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Strictly Message Board: What Happened Update

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Nick Reynolds Nick Reynolds | 16:52 UK time, Friday, 21 November 2008

As promised here's a bit more detail about what happened this week on the Strictly Come Dancing message boards.

On Wednesday after John Sargeant announced his decision, between noon and ten p.m., we received 12,038 contributions to group discussions on the Strictly boards. This is almost three times more than for the same period on the previous day.

The key to the decision to close the board was not just the very high level of comments. We also had ten times as many new users registering to comment. At one point ten new people were registering every minute.

And new users need to be checked by moderators. Tom explains more in his comment on his previous post.

"Messages" or "contributions" doesn't mean users, people and certainly not complaints. One user can put up more than one message.

On the complaints point I noticed this story in the Daily Telegraph. To describe "comments" as "complaints" is an occasional mistake made by people and even by some users of the boards. Commenting on a message board isn't the same as lodging a formal complaint with the BBC's complaints procedures - although comments can be, and often are, critical.

In this case however, they weren't particularly critical of the BBC. In terms of the tone of the posts, I can't do a statistical breakdown. But Paul of the Central Communities Team gave me a sense of how the messages he was moderating could be divided.

The number of messages Paul saw that supported John's Sargeant's decision (and were glad he has left for the sake of the dancing) were roughly equal to the numbers of posts urging him to stay.

So for example Lady PPG said:

John, you have been an entertaining and delightful participant in Strictly. There is now a John Seargant shaped gap in the programme which no-one will be able to fill. Thanks for the memories!"


John Sargeant and Kristina Rihanoff

While on the other hand fancyRiverrat was not sorry to see John go:

About time. A man fallen on his own petard, now perhaps we can get on with the dance competion."

Only a very small proportion of the posts were critical of the BBC. There were many messages critical of the judges, like this one.

We were able to process all comments in the backlog by 7 a.m. on Thursday. So if you want to get your own sense of what people were saying you can just look at the board. Since there are now a lot of threads then a good place to start is this one:

Incidentally, it's always nice to have another perspective:

I am going to complain about everyone else complaining."

In my view Tom's decision to close the board instead of not moderating was absolutely the right thing to do.

And if you want just one reason, our moderators were able to catch at least one example of spam porn (with a nasty virus attached) before it appeared on the board. If moderation had been down and the boards wide open you might have seen something very unpleasant.

But if you were in his shoes what would you have done? The four options we had were:

1. Turn off moderation entirely

2. Draft in untrained moderators (we would have needed at least four working through the evening)

3. Delete the thousands of messages in the backlog

4. Close the boards overnight so the mods could work through the comments.

Leave your preferred option below and Paul has said he will respond.

Moderation and message boards are much on my mind at the moment.

If you're a regular reader of this blog you'll know I've started to talk to regular posters at the Points of View message board as a way of aiding my understanding (And if you're one of them my apologies in advance for not publishing a follow up post today. It's already taken me too long to write this one. It will happen Monday).

An incident like this gives me plenty of food for thought as I continue to learn.

Nick Reynolds is editor, BBC Internet blog


  • Comment number 1.

    You should have gone for option 5:
    "delete entire Strictly Come dancing website plus message boards. Replace with note suggesting people do something else instead. Moderators go down pub and have a nice beer"

    In fact I'm about to do that last bit right now, Adnams here I come. Good weekend all!

  • Comment number 2.

    I love strictly and was sorry to see John go but I'll keep on watching.

  • Comment number 3.

    John Sargeant is the only one to come out of this with any integrity.
    The judges have been calling for him to go for weeks yet now all seem to be back tracking as fast as they can and are all feeling "very sad", at least to the cameras....
    And as for the most two faced one of all, the arrogant James Jordan, he should play back the "take two" tapes from Monday and Wednesday and listen to his bitter contradiction that he still denies. Totally unprofessional, he should be ashamed.
    At least the public can now see his true colours and vote accordingly in the next series.
    Goodbye John & Kristina, you will be missed.

  • Comment number 4.

    I think on this occasion, option 4 was the right thing to do.

    A suggestion for the future, how about having approved bbc members who are volunteers (or even random bbc staff) who are trustworthy (I guess you'll have to figure a way that you would be satisfied they are trustworthy), being trained with the system.

    Then, if something similar occurs again, you can call on these trusted volunteers to come online and help clear the backlog?

    Just a thought!

  • Comment number 5.

    @Lloydengland Funny you should mention that... To be honest there has been talk about this exact idea for a while. It is almost inevitable, especially with our type of communities (loyal, passionate, engaged, etc).

    But you've also put your finger on one of the most difficult aspects: how to figure out they are "trustworthy".

