BBC Blogging Guidelines Nostalgia 2

January 29, 2008

Inspired by this complimentary post from Eyedropper here are some more thoughts about the drafting of the BBC Guidelines For Personal Weblogs and Webspaces.

As I said before I can’t take any credit for the idea of drafting the Guidelines on a wiki. (In fact I just had a quick look at the original BBC Gateway wiki and discovered not only was it Euan Semple‘s idea, he actually set the wiki up for me).

Eyedropper asks “Was it easy?”

Getting to grips with the technology was easy enough. The BBC’s wiki software was simple to use. But like anything it involved work.  Every time I drafted a new version of the Guidelines I would not just redraft them but also send an email to everyone who was on the BBC’s Connect system as a “personal” or a “buisness” blogger which linked to the Wiki. I’d also put a note on the BBC’s internal message system talk.gateway and on my internal BBC blog.

Alongside this I would also in the normal way be discussing the guidelines in a series of meetings with colleagues in Editorial Policy and legal (I also remember meeting Richard Sambrook). So probably double the work from usual.

The truth is that the Guidelines weren’t redrafted in any significant way on the wiki by other people (although Annabel Blair did correct my spelling). What they did do was comment on the drafts. And those comments and the discussions I had with people did change the subsequent drafts.

So my conclusion is that drafting this kind of document on a wiki won’t make it a hugely different or better document. You do double the work but don’t get something twice as good. However by allowing people to have a say (even if they don’t make any changes) you get a much better feeling about what you are doing.

What I wanted to avoid was publishing the guidelines and then lots of people saying “I didn’t know about this!”, particularly as the guidelines were about personal blogs, which people feel very protective about.

I remember both Tom Coates and Ben Metcalfe who worked for the BBC at the time, both saying to me seperately that they were aware of the Guidelines being drafted but chose not to get involved. That’s their right of course, but they couldn’t say they weren’t asked.

The lesson here is: opening up policy making doesn’t necessarily lead to much improved policy. But it does lead to policy makers appearing less remote. Being willing to listen and open to argument makes a difference.

I think more policy work should be done in an open way on wikis.  And not just open to BBC staff, but licence fee payers too. Why shouldn’t they have a more direct influence over the BBC’s policies and strategic thinking?

Maybe this is a way off. But it should be possible. 

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6 Responses to “BBC Blogging Guidelines Nostalgia 2”


  1. As one of the people who did contribute something (hopefully useful!) during the process, I was always glad to have some involvement and a chance to put things into practice. Gave me a little ownership in the policy and meant I had confidence that the policy would work.

    And I think it has 🙂

  2. Ben Metcalfe Says:

    Hmm, it’s funny looking back on it as I continue to this day use the BBC blogging guidelines as a reference point for clients.

    However, it’s true that at the time I didn’t engage with it. Like Tom Coates, I had been blogging for some time and I felt comfortable with the ‘personal policies’ I placed upon myself – esp as I was working for BBC News at the time (Tom was in the more libral Music and Radio dept).

    My concern was that the policy could be too draconian and then by working with it I’d effectivly’ been ‘bought into the process’ and would have a hard time justifying my ignoring of it.

    However, I felt (and still think it was the right move) that if the policy didn’t come out well, I could continue on as I’d done regardless, knowing full well the BBC was unlikely to sack me.

    Looking back on it, the policy that came out was good. But I still believe ignoring it and thus not buying into it was the right thing to do.

  3. nickreynoldsatwork Says:

    But if you’d have got involved Ben, it might have been even better!

  4. Ben Metcalfe Says:

    Well, I think it turned out ok – you guys knew what you were doing. But if draconian stuff was placed into it – like no one from BBC News being allowed to blog to maintain neurtrality (which was being whispered for a while), there would be nothing that I could do to stop that.

    The factors that would have made the policy difficult for me to continue to blog would have been put in place by people at a pay grade far higher than I had influence on.

  5. Sao Paulo Says:

    Well it looks like Nick has already removed one post I made which is interesting wouldn’t you say. He makes out the mighty BBC is stint yet ignores the £400 million it will cost to take Champions League from ITV.

    The sooner the BBC TV Licence is scrapped the better. Why the hell should the public be forced to pay for spin doctors like him


  6. […] – bookmarked by 4 members originally found by vielmetti on 2008-11-07 BBC Blogging Guidelines Nostalgia 2 https://nickreynoldsatwork.wordpress.com/2008/01/29/bbc-blogging-guidelines-nostalgia-2/ – […]


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