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Social Media and Accountability

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Matthew Shorter Matthew Shorter | 11:15 UK time, Friday, 26 February 2010

The BBC Online service licence states that

"BBC Online should enable the BBC to develop a deeper relationship with licence fee payers and strengthen the BBC's public accountability."
It's stating the obvious to note that the BBC has made a big move into social media and blogging over the last few years. And (again at the risk of stating the obvious), it's also a place where relationships are built and developed - the operative word here is social.

The more fanatical readers of this blog may remember me from a previous life as the BBC's Interactive Editor for Music. But I now work for an independent consultancy who have been commissioned by BBC Online to help explore some key questions around accountability and how that relates to the BBC's social media activity.

As part of this work, I'm spending a bit of time studying ways in which BBC is fulfilling that stated mission - developing a deeper relationship with licence fee payers and strengthening its public accountability - through its social media activity, and in particular through its blogs.

accountability.jpgIt's clear from previous discussions on this blog and elsewhere that some of you have strong feelings about this already. It's also clear that it's hard to please all the people all the time. And many of you have thought carefully and coherently and have already arrived at some firm conclusions.

But beyond the heat of the arguments, I'm also very interested in trying to nail the definitions of some of the words and concepts in play.

So here are some questions for you:

What is accountability? (here's one definition from Wikipedia)

What should accountability look like online and in the context of blogs in particular?

Can you think of examples of the BBC getting this right? Getting it wrong? For example is the way the Internet blog has discussed DRM a good or a bad example of accountability? How does what the BBC is doing compare with other organisations?

What would make for a "deeper relationship" with the BBC (assuming you want one)? If you're reading a blog, is the key relationship more with the author of the blog post? Has the BBC's social media offer made you feel you have a "deeper relationship" with the BBC or BBC people?

Please let me know your views on this - especially if you haven't had the chance to do so in previous discussions. I will read every comment, and your views will form an important input into this piece of work, some of which will (hopefully) be shared on the BBC Internet blog.

Matthew Shorter is a director of Doubleshot Consulting.

Picture: "Accountability" from Felix42 contra la censura on Flickr.

Comments

Page 1 of 4

  • Comment number 1.

    I think the problem is in my experience that the BBC get incredibly defensive about anything they are promoting via social media such as these blogs.

    They make a blog post about some new service/product/whatever, and then when viewers start critising or questioning it, the BBC start defending what they have done and it becomes an "us" and "them" situation.. The BBC are not engaging people in dialog with these blogs, but just stating what they have done, and it isnt really clear what purpose people commenting is meant to serve.

    Whereas, the BBC should be using these blogs to say "OK, we hear your concerns, what can we do to improve things?"

    I think the BBC forgets that we are customers who are paying for your products and services - and if we are unhappy with that then you should be improving them, not defending them. Unfortunately, we have no alternative but to complain, as we have to keep on paying regardless.

  • Comment number 2.

    'Can you think of examples of the BBC getting this right? Getting it wrong?'

    Well getting it wrong - Big Time! - look no further than the December blog by the Head of BBC HD Danielle Nagler

    In a Blog 'BBC HD Picture Quality: some myths laid to rest' posted on 11th Dec 2009 she posted her views including the line:-

    'Looking at your comments I can see that there are still areas on which our views differ' (this statement refering to an earlier Blog.)

    BUT still ended her openning comment:-

    'I feel that it is now time to draw a line under my further contribution here to the debate here.'

    And then promptly disappeared for 6 weeks!

    There was no 'deeper relationship' being sort by Ms Nagler here (to quote your BBC Online Service at the start of this post)

    Yet there were 1000 (yes, that's one thousand) replies to this blog before it was closed.

    It was totally one-sided and only succeded in upsetting a great number of BBBC Licence payers who care about the service and took time out of their busy lives to post their concerns.

    Only to be met with a stone wall of silence.

    Cheers, daveac


  • Comment number 3.

    Good project. I did a study of the BBC, blogs and accountability that was published in the book, Web Journalism: A New Form of Citizenship?.

    The conclusion was that the BBC "has yet to fully embrace blogs as a platform for a conversation with the audience, suggesting it is still heavily influenced by its broadcast culture and has adopted blogs as a publishing, rather than participatory, platform".

  • Comment number 4.

    In order to develop a deeper relationship with this licence fee player, can you tell me what the acronym DRM is please? Thank you.

  • Comment number 5.

    DRM stands for Digital Rights Management, Nippie.

    And it's a topic that some people have strong views about. See the comments on this post for example.

  • Comment number 6.

    Got it and understood, thanks Nick.

  • Comment number 7.

    Well, a good start would probably be the people making decisions being the ones answering the questions about them. Nick and Paul do a great job in looking after the Internet blog, but any time any serious (especially technical) question is raised, one or t’other has to fire off an e-mail or make a phone call to find out the answer from the person responsible — who is often the person who authored the post in the first place. This trend of “hit and run” PR-driven “blogging” (and I use the term somewhat loosely) really drags down to the reputation and accountability of the BBC blogs, not to mention the corporation itself. Occasionally, somebody from the BBC who is knowledgeable of the issue but not actually responsible for it will throw in their tuppence to help ease the sheer frustration.

    The Freeview HD debacle is a good example. Another is the recent iPlayer change where SWF Verification was quietly switched on without informing anybody, and posts were published in response to negative feedback from the community. In both cases, and in others too, they just look like damage-control exercises, and don’t actually engage with anybody at all except for giving people a place to say that they agree or disagree with one another or the BBC’s stance. Clearly, we could all do that elsewhere if there was little point (as it often seems) in doing it on the BBC site to much the same end.

    The BBC blogs are a powerful tool, and there have been some great posts and discussions and real engagement, but there have been some bad apples which really let this down. This needs to be fixed. Engagement and fire-fighting don’t deserve to be lumped in with one another (indeed, if you engage properly, the fire-fighting becomes unnecessary).

  • Comment number 8.

    Mo - can you give some specific examples of "real engagement" on the Internet blog or elsewhere?

  • Comment number 9.

    Re #7, Mo, I think you are being a bit disingenuous, the people who write the blogs most often have 'real jobs' to do, many are actually not journalists and if they are they also have other jobs, it's al right for a professional blogger to hover by the keyboard, PDA or what ever all day waiting for the next comment because blogging is there reason for being, for everyone else it's just part of their reason for being.

  • Comment number 10.

    In your reference to "Accountability", by definition, and in relation to the BBC it means that you take ownership of an issue and are directly responsible for the outcome good or bad.

    I'll admit this is my first post in the online community after the introduction of BBCiD (which is a very welcome addition), however, after having read and observed comments over the past year I can come to the following conclusions.

    1) Only very few people it appears actually feel compelled to comment on Online Blogs, therefore it would be foolhardy for decisions to be made based on the words of a few.
    2) Many of those who do comment feel that they are just "commenting" and that's the full extent of their feedback.

    So what improvements would I suggest? It seems to me that if you want to get in touch with the online community more then you need to "engage" them more. Communities who care about something and feel that they are a part of something they can have an active role in helping mold and change will be much much more likely to participate and feel that they are making a difference.

