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BBC Backpedals On Linux Audience Figures 330

Posted by kdawson
from the couple-orders-of-magnitude-between-friends dept.
6031769 writes "After recently claiming that only 400 to 600 Linux users visit the BBC website, the BBC's Ashley Highfield has now admitted that they got their numbers wrong. The new estimate is between 36,600 and 97,600 according to his blog post. He stops short of describing how Auntie arrives at these two widely different sets of numbers and how their initial estimate is two orders of magnitude out."
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BBC Backpedals On Linux Audience Figures

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  • Rack-em-up!
    • Re:Hit Bots (Score:5, Funny)

      by RuBLed (995686) on Tuesday November 06, 2007 @02:14AM (#21251523)
      Can't we just rent a partion of Storm Worm botnet to do this... ohhh wait....
      • if you change the useragent string it will work. now where's that botnet slice you were talking about...
    • by Chrisq (894406) on Tuesday November 06, 2007 @04:07AM (#21252033)
      I would assume that the BBC did not invent its own method of measuring web traffic, but uses some package or service. If this got the number of Linux users so drastically wrong, how many other site's estimates of Linux users incorrect too? Could a lot more people be using Linux than we are told?
      • by Nullav (1053766) <moc AT liamg DOT valluN> on Tuesday November 06, 2007 @05:19AM (#21252361)
        Or perhaps they just pulled a small number out of their collective asses in order to avoid porting iPlayer to other operating systems.
      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by Anonymous Coward
        It's about time somebody asked...

        Go on any website and ask "Who uses Linux?" "Nobody!" "That's funny, the Linux folder has the most activity." "Well, of COURSE it does! THIS site draws a disproportionately large number of specialized geeks who would be more likely to run Linux!"

        I've had this exact same conversation on Slashdot, Digg, Reddit, Fark, Netscape, NeoWin, DZone... "nobody uses Linux", but wherever you go, there's these thousands of Linux users with you, and it's always dismissed as a statistical f
  • ah (Score:5, Funny)

    by wizardforce (1005805) on Tuesday November 06, 2007 @01:57AM (#21251393) Journal
    They used Excel to calculate the first set of figures
    • Re:ah (Score:5, Funny)

      by Dunbal (464142) on Tuesday November 06, 2007 @01:59AM (#21251411)
      Either that, or the promised "Free Laptop" from Microsoft failed to arrive.
    • Re:ah (Score:5, Funny)

      by mrbluze (1034940) on Tuesday November 06, 2007 @03:17AM (#21251835) Journal

      They used Excel to calculate the first set of figures

      .. which came complimentary with their Microsoft site license (both Excel and the figures!).

      I'm so hurt. All this time I trusted the BBC as a veritable, reliable news service. I feel so.. so.. violated!

      ...not!

  • If they didn't think it was worth there time to correct the numbers, they wouldn't have.
    • Yeah, it went from a lot less than 1% to, less than 1%.

      I still don't think that makes non Windows/MacOS support a priority for them. Do you?
      • by whoever57 (658626) on Tuesday November 06, 2007 @02:13AM (#21251515) Journal

        Yeah, it went from a lot less than 1% to, less than 1%.
        Actually, I think it went from < 1% to "we are clueless". There is no explanation of the revised figures, where the original one came from, so why assume that the new figure correct?

        Also, given the Linux-unfriendly nature of the BBC's site, how many Linux users either don't visit it purely because of the Linux-unfriendly nature of the site, or set their user-agent to look like Windows?
        • Don't be such a dick. It's attitudes like this that get the Linux community such a bad name. "We are clueless"? "Linux-unfriendly nature of the BBC's site"? How old are you?

          He got it wrong, he was man enough to admit that he got it wrong. Why do you have to make such a big deal out of it?

          And, sorry, but we have to agree that, statistically, it's still a tiny fraction of the user base. If I was developing a cross-platform application or service, commercial or otherwise, then I'd still plan on putting out the
          • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

            by MythMoth (73648)

            He got it wrong, he was man enough to admit that he got it wrong. Why do you have to make such a big deal out of it?

            He didn't just "get it wrong", he got it wrong by three orders of magnitude. It was so wrong that anyone with even the faintest clue what they were talking about should have realised that the figures were wildly inaccurate.

