Here’s a brain dump of thoughts in no particular order around running a blogger in residence for six months:
1. I really enjoyed working with Steve. Intelligent, personable, funny. Lots of energy and persistence and the rare ability to understand the technology but also able to talk about what it means in a comprehensible way.
2. The most difficult bit was getting him hired, both in
- HR terms (I had to fill in 6 different forms and kept being told I had filled in the wrong ones) and
- politically (I still bear the scars. Let’s just say that some people’s fears about letting Steve loose in the organisation turned out – mainly – to be unfounded. But if you’re thinking about doing something similar, don’t underestimate the cultural residence you might face and remember our old friend “chain of command!”)
3. Steve came up with lots and lots of good ideas. The trouble was choosing which ones to do. We had the rights lab in the diary three times and had to pull it each time for different reasons. I hope it still happens.
4. My job changed half way through. Good for me but meant I was doing too much and probably didn’t give Steve as much attention as I should have. Plus he was only working a couple of days a week. He should have been full time.
5. You can only do the kind of under the radar culture challenging type of work that Steve was doing for about six months. By then you come up against the limits of what’s sayable and doable, legally, culturally and politically. By the end I was spending too much time arguing with people about what Steve was doing and not enough time actually helping him do it.
Also and inevitably any “agitator” or even “critical friend” starts to go a bit native. From the outside the BBC might look like a forbidding fortress. Once you’re inside it’s a rather attractive magic kingdom, full of interesting people doing interesting things. A month ago Steve turned to me and said “Let’s do this the proper way! Let’s comply it!”
Which is fair enough.
If the BBC is to become more open then its not enough for people to talk about it or do low level blackops/skunkworks. It needs to be embedded in the heart of the organisation at a strategic and high editorial level. And the case has still not been properly made, let alone proved.
Steve had good ideas but I didn’t have the time or the knowledge to plug them in to the right part of the business to do that.
6. The social media skills Steve has are in short supply in the BBC. It’s no surprise that he’s now editing the Radio 4 blog.
People seemed to enjoy the event on Tuesday. What made it particularly good was the very high quality of the panel. And perhaps the fact that people of that calibre were prepared to come showed that Steve’s work has had some effect…