Thursday, 9 April 2009

Oopsie-Beebs-a-blog™ – puffbox and hyperpuff. (possibly unfixable?)

09-04-2009 beebnews This is a bit naff, though obviously just a slip-up rather than anything much worse. On the Beeb News site there’s a sad story about the crashed helicopter from the North Sea being brought back to port, along with some of the casualties from the disaster. In the right-hand nav column is a collection, inter alia, of video links and one is called “Daughter’s anger after crash”. Currently, this link leads to this page:

- please note the URL – and if you visit that page you see that its HTML <title> tag, which dictates what appears in the browser’s title bar, contains the same elements, as it reads:

  • BBC NEWS | puffbox | hyperpuff | Scotland | Daughter's anger after crash

The page source shows the passing nerd that the puffbox and hyperpuff bits appear elsewhere in the code too.

How about if we edit the URL down to what, by comparison with other News pages, it seems that it ought to be? That would give us:

- which works fine, but oddly still has the bad header. Hm.

Clearly this is some internal BBC system which was never meant for public display. It’s just a little slip on someone’s part and can, I hope, be quickly corrected. I wrote to them about it and I assume that 47,000 other people probably have too, and I confidently expect it all to be sorted out quickly.


The Beeb’s News site is a wonderful place operating at an incredible level of size, complexity, currency and a whole load of other stuff: it is really something to be proud of. I respect entirely their right to make mistakes too, though I sometimes feel that a bit more checking or oversight or whatever might help reduce their effect. The only thing that does strike me here is, why use such naff names? That’s what seems to me to add a quite unnecessary level of childishness, or silliness, or embarrassment, or something, to the page. In this particular case I’m sure that someone somewhere would be clueless enough to say, because of the story content, that it is disrespectful (gah! nauseating cliche of the decade!) though you wouldn’t catch me being quite that stupid unless I was very, very drunk. But imagine if instead of puffbox and hyperpuff they’d just chosen level1 and level2 or medialinkA and medialinkB or even xkz99 and bbtq43 or whatever. For exposing some internal part of their system to the public eye they’d still look silly, but not bloody silly as they do right now and, I suspect, I wouldn’t be writing this. Ho hum. What’s the moral? Watch your variable names, I suppose …


About 3.9 seconds after I emailed the Beeb about this I got a very nice reply from Ian J, an editorial type. It was, of course, a mistake, and he’s fixed it, molto quicko. At this point I really do just have to take my hat off, as I have before, at the speed and quality of the response from the BBC. I have written back thanking him and expounding my theory (which is mine) about the naff names. I bet he was, ahem, really thrilled to get this, but I don’t really expect him to restructure the entire BBC system over my gibbering (woody and tinny) concerns. I suppose I’m just one of those sad people who has to Have Their Say (gah! makes warding-off-evil gestures, etc).

Updated update (yes, I am a very sad person Tamsin, do please try to get over it)

A further courteous and tolerant reply from folkhero and martyr Ian J (who must by now be roundly sick of me) reveals that these are old terms, that when first used could simply not have escaped into the public gaze the way these did. Yup, I can see that. A quick Google on “+puffbox +hyperpuff” finds about 6000 pages. So it does seem to escape into the wild from the Beeb’s system, from time to time. Does this matter? Not sure, leave to wiser brains to ponder, go and make tea now. Vogel out.

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