            Having been so wrong, why should we trust the revised figure? There is absolutely no reason to believe that this figure has been produced in a more reliable manner. It happens to be a plausible figure, but that doesn't prove it to be correct. It could still be out by an order of magnitud

            • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

              by WIAKywbfatw (307557)
              In what context did he get it wrong? Don't, say, confuse being not being able to come up with an accurate number off the top of his head with actually making critical decisions on faulty numbers.

              And, in case you're forgetting, we're still talking about a very small minority of the BBC website's user base. As others have said, we're arguing about some small fraction of a percentage point here, so in the grand scheme of things it's not like he's radically out of touch with his customers, is it?

              Just why are yo
          • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

            by roystgnr (4015) *
            Don't be such a dick. It's attitudes like this that get the Linux community such a bad name. "We are clueless"? "Linux-unfriendly nature of the BBC's site"? How old are you?

            So in response to his one possibly personal attack (which I took as a joke) and his one statement that you've misinterpreted as a personal attack, you're making two even-more-personal attacks? Is this really the best way to get the mote out of his eye? I'm not sure whether calling someone clueless in a random Slashdot comment makes the
      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by value_added (719364)
        Yeah, it went from a lot less than 1% to, less than 1%.

        I'm reminded that in the early days of Firefox, people mouthed that same implicit argument. Too small a minority to redesign all those IE-only websites ... When the numbers started to approach 10%, people took notice. How things have changed, huh?

        Now, of course, the argument is that a business owner would be an idiot to write off 10% of their customer base. More important, the grander issues of healthy competition, accessibility, the destructive effe
        • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

          Now, of course, the argument is that a business owner would be an idiot to write off 10% of their customer base.

          Which is made worse by the fact that the BBC receives pretty heavy funding from the tax payer. The BBC should be providing services that commercial entities don't. Every time they make a decision like this, they're just providing another reason why they should no longer exist. EastEnders was a pretty decent argument in itself.
      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by aichpvee (631243)
        By that logic, how is mac a priority for anyone either?
      • by NickFortune (613926) on Tuesday November 06, 2007 @07:34AM (#21252919) Homepage Journal

        I still don't think that makes non Windows/MacOS support a priority for them

        As a few people point out on the BBC site discussion, no one is asking the BBC to support Linux. What we are asking is that they don't lock us out by selecting a closed protocol, especially one from a company openly hostile to free software.

        We're quite happy to organise our own support, thank you. All we ask is that the beeb picks a format where we can do so legally. I really don't see how they can justify any other course of action.

        Do you?

  • by cashman73 (855518) on Tuesday November 06, 2007 @02:02AM (#21251421) Journal
    According to this [bbc.co.uk], the BBC signed an agreement with Micro$oft, er, ... the devil, ... back in September of 2006 to collaborate on, "search and navigation, distribution and 'content enablement'". Makes you go, "Hmmmmmmmmm?",...

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by Technician (215283)
      According to this, the BBC signed an agreement with Micro$oft, er, ... the devil, ... back in September of 2006 to collaborate on, "search and navigation, distribution and 'content enablement'". Makes you go, "Hmmmmmmmmm?",...

      So how do they count their visitors when only the ones who can view the content are the only ones that return?

      How many Zune and Zen users have iTunes accounts? I wonder if they would claim less than 1% of the visitors to the iTunes store do not have an iPod so all other potential visi
      • by Tim C (15259) on Tuesday November 06, 2007 @03:47AM (#21251957)

        The BBC stats on Linux userbase is flawed for the same reason. Linux users don't return when the content is incompatible.
        In the article originally posted about this a little while ago (that these new figures are correcting), it was made perfectly clear that the figures were for the whole of the bbc.co.uk domain not just the new streaming media stuff. Of course Linux users return to the BBC site - it's one of the most popular sites in the UK. The Windows-only section is a new, so-far tiny addition.

        This is nothing like non-iPod owners using or not using iTMS (although I own an ageing iRiver and still use iTMS from time to time...). The vast majority of the content on the bbc.co.uk domain works just fine with Linux, as it's plain old HTML web pages.
  • by Zombie Ryushu (803103) on Tuesday November 06, 2007 @02:03AM (#21251425)
    I think that media companies are going to fight until the bitter end to supress Linux users because so much of their DRM technology just doesn't work. Microsoft will play ball with DRM Media companies, Linux users are much more likely to fight.

