The Time When

Three months ago the BBC announced ‘Creative Future,’ an “editorial blueprint” for the next six years. One item on the corporate to-do list was “Pilot a Knowledge Building online project called Eyewitness — History enabling people to record and share their memories and experiences of any day over the last 100 years.” I’ve been working on a prototype of this and a couple of weeks ago The Time When (as it’s now known) went quietly live.

Rather than leap straight in to building a huge and complex solution, the BBC decided to create this quick and simple prototype, to see what works and what doesn’t. You add your memories of a particular day in history and everyone’s memories are aggregated together by date and mixed with contextual information about what else was happening in the world that day, eg, 29 July 1981 or 11 Sep 2001.

Everything seems to be working OK so please do create a free account and give it a whirl (if the site is replaced by a more permanent version in the future you’ll have the opportunity to move your memories to that, and there will also be a tool to export and download them coming soon). We’d love to hear your thoughts about the site.

There are plenty more things the site could do, some of which will be appearing over coming weeks as I continue work on it. It’s not the most beautiful site in the world but the aim was to not look like a finished BBC website and to simply look good enough to be usable. Spend less time polishing the chrome and more time adding interesting features.

The contextual, “newsy,” events for each day have been grabbed from several places, such as the BBC’s own On This Day site, Wikipedia’s on this day pages and the currently unavailable BBC Programme Catalogue. We were surprised how little material we could find to include or even link to. For example, most news websites could let you see the stories they published on any particular day but few seem to offer such a view. Browsing events in this way is either deemed unpopular or not something sites want you to do.

Anyway, please sign up, think about events you might want to share with people (Your 21st birthday? Your first car? Your first kiss? When you left home? What you were doing when major new events happend?) and give it a try. Thanks.

Comments

  • I know what you mean about there not being that kind of ephemera out there on the web - I *cough* was working on a site that was kind of doing “on this day” but for each TX of Doctor Who episodes, and I found it really hard to get that kind of info. One thing I think could be added in, at least 1950s onwards, is what was at #1 in the singles or albums chart - could probably all be scraped from the official chart site