Spectacular Snowy Scenes – I love Frozen Planet

December 4, 2011

Wednesday nights at 9pm has been must-see TV for the last few weeks. No I’m not talking about people designing new houses or deciding which has-been should be crowned the new ‘king-of-the-jungle’. This is a far simpler, yet at the same time infinitely more complex hour of television that has taken it’s viewers thousands of miles from our comfort zones and shown us scenery, creatures and worlds we could never imagine.

‘Frozen Planet’ has been yet another landmark documentary series from the BBC, whisking viewers to both the South and North Pole to witness life in the most extreme locations of our planet. Over the past six weeks, we have been treated to shots of Polar Bears, Seals, Killer Whales, Penguins, Reindeer, Boars and Snow Leopards and more in their natural habitat – all in High Definition.

With David Attenborough narrating (well who else?!) the show has done a sterling job of explaining the creatures lives in the poles as they fight to survive – whilst also remaining one of the most entertaining shows on the box. Unlike many other wildlife show, there’s no on-screen presenter and instead Attenborough acts as a narrator on the fascinating stories we see unfolding in front of us.

And we do get to see everything that happens, including a great deal of upsetting scenes. One moment it can be young playful Polar Bears, the next it’s Wolves attacking a herd of Boars in a fight  to the death. Some have criticised these scenes, claiming it’s wrong to show these sometimes brutal fights on screen. But I’d disagree with this, the show simply shows you the fight for survival at the poles, to edit any of it would be to ruin what the filmmakers are trying to achieve.

I think most people who have watched over the last few weeks would agree that one species of animal has been a highlight amongst others. I have fallen in love with the Penguins on this show. From their cheeky manner (the fist episode showed one Penguin stealing stones from another when his back was turned) to their phenomenal speed as they launch out of the water and on to land and to their remarkable struggle to stand, defiantly in face of extreme weather to defend their young. The Penguins involvement in the show has been fascinating.

Unlike many other wildlife shows, humans have also been a subject of ‘Frozen Planet’. Last week’s programme saw us follow the lives of the people in the Polar regions. The show documented their own fight for food – no going to Sainsbury’s for your eggs here, instead you’ll be abseiling down a cliff. We saw how they too interact with the animals there and interestingly how Penguins seem to actually ignore the human’s existence – domesticated already!

‘Frozen Planet’ is actually the third show in a series of wildlife shows co-produced by the BBC and the Discovery Channel – starting with Blue Planet (2001) and Planet Earth (2006). One of the things I have loved about this trilogy has been the effort made in the filming -taking up to four years to film a series. To celebrate this, we get to see a 10 minute ‘behind the scenes’ of every episode. In some ways I find this even more fascinating than the wildlife itself – seeing just how close and to what lengths the production crew go to to get their shots. I for one would not like to spend 2 months alone in a flimsy shack in the arctic -regardless of how many penguins are outside the door!

There is now only one show left of ‘Frozen Planet’, focusing on Attenborough himself journeying to the ‘Frozen Planet’ to see the action for himself as well as natural wonders such as Glaciers. And I think that it has been scenes such as the Glaciers and ice-sculptures that have set this series apart for me. Blue Planet and Planet Earth gave us amazing animal shots, but Frozen Planet has a backdrop beyond anything else – absolutely breathtaking.

I’m proud of the BBC for this trilogy of programmes, they’re the sort of thing that other broadcasters often shy away from due to the extreme expense for often disappointing viewing figures. Luckily ‘Frozen Planet’ has been very popular, charting the highest wildlife ratings since 2001. But I do wonder, in the current financial climate, if the BBC will commit to such an investment again any time soon. For the sake of creative and original TV, I really hope they do.

The final ‘Frozen Planet’ is on this Wednesday at 9 on BBC One, if you missed the series it’s all on BBC iPlayer or you can watch a compilation episode which is planned to be screened over Christmas.

On the #Clarkson outrage

December 2, 2011

You’d have to have been living under a rock the size of Manhattan not to have noticed the massive outpouring of rage vented mostly across Twitter in the last two days. All this anger was channelled towards one man, with one hashtag – #clarkson. So I thought I’d join in and add my two penn’s this ever-increasing pot!

