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Blogs and boards: getting the balance right

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Nick Reynolds Nick Reynolds | 18:44 UK time, Friday, 31 July 2009

Last week I gave a presentation to a BBC meeting about the moderation budget.

This is the money that we spend every year on moderating the BBC's social media services: message boards, blogs and communities.

Just in case you need a reminder, this is what moderation is (and it's important, always to distinguish it from hosting).

The details of the presentation are confidential. The independent company who do moderation for the BBC wouldn't thank me if I gave you financial data which might prevent them running a successful business.

But there is one slide from the power point which I thought I could share safely.

moderation_spend_0809

As you can see from the pie chart above the vast majority of the money we spent on moderation last year was spent on message boards and other communities with a very small slice spent on blogs.

Now blogs sometimes attract a lower rate of commenting (and therefore moderation spend) than a board would. Most of our blogs are reactively moderated. This can be less expensive - as long as the community behaves itself and as a result the numbers of comments alerted is low. Some topics are more likely to be premoderated because they are controversial. If we had a blog about religion as we do a set of message boards, then that blog might turn out to be an expensive proposition.

And moderation is only one part of the picture. Blogs and boards need to be hosted which also costs money.

But even with all those caveats, the pie chart gave me pause for thought.

Blogs last year (April 08 - 09) were getting around 20% of the traffic every month of the total traffic (page impressions) to the BBC's social media services (communities, blogs, message boards). In other words in terms of traffic to moderation spend blogs are out performing boards.

I've said before that in my opinion BBC blogs present a nice combination of editorial and conversation. And to be clear, I'm not saying that all boards should be closed and be replaced by blogs (and it's not in my power to do that anyway). I'm simply thinking aloud about what the right balance could be.

So what do you think should be the balance between blogs, boards and communities?
.
How valuable to you are the different things they do?

Is the BBC missing a trick anywhere? Are there forms of social media we should be doing as well as - or even instead of - the current stuff?

Nick Reynolds is editor, Social Media, Central Editorial Team, BBC Online

Thanks to Brett for the pie chart and his help in preparing the presentatiion

N.B. Comments about the changes to the Points of View message boards will be deemed off topic for this post and removed.

Comments

Page 1 of 3

  • Comment number 1.

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

  • Comment number 2.

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

  • Comment number 3.

    The BBC proposition around commenting is too confusing. I'd like a more joined-up experience across the entire range of offerings.

    In terms of what you should be doing, I think one should be able to comment on every news article posted. Not just "Have Your Say" (eugh) but right at the bottom of every article published. And the same capability on every iPlayer programme. Then all of this should be accessible from a central point, by category, date, theme, whatever.

    I really love how http://www.metafilter.com/ works. You could learn a lot from it.

  • Comment number 4.

    I don't see why blogs and message boards need to be compared in this way. Its like comparing tv and radio. Both offer something completely different and have different purposes. Also, using traffic as a comparison leaves aside the fact that not everyone visting a blog reads the comments; some people just read the main post (which isn't moderated in the same way).

    I disagree with lleyam on having more commenting on news articles. I'd like it if comments were moved to a different page to article itself, or atleast hidden with javascript until the reader clicks a button.

  • Comment number 5.

    I don't think any more message boards should be closed down Nick.

    Blogs and boards serve completely different functions , posters have had this conversation with you ad nauseum on the POV BBC board !

    The person running the blog has much more control over matters , and it's very difficult to get a conversation going between posters or create a sense of community.

    Just because blogs are cheaper to run, doesn't mean you should close down message boards.

  • Comment number 6.

    I think there are too many blogs and not enough Boards

    If you ask the License Fee payers what they prefer i would guess its message boards

    If you ask the BBC what they prefer i would guess its blogs

    BTW Nick when are you going to publish the blog about the following queston " Are the BBC in any shape or form trying to gradually get rid of boards in favour of blogs where they have more control?" you said you would in your last post

  • Comment number 7.

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

  • Comment number 8.

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

  • Comment number 9.

    Blogging makes me happy. And it's cheaper too.

  • Comment number 10.

    Blogs last year (April 08 - 09) were getting around 20% of the traffic every month of the total traffic (page impressions) to the BBC's social media services (communities, blogs, message boards). In other words in terms of traffic to moderation spend blogs are out performing boards.

    How about comparing it with something that's actually meaningful Nicky?
    What you have compared it with is in no way comparable.
    People may have viewed the blog, but have they commented on it?

    Give us the stats for total blog posts, and total message board posts for the same year, and you might just then have an even comparison.

    I've said before that in my opinion BBC blogs present a nice combination of editorial and conversation.

    Conversation is a two way process. In the world of BBC Blogs, there are some that the original blogger has never returned to and commented on. Chick Young's football blog (he thinks he's writing an article, and not a blog entry), and Maggie Sheils are two from the top of my head.

  • Comment number 11.

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

  • Comment number 12.

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

  • Comment number 13.

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

  • Comment number 14.

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

  • Comment number 15.

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

  • Comment number 16.

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

  • Comment number 17.

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

  • Comment number 18.

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

  • Comment number 19.

    lleyam wrote:

    The BBC proposition around commenting is too confusing. I'd like a more joined-up experience across the entire range of offerings.