    Also, keep in mind that these people - like all our moderators - need to be:
    - CRB cleared
    - trained as moderators
    - know the systems
    - able to apply the BBC editorial guidelines.

    Being trained on the tools (or the system) is only one of the aspects of being a moderator, and probably the easiest one at that. It's the other skills which are so hard...

  • Comment number 6.

    I totally agree with what was done.

    Option 1 is 'dangerous'. Turning off moderation would make a lot of things worse. The discussions would have got so heated that anything could happen.

    Option 2, although a logicial thing to do from an administrators point of view would leave the BBC open to complaints about deleting messages and not letting people have their say (which is what a message board is for).

    Option 3, not good - untrained people will work slower and will probably make a lot of mistakes as well as slow the moderators down with constant queries.

    Option 3, best option. Close them and deal with the backlog. The situation doesn't get worse for the moderators and although people aren't able to post - they at least won't complain about the bigger mess that the other options could create.

    Good call - I will now await people to disagree with me but thats my opinion.

  • Comment number 7.

    I was saddened to see the reaction of Len, jumping for joy on hearing John Sargeant had withdrawn from the competition. Arlene's comments on Claudia's programme that it was a shame, when she was seen in the Judges' rest room saying he should go. When he does go she's still not happy.
    I guess John could never please them.
    At least he has shown dignity.
    Perhaps the judges would like learn how to behave - John could certainly give them a few tips.

  • Comment number 8.

    I think that this was a pretty serious failure - imagine the consequences if the News Channel went off air rather then cover a major story because it all got a bit much for it - it would be considered a disaster, and this is no better. The whole point of the Strictly message boards is to discuss interesting things on Strictly. This is about the most interesting thing that's ever happened on(or to?) Strictly Come Dancing and it couldn't be discussed.

    On to the four options:

    1) This should be quite possible; the boards have reactive moderation buttons, so with this many eyes on the boards it seems unlikely that anything really untoward would remain unnoticed for long. As for porn and viruses, the boards seem to take ASCII text, plus a limited selection of smileys. I'm not sure how 'nasty' porn constructed out of those could really be. Likewise a virus that can't use any executable code.

    2) If that was a real option then it seems like the best one; new mods may not be as efficient as the usual ones, but they've got to be more efficient than no mods at all. Also, just how carefully trained does someone have to be to understand "no personal information, no swearing, no spamming"? Even if they err on the side of caution 90% of legit messages being posted in a timely manner is better than none of them.

    3) No. That's an even worse failure than what actually happened.

    4) Again, no. A discussion board that can't be used for a discussion is simply broken.

    I mostly think that the BBC's online activities are great, but they shouldn't come a poor second best to the traditional media. Maintaining the service is an important part of the standards we expect from the BBC too.

  • Comment number 9.

    Having been away from a computer for the last few days i was itching to at least give my views overs john decission to leave the show.

    Having had plenty of time to think about it i am now more than ever convinced that he is the only one to come out of this with any respect. There is no doubt that he was either pushed or made so unwelcome that he just had to leave. The judges just want it their way, i am sorry but this whole saga has just cast another shadow over the BBC.

    The show will be worse off without him, Judges and BBC get real this is an entertainment show and John provided what the majority of people wanted, good saturday night entertainment.

    As for the boards option 4 was correct, but its a shame you didn't preempt the reaction to something as big as this in the first place. Whats the point of a discussion board if it gives up at the first sign of being used as it was intended!

    If you want the judges to provide the two couples for the dance off each week then dont have a public vote, but then you wouldn't have the viewing figures that you've been getting.

  • Comment number 10.

    "Talk to"...surely you mean "Talk with" don't you Nick?

    There's the difference between Blog and message board summed up though ;)

  • Comment number 11.

    I write about John Sergeant
    Here we have a man over 60 doing well in a very competitive environment. Granted he could not dance but this is realty television, not a serious contest. The contestants are ‘celebrities’ none of whom are dancers of professional standard.
    If we wanted to see really good dancers we would employ professionals.
    John Sergeant was near to becoming an icon for those over 60.
    Now we have treachery and cowardice and other qualities showing lack of character.
    John Sergeant has let down everyone over 60 in this country.
    The man is a wimp and beneath contempt..

  • Comment number 12.

    Thankyou John And Christina for all the entertainment you have given us. Tonight, your gracious behaviour showed those judges up for what they were, ill mannered, ignorant and two-faced. Len's speech at the beginning made me feel sick. The BBC's judgement has been a bit of a problem lately, so I hope that for next season, there will be new judges who know how to treat people with respect and courtesy.

  • Comment number 13.

    I am sad to see John go. For me, he made SCD fun and entertaining to watch. I don't mind who wins the trophy, for me it is all about entertainment and interactivity with the show.

