.
The RDF representations of these web identifiers allow developers to use our
data to build applications. The two issues, providing cross-domain navigation and
machine-readable representations, are tightly interleaved. Giving access to machine-
readable representations that hold links to further such representations, crossing do-
main boundaries, means that much richer applications can be built on top of our
data, including new BBC products. In addition the system gives us a flexibility and
a maintainability benefit: our web site becomes our API. Considering our feeds as
an integral part of building a web site also means that they are very cheap to gen-
erate, even when built in a best efforts way: they are just a different view of our
The approach has also proved to be an efficient one – allowing different devel-
opment teams to concentrate on different domains while at the same time benefiting
from the activities of the other teams. The small pieces loosely joined approach,
which is manifest in any Linked Data project, significantly reduces the need to coor-
dinate teams while at the same time allowing each team to benefit from the activities
of others.
Use of Semantic Web technologies on the BBC Web Sites
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