    Why the BBC can't organise a coherent system is baffling, here's what Paul from CCT said:

    Things at the BBC have sometimes been a bit piecemeal due to different departments having different software, policies, platforms and ideas. It's a big organisation and it's hard to avoid that.

    http://www.bbc.co.uk/dna/mbpointsofview/F1951574?thread=6633727&skip=0&show=20#p80884593

    If it's a big organisation being organised should be easier not "a bit piecemeal", what are all these people in middle management for if they can't manage, it seems from the above comment they are more interested in managing their own fiefdoms - which seems at odds to a corporation providing a public service.

  • Comment number 20.

    You'd probably save a lot of moderation costs if you didn't keep posting about message boards on these blogs.

    I used a lot of message boards around the internet, but not the BBC ones. I've always found the way the BBC ones are run odd - they have opening times and heavy moderation.

    It's odd though that it keeps coming back to this - blogs and message boards are not the same thing. On a blog, only you - the BBC employee - can start a discussion. On message boards, anyone can. That's clearly a big difference and I'm not sure why it is not really mentioned in this endless series of posts...

    If I want to discuss, say, the recent iPhone SMS exploit, in a world without message boards, I have to wait till someone posts it on the dotlife blog. If they don't post it, I can't discuss it. That seems to me a pretty good reason not to assume blogs and message boards are the same.

    Blogs are essentially broadcast out there, comments are kind of optional extras tacked on the bottom. Message boards are all about the comments, and no single user is more important than any other. Don't get me started on Have Your Say...

  • Comment number 21.

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

  • Comment number 22.

    Can I just clarify, is this what we're actually being asked to comment about here

    "So what do you think should be the balance between blogs, boards and communities?

    How valuable to you are the different things they do?

    Is the BBC missing a trick anywhere? Are there forms of social media we should be doing as well as - or even instead of - the current stuff?"

    and not Moderation, despite it taking up the majority of the blog?

  • Comment number 23.

    Nippie Sweetie - just to clarify what you being asked to comment on.

    This thread is not about how the current moderation system works, the current house rules, or an opportunity to debate or complain about individual moderation decisions. There are other blog posts about that.

    Nor is it another opportunity to throw more (metaphorical) rotten tomatoes in my direction.

    I am indeed interested in you what you think of the BBC's current social media stuff and in particular new ideas. What do you think for example of the idea of having comments on news articles?

  • Comment number 24.

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

  • Comment number 25.

    Faye - I've moderated out post 21 and post 24. They are both off topic. This post is not about "where's the best places to discuss message boards" - it's about the questions in post 23.

    I'm afraid I have to host this discussion quite hard to keep it on topic.

  • Comment number 26.

    Professor Techno - post 6 - I've already answered your question in a previous comment and this post is the post I was intending to write in answer to it.

    "Control" doesn't really have anything to do with it. The BBC has just as much "control" over BBC blogs as it does BBC message boards. The real questions are:

    1. How much effort is being put into different things?

    2. Is that effort worth it?

    3. How do you measure that?

    4. Are there more efficient or better ways of doing things?

    I think if you asked all licence fee payers which they preferred you might get a different answer to that question. I can understand why some of the licence fee payers who user them would prefer boards (and some would prefer blogs) but that doesn't mean either of them is the best way of doing things for all licence fee payers.

    For example would it be better if you could comment on all News articles, as Illeum suggests in comment 3.

    Should the BBC have something like Second Life? Some kind of virtual game?

    What kinds of social media would attract different kinds of people to BBC Online? People who have never visited before...

  • Comment number 27.

    I kind of question the value of commenting on news - what is the point? I can see here, there's some value - you've asked for our opinion, but on a news article, what does it matter what people think about the government giving money to graduates to have gap years, for example?

    People who comment are people with a strong opinion and/or too much time, so I don't think 'being representative' is a good argument. Look at Have Your Say for example, it does what it says on the tin - gives people a say, but it doesn't represent the collective view of 'The People'.

    I waste time commenting on news articles from time to time, and it's generally just a way to get something off your chest, not an actual conversation or discussion (as message boards are). I rarely go back to see what other people think of my views, unless I was intentionally playing devil's advocate or something.

    On message boards, threads can exist for months or even years and still be active. On news articles, a 'thread' might be active for only a few hours, or perhaps a couple of days.

    So, basically, I wouldn't waste time adding comments to news - it only wastes everyone else's time who compulsively feels they need to give their opinion!

    I wonder if anyone has looked at the psychology of commenting on the internet...

  • Comment number 28.

    Ed - what if the comment on the news story added a new fact to a story or a new angle on it? Would it be valuable then?

  • Comment number 29.

    Any chance of producing the average moderation cost per post in the categories that you have used then?

    It doesn't have to be the exact financial cost, a percentage of the budget would be acceptable too.

    I mean, if there are more posts in the message boards compared with all the blogs, it's bound to cost more to moderate it. Page Impressions don't come in to it, as there is no cost of moderating viewing a web page only, is there?

  • Comment number 30.

    Nick, sure it would, but it'd get buried under the huge number of essentially meaningless comments. Look at Have Your Say for example, today's topic on the gap-years-for-graduates has almost 300 comments, the vast majority are reactive 'lazy kids/waste of money/better things to spend it on' comments, complaining about the idea (as of course, they have a right to do). Do you really think that the BBC site is the best place for people to complain about the general state of the world?

    If news pages had comments sections at the bottom (as The Guardian does on some articles), you'd get even more comments, many times as many as a linked HyS and have an even harder time finding truly interesting comments.

