Category Archives: Blogging

How do organisations tell stories about themselves?

I’m looking for examples of good storytelling within and about organisations.  Mostly you find the CEO has written an autobiography or someone has written his/her (mostly his) biography.  My hunch is that historians of the present and future will look to blogs and tweets, social media and digital traces for clues and a way of deciphering changes in strategy or direction.  But what of intranets? Or internal oral history projects?  Memories of employees past and present?  History from below? How will they be found?  We can’t just rely on Google.

I’ve been looking at an interview, or more precisely, piece to camera that  Frank Gillard lay down for his own BBC Oral History project.  He is very lucid about his own role as a BBC employee and the terms under which he conducted the interviews.  It was recorded in 1995 and feels like another age.  The BBC is making excerpts available under its 100 Voices page

I have now recorded some interviews for this same archive.  Looking at the period from 1994 to 2014.  But I’m not concentrating on the people at the top of the organisation or politicians like Frank Gillard.  Rather trying to choose people who , whilst not voiceless, may not historically have been chosen for such an archive.  I did also go to the then top.  You have to to understand the BBC .  What is interesting about this period and the subject I am looking at – how the BBC became aware of the World Wide Web and the internet and what it did about it is how a rather divergent group of people could unite around the implications of a new technology and create clusters of interest which would, eventually , get together and get the organisation moving. I only realised after interviewing Professor Lizzie Jackson that she is related to Frank Gillard.  Which is a nice piece of history in its own right.

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Filed under bbc, Blogging, citizens journalism, corporate history, digital ethnography, history, innovation, media

….three years on.

It’s been a while.  I am very grateful to a few people nudging away to get me back into writing.  Even reading my own blogroll tells me a lot about how times have changed.   I have been Professor of Digital Media and Innovation at WMG, University of Warwick for almost three years, albeit working part time.  I’ll be blogging about my work and the digital media and innovation landscape from now on.  But first the credits!  First thanks to Daniel Bennett a PHD candidate at Kings College, London who asked me to review a chapter of his PHD thesis about War reporting and BBC Blogs.  Second to Dr. Tim Jones, who asked me to step in a co-author a chapter in the forthcoming book “Growth Champions” to be published by John Wiley early in 2012. Third to the Berkman centre for Internet Studies whose blogpost round-ups keep me informed and excited by new work in this field all over the world.  Why thanks? With time and money short there seem to be fewer and fewer people writing and blogging in depth with their thoughts.  Facebook and Twitter have changed the day to day landscape of communications beyond the graphs of early analysis. So to review in depth work like a PHD chapter or two on the history of the BBC and Blogging or to contribute to a discussion about what makes certain companies excel in Innovation leadership forced me to step back from the everyday hurlyburly and think about the last five years , or 10 years or in the case on my chapter on Apple , 35 years!  More of which to come in time.

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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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Paying attention to Africa : Ethan Zuckerman @ Picnic08

Trying to blog while Ethan is speaking proves that he can not only write at least twice as fast as I can, but he can speak as fast as he writes. So this will certainly not capture it all.

We don’t pay much attention to Africa – but if you look on Google news you will find ten times more news for countries outside Africa than countries inside Africa. Media attention map by a Dutch firm – shows Africa consistently falling off the map in this respect. But paying attention does matter. In November 2005 someone from the Malawi Times was passing through a village when he was shown a windmill that a kid had built and hooked up to generate power. It made enough power to power his parents house. It was blogged in Malawi then was picked up by AfriGadget – then there was an invite to speak at a conference which was picked up by international press. What this has meant up meaning is that people have now raised enough money for this young man to go to one of the best schools in malawi. His whole life has been transformed by the fact that someone did pay attention. how much more are we missing like this?

In the past lots of well meaning white guys have been talking about Africa – but the good news is that there will be fewer of us in the future and I want to introduce you to the world of African Bloggers and I am going to talk about Kenya.

There was a media blackout for a couple of day during the run up to the last elections in Kenya except fo the blogs , so you had an IT specialist going out with his camera and blogging. As things got harder and harder during the reporting of the election another blogger had to switch to updating from her phone. mashada a lively bulletin board site got really nasty during the election – lots of hatred but the guy who ran the site took it down as he got tired of moderating ethnic conflict and put another one up called “I have no tribe” and that started another discussion all about being Kenyan. Ushahidi.com set up after Kenya Pundit who moved from Kenya back to South Africa to be with her family said she was worried people would not be able to follow what was going on in the election process – and so a group of people got together and helped her set it up taking input via sms. You can find voices who do reflect what is going on. We do have aggregators. Now we have the Africa 2s – the Africa that goes to shopping malls. there is now a group of people who have enough disposable income to go shopping, and I would prefer to think of them as producers than consumers – moving swiftly towards the future. And its not the shopping mall that is the sign of the future but the mobile phone. I can’t emphasise enough how this is transforming Africa. Now interesting African problems can be solved that you guys do not need to solve. – eg cash accounting in Ghana. take your money , you buy a phone card , you get the code but don’t use it. You phone someone in the village give them the code and take my credit of $20 – now you have the credit, give $19 to my mother. So now mobile phone services are setting up. I wish I could pay for my taxi here in Amsterdam with my mobile phone….

