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Help and the BBC iPlayer messageboard

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Jonathan Richardson | 15:14 UK time, Thursday, 4 June 2009

We've updated the BBC iPlayer messageboard to make it clearer to you what it's for and where you can get help on using BBC iPlayer.

We've had our searchable help site with a dedicated help team to answer your questions for some time. We've also made some behind the scenes improvements, from improving the Contact Us form, to adding RSS feeds, so you can subscribe to a feed updating you whenever we add a new FAQ, or subscribe to individual FAQs for when we update them.

The BBC Internet Blog and the iPlayer section of it have grown. We've tried to lead discussion, such as when we made major changes and Anthony Rose wrote about them.

So what's the messageboard that I host for?

It's for you - I believe it works alongside the blogs and help site by being your place. If the help site is where we offer help and advice to you, and the blog is where we lead discussion, then the messageboard is where you lead and interact with others.

For some time the board has been a forum led by you so it's only right that the reorganisation not only recognises this, but makes it clear what you can expect to find there.

When BBC iPlayer only offered downloads for Windows XP users to registered users and it was a beta product, the messageboard was ideal. However now BBC iPlayer is a mainstream service across an ever-growing list of devices the board is not suitable - the amount of information needed to diagnose a problem is too great. That's why we improved the help site and made these latest changes to the board, making it clear it's more for discussion and self-help than BBC-provided help.

But what of the future? Well BBC iPlayer is changing all the time - keep a look out on this blog for more information - and the board will change as the improvements come in. But I think there is more we can do to get more of you involved. The commentary on the blogs and messageboards is lively, but many of the people chatting on there are the same people talking elsewhere on the net about iPlayer.

One of the reasons I've started to use Twitter (I know, it's "love it or hate it" to many) is, as I was told recently, because the BBC wants "to be where the conversation is taking place". So what about where it's not taking place?

Now I've created this clear divide between the help site, blogs and the messageboard, I think it's time to start thinking about where the conversation isn't happening and finding out how to stimulate it and get it going, without forgetting our existing audience. That's my next goal, and one that may mean a shift into new areas. Feedback on the messageboard will of course be welcome.

Jonathan Richardson is Content Producer, BBC iPlayer, BBC Future Media & Technology


  • Comment number 1.

    Hi Jon,

    We've disagreed on this approach before, I'll restate that as a publicly accessable help facility (even if their purpose is misunderstood) the messageboards should be actively AND PROACTIVELY used by the BBC to respond to questions placed there. It is nothing short of rudeness and yes ignorance to not respond to threads there promptly and efficiently. All posts from the past day or weekend should be responded to by 10am the next working day at least. It simply provides ammunition to threads posted beyond the BBC if you choose to ignore these posts, regardless as to their potential purility. It comes with the territory I'm afraid.

    You must reconsider your attitude to the boards.

    Luckily I've not needed to approach the help facility or use an e-mail but my experiences in the past of both leave much to be desired.

  • Comment number 2.

    The FAQs seem like they would be useful to new users or people trying to use iplayer on a new device as most of the information is quite general.

    However, there seems to be little information on problems with specific programmes. Occasionally I come across a problem with a certain programme on a particular device. It would be great if I could check whether it was a known issue and whether it would be fixed before the programme is taken off iplayer. I thought that was what the "Service Updates" section of the website was for, but it seems that its mainly about updates to the forum, not iplayer.

  • Comment number 3.

    Hello Chris,

    I don't understand your complaint, all queries through the FAQ page are answered by the BBC. As I have said above, the messageboard is no longer the most efficient way to deal with queries.

    Hello Lucas,

    Service Updates does have posts on problems, but these are removed as soon as the problem is fixed. As for reporting problems with programmes, the FAQ pages are searchable and are updated when we know there is a problem with a programme, so we do offer what you're after, but on the help pages.


  • Comment number 4.


    It might not be the most efficient was to deal, BUT it is the public conversation with the users of the iPlayer, you have to accept that people will not accept the inefficiency argument. When messages are not handled, complaints are almost certain to be raised on other external boards (DS for example) which lead to public dissatisfaction with and misunderstanding of the aims of the Corporation. A simple message with a hyperlink to the email submission screen might help alleviate these genuine concerns. In addition a resume from your support staff in the thread indicating how the issue was finally resolved would be perfect.

  • Comment number 5.

    Hi Jon,

    This may be a bit OT, sorry. But given the news this week from youTube and bearing in mind comments above I thought I would chance my arm and cross post from your message board!

    Do you have plans for a 10' interface for iPlayer?

    Youtube have just launched one: http://www.youtube.com/xl

    Hulu and NetFlix already have one in the US.