    I have a theory that even if Linux users outnumbered Windows users, Game companies and Media companies would continue to do whatever they could to make Games and Media incompatible making the majority of people criminals so that they could stay in control of their content no matter what.

    Despite all the trolling that everyone says how horrible Linux is because companies produce broken hardware that don't support it, plays musical chairs with chip sets, Linux is turning into one of the greatest OSes the world has ever seen. Lets make sure 2008 is not the last year of Linux. Lets make sure Linux does not go quietly into the night,
    • by Nazlfrag (1035012) on Tuesday November 06, 2007 @03:30AM (#21251893) Journal
      It sounds outlandish, but when MS and the DReaM team gang up, hideously nightmarish shit like tilt bits and encrypted fucking system busses are the result. I think you're right, but I see the MS lockin and DRM lockin monsters being vanquished by Global Benevolent Dictator Linus the week after he is appointed lord and emperor over all mankind. Unfortunately we will have to wait till 2038 for this, at which time a rebellious renegade decides to port an ancient operating system to a revolutionary closed source architecture and MS is reborn. So the cycle of the saga of the ages continues, waxing and waning in the aeons.
    • I think that media companies are going to fight until the bitter end to supress Linux users because so much of their DRM technology just doesn't work. Microsoft will play ball with DRM Media companies, Linux users are much more likely to fight.

      DRM should follow the rules of good crypto. No secrecy in the algorithm, but all secrecy contained in keys. That way all DRM technology can be open sourced and implemented on Linux with no isseus. However, most DRM schemes are so broken that they rely on secrecy.

    • by mpe (36238) on Tuesday November 06, 2007 @06:01AM (#21252557)
      I think that media companies are going to fight until the bitter end to supress Linux users because so much of their DRM technology just doesn't work. Microsoft will play ball with DRM Media companies, Linux users are much more likely to fight.

      Thing is that DRM is unworkable on any platform. It's especially pointless in the BBC case, since all the material in question has previously been broadcast (to all of the UK together with parts of Eire, France, Belgium and The Netherlands).
  • by smurphmeister (1132881) on Tuesday November 06, 2007 @02:04AM (#21251435)
    He stops short of describing how Auntie arrives at these two widely different sets of numbers and how their initial estimate is two orders of magnitude out.

    English to metric conversion?

    • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

      by dwater (72834)
      ..or maybe they're using some kibihits or something.
    • by turbinewind (667970) on Tuesday November 06, 2007 @02:40AM (#21251651)
      It's unfathomable to me how an IT head could be this far out of touch with his user numbers. Someone in his position hires analysts to design, programmers to code, IT staff to admin, but his job is to know his customer and direct his team to serve them. These numbers are his livelihood! I get the bit about largest audience first (although I don't get is why not develop a cross-platform system), and I don't see his remarks as sufficient basis for the M$ conspiracy theories. But c'mon, how does a IT head for one of the largest media companies get this wrong?
    • by DavidD_CA (750156)
      How many football stadiums of people is that?
    • by JasterBobaMereel (1102861) on Tuesday November 06, 2007 @04:49AM (#21252215)
      The British use metric more than 'merkins, we have it as a standard (except for a few exceptions, hey we're British...)

      In what other country can you buy a litre of petrol, drive a mile down the road at 30mph, under a 1.3m high bridge to buy a pint?

      • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

        by Anonymous Coward
        You've have the conversion wrong as well cause if you drive under a 1.3 m high bridge you won't make it to the pint, at least not with your head in the same place
  • by hyades1 (1149581) <hyades1@hotmail.com> on Tuesday November 06, 2007 @02:34AM (#21251625)
    Does this have anything to do with the "Intergalactic missing mass" in the other story? Perhaps the astronomers and the BBC should get together and compare notes. Maybe they'd find enough mass to account for the formation of galaxies and locate all those missing Linux visitors in one easy step.
  • by HyperJ (940722) on Tuesday November 06, 2007 @02:44AM (#21251663)
    Maybe they counted the wide variety of Linux flavours rather than individual users.
    • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

      by defnoz (1128875)
      No, no - they were right the first time. 600 Linux users using 97,600 distros.
  • by Tablizer (95088) on Tuesday November 06, 2007 @02:54AM (#21251715) Homepage Journal
    stops short of describing how Auntie arrives at these two widely different sets of numbers and how their initial estimate is two orders of magnitude out.

    Simple, one is before being slashdotted, and one is after.
           