In case you are in any doubt over what happened, Jeremy Clakson appeared on ‘The One Show’ on Wednesday. When asked what he thought about striking Nurses, he  claimed that he thought they were wrong to do it and that he would have them all shot in front of their families.

OK, so it wasn’t Clarkson’s finest moment, but as you can see from the clip here, his intentions were clearly tongue in cheek. He goes on to make a mockery of the fact he doesn’t exactly work a tough job for his salary. It was sarcastic and satire, it was not ever meant to be a personal attack.

But this is what many took it to be. Angered public sector workers took to the social networks to argue their point. A few famous faces on the site picked up on the story and started stating their point, making this already a bigger topic than it should have been. This got the interest of the Union’s, particularly Unison who decided that this was outrageous and claimed they would not settle until Clarkson was sacked. In fact, Unison went as far as to seek legal advise over the comments.

Wait a moment, what’s happened here! Clarkson was simply putting across his views (that public sector strikes were wrong – but at the same time he could see their reasoning behind them) but doing it in his style. This is Jeremy Clarkson’s brand, it always has been. If Jimmy Carr was to make the same joke on 8 out of 10 cats, no-one would have batted an eyelid. Granted the timing was a bit out – 7pm BBC One isn’t the best place to make a risque joke, but that’s all it was. There’s no need for Unison to waste a whole heap of their members money on legal advice for a joke.

Perhaps instead of getting in a rage over the situation, the people involved should grow some thicker skin – what was that old English phrase again, “sticks and stones may break my bones, but words will never hurt me?” If you are against those views, don’t let the bother you, change the channel and continue with your lives – don’t get stuck cursing the thing you hate.

And I’m not saying that people aren’t allowed to be offended by the comments, but people have been acting like Clarkson actually carried out these executions instead of using the words to make a point.

Of course, a lot of this may not have happened if it wasn’t for the ‘wondrous’ services available on the internet. As Padraig Reidy argues here, without YouTube to view it (lets face it, more people saw it online than the original transmission) and Twitter to start the wildfire, people may have already forgotten the comment even existed. Instead, the main focus may still be on the faltering Government who thanks to Clarkson stealing the limelight, seem to have got away lightly from the strike action. Instead it seems our ‘me-too’, ‘+1’, ‘bandwagon-jumping’ culture has only strengthened and made us forget the bigger issues in life.

At the time of writing, Clarkson has now apologised, the unions have stepped down (despite official BBC complaints reaching 21,000) and the term #clarkson has stopped trending on Twitter. Maybe we can just file this one under ‘bonkers Britain’ and move on. But whenever another of these mass-outrage-at-a-joke situations flares up I always get a bit sad that in this country we have week and truly lost our sense of humour and ability to laugh at ourselves – and that is the truly disappointing outcome of this whole debacle…




What it’s about

Stupidity of it

My viewpoint

idea of people jumping on bandwagon

Sad fact that we have lost sense of humour

The Fast Lane – It finally falls in place for Webber in 2011!

November 27, 2011

We’ve come a long way since lights out in Australia earlier this year. We’ve seen some of the most on-track action in many a season, but also the most dominated one since the Schumacher years (funny how things work out!) Since Vettel won the championship in Japan we’ve had a few mediocre races at the newer tracks, but today saw us return to a classic, Brazil for the final GP of the season.

Qualifying on Saturday was – as it has been for most of the season – a Red Bull washout. Vettel was in a class of his own to get pole position, followed by his team-mate Mark Webber in second with the Mclarens and Alonso following. But surely anything could happen on Sunday  – especially with rain in the forecast…

Unsurprisingly, the rain never came and as the race started out in dry conditions, Vettel and Webber proved how dominant Red Bull could be – both were clear of any rivals they had by the third corner of the GP. However the biggest winner off the start was Alonso. It’s been a great year for Alonso’s launch starts and today was no different. He dispatched of Hamilton off the line and took only 10 laps to sail round the outside of Button for third position. Unfortunately, by this point third place was already over ten seconds behind the blitzing pace of Vettel and Webber.

