Posts Tagged ‘tom scott’

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.

Blogs – Are We Getting Somewhere?

December 10, 2007

Two posts about blogging sensitive subjects at the BBC. One from Tom Scott  and one from Curtis Poe.

I shouldn’t blow my own trumpet as Curtis is referring to the guidelines that I helped write.

But his comments make me think we, (and I mean the BBC, James Cridland, Tom Scott and everybody) might just be getting somewhere in trying to make the BBC more open.

Curtis says:

“And despite various things the BBC has done wrong, this is what the BBC does right. Blogs are for communicating, not for press releases. They’re not official discussions, but they can say a lot more about a company than an official communication which is carefully vetted by lawyers. And while the BBC has plenty of blogs, you don’t even have to blog there about your job if you don’t want to. I sometimes blog about the BBC on my personal journal rather than their official ones. They’re OK with that. I finally get to work for a company which “gets” blogs.”