Monday, 16 September 2019

BBC Sounds...

... the death knell for iPlayer.

I heard it on the grapevine. Well, the news actually. At seven o'clock this morning. And it was obvious long before that.

From today, BBC Sounds takes over from the excellent inlayer radio. Yes, the app that boasts (in an annoying voice) of providing 'music, radio, podcasts' in one place is now where we'll all have to go to listen to the wireless on our phones or tablets, Macs and PCs. Provided they're up-to-date with the most recent operating system, that is!

Sounds isn't exactly a bad app. In some ways I can see why they've made the switch. Podcasts are the big bucks audio phenomenon and on dear old iPlayer radio the presenters had to all but beg you to subscribe or share, favourite or bookmark them.

It's all much easier (apparently) on BBC Sounds.

But it's also so much harder to like an app that it doesn't give anything like the level on information iPlayer does. Take this, for example. I want to find out what's actually being played in the first half Saturday's Last Night of the Proms concert. With iPlayer, it's easy:

With Sounds, nothing doing. It tells you the time it's on and the title of the programme. Nothing more.

In iPlayer, I can bookmark ahead. If I want to listen to the Omnibus of Margaret Atwood's Handmaid's Tale I can add it to favourites (which bookmarks it on Sounds) before it's even been broadcast.  Of course it apologizes and tells me that this episode is not (yet) available but I can click 'Add' and have it waiting in my favourites when it is. Simple!

But on BBC Sounds the show is greyed-out, mute, unclick-able, dead. You have to wait until it's been on-air which somehow seems to defeat the very object of the Sounds app.

Of course, all this is no more the slightly irritating. But when an organisation replaces something that works well with something so much worse, it's highly irritating. Annoying, even.

And what's worse is that you can't even complain. I've tweeted screen-grabs like these to @BBCSounds loads, and got nadda response. I've gone through the laborious process of reporting my concerns on the BBC desktop site. No good. You go so far with a complaint about BBC Sounds before being returned to an earlier page. They clearly think the app is faultless.

So, for the record, here's my post on the subject. I make it available to the BBC and anyone else who might be interested in the probably vain hope that they'll do something about it.

But I doubt it. They seem (rather like several others we could mention) deaf to all views except their own and determined to forge ahead with a disastrous policy in spite of all evidence and entreaties.

'Sounds' familiar!

Tuesday, 3 September 2019


It's back-to-school time once again only, this time, it's a new one - school, that it, for the eponymous hero of this blog. (You didn't think that was me, did you?)

Charlie starts secondary school today, looking smart in his new school uniform with tie tied and hair combed and shoes polished. It's a nerve-wracking time (and that's just the parents!). Actually Charlie has been (or seemed) quite phlegmatic about the whole thing. I think it helped that he had a large input into his choice of school.

He took the 11+ (yes, welcome to the 1950s), 'passed' (as-it-were) and passed well, therefore keeping all his options open. That meant he was able to choose the school he liked best with no other considerations. He enjoyed his induction days at the end of last term and while not exactly counting down the days until the start of the new school year at least he hasn't been viewing it with the same dread I did.

Mind you, I 'transitioned' several times, both by dint of moving house and by living in areas that had primary, middle, and high schools, all of which added to the pressure. And although I'd always quite liked primary school (despite coming home on day one and being surprised to learn I had to go back again the next day - apparently I told my mum I'd 'been there, done that' or words to that effect!) I disliked secondary (or middles, then secondaries) with increasing passion.

But that's another story. Mine, not Charlie's.

And today's about him.

Roll on 3.25pm!

Friday, 30 August 2019

Work-life balance... and a jar of maggots

Ruth Davidson's announcement yesterday that she's giving up the leadership of the Scottish Tories to 'spend more time with her family' has inevitably attracted plenty of attention.

Not all of it has been about what she claims are the real reasons for her stepping down. She wants to spend time with her young son. She doesn't want to be away from home, campaigning, for so long. Something she once loved (fighting elections) has now not only lost its allure, it fills her with dread.

I can understand most of that. I did the same thing ten years ago and - it being something of a novelty at the time for a dad to give up work to stay at home, it was something people used to want me to talk about. Which is what I did again, today, on BBC Lincs. You can listen to it here should you wish. Just ff to 17mins, just after the bit about maggots(!) and you'll find me.

I don't think the two things are related...

Thursday, 15 August 2019

Testing, testing...

It's that time of year again, the day when local newspaper photographers everywhere try to get photos like this...

or this...

or even this...

So predictable.

So is the coverage of their print or broadcast colleagues who usually try some way of devaluing the results, criticising teachers, claiming it was all much harder last year (or when they took the exam) and so on. And on. Yawn.

What never seems to be discussed (at least, not often) is this.

Why do we persist with this cockamamy system of applying for a place at university before (not after) results come out?

In what other walk of life would you be asked to apply for something that required a certain level of accreditation before securing it? Oh yes, I know you need to be a qualified in medicine to apply for a job as a surgeon, but I'm working on it. I watch Holby City every day!

Perhaps self-styled 'mental heavyweight' advisor Dominic Cummings and his self-styled 'intelligent' political master Michael Gove could have turned their combined brain to this when running education, rather than changing GCSE grades A-G to grades 1-9 (yes, they couldn't even count!) and other such footling fiddling at the margins of the problem.

But no. Everyone wants to spend the day arguing about grade inflation and unconditional offers (surely a big hint that the current system isn't working) rather than tackle the problem, or tackle those who for years, while in charge, failed to tackle the problem.

There has at last been some discussion on the subject as we approached this year's exam results day. But the headlines this morning were, predictably enough, all about grade boundaries and getting offers without even needing any grades, and what that might have done to grades, and how university admissions departments might be punished for daring to want some control over the process.

But my bet it'll be a long, long time (if ever) before someone has the courage (and intelligence) to tackle such an issue.

Bit like the drugs problem. But then, like education, that's something they all think they know something about. Because, of course, they all went to school.

And they've all taken drugs.

At least, Michael Gove has.
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