    This blog for example is buried in the ether of pages from the BBC so many thousands of users will not even know it exists or have the compulsion to find out.

    For fear of going off on a tangent I was incredibly concerned by the media speculation regarding BBC cutbacks. Both radio stations and online content need to stay... clearly cutting back 25% of the online workforce will mean that time will be devoted away from blogs such as this where users who actually comment have their voices truly heard. This can only make users feel accountability is worse than before not better.

    If BBC bosses are too short-sighted to see that online is the future of the Web and that the tv and it's HD services have a limited shelf-life then the BBC has reached a ver low point indeed. Now is not the time to be cutting online content but to be increasing it and improving usability and speed of access.

    These recent cuts will provoke exactly the opposite reaction to what you want from license fee payers.

  • Comment number 11.

    @10 James Murphy wrote:

    "If BBC bosses are too short-sighted to see that online is the future of the Web and that the tv and it's HD services have a limited shelf-life then the BBC has reached a ver low point indeed. Now is not the time to be cutting online content but to be increasing it and improving usability and speed of access."

    But that's where viewers opinions will differ.

    Personally all I want the BBC to broadcast top quality television programmes with the highest PQ (i.e. HD services). They could shut down their entire online presence, and I wouldn't care one jot.

    I would welcome it in fact if the result was improving programming. I only use it to complain about their lack of top quality television programmes with the highest PQ :-). There is, or would be in the BBC's abscence, a 101 other places that I could get the same information from.

  • Comment number 12.

    @11 citizenloz wrote:

    "I would welcome it in fact if the result was improving programming. I only use it to complain about their lack of top quality television programmes with the highest PQ :-). There is, or would be in the BBC's abscence, a 101 other places that I could get the same information from."

    But there's exactly my point. The online presence should be focused towards not only delivering content but also sparking discussion. For example Radio 5 Live pride themselves on debate using phone-ins, texts, social media and online discussions. Audiences are now trying to reach the BBC via more mediums than ever. Scaling back this process will only create a bigger gulf between the BBC and its target audience.

    So in essence our opinions do not differ as much as you'd like to admit.

  • Comment number 13.

    #12. At 11:32am on 27 Feb 2010, James Murphy wrote:

    "But there's exactly my point. The online presence should be focused towards not only delivering content but also sparking discussion."

    But the worth of any such discussion(s) needs to be audited, what's the point of creating a place for ranters were the calm and collected thoughts of the few reasoned people just get swamped whilst the medium becomes unreadable (much like, in my opinion, the HYS forums are)? Anyway, the BBC has always been accessible and accountable (Mary Whitehouse saw to that), well since the mid 1960s anyway.

    Social media is all well and good, access and accountability all very well but there is more to it than just a place for disgruntled TVL fee payers to 'let off steam' about their pet hate or pet love...

  • Comment number 14.

    @12 Boilerplated wrote:

    "But the worth of any such discussion(s) needs to be audited, what's the point of creating a place for ranters were the calm and collected thoughts of the few reasoned people just get swamped whilst the medium becomes unreadable (much like, in my opinion, the HYS forums are)?"

    Part of the BBC mission statement states that:

    "Audiences are at the heart of everything we do."

    If that's the case then they need HYS as much as any other part of BBC online, if we agree with or not. What you're suggesting is that a couple of people decide what's best for the audience. You're in danger there of driving content and focus away from the audience in question. You're also assuming that the people who are chosen know exactly what the audience wants. Sometimes that isn't the case no matter how bright the person is.

    If you truly want to be audience centric then technology and social media needs to play a significant part. For example, scanning via twitter and forums for responses based on particular tags and with keywords. Sure you can't value everyone's opinion (at least not until AI seriously begins to play it's own role and computers truly understand the semantics of the human language) because we'd soon see the license fee sky-rocket since the cost of just providing a summary of a few threads is a time-consuming task in itself. That's the problem with user-generated content - it can quickly escalate out of control.

    That's why I argue that a cut in Internet staff and funding would be a step backwards not forwards, it's clearly a decision not driven by logic or reason but by politics and bureaucracy.

  • Comment number 15.

    14. At 1:22pm on 27 Feb 2010, James Murphy wrote:

    "Part of the BBC mission statement states that:

    "Audiences are at the heart of everything we do."

    If that's the case then they need HYS as much as any other part of BBC online,"


    Indeed it does, but it doesn't say run by the audience, even less run by those who can shout the loudest for the longest...

    If you can access HYS then can access email, if you can write an entry for HYS you can write an email...

    "What you're suggesting is that a couple of people decide what's best for the audience."

    That will always be the case unless you really are suggesting the replacement of the BBC Trust and Board by an 'Audience Co-operative'!

    "If you truly want to be audience centric then technology and social media needs to play a significant part."

    Total rubbish, more people DO NOT use social media that do, social media is a very small part of the issue, social media could be zapped over night and it wouldn't change anything, as I said, want to contact the BBC, have access to a computer (that includes PDA. phones etc.) then you have access to email/webmail, if you don't have access to email then you can send a letter by 'snail-mail'...

  • Comment number 16.

    At 2:20pm on 27 Feb 2010, Boilerplated wrote:

    "run by the audience"

    I did not mean that they would be run by the audience, but that the audience would influence what they want to be viewed (within reason - clearly if they wanted to view public executions for example there would be something morally wrong).

    "That will always be the case unless you really are suggesting the replacement of the BBC Trust and Board by an 'Audience Co-operative'!"

    Decisions on what should be viewed are different from deciding how to run an organisation.

    "Total rubbish, more people DO NOT use social media that do"

    That may be the case for the moment, but statistics outlining the speed with which social mediums are being taken on are staggering.

    See this article at TechCrunch:- http://techcrunch.com/2009/08/12/facebook-grew-twice-as-fast-as-twitter-in-july/

    It records Facebook users at 400 million users. Given how many people actually have internet access in the world is absolutely staggering and in First World countries this is even higher...

    Sure some of them may be fads, Twitter and Facebook probably have a limited shelf-life until the next "big thing" comes along, but noone can deny the influence it has on especially the younger generation.

    Anyway I fear we are drifting off topic here.

  • Comment number 17.

    #16. At 3:44pm on 27 Feb 2010, James Murphy wrote:

    "At 2:20pm on 27 Feb 2010, Boilerplated wrote:

    "run by the audience"

    I did not mean that they would be run by the audience, but that the audience would influence what they want to be viewed"


    But that already occurs, the BBC doesn't need social media to achieve that, in fact if the BBC is going to be reliant on the vagaries of social media websites to do their audience research then they are admitting that they have a real problem, remember that 1/4 (2010 figures) of the adult population do not have access to a internet connection in the home, that is vast listener/viewer base that is immediately disenfranchised, just for starters.

    "That may be the case for the moment, but statistics outlining the speed with which social mediums are being taken on are staggering."

    ...and then in the next breath...

