The BBC’s Backstage project has taken a little flak of late for the slow way that it’s been releasing open feeds for BBC data, which – given that the project is barely a year old – is somewhat harsh. But one “enterprising” former employee, Ben Metcalfe, decided to take things into his own hands and release links on his blog and via the Backstage list to feeds of the weather data that the Beeb uses to create a customisable weather panel on the BBC News home page.
Only one problem: the BBC hasn’t released the feeds to the general public, for the very good reason that its license with the Met Office (which supplies weather data) doesn’t presently allow them to. All of which means that not only has Metcalfe likely scuppered the immediate future of those feeds (and the features that depend on them), but he’s also managed to cost the BBC – and thus the license fee payer – more money. The Met Office will, undoubtedly, use this as a bargaining chip to get more from the BBC for the eventual, inevitable feed license.
In the comments to his post, Metcalfe trots out the usual excuses that you’d expect from someone with the kind of juvenile certainty in his own infallibility that you get from too much sugar and caffeine. If he hadn’t done it, someone else would. He’s not going to lose sleep over it. And so on and so on, ad-teenagerium.
First of all, Metcalfe’s claims that he just happened to work out the scheme for the feeds rings more than a little hollow. He admits that he was closely involved in “many” meetings about the weather data, and – given his technical involvement at the BBC – it’s difficult to see how he can support his “no insider knowledge” claim.
Secondly, his posting of the feeds location and invitation to “by all means make use of this data” indicates an ego that is simply out of control. This is further evidenced by the fact that, despite his knowledge that posting the feeds would cause massive problems for his former co-workers, he simply did it anyway and, as he puts it “I’ll live with the controversey. I’m not going to loose sleep over it.”
The man is an idiot and I wish him every failure in his future career. May our paths never cross.
UPDATE to the UPDATE: It appears that Metcalfe has started modding his comments, perhaps because he was afraid of the inevitable backlash that he’s bound to get. My last comment – which accused him of basically stabbing his former employer and former colleagues in the back – hasn’t appeared on his site yet. Given that his new employer is a marketing consultancy that specialises in showing companies how “openness” is good, I find this rather surprising.
(It’s still vanished, but I’m inclined to believe that Ben isn’t modding comments. Those pesky internets!)
Ben is trying to claim, incidentally, that it wasn’t him wot dun it – it was his “edgy” alter ego “dotBen”. Perhaps the clients for his new consultancy ought to make a point of asking him who’s signing NDAs – “businessman” Ben Metcalfe, or “edgy rebel” (a little bit ooh, a little bit arrrr!) dotBen.
MORE UPDATES: Ben has now removed the offending material from his post. As he puts it:
"In general don’t feel it ‘wrong’ for someone to link to them
BBC News Website (or derived by changing easily guessable paths in the
URL). That’s how I discovered them, it’s been years since I had access
to the BBC News Webservers so there was no ‘insider knowledge’ of paths
BUT yes I do admit that because I personally know the licensing position of this data it wasn’t something that I should have done.
And despite the fact that I warned on the blog post that the data
wasn’t licensed for off-site use, I take the point that it was little
irresponsible to encourage people to do it anyway. Feel free to
ridicule me on your blog posts, mash-up photos of me with egg on face,
Ben deserves some credit for at least admitting he was wrong. I’m still royally pissed off with him for doing it in the first place, without checking with anyone at the BBC what the status of the project to open up weather feeds was. And I’ve no doubt that it will cost the BBC money – that the way contracts work – but at least Ben’s big enough to own up that he was wrong.