Check out this nifty Flash presentation entitled "US Missile Defence: How it could work" over at BBC News.
It strikes me that the BBC has presented us with something really good, and really shoddy at the same time.
The good part is the quality of the polished animation. Despite now having been at it for years, Big Media still doesn't quite get the fact that they can use their web presence to actually present information in new and different forms that aren't possible in print, pure audio or video. This graphic is a good example of just such a use: it isn't earthshattering, but it is a good use of a common web technology (Flash) to present information in a clear, interesting and dynamic manner.
The bad part, though, is that the information which it does present --- the hypothetical technical operation of a missile defense shield --- is floating in an absolute context-free void. (If you want to see where it is on the BBC's site, check here, it's on the right about halfway down). Given how controversial missile defense has been on practically every level --- political implications, economic cost, technical feasability --- you'd think the Beeb might have provided some of that information with the graphic.
But for some unfathomable reason, none of that is there --- it's just a cool slideshow with some missiles getting zapped.
For the record, I'd class myself as a skeptical agnostic on missile defence --- I haven't studied the issues closely enough to have formed a hard judgement, but what I have heard about the technology makes it sound pretty squirrelly, and the political implications are complicated, to say the least. On the other hand, with every rogue state on the map popping up longer and longer range missiles each year, it certainly would make a West-coaster like me sleep better to know that even when Pyonyang gets that super-duper-long-range-missile working, we have some line of defence to ensure I don't end up glowing in the dark.
But anyway, I don't think you have to be a full-blown disbeliever to agree that providing a teesy bit of context (any context ! ) might have made this a more helpful piece.
Update: Aha. I knew the BBC couldn't be that silly. Turns out there is a story with context --- but to reach it, you have to select the non-Flash version of the presentation and go through 'till the very end. Still demerits for the Beeb, but we'll raise their grade a bit...
Update II (Sunday 8am): The link is now no longer on the main news front page, although it is similarly placed on the Americas front page (not sure if it was there before).
PS - Full disclosure: I never have completely forgiven the BBC for cancelling Dr. Who, so maybe I'm biased...
PS II - Light blogging this weekend; like everyone else in the blogsphere, I'm enjoying family time...