How can I make the BBC liveblogs update?
February 23, 2011 8:11 AM   Subscribe

How can I force the Ajax/jQuery style pages on the BBC website to update on the user end?

I frequently use the BBC to follow sports and news. They favor a liveblog style that updates automatically as new information is added, without a page refresh. However, these pages seem to get "stuck" a lot for me, where a page refresh does nothing but 5-6 updates will come rolling in at random. Tab focus doesn't seem to affect this. I'm using Chrome on OS X, though I have had this happen in Safari as well. Is there any way to make the page update?
posted by proj to Computers & Internet (3 answers total)
OK, the liveblog I'm reading right now just updated with: "1625: Humble apologies for those of you who've notice that the text stalled for an hour. We had a technical glitch, which is now fixed. Thanks for staying with us." However, this happens frequently with their liveblogging of sporting events.
posted by proj at 8:29 AM on February 23, 2011

Yes, there is, but it's completely not straightforward. With the debugger built into Chrome (which is the same one that comes with Safari), you can start watching requests that your browser makes to the server. Normally, you'll be able to see one of these requests go out just before a new item pops up, because your browser essentially has to ask the server if anything new is ready to show.

Once you track down the request that's being made, you can start looking through the BBC's javascript code (again, the built-in debugger will let you do this) and try to track down the function in there that builds and fires off this request in the first place. When you think you've found it, you can call it using the javascript command line in the debugger. This will let you requests updates at will.

Once you know how to trigger an update, you can do something like create a bookmark that does that, and then whenever you want a new update, you can click it.

I have been a professional software engineer, and I occasionally do things like this, and even so it often takes several hours to fully reverse-engineer whatever the site's programmer built that I'm trying to modify.

It also may be the case that the server is slow at processing these things, in which case it makes no difference how often you ask for updates, if they are only ready on the server in "bunches". Load balancing software can cause things like this. For example, all the updates may be created on a "master" database, and then propagated out to "slave" databases, and users are randomly directed to one of many slaves for their updates. If you get a slow slave, you may be waiting around with no updates, but if on your next request you get redirected to a faster one, you may get a bunch of updates at once.

So, it's some work to make a change on your end, and that will only help if the problem is on your end and not at the server.
posted by tylerkaraszewski at 8:36 AM on February 23, 2011

Fantastic. Thank you!
posted by proj at 9:12 AM on February 23, 2011

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