What is Speechification?

Here are some words I wrote to prompt me in a meeting that Russell and Roo and myself went to at the BBC yesterday. It was like the nicest pitch meeting you’ve ever been to. Lots of important and interesting people from the Internet side of the BBC asked many questions and made many suggestions: a really open and positive reaction to what we’re doing with BBC stuff at Speechification and Watchification. Thanks especially to Jem Stone and to Sophie Walpole for putting it all together.

What is Speechification?

It’s curation. For years now visionary-types have been saying that pretty soon people will be curating media. Well, we’re actually doing it. The world’s just been waiting for a large enough and accessible enough bank of content to play with. So we roam the corridors of the BBC’s archive selecting the stuff we think is really excellent, unusual or important and putting it on display at Speechification.com.

It’s cheeky. We definitely push at the edges of what it’s OK to do with BBC content and we do this not because we’re pirates or vandals but because we want to exert some gentle pressure on the corporation’s leaders to do the right thing about rights, access, archiving etc.

It’s shareholder activism. Greens who want to influence the behaviour of smokestack corporations buy a handful of shares and show up at the annual general meeting to heckle the board. We don’t own shares in the BBC but we’re licence fee-payers so we’re at least stakeholders: opinionated, supportive stakeholders.

It’s a celebration. The BBC’s speech output is one of the glories of British culture. I don’t want to sound smarmy but listening to an evening of great programmes on Radio 4 is a privilege: the kind of condensed emotional and intellectual experience that leaves you smiling without knowing exactly why. We want the world to know about this stuff.

It’s unofficial PR for the neglected stuff. Mark Damazer is on record as saying that Radio 4 doesn’t do a good enough job of marketing its own output. He’s dead right. More than once we’ve featured programmes at Speechification that go out at ungodly hours, don’t have any useful information at bbc.co.uk and weren’t important enough to warrant a press release. We’re often the only people to write about a show anywhere. For these shows we’re an unpaid marketing department. We should bill them.

Speechification improved (again)!

I’ve been meaning to say for a while that we’ve improved Speechification again. New contributor James Bridle has cleverly embedded a player in every entry so you listen to shows with ease right there on the page. You’ll probably still want to subscribe to the podcast, which is getting pretty popular now. The other thing I’d like you to to do is make sure you let us know what you think of Speechification and suggest good speech radio programmes you think we should be featuring.

A Speechification player you can embed

Hey. Look over there! In the right-hand nav. Yes, it’s a Speechification player. You can now listen to top speech radio picks from the Speechification crew right here at Bowblog.com. The player is a clever blend of RSS and Yahoo Pipes or something. We got the idea from Giles who did it first and Roo made ours. The player is a thing of beauty (that’s Yahoo’s handiwork) and you can just click on that little ‘Y’ icon and copy the code to paste into your own blog (you might need to adjust the width of the embed but that’s easy and the player is very forgiving: it’ll squeeze into really narrow places). Of course, you can also listen by subscribing to the podcast or just visit the web site.

Speechification improved!

A transistor radio from www.flickr.com/photos/54177448@N00/
Hey. You should get over to Speechification. We upgraded (actually, Roo upgraded). So we now have comments, links in the navbar, better programme credits. Oh, and comments. Did I mention comments? So now you can comment. Nip over and leave a comment.