Category Archives: engagement

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

Advertisements

4 Comments

Filed under bbc, Behind the Scenes, Blogging, collaboration, engagement, innovation, media, participation, research

picnic08: Charles Leadbeater and Clay Shirky. Boulders and Pebbles

I noticed at this conference that I got most from the sessions where there was room for new conversations to take place between the speakers after their keynotes or presentations in the one-on-one exchange between them , intersected by questions from the floor. I wonder too if it is the time when speakers themselves can think new thoughts? I have two examples of this from Picnic08 .

The first from my own talk when my CD and powerpoint became corrupted and I had to speak without slides which will be the subject of another post.. the second in the final moments of Charlie Leadbeater’s talk when Clay Shirky asked him some questions and you had two great minds on stage thinking together – thinking live, thinking as performance.

Charlie in one section of his talk , captured here , talked about mainstream media organisations as Boulders, and individual content creators as Pebbles. His argument which built very elegantly suggested more than strongly that the Pebbles will have the future and that Boulders could never understand the agility, creativity and sheer potential generated by the pro-am, the user-generated and the unleashed creative potential of the network.

And what’s more, he argued, the Boulder (mainstream media) could never manage creatively enough to harness this explosion of creativity (I am paraphrasing here so please do correct me if I am wrong) . The landscape of the beach was changing and this was a direction that was now unleashed. But in the Q&A with Clay Shirky Charlie talked about his earlier meetings with Business keen to harness the creativity of the Pebbles and who asked him how best to harness the energy and to mange their output?

Rocks, Pebbles and Boulders by SixSixSith

Rocks, Pebbles and Boulders by SixSixSith

This posed a bit of a conundrum, for me at least. On the one hand the future of creativity and agility was in the hand of the pebbles who are free to network and grow their interconnectedness, on the other the needs of business to harness such creativity in order to get output. So I made an observation from the conference floor which I hoped might move things on from this either /or dialogue. I identified myself as both a Boulder and a Pebble. I work in a Boulder, but I am also a Pebble I write my blog, I contribute to other blogs and in other ways with my more individual creativity and output. And what’s more I work in my Boulder to encourage more Pebbles to interact with us and our Boulder to become more permeable – and in this respect and now I am now pushing at an Open door.

So isn’t the landscape more beautiful if you have Boulders and Pebbles on the beach together ? Isn’t the question rather about what is the creative or dynamic type of leadership needed in the networked world to harness the strengths and creativity of both and encourage the exchange – rather than assert the two camps , with the one on the path to triumphing the other.

Clay picked up the theme and contextualised it in terms of governance and management: people need a framework in which to be creative or innovate – the blank page does not always help them. He also talked about his analysis of the Linux Kernel report and how even Boulders can fund people to produce work that is valuable to the wider eco-system and enable the Pebbles to become stronger (my paraphrasing but for a proper summary of that work see here . And so, whether Boulders or Pebbles, the issue is of governance and framework setting – creative management in a way if such a thing can exist. I think Charlie agreed with this – while there are lots of examples he cited of people coming together in networks to do things together there needs to be a spark or a catalysit – and it seems what we may be talking about is the new definition of leadership, or creative leadership in the networked work place, or the networked world.

What I do know is that the next morning Clay came back to the platform and told us that after that talk and exchange he had torn up his prepared talk and started again with something new – I blogged that at the time. So perhaps the new had been allowed to emerge in those moments of thinking aloud and live – those moments at conferences that so easily get lost to the schedule but which produce lots of new value.

But getting back to creative leadership the session at Picnic that certainly made me happiest was watching and listening to Itay Talgam talk to a packed hall about creative leadership in the form of the symphony conductor. I couldn’t have taken notes so spellbound I was by his dissection of the meaning of the body language of the various maestro (maestri?) he showed us. Of course if you go to a classical concert more likely than not you will see the back of the conductor’s head and shoulders and not his face. But Itay turned it all around with some clips, and stories and lead us into an understanding of what such leadership could be best demonstrated by Leonard Bernstein. Ethan Zuckerman’s description of the talk is terrific, as is the one by Masters of Media. At the end we were left watching a clip of Bernstein conducting without moving his body or his arms. The expressions on his face, a raised eyebrow or an expression of pleasure or suffering were enough to communicate all he needed to after all the work he had done with the orchestra in advance. Just one look and he had them where he wanted them, and they collaborated to give him, and us, what we wanted to hear. No better end to a day of discussions around collaboration and leadership, and boulders and pebbles.

Here is an interview with Itay from Picnic08, followed by a Leonard Bernstein clip (with hands!)

1 Comment

Filed under collaboration, conferences, creativity, engagement, media, participation

preparing for the digital future: Ofcom’s experimental site

Just catching up on Ofcom’s proposals for stage two of the PSB review and noticed, apart from the proposals themselves, this “experimental” page where you can leave your comments alongside the proposals.  There are other ways too of responding formally.  But I’ll be interested to see who leaves comments here and how many.  There are lots of things we do at the BBC which could also benefit from this kind of approach to guage the views of our viewers and listeners in more informal ways.

On this experimental site we encourage you to leave informal comments alongside the Executive Summary of Ofcom’s Second Public Service Broadcasting Review – Phase Two: preparing for the digital future, published on 25 September 2008.

Alternatively, you can download the full consultation document, and/or respond formally to the consultation (closing date 4 December 2008). You can also follow the debate on the PSB Review blog.

2 Comments

Filed under engagement, innovation, participation

Michael Wesch does it again: watch and enjoy

An Anthropological Introduction to You Tube, by Dr Michael Wesch ( The Machine is Using Us)  – what else could induce me to stay at my screen for all 52 mins at the end of the day presented at the Library of Congress, June 23rd 2008 and posted a week ago.  Digital Ethnography comes of age.

2 Comments

Filed under collaboration, digital ethnography, engagement, participation, research

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!

Leave a comment

Filed under bbc, Behind the Scenes, Blogging, engagement, innovation, research

Annniversaries everywhere….and the birth of new research projects too

While I was away in KL back at base at the BBC we were marking the 10th Anniversary of bbc.co.uk The Internet Blog is hosting a nice series of articles looking back as we move forwards into the next ten years. Harvard’s Berkman Center for Internet and Society is also marking its 10 year anniversary . I’m looking forward to following their News Re:public study. It’s going to look at how people who are not professional journalists are changing the information landscape and civic life as well as how traditional media outlets are using new sources and interactive tool to engage their readers, listeners, and viewers. They’ve got a conference coming up in March 2008 to bring researchers and practitioners together on their way through the research programme. Colleagues Rowena Goldman and Brendan Crowther are doing their bit for our research effort on this front. Check out the details of the new research projects their Arts and Humanities Research Council/BBC Knowledge Transfer project Meanwhile it’s Creative Commons 5th Birthday this weekend too.

Leave a comment

Filed under bbc, engagement, innovation, measuring, research

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?

1 Comment

Filed under Blogging, conferences, Davos07, engagement, measuring, research