Posts Tagged ‘steve bowbrick’

Blogger In Residence Brain Dump

March 14, 2009

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… 

Photo of Steve below by Roo Reynolds  (no relation) on flickr.



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.