Michael Schumacher is no stranger to success around the Sao Paulo circuit, but today he found himself in tenth early on, battling with local hero Bruno Senna. This was to be Schumacher’s highest position of the day as on lap 11 he collided with Senna going into the first corner. It was a close one to call, Schumacher did seem to turn in on Senna, but there was little movement between them in the braking zone. I would have called racing incident, but the stewards decided Senna was to blame and handed the Brazilian a drive-through penalty. Schumacher also fell back after a puncture from the incident.

Sadly, this was as much on-track action as we were to get in the early to mid-stages of the race. The far more interesting action was happening over the radio as Red Bull confirmed on numerous occasions that Vettel had a serious gearbox issue. This led to a slower (although admittedly only slightly slower) Vettel and a yield to teammate Mark Webber on lap 30. Now, this will be the topic of much debate – was this a gearbox issue or not. Red Bull are adamant there was an issue and didn’t expect Vettel to finish the GP. However it seems more than a little strange that Vettel continued to set very hot laps whilst carrying his gearbox issues. Was Mark Webber gifted a first victory of 2011 by his team?

What is certain is that Vettel wasn’t the only one with gearbox issues. Bruno Senna was reportedly stuck in sixth gear for a lot of the race and Lewis Hamilton was forced to retire after his gearbox gave up on lap 48 topping iff a lacklustre weekend for the Brit. Perhaps the constantly re-used gearboxes finally took their toll at the end of the year – but it was strange to see such a reliable season end with three gearbox failures!

Looking a little further back and it was another disappointing weekend for Massa. After a strong start, the Brazilian just saw himself fighting to keep positions instead of challenging for others, the most interesting of these being a three-lap scrap with Lewis Hamilton before he retired. Felipe needs to work to regain his full-race pace in 2012, he often has cracking starts but cannot last the same race distance – I hope we see more from him next year.

A notable mention should go to Force India and Adrian Sutil today who fought valiantly with Nico Rosberg to provide some heart-stopping moments into the first corner. Sutil came out on top and managed to grab a strong sixth position for the team. His team-mate Paul di Resta also put in an impressive performance to finish eighth.

But the race wasn’t over yet. Jenson Button did his usual trick of storming the last quarter of the race. After his final pit-stop it took him mere laps to catch up to Alonso and pass the struggling Ferrari driver with ease. After this his sights were set on Vettel. Sadly, as we have often seen, it was too little too late for any further action, Vettel held second comfortably and came home second to Mark Webber’s first victory of the season.

And it’s worth celebrating Mark’s drive today. In 2011 he has been completely overshadowed (on track but certainly not in height!) by his team-mate Sebastien Vettel. Coming back to what I wrote earlier, Mark was not gifted this win, he earned it with a solid drive from start to finish – not a foot wrong throughout. I think this is summed up by his three consecutive fastest laps on the last three laps of the race, despite desperate cries from his team not to push too hard – that’s a true racer, well done Mark!

The season finished with the tyre smoke of Felipe Massa billowing towards the home-straight. Good on Felipe for giving the fans what they wanted with some good ol’ doughnuts and ignoring the silly FIA regulation against them.

Of course, here in the UK, we’re looking towards a quite different 2012 coverage-wise. It will be split between the BBC and Sky. Sky will show all races live with in-depth analysis on their brand new channel, whereas the BBC will show 10 races live and provide re-runs (that’s what Jake said!) and highlights of the others.

This has angered many, who understandably believe all F1 races should be live on free-to-view TV. However, after todays race, I was left more than a little underwhelmed at the lack of on-track action and actually crave a slightly shorter highlights package. I felt like it was all a bit of a waste of my Sunday, which isn’t how I’ve been feeling about F1 for a long time.

All I’m saying is that I wont be getting the Sky coverage and really don’t think I’ll mind missing half the season live.

Of course the true test of this will come next year when the first two GP’s of the season are exclusively live on SkySports, but right now – for the first time in a while – I’m ready for a break from Formula One…


The Fast Lane – The great Hamilton return of Abu Dhabi 2011

November 14, 2011

As we all sat down around the world at 1.00PM GMT yesterday to watch the Abu Dhabi GP – a track where only one man, Sebatien Vettel has ever won a Grand Prix, where the same man was currently sitting at the front of the grid in the best car of the 2011 season – there was one thing no-one was expecting to see. Vettel out at the second corner!

