Category Archives: Behind the Scenes

social media for innovation at the BBC (and elsewhere)

We’re trying out Yammer inside the BBC to create conversations outside of email. As we are always on the look out for better ways of communicating across collaborations inside and outside the BBC’s firewall and because we test a lot of tools opinion about which might be best for us is, of course divided even in our own community.

So I read with interest on Ethan’s blog that Telefonica in Spain have gone one step further. They use Yammer but they have also introduced an internal video sharing service.

Researchers working on projects get two minutes to explain their work to their colleagues – some break the rules and run long, but most as well-behaved, and it’s possible to get the gist of most projects with just a few seconds of video, making it far easier to surf through than a huge document repository. (I assume they’re heavily tagged and annotated to make them highly searchable.) Using Yammer, 350 members of his (Carlos Domingo, who runs the R&D unit) team share ideas on a Twitter-like network that’s closed to the company, and encourages employees to share what they’re working on and what problems they could use help with.

Now that’s what I call useful. I may have to suggest it back at the ranch. I have always thought that learning to collaborate and communicate well inside the organisation (“everyone can speak to everyone ” should be one of the mantras of any creative company) made it a lot easier to go down the open innovation route.

Companies which were born as digital natives have less of an issue with this it seems. Google put their video conversations about their research online .- Google roundtable has Researchers and Engineers talking about their R&D and their Tech talks are there there too – on You Tube, of course. But they also post women@google talks and authors@google and musicians@google talks amongst other things.

Euan Semple at the BBC lead us down the path of more open communications when he introduced our internal wikis and blogs way back in 2002/03. I remember that as a complete breakthrough. Places where we could share documents and actually reveal what we were doing and perhaps even discuss that with peers around the organisation, it sounds like nothing now, but it was huge. That paved the way (another post for another day) for our external blogs (the project I Iead on the innovation side ) and staff blogs in 2005/06. By the way the guidelines for BBC staffers blogging were all written up internally and collaboratively on a wiki masterminded by Nick Reynolds (and now published externally too)

BBC Backstage got through it’s own beta testing and launch at the same time which was no accident.

You’ll find lots of talk at the moment about opening up the BBC further through partnerships of one kind of another but these are and were , I think, necessary preconditions.

In the past you would have said the BBC really communicates what it is about to the public only via its programmes as well as via press releases, annual reports, consultations and complaints the historic tools of corporate communications.

But now many staff on official blogs and personal blogs offer additional insight into what is going on behind the scenes in terms of how we do our jobs, how the BBC works, how we make decisions and importantly who we are. That’s incredibly important for collaborations and partnerships of any kind – knowing who you are doing business with, or talking to and being able to talk to them creates a virtual circle of information leading to understanding and participation being able to be used effectively

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Innovation and location: BBC R&D at Kingswood Warren

As I pack my holiday reading I realise that the books I am taking might be considered to be “work”orientated but after a momentary hesitation in they go to the suitcase. It’s clear now that my work interests are very close to my own life interests, and that is a good thing So books I have dipped into are going to get the proper attention they deserve. And my big question is this : is the power of the network strong enough to overcome the advantages of proximity?

I am thinking about this again as people I work with regularly are all on the move.

I am sad to miss the Kingswood Warren 60th Birthday party however obscure that might soundKingswood Warren has been the home of BBC R&D for 60 years and there is a party to celebrate next week, and a day of demos. But I read in the Guardian yesterday that there may be strike action to coincide with that day. That was news to me and got me thinking about the relationship between innovation and place.

You may have read articles in the press about the closure of Kingswood Warren and what that means to the the BBC , and there is undoubtedly a lot to think about when you start a discussion about the relationship of innovation and creativity to a place, geographical location or to a building.

BBC R&D at Kingswood Warren

BBC R&D at Kingswood Warren

But the fact that this building looks so opulent and other worldly obscures a proper discussion about the relationship between a place and the work that goes on it it. When we talk about an “esprit de corps” in an organisation or team, it’s a body of people we are talking about and their spirit we are highlighting – but does the place in which they work together count in the equation and if so what does it count for? Or can we say that wherever teams who know each other well work it will be the same? Is the power of the network strong enough to beat the power and advantages of proximity?

At the BBC this is the first move for the Kingswood Warren staff to London and that is likely to be followed by a second for some of them and many others to Salford to the MediaCity Development. This is a very interesting and exiciting development and the opportunity to create a groundbreaking research and production centre – but it will be a few years until it is all up and running and lots of transition time is hard for even the most dedicated to handle while keeping productive .I say this as someone who has worked in an organisation for many years whose propensity for change is high, and whose need to change is great.

