Posts Tagged ‘Add new tag’

Users, Twits and Cameramen Under Fire

November 16, 2008

Three recent articles/blog posts which I thought had something in common.

1. This amusing attack on media twitterers from the Register, including a little unfairly, Rory Cellan Jones who is a very nice man, a shrewd BBC journalist and someone who has helped me at work.

But the more of themselves media people reveal, the more the public sees them as clueless, self-referential and narcissistic bunch so many of them are. And the more time the BBC spends on peripheral New Media wankery, the more people wonder why they’re paying a licence fee

2. Tom Scott on the money as always politely but firmly refuting the concept of “User Generated Content”.

As I sit here writing this post am I a user? If I am I have no idea what I’m using other than WordPress, and if I am then so must journalists be users of their CMS. I know one thing for sure, I don’t think of myself as a user of someone’s site and I don’t create content for them

3.This story from the Guardian.

I have been shot more times than I have been credited by the BBC,” he said. “In fact, I was shot once while filming with the BBC. The shooting, of course, made up a significant part of the news report. I was referred to as ‘our cameraman’, as if I was some damaged bit of equipment.”

He added: “We are all journalists who strive to be fair and accurate; it’s not an exclusive club. We are not second-class journalists because we choose to fund our own journalism.”

The idea that only a professional class of elite creatives can make content is looking shaky. And so is the notion that everyone else is either anonymously servicing their needs (like a cameraman) or just a passive “user” who might try and make something but could never come up to their high standards.

If this was ever true it’s less and less true now.

Now everyone can be creative. Not unreasonably they are asking both to be visible and to get credit (even if they don’t get paid) and respect.

I’ve always intensely disliked the phrase “user generated content”. For a start “user” always seems to suggest a drug addict. And in my cynical experience “UGC” is a phrase only used by media executives who use it for reassurance when they’ve never made any web content or participated in anything themselves.

We don’t think less of Olympic athletes just because they are amateurs.

Andrew Orlowski is right that media types can too easily get trapped in navel gazing.

It’s easy to dismiss social media as something that has no impact outside the media itself. The media probably do over estimate the importance of social media, and they certainly over estimate their own importance.

But this doesn’t mean that twitter is pointless. Simply that the media types who use it should get out more (or get more “friends” outside their usual groups).

But in a world where a couple got divorced because of something that happened in second life, there’s definitely something happening (the people involved are not digital media execs or Nathan Barleys).

Look beyond the tools at the human behaviour. People have desires and dream of perfect versions of themselves. People are driven by beliefs and ideals. If they are doing something they and the world sees as worthwhile, they should be given respect, not dismissed.

Saving The BBC By Linking

October 10, 2008

It was nice of the Guardian to devote most of their media section on Monday to thoughts on how to save the BBC.

To me, it’s simple.

Anyone who wants to save the BBC should just write to the Culture Secretary and politely ask him not to top slice the licence fee.

For all the kind words in the Guardian though, I’m not sure if the arguments progressed any further and I found it hard to disentangle ideas (certainly new ones) from emotions.

For example the comments on the Guardian’s blog post are too familar:

“The BBC is great and we love your programmes and content” (Thank you very much)


“You’re just a lunch of lefties, and you should be closed down” (You’re entitled to your opinion, you’re wrong but thank you very much)


“It’s all the executives’ fault” (Well, it probably isn’t actually)

So far, so predictable.

A more interesting perspective was provided by a colleague of mine Tom Scott on his personal blog.

Entitled BBC public value in the online world what’s different about Tom’s thoughts is his attempt to see developments in digital media alongside the very heart of what the BBC does: its’ public purposes as outlined in the BBC’s Charter. Here’s a quote:

By joining BBC data, in this fashion, with the rest of the web the Network Effect is magnified yet further. That does benefit to the BBC, but it also benefits the web at large and that is important. The BBC has a role that transcends its business needs – it can help create public value around its content for others to benefit from (assuming, of course, there remains one, non-discriminatory, free and open internet).

Tom is on to something.

In the old world of television the “mixed schedule” was one of the ways the BBC delivered its public purposes. The thinking went (and I summarise crudely) “If we put Panorama next to Eastenders then some people might watch both”.

I don’t think the mixed schedule is dead. But in an on demand world where people can just watch Eastenders whenever or wherever they like it’s clear the BBC needs some new methods of bringing people wonderful things they didn’t know they liked or needed.

And on the internet the method is clearly the link.

How a linking journey that took you from Eastenders to other drama to Shakespeare?

Or that took you from watching Dr Who online on to buy a ticket to see David Tennant in Hamlet?

Or from BBC music content to Wikipedia music content? (Oh yes I forgot the BBC music beta does just that and that’s why it’s such a breakthrough for the BBC).

Let’s take a look at a couple of those public purposes again:

Sustaining citizenship and civil society

(How does citizenship get encouraged – surely by sharing? A citizen has a stake, a link to other citizens?)

Bringing the UK to the world and the world to the UK

(Sounds like linking to me)

And linking is a lot easier than other ideas like sharing assets, creative commons or ideas around open source as Jemima suggests and common platforms (as the BBC’s blogger in residence Steve Bowbrick suggests – disclaimer – Steve works for me). All these are complex and most bump up against the brutal political realities of the rights regieme and the rights holders’ understandable desire to hold on to their intellectual property.

But links don’t feel like intellectual property or at least they’re not valuable enough for any body to care (yet). And in order to link all the BBC has to do is change its’ culture, not change the law (difficult but easier than facing down the rights holders). And everybody agrees The BBC should link more.