Now it’s mean to celebrate at others misfortune – I’ve written on this blog how much I admire Sebastien’s driving and I think we all know what amazing talent that man has – but I couldn’t help but leap for joy when I saw that second corner spin! At last, a race Vettel wasn’t going to win simply from the front.

It turned out that the German had suffered the unlucky fate of a rear puncture causing him to lose control of his Red Bull. The sad news was that this really was it for Vettel’s day – despite nursing the car back to the pit, it was too badly damaged to continue and any valiant drive through the field we may have hoped for was not to be.

It was Lewis Hamilton who took up the baton that Vettel dropped and led the field through the early laps. Just behind him was an impressive Alonso who had taken every chance at the start, driving around both Webber and Button with ease. Judging by Ferrari’s performance this season, you might have thought Alonso would soon fade away and be taken by both Button and Webber, but it wasn’t the case. The Spaniard got something special out of his car and managed to match and beat Hamilton’s lap times out front – remaining around 2 – 3 seconds behind the Brit. Maybe it was the shadow of the impressive Ferrari World spurring him on!

Behind the top two, a slightly different battle was going on between Button, Massa and Webber. Massa initially started to out pressure on Button who was suffering with a KERS issue. With the double DRS available at this track, it was looking possible for the Brazillian to sneak through. But all this focus forward had made Massa lose sight of the man behind him. It took several laps and even more DRS zones, but Mark Webber was clearly the faster car and managed to make his way past the Ferrari driver.

Webber took to chasing down Button, but as we have seen throughout the year, if there’s one thing Button can do, it’s look after his tyres. Webber couldn’t, in fact he rather destroyed his, forcing an extra pit stop and an extra set of soft tyres. This tactic moved Webber past Button into third position, but it wasn’t to last. Webber still had to pit for his harder tyres, doing so on the final lap and losing the position.

The top two had an astounding pace, both trading fastest laps throughout the race. But it was Hamilton who remained the dominant, always a few seconds down the road from Alonso and avoiding any wheel-to-wheel racing (boo!). This was a man back on form – it’s a shame we couldn’t see how close he was to Vettel on track.

The undisputed villain of the race has to be Pastor Maldonado. I’m unsure what on earth he was doing throughout the GP. He was constantly ignoring blue flags and generally getting in everyones way – nearly crashing into Felipe Massa. It’s poor form to be this bad at following the simple F1 rules and something which yesterday was rightly punished (although that just put him in even more people’s way!)

Lewis Hamilton has said of his win, that this is the start of a new beginning for the driver. Lets hope so, because I feel that the Lewis which won the championship in 2008 has been missing in action ever since. The question still remains though, how does Lewis at his peak shape up to the might of Vettel. Maybe in Brazil in two weeks, at the BBC’s last full F1 broadcast, we will find out…

The Fast Lane – Vettel helps Red Bull seal the deal in a lacklustre Korean GP

October 16, 2011

Only a week after Sebastien Vettel wrapped up the 2011 Formula One World Championship, the circus reconvened in Korea. The quick turnaround no doubt took it’s toll on the teams, but they were all still hungry with a constructors championship and second in the drivers standings all up for grabs – race on!

It was almost like seeing the Korean track for the first time this weekend. A year ago the entire weekend was clouded out by a phenomenal amount of rain, many didn’t make the chequered flag. But despite a slight hiccup in practice, the weather remained dry for today’s race… I almost wish it hadn’t.

Don’t get me wrong, there was some good racing through the field today – but the Grand Prix just seemed to me to be very lacking. The rather dull colour of the Korean tracks walls probably didn’t help, but I just felt that such a promising race just didn’t deliver.

It was an exciting race in prospect with Lewis Hamilton (albeit very downhearted) becoming the first non- Red Bull driver to claim pole position this year – what an incredible statistic. This however didn’t last long. Many have previously criticised Vettel as being a fast driver, but not a racer. I think this no longer applies as Vettel dispatched of Hamilton quickly and clinically before the end of the first lap. There’s no doubt it was a blitzing move from Vettel, but I can’t help thinking there was a groan around the world as we realised that once again this race was to be dominated by one man until the finish.