    If you see comments as a form of Citizen Journalism, I'd say it would be much more valuable if the BBC made it easier to send corrections and additions to existing articles. I've done this a few times but the method is obscure and feels a bit like sending a message into a black-hole. If each article had a form at the bottom (not the rather banal 'are you affected by this issue' form) that let people submit new information it would be better. Provide some feedback when they do that, even if it's automated, provide a way of tracking your feedback online so you can see that it's actually valuable. It should be about people engaging with The BBC, not people engaging with The BBC Website.

    I would avoid thinking that sticking comments on news articles is a good thing as it will get your readership more 'engaged', and that the only downside is the moderation costs. I would look at why comments are necessary and try to innovate to solve those problems. Doing so might create something really original.

  • Comment number 31.

    "Blogs last year (April 08 - 09) were getting around 20% of the traffic every month of the total traffic (page impressions) to the BBC's social media services (communities, blogs, message boards). In other words in terms of traffic to moderation spend blogs are out performing boards."

    Surely comparing the number of page impressions of blogs are messageboards is pretty irrelevent. The news and sports pages contain links to the blog pages of many of the BBC's most talented journalists and reporters. Your page impressions include all the people who just read the interesting articles that highly paid BBC employees have typed- page impressions don't tell you whether a blog reader read the comments left by other people, or indeed contributed themselves.

    The messageboards must cost more to moderate because they handle more comments. Why else would they cost more? If this blog got as many comments as something like the POV messageboards, then surely it would cost the same amount to moderate?

    Maybe a more useful statistic would be to give the cost of moderation per posts/comments left?

    Personally I find that the blogs are there for reading, and maybe commenting if I want to ask the person writing the article (like here). Messageboards are for conversing with other users of BBC services, and sharing opinions about output. This can't be done on blogs as the nature of the article dictates the comments which can be left.

  • Comment number 32.

    Incidentally, why is it that I can leave a comment at 10:30 on a Saturday night, which is published online straight away, while all the messageboards on this site are closed? Just curious

  • Comment number 33.

    Tengsted - the cost of moderating a comment doesn't change according to the model used. But if a board or blog is reactively moderated fewer comments may be referred to the moderators, which may be cheaper.

    Dr Bean - I think page impressions do matter, because they are a way of seeing how valuable people who read but don't comment find the content. And if a blog is kicked off by a high quality post, comments can then add value because they're connected up to some strong content.

    And if the blog contains open posts as this blog sometimes does, then people can talk about anything they like (within reason) there and share their opinions about the BBC's output.

    Ed Lyons - interesting thoughts, particularly why are comments necessary. Thanks.

  • Comment number 34.

    Sorry Nick, but you're confusing two separate things, the cost of moderation, and page impressions/traffic per model.

    You may be getting the 20% of the traffic to blogs, but if the blogs are only receiving 5% of posts then your claim In other words in terms of traffic to moderation spend blogs are out performing boards. is meaningless.

    For ease of comparison, what is the Blog post to Message Board post ratio?

  • Comment number 35.

    Tengsted - don't know but I might try and find out.

  • Comment number 36.

    Thank you.

  • Comment number 37.

    First I don't think it actually lies within the BBC's remit to run 'forums' which is the 'term of art' for message boards where topic are started by contributors. Of course other people can run them about BBC related topics and can even be encouraged to run them (and moderate them) I can find nothing in the BBC's constitution that requires them to do this. Let them Tweet say I. And the BBC running them actually is anti competitive since it tends to prevent other people from doing this and making money. (from ads).

    There is on the BBC Radio 3 "Platform" Message Board a thread that has 4230 contributions! There is another on the Performance board which is summed up but the following contribution:

    "I think this thread has run it course, productively. It's the same entrenched views and values being endlessly reconfigured to no practical purpose or resolution, not even a synthesis. Argumentative head-butting, and little else.

    Time for the antagonists to go their separate ways, and just enjoy what they enjoy, and leave the other/s alone to do likewise."

    It's not quite as bad as this suggests but there is a strong preference in the thread for the polemical and the put down ... a dialogue of the deaf in other words, among a few self repeating contributors. It being R3, perhaps then could find a good champagne bar in which to hold their rant.

    This is common on message boards.

    On the other hand nobody wants to contribute (well a couple of brave souls) to commenting on the newly minted R3 Blogs.

    It is true that bloggers rarely engage with their commenters(sic) (except on the internet blog) though they do read them. Last week Stephanie Flanders wrote a blog based on a rather naive treatment of a statistic and commenters (sic)offered cogent criticism. She returned a couple of days later with a much more nuanced treatment of the same subject. Perhaps commenters (sic) ought to be allowed to grade blogs like HYS readers can

    I agree with 30# on HYS. One doesn't know of course how many HYS comments are "inspired", (though comments on the political blogs are often obviously so). However maybe a reading list should be provided (the topic was students) and HYS writers be required to show knowledge of the topic in hand.:-) HYS should also be privatised and linked with the other links outs on the relevant news page.

    Finally Nick, I am sure you know when the BBC refers to 'License Payers' it does not mean Licence Payers, but ANYONE IN THE UK who uses or might use BBC services. People who don't use broadcast TV services may still HTS. (The BBC Trust told me this) Whether the BBC should provide a service to American or Chinese commenters (sic) on the relevant blogs in the light of this seems doubtful unless the World Service funds pay for it.

  • Comment number 38.

    Well, Mr Reynolds, you seem to be set on limiting the discussion to one within very narrow parameters.