    "Sure some of them may be fads, Twitter and Facebook probably have a limited shelf-life until the next "big thing" comes along,"

    So you want to rely on passing fades, rather than the crafted audience research techniques that have been crafted over the last 50 off years of so?! I call that a recipe for disaster...

    "but noone can deny the influence it has on especially the younger generation."

    But what about the other 80% of the population?

  • Comment number 18.

    We're not so much off topic, more a bit out of focus.

    We're not discussing "is social media good or bad?". We're discussing "does it have any role to play in making the BBC accountable?"

    Boilerplated - what's your definition of "accountability"?

  • Comment number 19.

    #18. At 7:44pm on 27 Feb 2010, Nick Reynolds wrote:

    "We're not so much off topic, more a bit out of focus.

    We're not discussing "is social media good or bad?". We're discussing "does it have any role to play in making the BBC accountable?"

    Boilerplated - what's your definition of "accountability"?"


    Nick, in BBC terms, accountability is answering to the TVL fee payer (who in the main funds the corporation), the point James and I were debating is how the BBC should be accountable, should social media be a part of that process.

    I do not actually see a role for social media, as I said to James, one quarter of the adult population is automatically disenfranchised from it as they have no - home - internet access (I'm discounting the vagaries of any work/college place conductivity, some people will have as much access as they like, others will be disciplined for accessing anything other than approved sites), then age also plays a part in disenfranchising both young and old, to some extent, were social media is concerned.

    Social media is, in effect, the modern version of Usenet and BBS before that, no one would seriously used either of those networks for audience research (well not for the last 10 years or so), the same problems that afflict those networks afflict web based social media sites, perhaps not the blatant troll but most certainly the 'intelligent and/or manipulative' troll.

  • Comment number 20.

    At 8:38pm on 27 Feb 2010, Boilerplated wrote:

    "I do not actually see a role for social media, as I said to James, one quarter of the adult population is automatically disenfranchised from it as they have no - home - internet access (I'm discounting the vagaries of any work/college place conductivity, some people will have as much access as they like, others will be disciplined for accessing anything other than approved sites), then age also plays a part in disenfranchising both young and old, to some extent, were social media is concerned."

    All the BBC have been doing is future proofing avenues of communication. Okay so I will admit that not everyone has an internet connection sure, however this is an upward trend and has been for years. There will come a day some time soon - more than likely in Britain and given the latest Digital Britain push and increased levy on Broadband - when 100% of the British public will have access in some shape or form to the internet.

    I believe that the BBC have been wise to adopt current trends such as HD technology and social media. Although I'm not saying it has been executed perfectly, there is always room I believe for improvement.

    Plus let's not forget, only a very small portion of the £3.6bn license fee is actually spent on running the website. In fact £112m which is just over 3%. What proportion of people do you believe who watch the BBC actually benefit from it. Far more than that. Now I'm not saying that it should be increased but I don't believe the BBC have justified their stance on why they are cutting costs in this area. Certainly if they claim that they want to reach out to users...

  • Comment number 21.

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

  • Comment number 22.

    In reply to comments @ #20:

    I'm not saying that the internet can't also be used, remember that we are talking here about social media, as I said way up, nothing to stop people making contact with the BBC via email...

  • Comment number 23.

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

  • Comment number 24.

    As Boilerplated says we're off topic again.

    Boilerplated - what's the difference between emailing the BBC and leaving a comment on a blog like this one?

    Should people expect a reply when they send an email? Should they expect a reply when they leave a comment?

  • Comment number 25.

    The difference between e-mailing the BBC and leaving a comment on a blog is that the former is a private process and the latter is a public process.

    I think people who e-mail should expect a reply, but should not expect a reply when commenting on a blog.

    I think the motivation and relationship in the two cases are different.

    Russ

  • Comment number 26.

    To consider an organisation accountable, one must understand the process and facts that compose its decisions, not just be informed of the decisions themselves. It's useless to simply say "that's our decision, we made it for good reasons". The public must be able to come to their own conclusions on any issue, and to do that they must have all of the facts available. Without such a configuration there will always be a perception of lack of accountability. Citing exclusions is the most likely to cause damage, however this is a higher echelon policy and not directly suitable for this discussion.

    With respect to social media and its relationship with accountability:

    Social media implies interactivity, a fast turnaround of information - discourse. This is not possible for organisations which prefer to be opaque, are afraid of the consequences of information sharing or where bureaucracy places decision making, including the decision to release information, on cosmic time-scales.

    While I acknowledge that in the common case the BBC basically acts in good faith, it often feels like it is pulled in so many directions that it can't be straight with anyone.

    I sometimes feel sorry for the BBC bods who are pushed into the front-line social media trenches - it must be like working in a call centre - hordes of peed off people but no authorisation to explain, or power to do anything about it. Either that, or interacting with lots of enthusiastic people with whom you share passion, but a general impotence to realise any consensual ambition.

    So in this respect I think that social media, as it stands, can actually be damaging. It gives the public the impression that in some avenues a two-way process exists where there is none. This doesn't actually mean that there is a lower grade of accountability, just a lower perception of accountability. If this is the opposite of what the BBC intends to achieve with social media then, as they say on the internet, ur doin it rong.

    So how could social media be used to improve the situation? Firstly, the proceeds of decision making bodies could be published, and the public could request clarification, with a reasonable expectation that the information will be forthcoming.

    Be honest and straightforward when interacting with the public. Tell us what you are individually and collectively thinking, not what the corporation line was last week. Presume that input from the public might be useful in developing those thoughts. Tell us when we are right and when we are wrong, and why. As you know, we will reciprocate.

    I feel that some of this is driven by an impedance problem. Many public participants result in fast evolving discussions which, with few BBC officials, quickly arrive at a point of information drought - without refreshment they quickly stagnate. In this context that information is usually of the official statement variety. To avoid this problem the BBC needs to embrace the idea that social media is an appropriate place for the dissemination of such information, and be prepared to offer participants from all levels of the organisation. To fit in with the social media - discourse - model, the BBC would need to formalise the process of information release and make it a core activity, in order to do this expediently enough to keep pace.

    When canvassing for public opinion, it would be useful to present your impression of the aggregate viewpoints. In fact, when "have your say" introduced the X% positive, Y% negative, Z% rejected, that helped in a previous accountability debate over whether comments were accepted or rejected for publication even-handedly. In every context this shows that all viewpoints are at least acknowledged.

    Social media offers the opportunity to add transparency to the decision making process, revealing it incrementally, as it happens - if people can see how choices are made, they are more likely understand the competing pressures, and to accept them. Further, if you give the impression of soliciting views, make it obvious that you hear them. And finally, if staff do participate in a discussion, they should do so with commitment and be prepared to bring official information to the table. Nothing breeds discontent like low-entropy staff comments.

  • Comment number 27.

    BBC Online service licence also states

    "..by providing innovative and distinctive online content and distinctive propositions.." - perhaps, your search for accountability lies in this area.

    Until society at large adopts a de facto methodology for decision-making, there is no widely-used or effective way to render any decision transparent and therefore define accountability. Isn’t this the nub of the matter?