    It potentially allows any device with a browser (e.g Wii) to access iPlayer (although I guess DRM might get in the way).

    This seems to be growing momentum by the day.


  • Comment number 6.

    I don't see the iPlayer messageboard or any new style messageboard getting anywhere unless it becomes a lot more user friendly. I have recently posted a list of bug reports on the iPlayer board*. To be fair, some of them are being are being dealt with very promptly (thankyou 'Laura DNA'), but the overall impression is that the new style of board is currently riddled with some serious database bugs. It is therefore extremely disturbing to read from BBC's 'TomV' that "We've also completed a totally new look and feel for all message boards"

    Well, the look and feel of the new style of board may have been 'completed', but most of it is nowhere as good as the older system, nor is it currently compatible with the older system.

    1 On the general question of usability across the different styles of boards, when clicking on 'My discussions' from the new style of board:

    - there is no reference to the Board a comment was posted in;

    - there is no reference to the thread title of that board a comment was posted in;

    - there is no reference to the number of new posts made subsequent to a posted comment;

    - there is no visual indication of newer posts unread by the user;

    - there is no reference to the time of the latest contribution to a thread.

    All five of these functionalities are present in the older board system.

    I would like to see all five of these functionalities retained in the newer board system please.

    2 On BBC messageboard database aspects, when refreshing 'Your discussions' in the older style of boards, entries for the newer style of board are not 'cleared' in the normal way after reading any new messages, even when logged in to the new style of board. The databases seem not to be talking to each other correctly. I should add that this 'new messages viewed' fault is not consistent - sometimes it occurs, sometimes it doesn't, and it doesn't seem to depend on one's respective logged in state(s).

    3 Presentation:

    - The page presentation on the new style of board is not as clear as the older boards. Please at least put the thread titles in bold.

    - It would be very helpful, and consistent with style adopted for the new board thread listings themselves, to have a numbered list of pages (1, 2, 3 etc) on the 'My discussions' listings rather than the dumber, and always more time-consuming to navigate, 'older' and 'newer'.

    - Peppering the iPlayer board with the word 'permalink' is unlikely to be helpful for non-techies.

    - The size of the text used for the messages on the iPlayer is uncomfortably small. The amount of white space used in the page design could be reduced significantly in my view. Some better dividing boxes between threads and messages would help considerably in my view.


    * Bug reports on iPlayer board:
    - http://www.bbc.co.uk/dna/mbiplayer/F8035762?thread=6699304
    - href="http://www.bbc.co.uk/dna/mbiplayer/F8035762?thread=6699322
    - http://www.bbc.co.uk/dna/mbiplayer/F8035762?thread=6699456
    - http://www.bbc.co.uk/dna/mbiplayer/F8035762?thread=6699665
    - http://www.bbc.co.uk/dna/mbiplayer/F8035762?thread=6699702

  • Comment number 7.

    Hello Russ,

    I've forwarded on your comments to the techies who deal with the way the board looks for them to investigate.


  • Comment number 8.

    Hello John its a bit late but I don't understand you blog here.

    Back in December you said:


    "Every morning the different teams responsible for getting programmes onto BBC iPlayer and monitoring audience feedback meet at 10 a.m. They discuss any issues (for example raised on the iPlayer messageboard), work out how to get them fixed and how to respond to users."


    Are we still supposed to post problems there (eg at the moment clipping the end of radio programmes) for your meeting to deal with.

    If not what do we do?

  • Comment number 9.

    #7 - Jon - thankyou. I am pleased to note that most of my functionality suggestions have been adopted. What is needed now is to apply them to the 'comments' area (blog posts listings).


  • Comment number 10.

    The lack of synchronisation between the log in/out states between the old message board system and the new system is a long-standing problem.

    I'm experiencing some very erratic behaviour in the new system concerning the appearance of the 'My Discussions' box on the left-hand side of the page - sometimes the box is present, sometimes it isn't. I find, even when I am logged on in the new system, when moving from the old system to the new one, say via a link in a listing, the My Discussions box is not present in the new system. Nor is the box present after I log in to the new system from a previously logged-out state. The box becomes present only after I click on any menu item on the left-hand side. This is the only way I have found of making the My Discussions box appear.

    Another example: when, in the new system, and logged in (in both the new system and the old system), I click on a link to a thread in the old system, I am shown as not being logged in to the old system. If however I click on a link to the board containining that thread, I am shown as being logged in.

    I have always found the log in system, and the retention of one's status (within an active browser session) to be be rock solid on the old messageboard system.

    The login system on the new messageboard system and its record of status is totally flaky and complete pants.

    Didn't you do any testing on this?


  • Comment number 11.

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


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