    "Blogs last year (April 08 - 09) were getting around 20% of the traffic every month of the total traffic (page impressions) to the BBC's social media services (communities, blogs, message boards). In other words in terms of traffic to moderation spend blogs are out performing boards."

    But if the moderation process allows (as it often does) many contributors to repeat effectively the same post dozens of times, then of course traffic will be higher than on a message board where perhaps the posting may be more strictly controlled: 'preemptive' rather than ' post facto' as it were.

    If it's only numbers of contributions that matter, with no attention to be paid to the quality of the discussion. then why bother with moderation at all; save that budget and pay for the libel and defamation actiosn resulting out of it instead. Or, give up both blogs and message boards altogether (why are there so many for The Archers?) and just have a general free-for-all daily "Tell the BBC What You Think' message board? that would be the cheapest option. People could discuss what they liked, and the moderation costs could surely be cut through concentrating on one daily board.

    I rather support the implication of Tengsted's post here. Surely the answer to his/her question is one that someone should already know? It's the kind of pertinent question I've known having to be answered in publishers' editorial meetings. And, if they are markedly different, should not someone be asking why that might be so?

    But that is my last observation on this subject. I am sorry, but I'm not altogether convinced that this is a wholly genuine exercise in seeking BBC online users' views.

  • Comment number 39.

    squirrelist - I suspect a general free-for-all daily "Tell the BBC What You Think' message board might be impossible to manage and host and rather expensive. And how could it be linked to, or made relevant to, the BBC programmes?

    As for libel/defamation, that doesn't even bear thinking about - quite apart from the fact that the BBC shouldn't be a place where people can defame people without thought for the consequences.

    Good thoughts, though.

  • Comment number 40.

    #27. At 8:40pm on 01 Aug 2009, Ed Lyons wrote:

    "I kind of question the value of commenting on news - what is the point? I can see here, there's some value - you've asked for our opinion, but on a news article, what does it matter what people think about the government giving money to graduates to have gap years, for example?"

    Very good points, in fact your comment made me completely change my opinion, you're right - there is little or no point and I suspect that any such comments would quickly become yet another HYS style 'rantothon' (and thus take up even more moderation time and budget)...

    #28. At 8:42pm on 01 Aug 2009, NickReynolds wrote:

    "Ed - what if the comment on the news story added a new fact to a story or a new angle on it? Would it be valuable then?"

    You mean do the BBCs work for them? :~) Seriously, if someone really does have new facts (rather than just some opinion or hear-say) would it not be better if they could contact the BBC news desk - does this come within the scope of the 'accuracy' feed-back form anyway? Make it to easy and you invite every 'crack-pot' opinion or conspiracy theorist...

  • Comment number 41.

    "Dr Bean - I think page impressions do matter, because they are a way of seeing how valuable people who read but don't comment find the content. And if a blog is kicked off by a high quality post, comments can then add value because they're connected up to some strong content."

    I'm sure page impressions do matter, but they are not the most important thing when you are trying to determine whether messageboarding or blogging provides the best way to encourage user interaction. If the vast majority of people visiting blogs only read the article and don't bother reading comments then why not just publish the blog articles as comment pieces on the website (i.e. not in blogs) and avoid any moderation costs.

    Surely the costs of moderation are proportional to the number of posts made! If just as much feedback was provided by the public to blogs as to the messageboards, then they would cost just as much to moderate surely?

    Open blogs are not an alternative to messageboards, at least not the one I've seen on here. As soon as a new article is posted the open post gets lost and will not attract active users.

  • Comment number 42.

    There's a lot of issues I can see regarding commenting on the BBC, so I'll try and get through most of them as briefly as possible before going on about my main bugbear.

    Firstly, Commenting on News articles.
    I think, despite the reservations above, this has merit. HYS is a nihgtmare, both in terms of layout and content, so the argument "it'll encourage drivvel" does make sense but then its already there filling page after page of HYS.

    However I think having it against articles rather than topics would be useful as it would both dilute the nonsense but also encourage better articles. Ask me to comment on "2009 technology convention" and I'd probably not, ask me to comment on an article about the new version of firefox and I likely would.


    As for other commenty areas, I feel a redesign of many of the message board skins would help. I find that the iPlayer messageboard is far better laid out than the POV one and is easy to read as a consequence. Tidying all the blogs into this new template helped make it seem more coherant and I think the same would occur if you tidied messagebaords.

  • Comment number 43.

    Right now for my "big issue". I feel that good user profiles would be a great help to moderation.

    Say for example, that Boilerplated, who posts in numerous places and is mostly sensible, developed a strange habbit of spamming the strictly board.

    Now what happens then? Does he get banned? Does he get a warning? If he gets a warning are we, down on the internet blog, aware of it?

    If there was the ability to warn users who were persistently badly behaved and it showed on their public profile (which also showed ALL comments sorted by individual blog / messageboards) I think it would also let us get a better overview of what a user is like.


    Also another question, why can we not make use of long term members as moderation on boards? Even if its just perhaps the ability to make iffy comments vanish right away. I remember reading something about having staff CRB chcked but if they have no ability o see emails and there's no PM system on the BBC why is this required? It seems rather excessive.

    Failing that, would trusted members not be useful on places like the iPlayer messageboard? As Chris Cornwall has pointed out before I feel all questions on that should be answered, even if its just a link to the relevent FAQ. How exactly would me having a badge signifying "this user may not be staff, but he's also not an idiot and can help you with your problem" be an issue?