    Clearly, such a methodology needs to be applicable to any decision, involve any number of co-deciders, succinctly document it in a universally understandable language and be readily accessible. Only then can real transparency be achieved and the meaning of accountability seriously considered.

    Such transparency invokes per se a discipline of careful thought by each co-decider because the thought processes of any co-decider are open to scrutiny. It also invites others to improve the solidity/quality of such decisions. What better way could there be to interact with the Licence Fee payers (by enabling them to become co-deciders too) and underpinning accountability at the same time?

    Not only does such a unique methodology now exist, but also, based on an innovative business model for the digital age, an unparalleled opportunity arises for the BBC – enfranchisement. And this can all be done within the BBC’s remit and without conflict with other commercial interests. By offering this methodology free of charge via a web-site which eschews advertising, subscriptions, donations and personal details, it will nevertheless be highly lucrative (it is truly innovative!).

    British innovation at its best; there really is no need to “slash and burn” services and jobs, especially the highly regarded web-presence of the BBC – that should be exploited and capitalised. At the same time, concerns of other commercial interests can be fully addressed.

    Maybe the foregoing is worthy of consideration in your quest?

  • Comment number 28.

    26. At 01:16am on 01 Mar 2010, Lens wrote:

    "With respect to social media and its relationship with accountability:

    Social media implies interactivity, a fast turnaround of information - discourse."


    Social media can also be used to whip-up support for a given opinion, those who shout the loudest and longest, never mind the fact that they are nothing but a very small proportion of the audience gets their complaint listened to etc, if someone feels strongly about their opinions then they do not need to seek such public support, emails are as easy to send as social media entries after all.

    I would suggest that the BBC should only accept (snail-)mailed formal comments/complaints, but even I accept this as unrealistic these days, but the reasons stay the same, a letter is far more likely to be a claim considered response to a problem, idea or wish, the ease at which electronic complaints can be sent (one only has to observe how the moderation reference numbers count-up, even within a short period of time), if to much weight is placed on social media/email for "accountability" fee-back I suspect that the BBC will be in danger of creating yet another IP traffic nuisance - 'complaint-spam', and remember that Jack Smith could be the Sharon Green, the Ozzy Goldsmith, the Norman Junior or the Sally Green, all who sent other electronic communications about the issue - it could take a skilful network technician to trace the true origins of such complaints and even then it would not be conclusive...

    "So how could social media be used to improve the situation? Firstly, the proceeds of decision making bodies could be published, and the public could request clarification, with a reasonable expectation that the information will be forthcoming."

    That could be done anyway, even if complaints etc. had to be written in long hand, by quill-pen, on parchment, delivered by Carrier-pigeon!

    "Be honest and straightforward when interacting with the public. Tell us what you are individually and collectively thinking, not what the corporation line was last week."

    Oh right, so the BBC should have to tell the world (in effect) that it's thinking of spending/bidding £3,500,000 on the rights to some sporting event/series, only to be trumped by the likes of BSkyB because they don't need to tell their subscribers how their money is being spent.

    There is accountability and there is corporate foolhardiness, the broadcasting equivalent of doing a "Ranter"...

    "When canvassing for public opinion, it would be useful to present your impression of the aggregate viewpoints. In fact, when "have your say" introduced the X% positive, Y% negative, Z% rejected, that helped in a previous accountability debate over whether comments were accepted or rejected for publication even-handedly. In every context this shows that all viewpoints are at least acknowledged."

    But all that tells us is that H% of the population take part in the HYS forum, it tells us nothing about what those who take part in the Message broads, the blogs or those who have nothing to do with any think.

    As I've already said, one quarter of the UK adult population have no IP conductivity at home, so their voices will never be heard on any electronic medium, the BBC needs to be accountable to them too.

    "Social media offers the opportunity to add transparency to the decision making process, revealing it incrementally, as it happens"

    No, it has the ability to just further muddy the waters. It might also lead to decisions being made in haste, just to appease a vocal minority, such decisions might not actually be the best course of action for the majority

  • Comment number 29.

    I don't think the question was "Should social media be the only or primary way the BBC is able to interact with the public, involve it in the decision making process, accept comment or be seen to be accountable to the public". That is absurd, and I think you know that.

    The question is "If a portion of the public choose to interact with the BBC using social media...".

    Accountability is about transparency, transparency is about the availability of information. If the public wish to have access that information then they have choices of how to do so, including electronic means.

    Also, with respect to the % of people who can't use the BBCs online presence at home. This may be so at present, but not in 2, 3, 5, 10 years. The BBC is right to be forward thinking. There will always be a proportion who will use another medium, and a proportion who will never engage at all. For the former the BBC should, as you point out, make sure that their views are equally aggregated and included in the process.

    I'm genuinely interested to know what you think are more suitable channels for dissemination of information and solicitation of public views? If 75% can and do interact electronically, surely that is a more cost-effective (and thus consumer beneficial) way to do things than to employ hordes of people to open letters, type summaries, print reams of responses, etc. Presumably as such, it should be/become the common case.

    With regard to your comment about sports purchasing - what rot - no one is suggesting that the financial particulars of contracts should be revealed in a way that compromises the ability of the BBC to act competitively. However, no detail should be secret as a matter of course, and aspects of contracts could be standardised, abstracted or summarised and made available. For example their placement in a standard ontology of content rights.

    As for those who shout the loudest, well it's the BBCs job to normalise the volume. But they shouldn't do so in a way that rejects the vocal minority purely on the basis that they are a minority.

    In response to your "have your say" comments. The article of accountability is not whether the entire population is represented by the views, only those of the participants. Anyway, it was probably a bad example.

    In defence of social media, it has intrinsic value. By taking part in a discussion, while there is a danger you may be swept along with the crowd, you are more likely to be aware of the issues and the diversity of views, and therefor have a more informed standpoint. Something which isn't possible by writing letters and watching Points of View once a month.

    Finally, the concept that people can only constructively contribute using one medium. I think what you are getting at is that if you go to the bother of buying ink for your quill then you must really have something important to say. That's certainly an old fashioned view. The BBC can ignore comments as easily as they can consign a letter to the shredder. The difference is that no one else gets to see the letter and decide whether their opinion is, for good or bad, aligned.

    I'm sick of typing social media - can we have a better name please?

  • Comment number 30.

    At 12:57pm on 01 Mar 2010, Lens wrote:

    "Also, with respect to the % of people who can't use the BBCs online presence at home. This may be so at present, but not in 2, 3, 5, 10 years."

    "In defence of social media, it has intrinsic value. By taking part in a discussion, while there is a danger you may be swept along with the crowd, you are more likely to be aware of the issues and the diversity of views, and therefor have a more informed standpoint. Something which isn't possible by writing letters and watching Points of View once a month."

    "Finally, the concept that people can only constructively contribute using one medium. I think what you are getting at is that if you go to the bother of buying ink for your quill then you must really have something important to say."

    I couldn't have put it better myself... You've re-iterated a lot of the points that I made in my earlier posts and have helped clarify what I was trying to convey.

