Earlier this year, we were delighted when Jem Stone of BBC Radio asked us to build some simple Twitter bots for BBC Radio 4 and BBC Radio 4 Extra. The idea is not new. Libby Miller has been running something similar for a few years, and deserves much of the credit for developing this idea.
what do they do?
The bots are very simple. They grab data from Atlas, our media data router, then tweet about an upcoming show, around five minutes before it starts. We add a few words of continuity and a link. There’s even support for opt-outs, so you’ll know when Test Match Special is on Longwave.
The bots seem to fit into people’s lives quite smoothly. If you spot the tweet when it’s sent, there’s enough time to settle down by a radio and catch the start. For those of us with more hectic lives, the bots work pretty well, too. I often spot a show a few minutes later, when it’s just starting, or has been going for a while, or even finished. Thanks to the excellence of the BBC’s programmes pages, all is not lost! The link we send out will play the programme live, and will also allow access to almost any content for at least 7 days more, often much longer.
In the few weeks since they started, the bots have built quite a following. People follow them, retweet them, and talk to them. Here’s a small selection of the reaction:
Radio 4 fans: you need this. There’s a new twitter account which does exactly what it says on the tin:
NowOnBBCRadio4</a>. Lovely. <a href="https://twitter.com/search?q=%23radio4&src=hash">#radio4</a></p>— Sarah D (londonette) February 23, 2014
— Sarah Holmes (@holmespest) March 8, 2014
NowOnBBCRadio4</a> <a href="https://twitter.com/BBCRadio4">BBCRadio4 so refreshing to hear this intelligent discussion, it seems we are damned if we do & damned if we don’t intervene
— MaSmith (@demorali8ed) March 5, 2014
NowOnBBCRadio4</a> <a href="https://twitter.com/BBCRadio4">BBCRadio4 Don’t need it. Cat’s in. The temp is dropping. Chance of rain. Check back tomorrow.
We’re thinking of making a few more bots for other channels. If you’ve a request, or would like to run one for your own station, let us know on twitter or via the buttons below.