    Oh and while you're at it, can we have a little option that makes this posting box larger? The Mail have it on their site and it would make long posts far easier to check over :)

  • Comment number 44.

    The abundance of "This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the House Rules." should be a giveaway.

    Compare your practices with that of others. How does it differ from The Guardian, for example?

    When it comes to justifying the budget, how many Christmas lunches would it buy for 'Botney' et al?

  • Comment number 45.

    I love that a blog on moderation has so many moderated posts! Lol!!

    Also love Nick's POV NB up top ;-)

    I agree with whoever said compare blog posts with messageboard posts -much more relevant comparisons than hits.

    Also, not all messageboards are moderated the same way - as Nick acknowledged - so it would be useful to see which boards cost the most moderating wise.

  • Comment number 46.

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

  • Comment number 47.

    #42. At 2:47pm on 02 Aug 2009, Hymagumba wrote:

    "Firstly, Commenting on News articles.
    I think, despite the reservations above, this has merit. HYS is a nihgtmare, both in terms of layout and content, so the argument "it'll encourage drivvel" does make sense but then its already there filling page after page of HYS."


    But do we really want to 'export' the drivel so prevalent on the HYS boards to actual news articles, I would hope not!

    Talking of the HYS boards, I would actually like to go further, in my opinion the HYS boards should probably be closed - it's one thing for the BBC to encourage debate, in fact it's very Reithian in concept, but another to offer some place for people just to have a rant - but then keeping them open probably stops much of the drivel transferring to the other message boards and these blogs...

  • Comment number 48.

    Can I echo the question posted above and ask Nick why the comparison between blogs and messageboards? They do very different things, and I think the BBC should offer both to its users. Surely it's not an either/or situation?

  • Comment number 49.

    Quite agree with you cricket -Angel .

  • Comment number 50.

    So basically what you're poiting out is MBs are a waste of money.

    I agree. Scrap 'em.

  • Comment number 51.

    To try and move this on a bit.

    Are there any different kinds of social media that you think the BBC should be doing?

    We've talked a lot about blogs and boards but what about communities (e.g. h2g2)?

    Who does it better than the BBC and why?

    I'm looking for new ideas. If you started with a blank sheet of paper what would you do?

  • Comment number 52.

    I'd never heard of h2g2 before, so I've just been over there to have a look. To me, it seems the biggest waste of licence fee payers money I've ever come across!

    Can anyone explain the logic behind it, the appeal of it, and, most importantly, why the BBC are spending money hosting and moderating it.

    Messageboards provide communities, which evolve over time? When boards are closed, those communities are split up and scattered around the internet. A couple of boards that I can think off (which I'll not mention but people may be able to guess) have been closed in the last couple of years, and the unique community built-up has been decimated in one foul swoop.

    Surely any interactive aspect of the BBC website (paid for by the licence payer) should be used to enhance programming, or somehow linked to the BBC's output? How does h2g2 do this?

  • Comment number 53.

    H2G2 is described on Wikipedia as h2g2 is a UK-based collaborative online encyclopedia project

    Is that not where the BBC is in competition with Wikipedia itself?
    Wikipedia is a far more representative than a BBC hosted one would ever be.

    You mentioned Second Life earlier. Does anyone still use that?
    I don't think that the BBC should be entering that market, or producing similar.

    Where the BBC should be concentrating its efforts is the core product - television, perhaps by expanding is the availability of back catalogue programmes through iPlayer, rather than opening up more Social Media.

    If it must have a social aspect, how about a weekly poll/forum/something-or-other, (as long as it's not flipping Twitter), linked to the choice of what back cat programmes could be chosen for re-broadcast on the iPlayer.

  • Comment number 54.

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

  • Comment number 55.

    "How valuable to you are the different things they do? "

    Not a clue, since I have no real idea to what extent the feedback and discussions on either medium are taken seriously and acted on by the BBC, or ignored. All I have are a few anecdotal comments from various people, and frankly that's not much to work with - especially when this particular 'conversation' starts off with pie charts breaking down budgetary allocations..... where's the pie chart for 'this is the value of what we got for our investment'?

    I'm still far from clear what precisely the BBC are wanting to get out of the 'interaction' with their consumers. Surely this conversation is the wrong way round - the internal BBC question should be 'What exactly are we trying to get through the use of message boards and forums', and I can't recall seeing a useful answer to that. The current discussion which seems more about 'how do we fine tune the budget' rather than 'what are we trying to achieve and how can we best do it'.

    Ask me again when there's a clear, measurable and straightforward objective there about what you want to achieve from the interaction with their audience. When I know what the genuine question is, I'll try answer sensibly, but if I have no idea what you are trying to do, asking me what method I prefer you to use to do it is hopeless......

  • Comment number 56.

    You seem to be reluctant to give us the moderation costs of boards v blogs on a post for post basis. Without this, the blog above is just propaganda.

  • Comment number 57.

    Tengsted wrote:
    "H2G2 is described on Wikipedia as h2g2 is a UK-based collaborative online encyclopedia project
    Is that not where the BBC is in competition with Wikipedia itself?"
    Just to say that h2g2 predates Wikipedia by about two years. It was created by Douglas Adams as a community-driven reference proposition, and many of the ideas it developed - journals, forums, user-generated entries - have since become commonplace in the form of blogs, messageboards and wikis.

  • Comment number 58.

    H2G2 may pre-date Wikipedia, but Wikipedia is far superior in terms of accessibility and user friendlimess.