Hamilton was able to stay with the Red Bull for the majority of the race, but it was clear that the McLaren driver was really having to push to stay in contention whilst Vettel had plenty in reserve up front. This was obvious from the fact that Vettel always stayed just over a second in front, denying Hamilton that crucial DRS activation. Clever and frustrating driving from the champ.

Instead of battling for the lead, Hamilton soon had to switch to a defensive strategy to keep second place. Mark Webber had been closing on Lewis for the entire race and after the second pitstop came his chance. This was without doubt the highlight of the race. Both Webber and Hamilton raced wheel to wheel round the entire lap, each diving in front of each other only to lose it on the next corner. They showed how it can and should be done, each giving the other plenty of room without compromising their own race.

In the end it was Lewis who came out the better and remained in second. Some will argue that Lewis was saved by the DRS which he used to breeze straight back past Webber in the first instance, but lets not forget that Webber was able to use DRS on every lap after and still coundn’t re-pass Hamilton. Perhaps we have found Red Bull’s only weakness (just a little too late!).

Behind the Hamilton/Webber battle was Jenson Button who really failed to come alive today. After a shocking start, Button found himself battling with Rosberg as he rejoined the race after his first pit stop. Button came down the pit lane behind Rosberg but overtook the German by crossing the white line at the pit exit. This struck me as very strange as normally drivers are not allowed to cross this line and receive a penalty for it, yet here in Korea it seemed to go unnoticed as everyone tried it.

Once again, I think the FIA need to sort their rules out and decide what you can and can’t do as I believe Rosberg was only following the line he thought you were supposed to take out of the pits. Mind you, the pit exit itself is a complete shambles, allowing for less run off than a motorway entrance and nearly causing a collision between Michael Schumacher and Feranando Alonso in the middle of the race.

Of course, Michael didn’t have to wait long before he actually did have a collision. Soon after the nearly-incident with Alonso, Schumacher was whacked into from the side by Vitaly Petrov who had completely missed his braking zone. This was due to him racing to the limit with Alonso (who also missed his braking zone, but to a lesser effect) and clearly not spotting Schumacher in front. Another unfortunate exit for the German, but I was most worried Michael was ill as he told Lee McKenzie that other incidents between himself and Petrov were his own fault. Schumacher, admit a mistake – what?!

Fernando Alonso did not fall out of the race, but he may as well have done. The Spaniard had a horribly average Sunday stuck behind his teammate Felipe Massa. I think it was clear that Alonso could have been quicker, but Massa defended well and kept him behind – clearly both have been told they can race now. When Alonso did get some clear air, he did start to cruise up to Button but curiously said over the radio that he had ‘given up’. A very strange attitude from a racing driver and was most likely sour grapes from being stuck behind Massa. But I’m afraid the only thing I have to say to Alonso is, it’s a race – if you want to pass Massa, overtake him. Don’t expect to be given it!

Around 10 seconds ahead of the rest, Sebastien Vettel (remember him!) came through to win the race on lap 55 – sealing the constructors championship for Red Bull – and was just as excited as he has been all season. But I’m afraid I wasn’t. Perhaps we’ve been treated by such an exciting F1 of late that I forgot how bad the sport once was (and this was nowhere near as bad as the mid-2000’s) but I did just find todays race dull. Maybe it’s the track, maybe it’s the drivers attitudes, maybe it’s just me – but I’m hoping for a much more exciting race when we head to India in two weeks time.

And as a quick note, I’m afraid there will be no Fast Lane post from me for the Indian Grand Prix (well at least not on Sunday) as I’ll be otherwise engaged during the race. Never fear though, ‘The Fast Lane’ and hopefully a more upbeat writer will return for the 13th November for the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix!

The Fast Lane – Vettel loses the battle, but wins the war in Suzuka

October 9, 2011

After a dominant season, Sebastien Vettel came to to Japan needing only one point to secure the 2011 Formula One World Championship. But he was determined that he was not playing the percentages game and instead wanted the glory of another race victory. That became obvious when he stormed to pole position despite the Red Bull’s being consistently slower than the McLaren’s throughout practice.

