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Beyond the Hack

Fri 08 Jun 2012

Last year, I was part of a team that worked on a "Hack Event", during which we created Redio - a collaborative radio station for the Intranet, built on SharePoint.

When we presented it to the company (and Microsoft) it was very well received and I've recently been given time to turn it into a solid, quality application.

Check-out the screen-shots at the end of this post to see Redio in action.

All a bit Heath Robinson

Given that, for Redweb Hack Events, the team only has 36 hours elapsed time to complete their project, the Hacks emphasize: fun, collaboration, innovation, creative solutions and fast working.

Of course this also means our default tenets (such as code quality, robustness and testing) are sometimes sacrificed at the altar of expediency. This is particularly the case when there's only 10 minutes to go before the presentation; and Microsoft is waiting…. ;)

However, when I started to re-build Redio, I'd forgotten quite how much string and tape we'd used to get the solution to hang together.

Whipped into Shape

After no small amount of re-engineering, I'm pleased to say that Redio v1.0 is now ready! It's bullet-proof and I've even added some great new features.

So why would a company choose to listen to Redio rather than, say, Spotify?

Well, the keyword is governance.

Governance

Governance is a key element of SharePoint, and we make use of it in Redio. Here are a few examples:

  1. You can control the music tracks that are uploaded to Redio, which is a useful feature - do you really want expletives / hate lyrics broadcasted in your corporate environment?
  2. You can control the sound quality of the uploaded tracks e.g. set a minimum bit rate.
  3. You can control when tracks are scheduled (to comply with music licence restrictions1).
  4. Stop certain users hogging the airwaves by limiting the amount of music any one person can schedule per day.

Fun

Governance doesn't need to kill fun though. Here are some interesting features of Redio:

  1. Playlists are now announced in a Radio 4, Queen's English kind of a way, using a text-to-speech engine.
  2. Likewise, Redio users can queue their own "radio" announcements using the same speech engine
  3. You can upload your own sweepers (a.k.a jingles), which are randomly added to Playlists.
  4. We've bought some vintage radios on eBay and are using them to house Raspberry Pis and Mac Minis. These will then be used to broadcast Redio in various parts of the office. Here's an example…

Vintage radio

Redio in action

Here are just a few screen-shots of Redio in action. Click on a screen-shot to see a full size version:

Music Library

Unlike the Hack version of Redio, music tracks are now stored within Redio itself, rather than being streamed from an online music service2. The screen-shot below shows the music library. Tracks can be sorted and filtered using the column headers:

Music Library

Creating a Playlist

Redio users can create their own Playlists. 30 minutes of tracks from the music library can be added to each Playlist. The retro-style tuning gauge shows how much music has been added:

Create a playlist

Playing music

The screen-shot below shows a section of the Redio home page. On the right-hand side, you can see scheduled Playlists. The central area shows which track is currently playing. Users can click the "Listen Live" link if they want to listen to a music stream via headphones.

Now playing

Footnotes

  1. In the UK, you need to buy a PRS license.
  2. We found that music services (such as Spotify) restrict their usage to "personal use only", which is why we now store the tracks in Redio itself.
Howard Bayliss

Howard Bayliss

Senior Developer

Hello. I’m a Senior Developer here at Redweb. Working at Redweb is brilliant because I get to design / develop with SharePoint (which I’m passionate about) and can cycle to, and from, work along the beach – can’t get better than that. :)

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