    If you started with a blank sheet of paper what would you do?

    I would at the very least set up separate and dedicated General TV and Radio Messageboards, as these are the BBC core products. And I would encourage BBC programme makers to frequent these boards, start threads, promote the boards, and engage with users.

  • Comment number 59.

    "I would at the very least set up separate and dedicated General TV and Radio Messageboards, as these are the BBC core products. And I would encourage BBC programme makers to frequent these boards, start threads, promote the boards, and engage with users.

    Couldn't have put it better myself!

  • Comment number 60.

    Message boards. forums etc. are one of the original internet (not web) apps. Long ago and even now News Groups still exist (also known as IRC)and most email clients provide access. BBC message Boards share most of their problems.

    Nick asks for ideas.

    IDEA 1) I say that "there is no 'public value' in offering facilties for message boards for "small communities" which could easily be offered by others elsewhere thus releasing funds to provide for "all UK residents" whom the BBC is supposed to serve.

    IDEA 2) There is a case for contributions from service users illustrated by instant comment in Radio Vision on Radio One and (for something completely different) the messages SENT to In Our Time. These are of interest to the makers and users of those services. Developed they could be part of the product. There is also examples for development like Sports' 606

    Programme makers etc should pay for these as part of the product and control them within the guidelines with NICK as overall police person.

    IDEA 3) "Serious Blogs" are partly reporting (so they should go in the 'News') and OpEd which might be set up as an 'ideas and comment'group and invite contributions without any commitment but a presumption to publish (like the existing news stories "invite") but to close with a response from the writer. Writers who have time might be rewarded for contribution to the discussion.

    IDEA 4) Creativity. The BBC sponsers much 'creativity' from Blue Peter to how to write a play for radio. Nick should devise a way of nudging these make use New Media and mercy killing (or seLling them off) for those that don't work after a time

    IDEA 5)Information from communities and involvement and impact should be obtained both for staff and public by developing the aggregator applications further. Maybe BBC World Wide could buy Twitter. :-)

    Moderation costs would be reduced under 1, paid for out of the right budget under 2 and lessened under 3 No 4 is a sensible response to H2G2. H2G2 of course could preserved as a memorial to what happens when you try to come to grips with "42"

    The last 5 is just a way of bring the result of 1 together

    QED we can have more POV and HYS but not on the Beeb but we can find it (under 3) if we need to. Reporting and OpEd can be more sensibly treated and could include outside contributors. Cost for moderation would fall and then on those products which needed it. And creativity could burst out all over.

    I will send the account for consultancy forthwith.


  • Comment number 61.

    Hi all,

    Also, Jimster, long time no see! :)

    I'm interested to see this topic being discussed - whether the BBC should be investing its time and our money in blogs, communities or both.

    I wanted to add a bit of context to the discussion regarding communities like h2g2.

    Firstly, to my mind, blogs and communities are two inter-related but different things.

    Blogs, like this one, are structured on the basis of a post on a topic by the person (or people) responsible for the blog, followed sometimes by discussion. The discussion is subordinate to the original post, using the blog post as a starting point. The topics are centrally led. BBC blogs provide an insight into some of the thinking and working behind other things that the BBC is doing, from news to technology. This is valuable, but it is entirely different from an online community such as h2g2.

    h2g2 has been useful to the BBC, for more than just the technology that the BBC acquired with the remains of TDV, h2g2's founding company. It was a site focused on user-generated content, way before such things were de rigeur. And as Jim Sangster pointed out above, h2g2 was everything from encyclopedia to discussion board to social network to blogging platform, before these things had become huge, and all rolled into one.

    It doesn't surprise me that communities are more expensive to moderate than blogs. They are far more interactive, and interactive on a whole different level. Anyone can post on any topic on h2g2, for example, and a discussion may or may not spring up. It's a sprawling site with many backwaters. But there are things that help to alleviate this cost. The key lesson that the BBC eventually learned with h2g2 was that it could largely trust the community to flag up problems - the community fought long and hard for reactive moderation, as did the h2g2 staff of the time, and it works.

    You may have noticed I have used the past tense with h2g2 a lot there. Something the BBC should also understand about communities is that moderation isn't anywhere near the most important thing to be spending money on. It's necessary, but the most important thing is the quality and quantity of staffing for the community, to give it a loose sense of direction and ensure that the most is made of content contributed. h2g2 has never in my opinion had an issue with quality of staff, but it's lost years of advancement to a lack of resources.

    I absolutely disagree that h2g2 duplicates what's available elsewhere. The experience of being an h2g2 Researcher is entirely different to being a Wikipedian - there's an editorial structure, and the community as an entity is at least as important as its product.

    I do think, however, that the BBC needs to decide properly whether communities are something they want to spend money on, and either do it properly or not do it. That's not to take anything away from what has been done. I think the BBC are in the process of deciding - and it looks promising, with a redesign for h2g2 finally on the way after too many years.



  • Comment number 62.

    I do think, however, that the BBC needs to decide properly whether communities are something they want to spend money on, and either do it properly or not do it.

    I agree.

    I think the BBC also needs to understand the communities they are creating. Some communities are valued and treated with respect; others are blatantly not.

    When messageboards and the likes of h2g2 are set up the BBC are encouraging ownership on the part of the users. If they don't want the users to feel that ownership then maybe they should not be providing these communities.

  • Comment number 63.

    I think the BBC also needs to understand the communities they are creating.