    The BBC cannot be expected to respond to each and every email sent in when it is a servant of the public. As an extreme example, if millions of people wrote in to complain about things it would not be financially viable for the BBC to handcraft emails in turn to each individual. Sure in more severe cases they should be expected to write a more personal response, but on the whole I think a more general statement in response justifying their standpoint on an issue is more than acceptable. If you think of this in financial terms i.e. £150 per license fee payer then you'll understand they can only reply to a few respondents a year per person before it becomes an issue financially.

    I believe social media (i vote for twitteratae for social mediums or the twitterate [social media literates]) has a fundamental part to play in shaping the world of the future. Many will be scared by this but it has already played a part in history with riots being sparked in Iran fuelled by a rapid dissemination by the twittertae masses.

    I agree that there probably needs to be greater visibility in relation to accountability. Aggregation of responses with the use of surveys with feedback presented on surveys being made available to the public alongside explanations as to the decision making process behind them would go a long way to providing the accountability that people desire. At least if you can clearly present in a structured way an argument as to why something is so, then more than likely people will be understanding, even those who disagree.

  • Comment number 31.

    Should they expect a reply when they leave a comment?

    Do you think we should expect replies on blogs, Nick? Your own record in this area is somewhat woeful.

    This blog http://www.bbc.co.uk/blogs/bbcinternet/2009/05/moderation_lets_talk_it_over.html?dnafrom=160&dnato=180#dnaacs seems to have been abandoned by the Hosts/mods/authors.

  • Comment number 32.

    This looks like a bug. There are plenty of comments on this post.

  • Comment number 33.

    What's a bug? The blog being abandoned? (confusedsmiley)

  • Comment number 34.

  • Comment number 35.

    Looking at mission statements such as "the audience are the heart of everything we do" it makes it doubly unpalatable when we hear this and yet our own evidence demonstrates that this is far from the case. The BBC's Social media exploits have done a lot of damage to the perception of accountability when so many people are trying to discuss the things that matter to them (it is at the heart of everything we do) yet they are slammed down, discussions closed, the blogs go quiet or we are moderated out of the discussion. This does not deepen the relationship... it just makes us more defiant to rebel against the so-called open dialogue that masquerades as accountability. I'd rather you close your blogs than rub our noses in the sham.

  • Comment number 36.

    OfficerDibble - I think you are confusing "I want the BBC to talk to me" with "I want the BBC to do what I want".

    Accountability does not mean "doing everything everybody wants all the time". That's not possible. It means, at the very least, explaining the decisions you make. Some people will always disagree with any decision.

  • Comment number 37.

    #36. At 5:02pm on 01 Mar 2010, Nick Reynolds wrote:

    "OfficerDibble - I think you are confusing "I want the BBC to talk to me" with "I want the BBC to do what I want". "

    Whilst you, Nick, are confusing "This broadcaster earns an income via selling a product" and "This broadcaster obtains an income via a tax - that almost every households (and some businesses) in the UK have to pay regardless as to how much of the product they use, on pain of having a criminal record"...

    It's often said about MPs that they "Work for You", there are a few other national institutions were similar accountability needs to be recognised, "OfficerDibble" is quite correct, until the BBC grasps the fundamentals of social media (that is, the social part) any attempt to use such a medium will fail - if for no other reason than the fact that any comment the Host doesn't like can vanish into the ether, until hosts can't remove comments by plying the BBC moderation game of 'Pass-the-Parcel' (were a Host reports a comment off topic to the moderators and the moderators send the report back to the Host, asking if the comment is off topic, the host then replies "Yes!") this problem will exist.

    If the above were to start happening in social media were TVL fee payers were seeking BBC accountability it would completely destroy any idea that the BBC was being "Accountable"...

  • Comment number 38.

    36. At 5:02pm on 01 Mar 2010, Nick Reynolds wrote:
    OfficerDibble - I think you are confusing "I want the BBC to talk to me" with "I want the BBC to do what I want". >>


    No Nick, that is not my confusion. The issue is the BBC wants closer relationships with us, wants to engage, wants to be open, and directly asks for our views. We give them, we embrace the request, we wish to engage, and then the dialogue stops, there is no engagement, bloggers avoid the blog, our views are TOTALLY sidestepped (and I use that phrase carefully) and the whole "social media" exercise looks like a deception or sham. In some cases we are now more preoccupied with the failure of the messenger to deliver as promised than the message - that is how disingenuous your process is... You talk about it, but you don't do it. On balance it damages trust, and the brand. The fact that you don't even recognise the failure, and regard your interaction as first class is unbelievable.

    When I see proper engagement from the BBC (and trust me, as a heavy user of social media I know it when I see it) then you might have reason to celebrate. In the meantime, regard the judgement from your audience, the people for whom you are doing all this, as "must try harder".

  • Comment number 39.

    This is how it should be:

    BBC says we have open attitude to our audience, we welcome your views, we want to engage!
    We engage on the best technology - that normally means third party.
    We build affinity with the bloggers and hosts, we find out more about them, empathy, we feel included in the process, we follow them on twitter, we tell our peers... we see results, enforcement of the collaboration - an overall feeling that we are listened too. We work with the BBC to build communities and springboard new TV and Radio production initiatives. We become influencers, building loyalty beyond the social network, the BBC brand climbs up the "Brand value" tables, alongside the likes of Apple.
    Erik brags that the BBC has "the audience at the heart of everything the BBC does" and that so many million users and unprecedented growth in the use of BBC Social Media.



    But this is how it is:

    BBC says we have open attitude to our audience, we welcome your views, we want to engage!
    We engage (despite the technology being flawed and worse than other social media platforms).
    We are ignored, bloggers fire and forget, ideas are thwarted, promises unrealised, platforms are closed, popular but embarrassing threads are removed, trust is lost, we tell our friends, the brand is damaged.
    Erik brags that the BBC has so many million users and unprecedented growth in the use of BBC Social Media.
    Erik relaunches with a TV campaign "the audience at the heart of everything the BBC does" and the resultant drop in ratings sets the rot in stone.

    In short... the BBC wants the social media Brownie points but not the content.

  • Comment number 40.

    Getting it wrong?

    Easy the BBC MB's (POV) and the disaster that Nick Reynolds made of it. He came and had a jolly good go at destroying a community that was built up there by changing the rules and having them enforced regarless of the outcry from the community there. He claims the changes were required for this reason or that - but did he stay and look at the havoc caused? Was he applying changes in a constructgive manner to the cimmunity? No he just said thats the way it is ran off to his own blogs and ignored the chaos left behind. The guy appears to us on POV to have zero accoutability and hides behind the odd blog here or there - which then strangely gets abandoned.

    Getting it right? Possibly if you listen some of the time. This includes TV programmes on other channels. Why? Just maybe the BBC can see and understand what people watch and improve their own service.
    I mean after all isnt this all about improving things?

  • Comment number 41.

    What made the POV-decimation process even worse, Franky, was that Nick asked for POVers opinions as to how the boards could be improved ... and then completely ignored everything that was suggested .

    Acountability? Zero.

  • Comment number 42.