So this morning we were a situation we’re all very familiar with, Vettel on pole ready to win another race easily from the front. But things didn’t exactly go to plan.

A poor getaway saw Vettel on the backfoot from the start with second place man Jenson Button (the only one who could still take the title from Seb) drawing alongside the Red Bull. Vettel did the only thing he could and squeezed Button’s McLaren to the edge of the track.

This is an incident I’m sure will be debated long into tonight. Button was clearly still angry after the race, confronting Vettel before the podium. The move was very aggressive and Vettel did take every inch of room he could, but in my opinion was just within his rights at a race start. By the time Vettel had moved fully over, Button had lost momentum and had only his front wheels alongside the German. Button moved onto the grass, but I think there was still just enough room on track. Button’s move was a precaution and ultimately cost him second place, but I do think he could have just stayed on track. Vettel was extremely aggressive, but just stayed within the rules of the FIA. It was right that no penalty was issued.

This move allowed Vettel to open up and early lead, with his competitors all rearranging themselves behind. Massa let the fast Alonso through (for about the twentieth time!) and Hamilton moved out of the way of Button after a puncture. With the faster cars now chasing him, Vettel was forced to pit due to tyre degredation on lap 9.

The race entered a stage of status quo at this point, Button was getting slightly closer to Vettel and Alonso continued to push. The gaps were coming down, but with still plenty of time between each car there was no real on track action to be had up front.

Things changed again on laps 19 and 20 when a combination of an average pit stop and outlap for Vettel and a supreme one for Button reversed the positions in the pits. Button took the lead of the race – now things got interesting. Vettel was on the backfoot again, if Button won and he failed to score due to an accident, the championship would remain open for another week.

Rather than stay out of trouble and protect his point, Vettel decided that he was still going for glory and harried Button for several laps. I do think it is great to see a racer so dedicated that they still put this effort in, even when it’s not necessary. Vettel helped to give us a very exciting battle – even if most of the world were willing him to make a mistake!

Further back, two more drivers were getting into trouble. Hamilton and Massa seem to like getting so close they touch this season and the same thing happened again today. Massa few down the outside of Hamilton coming into the final chicane. Lewis – not noticing the Ferrari – took his usual line and the two collided, all be it in a rather minor way. It’s tough to place blame here, Lewis clearly didn’t see Felipe and drove straight into him, but despite racing, perhaps Felipe should have known it was never going to work around the outiside. I personally would say Hamilton again was sadly more in the wrong the Stewards decided not to give a penalty today to the most penalised driver of the season!

This incident caused a small amount of debris and the safety car was deployed. After a four lap period, Jenson backed the pack up (to the extreme) and restarted the race. He was able to absorb some more pressure from Vettel who was now suffering with his tryes again and dropped back from the Brit.

Vettel pitted again, but must have been surprised a few laps later when Fernando Alonso emerged out of the pit lane in front of him. Unseen by most, Alonso had been on quite a charge and has mustered enough time to leapfrog the reigning world champion.

This battle would continue until near the end of the race. Vettel pressured Alonso for several laps, but was asked by the team to stop racing and  back off for the final five. This of course was the only sensible thing to do, win the championship rather than risk it with Alonso.

But Fernando wasn’t quite finished yet as he was able to close to just under a second behind race leader Button. Jenson however stamped his authority on the race by setting some new fastest laps to keep the Ferrari at bay.

And so Jenson Button came through to take his third victory of the season, but all eyes were on a very emotional Sebastien Vettel who has driven a Schumacher-esque season to win his second world title. If we’re honest, we’ve known this for a very long time, but that makes it none the less incredible – a class act right from the Australian GP.

Interestingly, for all the anoraks out there, we had quite an interesting top six with all five of the grids world champions in it (That’s right, Schumacher was best of the rest today!) and of course, Mark Webber in 4th…

So the drivers championship is over, but not the season. I predict a very close and hard fought fight for second place – Button, Alonso and Hamilton really have very little to choose between them and whose to say that Webber and Massa won’t mix things up as well. And now Vettel has nothing to lose, he could be even more daring and racier than ever before… oh great!