    I'll second that. I think the relationship between moderators, hosts and the community differs in different parts of bbc.co.uk. And I think it should.

  • Comment number 64.

    The relationship should differ according to the individual community, I agre, but each community should be equally valued by the BBC. This is very much not the case at the moment.

  • Comment number 65.

    I should clarify - I wasn't suggesting anyone get preferential treatment. I'm not going to comment on whether or not I consider that to be the case at present - I honestly haven't given it much thought.

    I do, however, think that the context of a user interaction makes a huge difference to how to treat it from an editorial perspective - a key difference between high-traffic blogs and high-interactivity communities is whether or not the user has an investment in a project on an ongoing basis, or is dropping in to say their bit before vanishing back off into the ether.

  • Comment number 66.

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

  • Comment number 67.

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

  • Comment number 68.

    "How valuable to you are the different things they do? "

    I think the boards are very valuable for allowing the viewers / listeners to voice their opinions and not be limited by blogs.

    I have given limited responses to blogs as they only cover very limited areas and can ask questions that limit the range of responses recieved.

    I am disgusted that you removed my comment at 46.

  • Comment number 69.

    "Are there any different kinds of social media that you think the BBC should be doing? We've talked a lot about blogs and boards but what about communities (e.g. h2g2)?"

    Why do I get the impression that you are always looking for some new medium rather than listening to what the people who use these systems say ?. Boards have been around for ages but no one at the BBC ever seems to interact on them or any actions taken on what the viewers / listeners say. Surely any means of interaction is to try and get feedback / ideas but whatever the medium is anyone listening ?

  • Comment number 70.

    @57

    Thanks Jim, for the Information, but as others have said, it may have been first, but is it any better, or what the BBC should be providing?

    Personally, yes, I have no problems with it, however, if there are further cuts to be made - which to me seems to me what this pie chart is driving at - do we really need a BBC funded, not as inclusive, and not as good (IMHO) version of Wikipedia?

  • Comment number 71.

    #70. At 10:53pm on 03 Aug 2009, Tengsted wrote:

    "[..//..]do we really need a BBC funded, not as inclusive, and not as good (IMHO) version of Wikipedia?"

    I suspect the running costs of h2g2 are very small beer compared to (for example) the message boards, as such I would have no problem if h2g2 survived whilst other social media got dropped - for one thing it could give an alternate cross-reference to Wikipedia, which is not always correct and is sometimes outright wrong (even the BBC has been caught out by the 'intelligent' Wikipedia troll...).

  • Comment number 72.

    Isn't it time for some kind of peer moderation? Where users can flag messages as offensive if necessary - and other users can decide to look at previously flagged messages or not?

    Would save a fortune.

    And FFS sort out the boards so people can reply to messages so at least we can debate points eh?

  • Comment number 73.

    My vote would be for fewer blogs and more message boards. Message boards foster the true spirit of a BBC community in a way that blogs never can, because in a blog the transaction is mainly between the blogger and those commenting, whereas the message board allows the BBCs fans to interact between themselves as well as dialoguing on the BBC and its aims, providing an enhanced experience.

    I appreciate there is an issue of cost, but look at the broader picture of the relatively small cost of the whole online presence of the BBC compared to the massive sums that are spent on retaining the services of "celebrities" by the BBC to "entertain us".

  • Comment number 74.

    From the piechart, can we assume that the 4% "other" covers "Communities" like h2g2, then? On that basis the answer is clear - promote h2g2 more and get people to voluntarily move over to using it, thus reducing the load on the messageboards.

  • Comment number 75.

    Promotion is definitely an issue. It's difficult to find any boards, blogs let alone h2g2 on here!

    Just out of interest, how many of us have gone to h2g2 and been overwhelmed by the sheer volume of stuff. It's far too unwieldy and weird for me!

    Nick, can you provide us with numbers for the different levels of moderation, please, and what number of blogs/messageboards/other use which level of moderation. This would clarify the above pie-chart for me. Thanks.

  • Comment number 76.

    I must be thick, i cannot find anything on HG2G, it seems to be empty

  • Comment number 77.

    Nick, were there other people presenting too, people who prefer message boards to blogs? People who see the value in them? I imagine so, I hope so, otherwise it could have been a bit one-sided.

    Frank(_N_Post)

  • Comment number 78.

    Frank - the presentation wasn't about blogs v message boards.

    It was about the moderation budget as a whole.

    The 4% other is not h2g2 - communities like h2g2 were included under boards.

  • Comment number 79.

    The 4% other is not h2g2 - communities like h2g2 were included under boards.

    That's interesting. I assumed h2g2 was under other too!

    So for that massive 90% to make sense we probably need it broken down into h2g2, reactively moderated boards, pre-moderated boards, and post-moderated boards.

    What are classed as "other" in that pie chart, then?

  • Comment number 80.

    There's a small number of sites we moderate which are not on BBC Online (e.g. the BBC's You Tube Channel).

  • Comment number 81.

    Do you mean that the BBC moderate, or that the moderating company used by the BBC moderate?

    Could we have that 90% broken down further please, Nick?

  • Comment number 82.

    Sorry - another question!

    Do the blog authors themselves moderate their blogs, or is this done by the same moderation company that oversees the messageboards?

    Thanks.

  • Comment number 83.

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

  • Comment number 84.

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

  • Comment number 85.

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

  • Comment number 86.

    "communities like h2g2 were included under boards."