    #41. At 8:34pm on 01 Mar 2010, cricket-Angel Alpert wrote:

    "..//..[having made changes to the POV boards then] asked for POVers opinions as to how the boards could be improved ... and then completely ignored everything that was suggested .

    Acountability? Zero."


    Indeed, accountability doesn't equal mutual back slapping, though some people within the BBC seem to think it does, and try to use the BBC's social media as such - as "OfficerDibble" (sort of) put it - they want the social media Brownie points but not the content..

  • Comment number 43.

    Interesting blog and comments here about "Engagement", which answers Nick's question about whether people should expect a reply when they leave a comment.

    "I like and encourage people to respond to comments. I feel it gives the blog more influence and credibility."

    http://nickreynoldsatwork.wordpress.com/2010/01/22/social-media-what-does-good-look-like/

  • Comment number 44.

    @Nick #8 - A good start would be the Virtual Revolution blog…

    @Boilerplated #9:

    “Re #7, Mo, I think you are being a bit disingenuous, the people who write the blogs most often have 'real jobs' to do, many are actually not journalists and if they are they also have other jobs, it's al right for a professional blogger to hover by the keyboard, PDA or what ever all day waiting for the next comment because blogging is there reason for being, for everyone else it's just part of their reason for being.”


    First, if writing the posts in the first place is part of their “real job” (which it is, even if edited by… an editor [shock!]), then responding to comments should be, too. Otherwise, it’s not a blog, it’s just a PR outlet.

    Blogs aren’t, as you know perfectly well, a real-time medium. Nobody expects a response within minutes, or even within hours necessarily, but a response at all would be most congruent with the aims.

    I’m not even going to get into the “is social media a useful tool for accountability?” debate, because (a) far too broad a question, (b) it’s been pretty much proven in other organisations and corporations in some form or another (blogs overridingly a success if done properly, though), and (c) most of the debate in this regard seems to conflate fifteen different things as one or writes off public two-way discussion as worthless. Boggles the mind, frankly.

  • Comment number 45.

    Matthew, the socialisation you are dicussing here might be difficult to achieve and maintain the BBC values and obligations.

    For example, 'getting closer to the talent' through discussion on social networks will become more challenging if/as audiences on these channels grow. The 140 character restrictions limits the quality of responses and leaves the BBC open to claims of trivialising discussion or placing soundbites ahead of substance.

    Another problem for the BBC (in its unique position as an impartial public broadcaster) is the expression of views on social media platforms. I have previously written to the BBC Editorial Policy Unit about the blurring of the lines between the professional and personal use of social media such as Twitter. The BBC promotes Twitter accounts of some of its talent on air and on bbc.co.uk, the biographies of these accounts mention the BBC and some of the talent openly encourage listeners to use this as a channel to communicate with the programme/them. Set again this backdrop are personal comments, opinions and endorsements posted on these pages, betraying a bias, or an open endorsement of a product which should be against BBC guidelines. There are many examples of this each day and this should be rigiously policed.

    Almost all the blogs I read on the BBC, especially Nick Robinson are never replied to. There is a sense of futility in contributing thoughts. There is no engagement of the audience. To that end Nick probably has no time to read and respond, but perhaps a more integrated - both in terms of programming and the broader political team - approach would be better. 1) A political blog, 2) more contributors, 3) better integrated with BBC politics programming, 4) more engagement by the broader group of contributors and editors.

    5Live needs to have a message board, for unmoderated, open critique of programmes, presenters and topics. The currently blog is extremely poorly run and despite most other stations having message boards, and continual requests for one to support factual output, we've been ignored.

    There's a few things to chew on.

  • Comment number 46.



    "Blogs aren’t, as you know perfectly well, a real-time medium. Nobody expects a response within minutes, or even within hours necessarily, but a response at all would be most congruent with the aims."

    Nor are do they have to be two way - want that use IRC! - blogs are nothing more than a way to allow feed back participation, replies are not compulsory on either side, the BBC could, as some websites do, use the same basic server-side technology to offer reader feed back on every news article - saying that, if (like this blog) it is asking for help then - yes - their writer (or editor) should offer feed back, at some point, which might well be their next blog.

  • Comment number 47.

    "Almost all the blogs I read on the BBC, especially Nick Robinson are never replied to. There is a sense of futility in contributing thoughts. There is no engagement of the audience."

    Those blogs might not have feed back from the author but they are some of the strongest social mediums outside of the BBC's message boards, blogs are just another form of publishing, whilst not the free-for-all found in message boards, the author give the contributes a topic and some relative background, contributes then fill in the blanks, often saying things (whilst legal) the author could never say themselves without appearing biased - in a way, because there is little in the way of hosting (beyond the required legal moderation necessities) those blogs are being far more "accountable" - allowing almost unfettered feed-back, both of the subject and what people are thinking of both author and BBC. Choose your words carefully and you can say almost what you like...

  • Comment number 48.

    Matthew - I feel the scope of what you say you are investigating is strangely narrow. Why the specific focus on blogs penned by BBC personnel? I also feel the injection of the notion of accountability is both confusing and too loaded, since it often establishes an 'us and them' confrontation. (I am not in any way blaming you for hanging your introduction on the word accountability, btw, no doubt it was an explicit in the brief you took on.)

    I would like you to take on board the notion that 'the BBC' is not just its staff, but its licence payers as well. In my view, 'accountability', in all its flavours, is not just between the licence payer and the BBC staff, but between the licence payers as well. A sort of unruly quasi-consensus collective if you like. In actual usage, the accountability between licence payers tends to manifest itself in the fora allowing us to express views about programmes, but the bottom line is that us licence payers are quite happy to natter amongst ourselves about the merits or demerits of a programme. These fora, these places, enhance the feeling of community ('the deeper relationship' as you put it). The fact that the fora we are given to have our natters are currently hosted (and long may it remain so, I say) by the BBC is an added comfort, 'BBC online' being a safe place, amongst other positive attributes.

    The 'between ourselves' bit is important. It's nice when BBC producers and writers occasionally pop in to message on Drama & Readings for example, but we don't expect it as a matter of course. (Messageboards are strictly for volunteers!) The 'value proposition' of the typical BBC blog however is distinctly different - its origin is a staffer, who wants to announce something, boast about something, change something, apologise for something, or evade something, or is simply bashing out something for the sake of vanity publishing (all except perhaps the last qualifying under various readings of 'accountability').

    There is therefore a mixture of exchanges going on in the different fora. I feel the notion of mixture is important. The BBC needs a plurality of places of exchange. In BBC radio land, the Trust requires the BBC to "support the growth of communities of interest around its output".

    My experience of messageboards has on balance been positive, and my experience of BBC blogs has on balance been negative, and I strongly agree with Alfred Hermida's conclusion (#3 above) that the originally-envisaged 'conversation' never became reality, and continues to betray a heavy influence of a broadcast culture, with blogs being essentially another publishing/broadcast exercise rather than one characterised by an overall purpose of interactivity, change, and exploration of thought, by all participating parties. The BBC is a great broadcaster, but is lousy at thinking aloud and swiftly (except, ironically, when creating programmes). I've been involved in too many BBC blogs where the blogger has made no attempt to converse or has simply walked off into the sunset when a question gets asked. The residual feeling can be one of betrayal, and I think Lens' point about social media being potentially damaging to the BBC could be very true. The BBC wants to drive interest onto its content, and is obsessed with its headlong embrace of certain areas and styles of social media, but it is simply not agile enough at a corporate level to participate in them.

