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.