    Now he has gone there is no drama, because I feel that the rest of the celebrities are evenly matched. However I did notice tonight the judges 'upping' their antics to put a bit of drama in the show. Is this to keep the viewers watching next week?

    Sadly I for one will never watch SCD again, I'm afraid it has lost it's honesty, especially knowing in the future this could happen again.

  • Comment number 14.

    The BBC should know better quoteing this as a competion,ITS A SHOW the judges are self seeking egotists. I remember the old come dancing shows where the judges were'nt noticeble

  • Comment number 15.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • Comment number 16.

    grow up people!.. has any of you danced for real ever?.. from what I see in clubs and office parties is hard to say that there are many who actually like dancing without having few drinks before! you need to ake up to reality and face the music, as they say! it is not in you blood to rumba or jive!

  • Comment number 17.

    The thing is Strictly Come Dancing is an entertainment show. By that I mean it is not a professional competition - if it were, we would be viewing the world dancing championships - which as far as I am aware is not even shown on BBC – so, let’s think about this one... what are we watching?

    Well, it appears to be nothing more and nothing less that good old fashion ‘Entertainment’.

    And in the name of entertainment Strictly Come Dancing invited a 64 year old tubby reporter onto the show whose claim to fame was being hand-bagged by Margaret Thatcher.

    ‘That’ll be laugh,’ thought the producer! ‘After all we must not be ageist or 'tubbiest'’... So John Sergeant was wheeled onto the show for laughs...for week one, and for sure the big Laugh would be on him...Pooh bear a bit dim and tidily pom, not good at dancing like Tigger. Then the show would start in earnest. The chaff from wheat having been expelled.

    But in this extraordinary case the laughs were far from being on John...Ho, ho, ho,....no, no,no. This Pooh bear had brains!

    And worse, both the programme producer and the judges forgot two cardinal rules: (1) the rules of the game must be respected at all times; and (2) the judges should never get down and personal... and certainly not insist on telling 'Dear Viewer' who BBC fee pays the Judges large salaries, who they should or should not vote for.

    As we have agreed the programme is primarily entertainment and in a typically British way the public quite rightly voted on entertainment i.e. John Sergeant: the perfect gentleman to the last with the self effacing humour; an astute baffoon with the carefully phrased timing of seasoned comic and with the ability to retaliate with an 'Oscar Wilde' charming wit that he knew full well would gain maximum affection from us the public voters ; yes John, the complete non-winger -no cry baby is John; in a nutshell, he's everybody’s perfect Christmas grand dad!

    John felt he had to leave (which is the same as being forced off) because, ironically, he thought he might win. Well he wasn’t the best dancer, but then nor was Michael Jackson the best 'moon-walker' but history pens strange things.

    As we all know, the BBC have a lot of catching up on what humour really is and what the public really like.

    The interesting point with all this is hilarity is: Why do we love John?

    I think the answer is he upholds many of the deep rooted English characteristics of an era long gone that we all would dearly love to have back.

  • Comment number 18.

    Dear Mr Reynolds,

    Your piece is typical of the way the BBC tends to treat feedback - patronisingly and unconvincingly.

    If my own experience is typical, it has not dealt with formal complaints properly either. I did not even receive the courtesy of a personal reply but merely a standard form letter about the Sergeant affair which failed to address my particular points.

    The Corporation's basic problem is that the Reithian concept of public service broadcasting does not sit happily with a 3 billion pound a year enterprise based on forced payment of a huge licence fee.

    It is the compulsory nature of this fee that makes the Corporation unaccountable to the public.

  • Comment number 19.

    "new registrations" "people posting more than once" The comments system (that means everything which asks for "feed back" does not protect the itself from automatic comments (comment botts) which many other systems do and in some cases use two methods. Why not?

  • Comment number 20.

    Can I ask people to keep their comments on topic please. If you want to discuss John's exit please do so at the Strictly boards. This post is about how we moderated the boards.


    Nick Reynolds (editor, BBC Internet blog)

  • Comment number 21.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • Comment number 22.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • Comment number 23.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • Comment number 24.

    I think the correct option was taken given the circumstances.
    The only other remotely feasible option is flawed just by definition. Untrained moderators could not and should not be expected to fulfill the role of moderator, it's as simple as that.
    The idea of moderator volunteers is a good one, but the issue of trust enters into it. The system is more open to abuse. With a corporation like the BBC, I can imagine why volunteer moderators would be less attractive, even if thousands of message boards across the web *are* effectively maintained by volunteers.

    Overall, good call, methinks :)

  • Comment number 25.