    Russ

  • Comment number 49.

    Sometimes I do get a reply when I make a complaint, but rarely. I made one today about 'linking'. I don't expect to hear back. I have received responses if I write letters, but did you know a letter was refused when I tried to hand it in at Broadcasting House! So the BBC is not very responsive to normal channels.

    In real life the BBC is accountable to the 'Trust' no one else. Serious complaints to the Trust get attention, (see the web site) The BBC's 'constitution' says clearly that it provides services for everyone in the UK who wants to use them. The licence fund is in 'trust' to provide this and license holders have no special rights (after all most people have one... I have three and the Hotel down the road has 200!).

    The Management of the BBC can consult the potential users as can the Trust. Accountability about consultation means that you hear.... you take account... change what you are doing if you want in the light of what people say, and you tell 'em what you have done and why you have not done some things they have suggested, You may say NO!.

    Facebook can be used for seeking views ('consulting')(I do this in another field using an appropriate groups) Twitter is simply fun. The results on Facebook are quite useful. I use other sites for 'research' about what people are saying/doing but I don't respond... I am not 'consulting'. I am more interested in where their views are 'coming from'(the discourse if you like)

    In one bit of my life I am 'democratically' accountable, which means I have to act in such away to get a majority and face down the minority!
    So... complaints require acknowledgement and maybe action, consultations require a response which might be NO for the following reasons,... Background 'noise' (eg Twitter'is just that--background....., and the formal constitution matters.

    Finally Nick moaned a bit in the BBC House Mag (the printed version is a public document) about on-line flames and brickbats... well I've got a good helmet and I'll lend it!






  • Comment number 50.

    49. At 09:51am on 02 Mar 2010, cping500 wrote:

    ...Finally Nick moaned a bit in the BBC House Mag (the printed version is a public document) about on-line flames and brickbats... well I've got a good helmet and I'll lend it!


    Nick is a unique case. The signal to noise ratio of his blogs and posts is very high. Every post he makes illicits an adverse reaction. Whatever the medium, his presence often is the initiator of fire and further posts add fuel.

    Interestingly the TopGear blogs are a good comparison, and maybe whilst not a best practice case, they do represent what BBC blogs or forums could be like. The TopGear blog could very easily be under the BBC banner, but it's not - and runs it smoothly, with a low Signal to Noise Ratio (SNR), and the posters have a dialogue, and affinity and community. They don't have silly, arbitrary rules, draconian moderation, unaccountable hosts - nor dissent. So why does that one work and the equivalent BBC blogs not? As users we ALL know, and have repeatedly ventured our opinions as to why the BBC blogs fail. What I find unfathomable is that Future Media haven't twigged yet. I wonder if bringing in an ex-BBC consultant with a similar CV to Nick is bringing fresh dispassionate eyes to the problem.

  • Comment number 51.

    Just a bit about blogs... Certainly commentators have been influential in holding to account bloggers in 'serious' blogs. Over the past year for example Stephanie Flanders has "recognised" on her blog that certain statistics (GNP) are less 'accurate' (fuzzy) (of course she knows this but journalism demands excitement about green shoots) and about the nature of labour market statistics (my expertise). We are not quite there on this last one.

    How much this influences her 'news' presentations I don't know. I don't watch TV and and I haven't time to watch the extracts on the web (I need transcripts). I doubt if tweeting about it would have attract much attention but I will try. Having a 'We Love Steph BUT' group on Facebook would not I feel would have many contributors :-)

  • Comment number 52.

    Matthew, you spoke of having deeper relationships with BBC people. Can I give you a comparison between the relationships I have with 3 BBC persons?

    1 This is a person I found via the POV message board 5 years ago... they are a BBC MB host and also in a department that has a direct bearing on things that interest me, and with which I have a level of dissatisfaction. I know them by their screen name, but I also know their full name and email address. He is often very responsive on MBs and does not flinch from fighting the BBCs corner, but also adding his own opinions -for which he gets respect online. I contacted him via email 5 years ago (at his suggestion ) to further an enquiry - that was not resolved but we built a dialogue. Because the MBs do not have a user profile system, nor real names, nor any approval/rating system, there is little opportunity for the BBC staff to get to know users. As a consequence, this host did not know me when I contacted him recently (and also because he is not allowed to keep old emails!) - so that relationship went cold.

    2 This person is a TV producer/editor, who contacted me via the POV MB 2 years ago. I know her full name, email and phone number.... although I don't know her MB screen name because a number of her colleagues use the same "POV Production Team" MB screenname so none of us know who we are replying to -very poor continuity. I have spoken a number of times with this producer and we have built up a relationship and trust. I am sure if we needed to consult again it would be constructive -but not through the public MB.

    3 This person was a host that I initially came to know through the POV MB but then he decided that blogs were his preferred method of dialogue, despite his blogs being numerous, repetitive, and most being closed before the audience had finished using them. We have exchanged (that's the best way to describe it) posts but there is no affinity and I feel there is contempt for me and my MB colleagues who try to engage with this host. If engagement could be illustrated with two interlocking cogs - our relationship with this host is our cog and his very smooth flywheel. There is little prospect of a deeper relationship other than an early offer from me and others to meet as "user representatives" in meetings - offers that were dismissed.

    I have posted on other blogs and commented on many MBs but no other BBC staff have interacted with me... so zero engagement there.

    So the BBC is a long way from true engagement... and at the moment the place where the audience resides is on the message boards. Blog population is negligible in comparison, most blogs have negligible traffic, and those that do have a much higher SNR.

  • Comment number 53.

    Comment 52 - OfficerDibble - "most blogs have negligible traffic" - how do you know this?

  • Comment number 54.

    Nick, I don't wish to get into an argument about the relative merits of blogs - that has been discussed at length and is off topic. Please keep your comments to the subject of BBC engagement. I'd be happy to hear if you have any response to the rest of my posts rather than cherry picking a detail.

  • Comment number 55.

    for the record Nick, here are all the blogs that your department regard as the most worthy:

    TV blog
    A History of the World
    About the BBC
    5 live
    The BBC Comedy Blog
    Radio 3
    World Tonight
    BBC Internet Blog
    iPM
    PM
    News Editors
    Sport Editors
    Test Match Special
    Evan Davis

    These have an average of around 4 comments each.

    The only one's that have abnormally high posts (100+) are the one's that are anti-BBC - and of course you know those very intimately, as most were closed by you.

    If you want, as a comparison, I can also list MB threads that I have started - they have a higher post count than the flagship blogs, and one numbers 2800+ posts.

    So does that make my posts more pertinent /popular than Mark Damazer? or maybe that blogs don't float your audience's boat?