  • by Tablizer (95088) on Tuesday November 06, 2007 @02:57AM (#21251739) Homepage Journal
    how many Commodore-64 visitors?
  • I have a stripped down install of Ubuntu Gutsy. With mplayer and firefox/mozilla mplayer plugin, I am listening to BBC streams right now. What, exactly, is the problem?
    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      by Techman83 (949264)
      I'm guessing you are doing this using the win32 codec plugins for mplayer. Whilst quite a feasible way of getting it to work (one I use myself), it's not technically legit. It doesn't quite fit the Free/Open Source ideals and also does nothing to rid the world of DRM.
    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by jimicus (737525)
      The bit you're missing is iPlayer, which allows you to view more or less anything the BBC has put out over the course of the last (week? month? Some time period).

      The streaming media is straight unencrypted WMV or RealAudio, which is why you can play it.

      iPlayer is a VB wrapper around Windows Media Player and requires the DRM functionality offered by WMP.
      • by Tony Hoyle (11698)
        It also requires IE for some insane reason.

        On a 32bit XP machine with all the required WMP and DRM it still refuses to work, because you're using firefox. That's what you get for hiring ex MS employees to write something.
  • Still not very precise are we... Good thing they are not supported by advertising. I can just imagine a pitch to the advertisrs: We have between 3m and 12m visitors a week and between 5% and 65% are located in North America and between 9% and 48% of those are your target audience ......
    • by Tony Hoyle (11698)
      Compared to what.. 35 million hits a day? It's pretty precise.. they're saying between 0.2% and 0.4%

  • by 2ms (232331) on Tuesday November 06, 2007 @04:25AM (#21252107)
    The guy doesn't have a clue. He looks at Linux as BBC's nuisance. In reality, the nuisance to everyone, BBC included, is that BBC has apparently ignored openly published industry standards. Adhere to the simple and straight-forward standards rather than locking self in to working with MS, and you're automatically compatible with viewers on [b]any[/b] operating system. Do that and you don't even have to think about that obnoxious OS created by hacker nobodies.
    • BBC has apparently ignored openly published industry standards.

      Well, the BBC is more or less obliged at this point in time to use DRM because practically everything they produce is a labyrinth of licensing and contracts - contracts with the writer, record labels for background music, actors, directors.

      So, exactly what openly published industry standard which implements DRM would you propose they choose, hmmm?
      • by 2ms (232331)
        Gee, I don't know. Maybe they could not produce a labyrinth of licensing contracts that makes it impossible to adhere to the basic standards of the system through which they are trying to deliver their product? I know, I'm crazy, even a heretic, but fuck it, that's my proposal.
        • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

          by mgblst (80109)
          Yes you are correct. To support Linux, they should completely change the way they do business...I mean they can't have a logical reason for doing these complex negotiations, i mean it gets in the way of Linux, it must be stupid.

          These are complex issues that we face, and pretending that they are simple to get rid off is not going to solve anything.
        • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

          by Molt (116343)

          The BBC is required, by it's charter, to have a significant proportion of its content produced by external providers.

          These providers would charge vastly more for a lot of their product if the BBC was going to say "Hey, we're putting all your content on the web in non-protected forms.. okay?", especially those who want to sell their content to other broadcasters too. For content already in the BBC's vast archives the rules are even more difficult as we're talking contractual obligations sometimes going bac

    • Linux is a nuisance to them, since their life would be easier if everyone would stop whining and use the OS from the company that the BBC seems to love so much.

      Someone needs to take a hammer to the BBC, and get it focussed on doing something useful. Too many parts seem to just ape what the commercial broadcasters are doing. i.e. do we need a tax funded broadcaster to air Beverly Hills Cop II? I reckon there are commercial broadcasters who are just as capable of showing us that masterpiece of world cinema.
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by TeknoHog (164938)

      Adhere to the simple and straight-forward standards rather than locking self in to working with MS, and you're automatically compatible with viewers on [b]any[/b] operating system.

      Adhere to the simple and straightforward standards of HTML rather than locking yourself into working with some forum/wiki software, and you're automatically compatible with viewers on any browser ;D

  • I've been listening to the BBC on Linux with my RealPlayer, or whatever it's been called for the past 10 years.
    Whatever dark place they've pulled these stats from requires a thorough cleansing.
  • Apparently there is a major problem with over-staffing at the BBC. I can easily see this issue is down to having to ask several different departments what the 'scores on the doors' are, and at the first count actually only one department had replied to the inquiring email. This revised number is simply due to the numbers from several other departments being returned and accumulated into the result.

