Martin Belam’s recent post about the BBC’s Blogging Guidelines gave me a strange warm feeling. I think it might make me a bit sad that I remember a bit of policy work with affection. But it was one of the most enjoyable things I’ve done at the BBC and it helped put me on my present path.
I do remember the meeting that Martin describes at Digilab. It was the first time I had ever met a large group of bloggers gathered together. I remember being disconcerted by the fact that some of them were busy with their laptops throughout the discussion (I think Tom Coates was one of them). Were they being rude? Were they blogging the event?
Since then I’ve come to realise that this is common amongst new media people who seem to be able to concentrate on two things at once.
The meeting was organised by Euan Semple who sadly is no longer with the BBC. Euan was one of the prime movers and inspirations behind the Guidelines. It may have been his idea that we had some Guidelines in the first place, or it may have been Dan Hill‘s, or both. It was definitely Euan’s idea to draft the Guidelines on an internal BBC wiki so that bloggers who worked for the BBC could comment and change them. Euan was an inspiration throughout and deserves more credit than me.
Dan was also very important. By reading his blog, the beautiful City of Sound (and also Tom Coates’ plasticbag which I read a lot at that time), and by him graciously dispensing his wisdom, I started to get a handle on how to approach the task.
Pretty early on I think I stumbled on two things that shaped my thinking about the Guidelines.
1. Blogging may be personal but it is not private, despite a perception among some bloggers that it is (this is possibly why as Martin mentions some bloggers were anxious about telling managers they had a blog). But it is not like writing for the press either.
2. Personal blogs by BBC people can benefit the BBC. It seemed to me obvious that it was a good thing that Dan was working for the BBC, and that therefore him having an high quality personal blog, where he would sometimes talk about his BBC work, was also good for the BBC.
Many people don’t visit bbc.co.uk. So their only contact with the BBC might be on someone’s personal blog.
The trick was to find a way of keeping this door open, while ensuring that BBC people didn’t do things on their personal blogs that might damage the BBC.
Another problem was how to police this type of activity. Again I felt strongly that over policing might shut the door. If people had to refer every blog post about their work to their manager they probably wouldn’t post at all.
I was also very clear in my own mind that I did not want to audit BBC people’s personal blogs as part of drawing up the Guidelines. This was (I think) because at that time I had just stopped auditing the use of the BBC News syndication box. Trawling through hundreds of blogs to find out who ran them and what they were saying seemed to me to be pointless and likely to freeze blogging activity.
Instead as I learned more about the internet I started to rely on certain tools (in particular Google blog search) and communities to flush out any problems that there might be on a BBC employee’s personal blog. I figured that if there was a problem somewhere Biased BBC would find it for me (and of course once I started reading Biased BBC well, the inevitable happened).
I can proudly say that I still don’t know how many people at the BBC have a personal blog.
This post is too long already, so I’ll end here. I’ll do another one with further thoughts, in particular about using a wiki to draft the Guidelines.