BBC at MediaCity

BBC at MediaCity

This is not only being debated at the BBC, but more generally by writers such as Clay Shirky and Charles Leadbeater writing about collaboration and the network. What can be done virtually and what has to be done face to face? My take on this has always been that innovation is a social process. The place can be a garage or indeed a dingy forgotten basement such as the birthplace of BBC Imagineering, but the spirit needs to be willing. Networks work well virtually when there is a common purpose and a vision or mission. They also work in real locations for the same reason – the key is in relationships, language, camaraderie and cooperation – in other words in the social.

esprit de corps (-də kôr)

noun

group spirit; sense of pride, honor, etc. shared by those in the same group or undertaking

Etymology: Fr, lit., spirit of a body (of persons)

esprit de corps Synonyms

esprit de corps

n.

morale, group spirit, camaraderie; see cooperation 1, fellowship 1
Organisations need to move people around and change their location a lot for good business reasons. They also need to move people in and out of their organisations for business reasons too.
But what people find hard is when the web of relationships is broken by movement and limbo and so despite best endeavours output can become invisible, less important and at worst ignored as people try to preserve what they feel makes them tick – their teams and their esprit de corps.
What people like is to create webs of relationships which give them meaning beyond transition, or in transition and that is why the social and human will always drive innovation, whatever new technologies come along for them to investigate, explore and exploit. The social web gives people that opportunity whatever is going on in their workplace, but I wonder if anyone has measured the true cost of limbo and transition?
People skills in managing transition and change are vital as is vision. In my own area we do have a new leader, and there is a great sense of hope about the place that he will pull us all together and integrate and capture all the undoubted energy around and between our buildings. Who knows, I might come back to a whole new landscape.

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Behind the Scenes@the BBC

I said I would return to write more about this projecta while ago. And since I’m currently putting together my final contribution to the project at this stage I can desribe what we at the BBC currently do much more accurately to enable the public to explore how contemporary media content is made.

I was very pleased to be able to do this project given my preoccupation with the value of openness, and getting more value for the audiences out of what we already do.

As I have come to learn the BBC mostly does a lot more than any one member of staff will know about and sometimes I wonder how the public can be expected to find all the good stuff. Much work has been going on to remedy this and the work is beginning to bear fruit – /programmes and /topics are helping bring everything together.

Having said that people take their own approach with their content – and you’ll find a mix of “making of” films sometime tagged onto the end of a TV programme like Planet Earth and Life in Cold Blood, on the DVD and sometimes on the web; whole programme offerings like Dr Who Confidential and Heroes Unmasked go behind the production process. CBBC have part of their website How We make TV dedicated to how they do their work and BBC Three’s The Baby Borrowersshort film explained the complex sets of arrangements for the care of the borrowed babies. Radio 1’s Meet the DJs recently won a Webby award and gives an insight into what constitutes the job of a DJ on Radio 1. Other examples include Click andNewswatch from the News channel, Feedback, Points of View too offer insight into our workings – that is if an audience member writes in to complain or suggest a subject.

More recently our blogs, particularly The Editors blog, Sports Editors blog and Internet blogs all offer their staff a way of talking to the public about how they do their work behind the scenes, how they make their decisions and sometimes simply what it is like to work at the BBC. The Technology blog has also done a great deal to explain how contemporary media content is made.

You’ll also find a gem of a link if you are very keen to an aggregation of everything all BBC staff past and present are saying on their personal blogs put together by James Cridland.

I Interviewed and met a lot of people during the project and found a great interest in being more pro-active in this respect, if only they had more time – some people though made a virtue of publishing their Behing the scenes workings like the April Fools’ film made by BBC Marketing on the Flying Penguins, and ng, the Making of clip on You Tube. I looked at what other organisations are doing and had a think about how we might bring together what we do and add some new dimensions.

the making of...

the making of...

One of the most rewarding things I found was that the more I went around asking questions about why didn’t we publish photos of where we work and how we work; why didn’t we publish some of our internally created video for staff training ; and what about other research we do that might in the right circumstances be shareable the more I found people coming up with ideas for what they could do, and would do more of. In fact people have started just doing it. What about writing about our events? Describing our jobs or sharing presentations we give at conferences around the world?

So, I hear you asking, who wants to know any of this stuff? We conducted a short audience survey asking general and specific questions about their interest in how the media works; their interest in how content is made – radio, tv and web content; whether they might like the opportunity to question people who run things in the media; whether they would like to learn how to make TV, radio, or create a blog etc and some other general questions about Openness and organisations. This was a very good first step to getting a baseline of interest which was reassuringly positive. Next steps will likely be taken by someone else who will be able to dedicate themselves to the project – and I hope they do some qualitative research to gauge some more latent audience needs, and some prototypes based on what they find before taking up my early recommendations lock stock and barrel or do anything else to them!

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When is not being Open an option anymore?

 I checked out a new site, Demotix the Citizen Wire, last week as a friend came to see me hot from the BritDoc Fesitval full of enthusiasm about it, knowing about my interest in citizen’s journalism, documentaries, blogging and the future of digital media. 