    That all seems a bit arbitrary. How would the figures look if h2g2 and the other communities were filed under "Blogs"?

  • Comment number 87.

    Hi Nick,

    I see from figures posted on a message board by a host indicate that the entire BBC online portfolio (of which the MBs are only a part) costs the licence fee payer 2p per day - or one twentieth of the overall fee.

    Can you put up a pie chart that indicates the overall BBC budget, with the overall costs of online within it, then with the proportion set aside for the MBs within that?

    Blogs are entirely in the control of the originator. If you scale down or close the MBs will you allow viewers and listeners to generate blogs on the BBC?

    John

  • Comment number 88.

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

  • Comment number 89.

    #87

    "I see from figures posted on a message board by a host indicate that the entire BBC online portfolio (of which the MBs are only a part) costs the licence fee payer 2p per day - or one twentieth of the overall fee."

    If that is correct than it's a disgusting amount of money, more reasons to close ALL the message boards! After all there is other social media available outside of the BBC if people want to have general discussions about BBC output (DigitalSpy springs to mind, as does Usenet), blogs are different as the the discussion follows on from content that is only available via the BBC website.

    £700pa per licence fee payer is a lot of money to enable a (relatively) few people to 'chat' amongst themselves...

  • Comment number 90.

    Nick asked for ideas I provided five.... all addressed to the issue of reducing moderation costs.(and letting them fall on the those who should be responsible.

    Lots of responses to minutiae but none to fundamental proposals which address the issue raised.

    I am sceptical if Mick is serious in wanting ideas.

  • Comment number 91.


    From what you're saying above, blogs attract fewer comments than boards and fewer comments so equal less spend - and reactively moderated content is vastly cheaper than post or premoderated content.

    From your pie chart and stats I can see that you've included all of children's and teens message boards within your calculations. The children's areas appear to be very busy premoderated boards, they must represent a very significant amount of the moderation spend?  Perhaps even as high as 70-80% of message board costs?  The kids areas are very busy.

     "In other words in terms of traffic to moderation spend blogs are out performing boards. "

    But would that still be the case if you excluded the very expensive premoderated children and teen message board areas?  Sorry, you can tell I'm a statistician, pie charts are great on the eye, but they do need to contain all the relevant facts if they are to be analysed and conclusions to be taken from them.

    What percentage of the pie chart & costs related to the cost of the moderation of children's and teens message boards?

    Wouldn't it be a better comparison to remove the children's premoderated areas from the equation when comparing the statistics and cost of adult blogs vs message boards?

    So, I guess the question is - can you tell us what percentage of the moderation spend above is down to child and teen areas please?

    As it is, I don't think you're comparing like with like by including premoderated children's message boards within these calculations - when the blogs are all adult and the children's and teens areas are all premoderated message boards

  • Comment number 92.

    ?700pa per licence fee payer is a lot of money to enable a (relatively) few people to 'chat' amongst themselves...

    If the boards were better promoted then there would be more users. If BBC employees - and programme-makers in particular - utilised this valued and popular resource it would provide them with a great area within which to discuss issues raised by BBC viewers.

  • Comment number 93.

    If it is 5% of total licence fee spend on all BBC Online content, I think that's terrific value for money.

    The amount that I personally get out of BBC News online, iPlayer, blogs, message boards, and the live feeds for football on BBC Radio Scotland is worth the licence alone.

    YMMV.

  • Comment number 94.

    #92

    [ re moderation costs per user ]

    "If the boards were better promoted then there would be more users.

    Yes but then the moderation costs would increase too!...

  • Comment number 95.

    But the increased moderation costs would be justified if more people used the service! :-D

  • Comment number 96.

    ""If the boards were better promoted then there would be more users.

    Yes but then the moderation costs would increase too!..."

    So that's why they try so hard to hide them, blogs can be even harder to find.

  • Comment number 97.

    #95

    "But the increased moderation costs would be justified if more people used the service! :-D

    Not sure that follows, it depends if the moderation costs follow the same curve as the number of users on the graph or not, if there is a sweet point to be gained where one can have an increased user base but the same or lower 'cost per post' then you might also find that by decreasing the number of (active) users - in other words the number of message boards - one can reduce the 'cost per post' and thus the overall budget requirement! :-D

    700 quid doesn't sound much on a per house-hold bases but multiplying that figure by the typical number of houses found on a large UK 1960s housing estate - for example - it doesn't sound such a small amount, we are starting to talk about serious radio programmes that could be made, once we start multiplying it by the number of houses within the average town we are into making television programmes and by the time we are talking about a BBC region we could be talking about the regional news budget...

  • Comment number 98.

    cping500 - I thought you had some good thoughts in your previous comment.

    John's Not A Number - comment 87 - a pie chart like that would simply have one tiny sliver which might be hard to read! Do you have a link for the comment you mention? Blogs can contain "open posts" where people can post on any subject they wish (the blog you are reading has them from time to time).

    HelenDoughty - you make a good point. But it's difficult for me to share more information than I've already shared. I may write a follow up post. Reactive moderation is only cheaper if the people on the board or blog behave well and so not many comments are referred.

    Let me ask another question: what's the value to all licence fee payers (not just those who comment) of having blogs and message boards?

  • Comment number 99.

    Boilerplated, 2p a day is 73 quid, not 700 quid.

  • Comment number 100.

    Actually (decimal point error, Maths is a mystery to me) it's 7.30.

    730p.

    A bargain.

 

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