Then Ethan talked about a Knife sharpening bicycle from AfriGadget – the guy who runs this stand makes $10 a day – that puts him in the Kenyan middle class. We hack what we have. In Africa a bicycle can become an ambulence. Block and Track an anti-theft device invented by a young man with no formal electronics training …During recent elections in Zimbabwe each polling station posted the number of votescast centraly and so they knew they had the numbers. They (mobile phones) have the ability to fix election systems too.

This infrastructure has expanded faster than anyone thought. Who is making money? In some case it is Africans. Someone built a mobile phone infrastructure in DFC while still at war , sold it and made money. We in the west have made money from Africa by taking stuff out. The way to make money in Africa now is to build stuff up. Biggest problem in Africa now is cost of power. Need to build . We tend to think of Africa in terms of Aid – how can we help. It’s not wrong but it’s incomplete – we need to figure out how to do infrastructure. China is looking at this from a different perspective. China is focussing on infrastructure because they want to get stuff out. Both think they are robbing each other, probably quite a good partnership. But the people who are going to build the content are the re diaspora. Africans who leave to get their education and then go back – and build up colleges – eg Ashesi college.

If Africa is surprising it’s just because you are not paying enough attention.

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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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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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measuring conversations…how do you do that?

I’ve just looked up this recursive word. It’s the second time in three days someone has used it in their blog post and it has sent me to unpack boxes at home looking for our dictionary (the shelves are coming next week in case you are wondering about the significance of my header). Anyhow it is a term from maths which explains my lack of familiarity with it. And it means

“consisting of rules which allows value or meaning to be determined with certainty”.

I will need to talk to my other half when he gets back from his current world travels as he was a mathematician BUT wouldn’t it be great to have such a thing in the non-maths world?

Tom Glocer applies it to blogging at Davos (this is the bit of his quote I missed out yesterday)

Recursive Loops — Davos 2007
In the 1980s in my C++ computer class at University, I learned a powerful coding technique called recursive algorithms. The concept was simple: a given function keeps calling itself and repeating the same instructions until the result is produced.The technique finally seems to have caught on in Davos

Or put my way: The more people blog the conference, the more they blog the conference (rules), the conversation is created (values and meaning), but what is the measure of engagement (result)?

Is the volume of posts produced the measure of the result? Or is the quality of the conversations produced the measure of the result?

Beth Kanter’s post todaytakes this further. How do we use social media tools to extend conversations both online and offline – I mean in First Life!

There is a serious point here for me. As I was trying to figure out yesterday how to measure participation or describe it, my colleague Robin Hamman, pointed me to a collection of posts on this very theme of measuring engagement or participation. A lot of thinking is going on.

It looks like we’ve finally got our first big UK blogosphere fight of the year and it’s about stats. Rather boring, you might think, but The Guardian’s Simon Waldman has made an insightful post challenging the Telegraph’s claim to the title of UK’s busiest quality newspaper website.

Waldman’s post is well worth a read since it not only contains a plethora of statistics for newspaper websites, but because it also discusses the shortfalls of relying on each, or indeed all, as an appropriate measurement. Which reminds me… I need to go back and re-read the interesting post about measuring engagement that I bookmarked the other day.

This is all very timely for me, as I research away for a seminar I am preparing. But it came in handy too at a meeting at work today which I can’t describe in detail but about the BBC’s Blog Network something I worked hard on behind the scenes to set up. It’s always helpful when colleagues publish info about what we are up to and it all started when Nick Robinson started his blog in December 05, and blogged the imminent birth of our blog trial. It’s been almost a year since the main body of blogs launched and naturally enough we are discussing the impact of it all in terms of , participation, conversation and more. It lead someone to come up with a phrase that may well become a classic …”perhaps not all comments are born equal then?” I only hope he blogs about it so I can talk about it some more!

One of the comments on Beth’s blog intrested me. Michelle Murrain ends on a measured note

But, there are times, I think, when it makes sense to actually make everyone put their laptops away, and there are times to have lots of liveblogging, IRC, etc. going. It’s just a matter understanding what is most appropriate in a given situation

But if we are just migrating our behaviour from offline to online I would ask how do you measure a conversation in real life? By the number of people you are talking to at any one time? By the number of things you say? By how many times other people butt in? By the quality of the answers you get. Or from a more subjective feeling about whether it was a good conversation or not. And is this then what we need to measure in terms of engagement online?

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