Linking the country together sounds like a tall order.

It also sounds like a job for the BBC.

Marc Canter: “Right Things” – Wrong Information

September 16, 2008

I noticed Marc Canter’s blog post “Getting the BBC to focus on the right things” on Saturday.

Marc seems a bit misinformed about the BBC.

Let’s take some of his statements in order:

“…if the BBC can get rid of Flash, let alone Silverlight and Quicktime…

I don’t think Erik Hugger’s original blog post said that the BBC was going to “get rid” of Flash. It simply said that the BBC was going to adopt some open standards like H.264 for its video and audio content on the web. 

“No one cares if YouTube uses Silverlight, Ogg or Flash.”

Well I may not care, and Marc may see this as an argument from 15 years ago but the BBC backstage mailing list still rages with this kind of argument regularly. Some people, perhaps a small number, care very much. My colleague at the BBC James Cridland has views on this.

As I am a layman not a technologist, I tend to agree with Marc.

Licence fee payers in general don’t care much about the technology that powers what they watch and listen. They just want it to work.

And this is a practical argument, not a moral one (my thanks to Simon Hopkins who first alerted my mind to this confusion around “moral” matters).

If all licence fee payers used closed systems then that’s what the BBC should use to deliver its content. If they all used open ones then that’s what the BBC should do. The actual situation is somewhere in the middle. It’s about tactics, not principle.

“what about OpenID, oAuth, OpenSocial and Portable Contacts? … perhaps this post will get you supporting OpenID…”

Marc seems unaware that the BBC joined the OpenID Foundation in April of this year. See this blog post from my boss the redoutable Jem Stone.

“The BBC is a government unit who have been charged with opening up – by law.  As government policy, and as one of the world’s leading media entities, it is your DUTY to open up,”

The BBC is not a “government unit”.

Editorially, strategically and in the way it’s regulated, the BBC is independent from the British government, and certainly doesn’t do things just because they are “government policy”.

As for “by law”, I’d be interested to know what law Marc is talking about. I’m unaware of any legislation that compells the BBC to be open with its’ data or its’ content.

And as for “duty”, see my point about morality above.

The BBC does want to be open. The BBC’s current director general Mark Thompson has said he wants the BBC to be more open in all aspects of what it does.

I like openness myself.

Some of the things that Marc wants are being looked at at the BBC by the teams in the Future Media & Technology department (he should read the BBC Radio Labs blog).

But life (and more to the point British media) is, I’m afraid, a little more complicated than perhaps everyone would like.

And as I’ve blogged before, it’s easy to talk about being open and a lot harder to actually do it.

“Sloppy” Technology Blogging – an Editor’s Dilemma

August 25, 2008

I was pleased to read this blog post from Dan Rayburn at business of (a blog I’d never come across before).

Key quote:

“Where is the fact checking by these authors? How about speaking to the companies involved before you write the article? You’re trying to decipher what someone from the BBC said on his blog and implying things as “facts” which is inaccurate. I had no problem contacting both networks involved to confirm the accurate info as I read it from the BBC blog.”

There’s been some speculation on blogs ever since Anthony Rose announced that the iPlayer would be using h.264 on some of its video on the Internet blog (disclaimer- which I edit in case you didn’t know) a couple of weeks ago.  As Dan points out:

“No where in Anthony’s post did he say anything about “switching” from Akamai to Level 3 or “replacing” Akamai for Level 3. Bloggers are implying that Akamai was the “previously chosen” provider and that Akamai has lost their BBC buisness, which is blantantly inaccurate…”

This kind of speculative blogging Dan points to sometimes gives me a dilemma.

Should I link to these posts in the Internet blog’s delicious stream even if they are interesting but wide of the mark? Or I should I ignore them on the grounds that they are gossip?

A post like this one on the excellent Telco 2.0 blog is going to be of interest to my readers. It’s speculative (phrases like “bandwidth wars” need to be taken with a pinch of salt) but is based on interesting data.  And I think my readers are clever enough and mature enough to make up their own minds about whether it’s right or wrong .

They’re certainly more clever than me. Much of the hard core technical detail goes way over my head. I was employed to edit the Internet blog not because I am a technology specialist but because (hopefully) I know how to talk online.

And the great thing about blog posts like Dan’s is that they give me stuff to link to and continue with that conversation.

Just like some of the wilder stuff that’s been written about the BBC and Microsoft if you ignore it, it won’t just go away. You have to intervene to have any effect.

And on a purely personal level I’m like Marlene Dietrich. If I see someone saying something about the BBC I know is inaccurate and I can show it is with a link, (even if it’s nothing to do with my work) well I can’t help it.

Marlene Dietrich from spike 55151 on flickr

Marlene Dietrich from spike 55151 on flickr

Music Blogger Bill Thompson Hacks BBC Brand

July 24, 2008

Three articles that caught my attention.

Bill Thompson on different approaches to what you do when security flaws are exposed. Do you cover them up or put your energy into fixing them.

Alex Ross – music critic of the New Yorker – on his blogging (at a Guardian event). This rang very true for me.

I was feeling gloomy this morning. This cheered me up. Quote:

The BBC’s UK critics seem to see only a rational benefit accruing from simple zero-sum thinking. Hobbling the BBC – cutting it down in size – would not benefit UK listeners and viewers. Less is, of course, less. The UK’s commercial broadcasters would only be inclined to do less, give less, produce less. If any benefit is to flow from the counterfactual argument it’s further empowering the regulator, OFCOM. A commercial media sector unencumbered by the presence of its nemesis would require far more inspectors