    I think all the people complaining about the way it was dealt with have never moderated a message board in their lives. If they had they would understand and agree completely. I've had to close boards down before to deal with a big mess and I only deal with a couple of thousand members.

  • Comment number 26.

    There seems to me to be a thread of "don't blame the BBC, blame the judges and John S" running through this explanation. What is the relevance of the split between complaints about the BBC and complaints about the participants? I guess you will say that people acused you of shutting down the discussion due to comments about the BBC.... This would never happen, the BBC delights in self flagilation these days. And in any case, a production team producing for a show on the BBC IS the BBC as far as license payers are concerned.

    For pity's sake people get real - it's a TV program. This is a blog and you are being sucked in - you are doing exactly what the producers want you to do. Ratings improve through this kind of debate - it does not change the result or the quality of the competition. There was a TV programme I watched in the 70s & 80s that urged kids to switch of the television and go and do something less boring. It's good advice.

  • Comment number 27.

    Please Please Please could the B.B.C repeat the Saturday night show. My friends and I work most Saturday nights and miss it. A lot of shows are now repeated on B.B.C 3 and over on I.T.V are repeated several times throughout the weekend. Strictly could be repeated on Sunday morning or later on on saturday night. Are other bloggers in agreement?

  • Comment number 28.

    This is as off topic as the comment above, but Strictly is available on iPlayer - http://www.bbc.co.uk/iplayer

  • Comment number 29.

    It was fun to watch the John Sargeant and Kristina Rihanoff pair. However, it was quite noble of John Sargeant to step down from the show in such a fashion.

    I would like John Sargeat & Jo Brand to pair up for the STRICTLY COME DANCING does the COMIC RELIEF 2009.

    They are so alike in their facial features.

  • Comment number 30.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • Comment number 31.

    I don't really understand why we need a blog to explain the closure of the SCD board overnight - last year it was shut every night.

    An explanation was given on the board, I didn't see much dissent. (Actually I'm not sure that I saw *any* dissent.)

    Option 4 was fine, I don't really understand why we're being asked.

    Of course you may wonder why I am commenting at all, well I am a lost POV boarder trying to find Nick's 2nd blog on the POV board and I just happened upon this subject.

  • Comment number 32.

    Aloysia - it's here.

    Nick Reynolds (editor, BBC Internet blog)

  • Comment number 33.

    Thank you Nick, I got there.


  • Comment number 34.

    Why does BBC Northern Ireland use the BBCTV to ask the public to vote for Christine. Is it not unfair to the others?

  • Comment number 35.

    Sorry to be so slow responding to your comments, been laid low by lurgy...


    1) The offensive images and virus were on a website with an apparently Sargeant-related domain address that a user posted to the boards. We allow users to post urls, but it's clear we could handle or moderate them more effectively, maybe putting any domain that hadn't been linked to before through the mod system as a matter of course. Clearly the BBC has no responsibility for the content of external sites, but I think it's fair to say that users coming to the BBC website wouldn't expect to click on a link to that. It even gave the moderator a bit of a shock...

    2) As Tom has said, using volunteer moderators is something that we have considered, and we try to have as many of the boards reactively moderated as possible, where the majority of messages will only be viewed by the moderators if a board member complains about the content. This is far, far cheaper, but it also allows the community that use the board to have an influence on how heavily we moderate borderline content - the stuff that isn't a serious risk to the BBC, but may or may not step over the mark for most users of the boards. Some boards, such as Ouch, have networkers who volunteer to help with hosting and managing the community.
    However, there's a big difference between 'trusted' and 'contractually bound' ;-) Personally, I think that at the moment the risk is too high to let volunteers actually make the decision to remove or pass content. There are not only the legal risks of libel or breaching reporting restrictions (and the moderation company has millions of pounds of insurance cover in place, which volunteers wouldn't) but also the questions we get about moderation decisions from journalists, MPs etc - I'm not convinced they would be satisfied by the BBC saying they used unpaid, untrained members of the public to make these decisions. We will continue to evaluate the option though.


    These weren't comment bots, these were real people registering, verifying their accounts and posting to the boards. We've never seen so many new users join so fast, and the evenings normally show a drop off in posting numbers, not a dramatic rise. The question we now have to ask is how much money we should spend to have more 'standby' moderators on call, since the ones we had clearly weren't enough.

    @goalie up front

    I suppose we considered the breakdown of the sorts of messages relevant because some papers were running stories implying that every comment made to the boards was part of a 'flood of complaints' which wasn't the case.


    Don't you read the papers?!! :-D

    It's fair to say that we've taken a fair bit of flak over this, both from the papers and within the BBC, and we were genuinely interested to have the public's views on how they would want it to be handled.


  • Comment number 36.

    Thank you.. http://www.gelsesli.com/ sesli sohbet


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