Category Archives: research

….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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Picnic08: Green Challenge winner announced

Winner has been announced and it’s Eben Bayer and Gavin McIntyre, an inventor team from the United States, offer sustainable ecological alternatives to conventional synthetic building materials.  Capra J’neva and partner Emilie Fetscher of the United States  invented easy-to-use consumer solar panels and were awarded a runners up prize.  There will be a lot of press to follow – I think they chose wisely..

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Serious Virtual Worlds, Coventry : Second Life, Forterra, IBM et al

Am wondering how the predictions made last year in Kuala Lumpur are going – so taking a day out to visit the SGI and the Serious Virtual Worlds Conference in Coventry live streaming on their page. I got here late but my colleague , Rain Ashford, has written up the morning before coffee.

I am no live blogger but I am highlighting something of a theme in this session which is all about interoperability. And that theme s that interoperability is not simply a technology issue. I’ll put in some more links and pictures later.

John burwell from Forterra– told us not underestimate technophobia as interoperability issue.

He went on to say that it’s people who need to do trials and want to. So make it possible for them or teach them how. Beware of Lock out – dangers of single source solutions. Make sure you can move around. Interoperability needs to be driven by commercial forces. Necessity is the mother of invention = mash ups and native integration. Delays in pilots and implementations as a result of these issues.

What other elements need to be interoperable? This is the list that Forterra’s clients keep on coming back with.

Content = eg clothing. Answer – adopt industry standards eg 3d studio max, maya, sktechup instead of building modeling systems

Interchange formats – eg Collada = answer they developed native importer for collada

scripting and animations

legal issues and intellectual property – who owns the data? Cap off to Linden – if you make content in SL you own it and you can take it wherever you like.

terrain

beyond islands and fractals

non-player characters

learning management systems

avatars , log in s etc

Next up was Jim Purbrick from Linden Lab – “a little interoperability goes a long way”

In Second life you have always been able to upload content and take it away . He went through some examples of this, but dwelt longer on CarbonGoggles – more later, with a nice plug for the BBC and in particular that he did some work for this application at  Mashed 08.

Images – James Au remix

Audio –

Animation – standard motion caption

Streaming Video – is enabling us to have this conference in Second Life now- people go to Second Life for speakes but stay to talk to each other – there will be more of this in the future

Streaming Audio

Web = embedding web pages in SL – not static – seen as huge step for interoperability

Should web browsers be enbedded in virtual worlds or should virtual worlds be in web browser – Jim thinks former

Web services – objects built in SL have links to real world services to pull data in – making the invisible visible – eg carbon data . Can’t do it in real life , can do it in SL. Takin gexisting stuff in SL and overlaying with data – much deeper integration – can actually pull in data from real world by reaching out to the web LINK here to carbon emissions data – app built in 24 hours at MASHED, nice plug here. Real deep application bang for buck most important type of work CARBON GOGGLES.

Machinima – most important area for ip in SL

Economy – i need some chairs, here are some good ones, they are here for 20 linden dollars so I will buy soe of them for my virtual world who needs a 3d artist – that is becase the economy is interoperable

have been working with IBM and Virtual Sims – The Future

Virtual worlds to be operated by different people eg IBM, Forterra, Linden , Uni – and some screenshots of Open Sims being teleported into SL regions and elsewhere.

Early work, long way to go before it can support big applications and reliability but in other ways very interesting, building in modular ways , using phsyics engines etc not for the fainthearted.

Open Source and Open Sims means you never get stuck (never get stuck good title) can always download source code if necessary! so small scale is poss, and so is large scale – this sounds good to me as a layperson as it will allow lots and lots of people to experiment.

Second Life has always been interoperable – this is not new. It has had media upload streaming media web embedding, web services, but imperoperability is not just about technology and talking to the web is more than puting viewer in a browser.

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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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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.

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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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