 So I was very suprised indeed to find when I did look that there was nothing at all on the site to tell me who ran it, who the owners were and who was behind the scenes.  I put some feelers out to people who I would expect to know all there is to know about such developments, one inside the BBC who Twittered, (or should that be tweeted?) and posted to find the answer,  and one in the US – to find that at that time neither had heard of it, and one had the same questions as I.  How was I to know what to think about a site , which in this day and age of open credentials and transparency, did not publish the story of the people behind it and provide a way for people to get in touch with them.  They have impressive partners – but this seemingly simple omission might cause a person or organisation to wonder about their credentials and know how and whether to trust them.  So I called my friend and suggested gently that she call her friends. Anyway , perhaps as a result of this we have the answer: published on the Telegraph Blog last Friday.

Interestingly now the website publishes some links to discussion about this site and service in the magazine and daily press.  So now I am hunting around in online newspapers and magazines to find out who is who and what is what.  I find that the owner took the idea to the Telegraph Media Group who might be supporting it in some way.  Certainly their  Assistant editor, Justin Williams, posting about it on his personal blog is very enthusiastic (Why Demotix could be the biggest thing in World News). 

But even stranger I couldn’t find anything on Justin’s blog CounterValue to tell me his name except the picture link to Facebook which told me his name when I hovered over it.  Voila.  Surely things should not be so hard this day and age?

Is any of this important?  I think it is.  I could understand this silence if there were a good reason to do with protecting the identity and whereabouts of contributors – but if that’s the reason, please do tell us.  I am also left wondering whether it wouldn’t help them a great deal in the online space , not to mention the blogosphere if they did publish this info.  It looks like a really interesting project but at the moment they are not helping themselves in this respect.  I don’t think I have lost all sense of proportion here, have I?

 

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Oh Lord: Lordsoftheblog.net

I am definately going to have to take an interest in this.  It’s gone live today and was brought into being by the Hansard Society.  Things definately seem to be moving on. It’s desribed as a “meeting room without walls”

 This is what they have to say:

“Apparently we are going live today. So far, our blog confessions have had a very limited audience, but now anyone may see what we have been doing.

Not that I have anything to hide. Indeed, I suspect that most members of the Lords would be only too happy if the public could and did take more notice of what we do on their behalf. Some of us spent a lengthy afternoon last Thursday debating the best way to get more people – and especially young people – interested in the way Parliament deals with their concerns, hopes and fears.”

In the interests of full disclosure: must see if my other half is going to blog here or how many will join in…. .  He is no longer in the Government, hence the speeches are going down in number, but a blog might be just the ticket.

Just a reminder.  All the views I express on this blog are personal, and not the official view of the BBC!

http://www.lordsoftheblog.net/

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Ofcom scraps PSP and Channel 4 goes for Innovation

Ofcom has scrapped the PSP. This is very interesting. At the Oxford Media Convention in January this year, at the session about the PSP and ideas about the future of public service broadcasting I made a comment from the floor as the temperature rose on the panel. Perhaps I just do too much facilitation at the moment. But what I said was that it seemed to me that the PSP proposal had always been a carrot or a stick (rather than a real thing). What had happened in the last year was that the industry, in its criticism, had taken it to be a stick and tried to kill it but it could have been seen as a carrot. Am beginning to wonder having just listened to the new Channel Four Innovation Strategy online this morning whether Channel Four might have taken it to be a carrot. I think we should be told….

Whatever has been going on behind the scenes, the Channel 4 Innovation for the Public fund sounds interesting

“Designed to “kick start a wave of new investment in public service digital media for audiences around Britain” the £50m 4IP fund will launch in July as a collaboration between Channel 4 and a series of development and media agencies from around the UK”

as does some of their language around creating value for the public and a new public value framework.

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“Behind the Scenes”: how we make media @ the BBC

I’m working on a new project and in the early phases of scoping what it might be. It’s been described formally like this:

The Director-General informed the Trust that he has commissioned a major new online project which will enable the public to explore how contemporary media content is produced. The BBC believes this will be a major contribution to media literacy in Britain.”

So I have been looking at what other organisations are doing, and what BBC people (past and present) are already doing by way of talking to audiences about how they make what they make.

I’m tagging what I find on the internet on my delicious stream. Current told us how to make media from the start. Four Docs from Channel 4 is also telling you how to make but also asking you to comment.

On the media is from NPR and they say ” For one hour a week, the show tries to lift the veil from the process of “making media,” especially news media, because it’s through that lens that we literally see the world and the world sees us”

I like MediaShift by Mark Glaser at PBS. Recently he interviewed Patrick Ruffini on the use of mobile and social media in the US by Presidential candidates. And while this post is not about how we make media, it is about how media shapes our lives which is the media literacy part of the project. Looks like he has started a new area called IdeaLabs whose tagline is “Reinventing community news for the Digital Age”.

I see that Dan Gillmor is writing there, about bringing entrepreneurial thinking and behaviour to the creation of new journalism projects, though not from Beijing where I think he is right now!

In my next post I’ll describe more what we are already doing at the BBC and how some research conversations are already leading to people talking more, and showing more, about what we do “Behind the Scenes” which is the working title of the project. Alright it’s not very original. But it does what it says on the tin. Also how other people talk about us and what we are up to.

But I’d love to hear about what else is going on in this area. Who’s doing what? And any ideas about what you’d like to know about too.

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