    Expect the number to keep climbing for some days yet, and then actually to go up and down like some strange ki
  • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday November 06, 2007 @05:01AM (#21252291)
    It's interesting in the interview how Highfield denys that he and the BBC is in league with the devil (his words not mine). How then do you explain press releases like "BBC and Microsoft sign memorandum of understanding as BBC seeks new strategic partnerships to underpin creative future" - http://www.bbc.co.uk/pressoffice/pressreleases/stories/2006/09_september/28/microsoft.shtml [bbc.co.uk]?

    The BBC was actually developing its own codec called DIRAC for the iPlayer project but its demise coincided with the hiring of former senior Microsoft executives to Future Media and Technology team (e.g. Erik Huggers, the MS director responsible for Windows Media Player in Europe).

    This is a classic corporate 'coup d'état' by the Monopolist. A coup that has resulted in ~£100m (~$200m) of taxpayers money going to finance a media product that deliberately excludes large numbers of the UK public and is, as it happens, horribly broken.

    All this is at a time that the BBC is shedding 12% of it workforce, cutting back of its world-renowned R&D efforts and selling off its landmark buildings in west London.

    As the Free Software Foundation put it, the BBC now stands for "Bill's Corrupted Corporation".
  • by DrXym (126579) on Tuesday November 06, 2007 @09:10AM (#21253357)
    The point is that the BBC could have engineered a mostly platform neutral file delivery / playback platform for no additional cost to themselves or licence payers. For example Java is pretty much ubiquitous from one platform to the next so it would have been entirely feasible to construct an app for showing listings and downloading episodes that ran anywhere. Make the videos use a standard such as H264 and then they'll play back on just about any player too. Supporting multiple platforms would be relatively easy with Java.

    Instead of doing this they engineered some bizarro Windows-only, IE-only, WMP-only solution consisting of server side sniffers, activex controls, 3rd party controls and proprietary JS & HTML which is not only horrifically complicated but doesn't even work properly from one Windows OS to the next, or one IE version to the next, or one WMP to the next. Use Vista? Screw you. Use XP with IE7? Screw you. Use XP with Firefox? Screw you.

    Even DRM seems like a weak excuse for using WMP. Why not tie content to a TV licence by watermarking it? The user might have to register for the service and login but that's the only inconvenience. Afterwards let them do what they like with the content since its H264. It's not like the market for Eastenders episodes is massive anyway, and if by chance someone did abuse the service you can use the watermark to trace and prosecute them.

    It seems like someone in the BBC is desperately trying to justify a very bad decision by marginalising the critics as unimportant. In reality the BBC ignored a great chance to develop a cross-platform solution and hopped in bed with Microsoft. Now they're wondering why nobody including the few people who got iPlayer to work are happy with piece of crap that produced.

  • by psr (71027) on Tuesday November 06, 2007 @12:02PM (#21255199)

    Linked from TFA is a BBC produced podcast interview [bbc.co.uk] (available in Ogg Vorbis format, CC Attr-NC-SA) with Ashley Highfield which is extremely enlightening.

    Rather than the very lightweight interviews I've read with him lately (I don't care if he has an iPod!), this is pretty in depth, and Mr Highfield comes across as having quite a lot of clue. It's well worth listening to.

    To make a few of the points from the interview:

    • It sounds like there's going to be up to four different iPlayers:
      1. The windows one (currently in Beta)
      2. One for virgin media set-top boxes (Virgin has a monopoly on Cable TV in the UK). (coming around Christmas)
      3. The flash based streaming one (coming after Christmas)
      4. One for Macs, which is based on Adobe AIR, and allows downloading (not announced, and they won't until they know that it works
    • It seems that there isn't a plan to allow downloading for Linux, because as Mr Highfield (correctly) says, open source and DRM are incompatible. DRM can never work on Linux (not that it works anywhere else), and so while they're thinking about providing the iPlayer on Linux, it will only be in a future beyond DRM.
    • There's also some interesting stuff about how much it would cost for the BBC to buy all of the rights for their programming (lots) and how the Beethoven experience experiment changed the landscape

    All in all, a very interesting listen.

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