The Facebook changes – especially Timelines – are great!

October 8, 2011

I’ve got a bit bored of Facebook recently. The site seemed to have lost it’s way a bit. The simple idea of sharing photos and interacting with your friends had been replaced with ‘Like’ buttons and poor quality games. I just found my entire newsfeed to be clogged up with this rubbish I had no interest and thus found myself driven away from the site.

Then a few weeks ago, I saw a bit of an uproar from users of the site (ironically on Twitter) due to some new updates. I curiously investigated and I have to say I’m not sure what all the fuss is about.

Basically the news feed appears to have changed so that ‘top news’ is now more prominent than recent news. This was previously split into two different feeds and you could choose which you looked at – which was perhaps for many a better way of presenting it. However, all your news is still there, it’s just that the top news is now more prominent. For me this can actually be very helpful as I only check Facebook once or twice a day. I can now pick up on top stories shared on the site alot quicker. I also like how Facebook groups stories together now (on thursday it told me how many of my friends had shared stories about Steve Jobs). Things like this seem to work well so far and can be very handy.

Photos are now displayed in a much more engaging way, giving you a better overview of what you’ll see in the album. In the new sidebar – which is a bit ugly but ultimately practical – your live updates and Facebook chat are now displayed much clearer and available on every page (instead of just the newsfeed). Overall the whole news feed experience seems to be more media rich, but crucially with much less of the clutter it used to have.

So after quite liking the changes, I decided to look a bit deeper at Facebook’s latest project – timelines. This is the new name for your profile – or wall – something which has stayed fairly static on Facebook with only a few minor changes down the years. Timelines changes that quite radically. At present it’s only available as a developer beta, but it’s quite easy to activate if you want to have a look.

The first thing that will strike you about Facebook timelines is just how much the site has on you. By activating the new look profile, Facebook will generate a complete timeline of your life based on the information the site has on you. It can be quite interesting looking at the things it picks up – things such as my sisters birth, when I started and left certain jobs and various events I have attended were all listed on the line.

Mark Zuckerberg was very passionate  that timelines could and should tell the story of your life, but it is also a stark reminder that everything you put on Facebook is still there and can always be dug up. Be careful what you make public.

The layout of timelines will probably throw some and annoy many more. Your timeline goes vertically down the page with stories appearing to the left and right in chronological order. I quite like this system, I find it easier to see what is going on quickly without having to scroll for a while. You also have complete control over what is shown on your timeline, you can remove stories or make them bigger and more prominent for all to see (this may also affect top stories in the newsfeed).

Profile pictures have also changed – you now get two. This might sound strange at first, but actually works very well. Your traditional profile pic, the one that will be shown all over Facebook (and nowadays the web) is shown smaller than it currently is, but still in roughly the same place. Just behind it is a much wider picture, a place for you to put a group shot, or a landscape of your holiday, or in my case me and Dragon Khan at PortAventura! I really like this new ‘headline’ pic. It’s a great way to showcase a new picture you love without ruining the profile pic thumbnail.

In fact I actually love the whole interface. It makes it easier to see your most up to date activity and also look back through the archives. You easily add new info about your life, past or present (which is something I can see a lot of Facebook addicts doing!) by clicking on the timeline and writing. General info about you and your likes, places and friends is stored at the top under your headline pic in a small tidy space. This leaves the rest of your profile open to share whatever you want with your friends.

And this is what I love most about Timelines. It’s a new interface with a lot in it, but it’s not cluttered at all. It’s super easy to use and looks fantastic (in fact makes a lot of competitors look dated). And it finally focuses on what made Facebook great, sharing your life with your friends online. No silly apps or likes ruining the place, just you and your connections all in one place.

Facebook Timelines is expected to roll out before the end of the year and I’m sure there will be another swarm of complaints heading Zuckerberg’s way. But to those people I ask you just to try the new system, get used to it, give it at least a week. I’m pretty certain you’ll actually agree that Facebook are onto another winner with this one. And even if you don’t, lets be honest, you’re not going to leave FB anyway!