  • Comment number 56.

    Threads like this one: (366 comments) http://www.bbc.co.uk/blogs/5live/2009/11/answering-your-questions-about.shtml and (77 comments) http://www.bbc.co.uk/blogs/5live/2010/02/victoria-derbyshire-on-faceboo.shtml where about accountability and the very poor blog network. They were also shut prematurely. The 5Live audience inexplicably does not have a message board, but non-factual radio programming outlets do. Blog participants continue to ask for a message board and continue to ask for answers to questions or at least the respect of a reply when questions are asked or feedback sought, but it is seldom forthcoming.

    I think the lesson is more transparency, more accountability, more responsiveness and you will have an intelligent debate like we are having now.

    The 140-character culture that 5Live is promulgating is dumbing down the station and devaluing the equity in blogs which they are closing.

    It's a poor effort. Quality is a poor second cousin. It seems the only currency the BBC is interested in is the number of followers or friends an individual has. There is a disproportionate amount of airtime given to these social media feedback channels.

  • Comment number 57.

    "here are all the blogs that your department regard as the most worthy:"

    I'm not quite sure where you got this list from... It's not a list I recognise.

  • Comment number 58.

    Have a look at the top of this page and every blog page?

  • Comment number 59.

    so Nick, once again you're picking on faults that don't exist in my posts yet not responding to the material issues and the subject of the blog. Do you see why there is so much dissent that accompanies you where-ever you post?

  • Comment number 60.

    Sorry OfficerDibble but I don't understand what you are referring to - there is no list at the top of this blog page. On the right hand side of this blog is a box with a list of BBC blogs but it's not the same as list you refer to. And it is relevant as you are saying "my department" think they are "important". I'm not "picking on faults" simply asking you to explain what you mean as it is obscure to me.

    I wouldn't necessarily judge a blog post (or a message board thread) on number of comments. It could simply mean a small number of people (or even one person) commenting a lot.

  • Comment number 61.

    As I said Nick please keep on topic of engagement.
    As you should know the list on the top right column is context related and changes as topics develop, presumably by an automatic system set by your department. The point is could select any random List of BBC blogs and see indifference from the audience.

  • Comment number 62.

    #61. At 11:06pm on 02 Mar 2010, OfficerDibble wrote:

    "As I said Nick please keep on topic of engagement.
    As you should know the list on the top right column is context related and changes as topics develop, presumably by an automatic system set by your department."


    "OfficerDibble", what sort of web interface are you accessing this blog by (it's possible that you are seeing a different page layout to others, I don't see anything you describe, what is the the title of the list you are citing?

  • Comment number 63.

    On Safari, it is the RH column entitled:BBC Blogs and Boards. then the list underneath

  • Comment number 64.

    The list underneath is not the list in your comment.

  • Comment number 65.

    Nick, as explained before, the list changes depending on the blog you are on, and the time you access it. You knew that right?

    My point is that it doesn't matter what list I select, the average BBC blog has minimal audience support compared to (for example) most MB threads or indeed my own MB threads .

    Care to engage with the bulk of my, and other posters' observations rather than nit-picking?

  • Comment number 66.

    Right I think I understand what you're saying now.

    Depends how you define "audience support".

    Does that mean number of people who read?

    Number of people who comment?

    Whether they like or are happy with what they read (people who are unhappy are more likely to comment then those who are happy)?

    Number of comments or posts is not enough in itself to make a judgement. As I've said before a message board thread with lots of comments might be two people talking to each other a lot. No one else might be reading it.

  • Comment number 67.

    whereas a blog with no comments is DEFINITELY not engaging anyone.

    Please I am not prepared to argue the toss with you Nick. The relative merits of Blogs and MB is off topic. I have given my opinions on this and other blogs at length with NOTHING in return from you. Please stick to the observations we have made pertinent to engagement and accountability. If you don't have anything to bring to the table then there is little point in replying.

  • Comment number 68.

    Nick. It is very difficult for me to form an opinion when all the facts are not known to me. I presume (and I have been to the Doubleshot Consulting website)that this blog is not your only job.

    However, having had no prior knowledge of this and having just landed here on this page, my first impression (and others opinions too, I imagine) was that you are a high-dollar externally sourced consultant to liaise with the BBC licence payer solely through this blog.

    That is going to get peoples' hackles raised.

    I see you have some some impressive experience working in media and the BBC, but I found that only after a bit of trawling.

    If you re-read your blog with the realisation that we are going to think that this is all you do, then you might want to start over.

    So, please can explain to me what the link is between quality programming, and blogging(a place where relationships are built and developed)?
    There has to be a connection.

  • Comment number 69.

    I'm not sure I understand your reasoning Nick.

  • Comment number 70.

    "What would make for a "deeper relationship" with the BBC"

    Here's a general one on behalf of all message board users

    - Answers to posts on the message boards asking about things like who ultimately makes decisions on board policy - three times before Christmas and I am still waiting. SOMEONE from the BBC reads 'The BBC' POV board, as one of my posts was quoted on a blog this week (thanks for that, most honoured :)) so why not more direct input from staff instead of us feeling we are just posting into thin air much of the time?

  • Comment number 71.

    "68. At 4:24pm on 03 Mar 2010, The Duke of Wurttemberg wrote:

    Nick. It is very difficult for me to form an opinion when all the facts are not known to me. I presume (and I have been to the Doubleshot Consulting website)that this blog is not your only job."


    Not sure I follow that comment, surely you meant to direct your comments to Matthew, not Nick?

  • Comment number 72.

    Comment 68 - to clear up any confusion.

    I (Nick) am Social Media Executive for BBC Online. I also am the executive editor of this blog. I also host this blog. I have employed Doubleshot Consulting to do this work. Matthew is the person from Doubleshot doing the work. Part of the work is this blog post that he's written.

    To get back on topic - Curmy, what's your definition of "accountability" as it applies to the BBC?

  • Comment number 73.

    Matthew,

    But I now work for an independent consultancy who have been commissioned by BBC Online to help explore some key questions around accountability and how that relates to the BBC's social media activity.

    You have been remarkably quiet throught out this exchange. I think you can see that we contributors are not happy with the lack of accountability around here. Nick continues to attempt to defend the undefensible.

    Are you here just for opinions or are you here to try and inmprove matters? What is your modus operandi?

  • Comment number 74.

    #73. At 6:51pm on 03 Mar 2010, Franky wants DOG free BBC too wrote:

    "You [Matthew] have been remarkably quiet throught out this exchange."

    I think that is a bit unfair, the best answers are no always those found on the cuff, Matthew wants to know what we think, could well want to see how the blog normally operates, what 'accountability' the BBC offers in exchange for user participation, I suspect he most certainly doesn't want to put words into your mouths because he is not the BBC (any more), less than seven days is a very short period of time to arrive at such understandings.

    Frankly, "Franky" you are actually demonstrating one of the major problems with web based social mediums, everyone seems to wants answers yesterday - that doesn't make for good decision making one bit.

  • Comment number 75.

    @Franky wants DOG free BBC too: sorry - you're absolutely right. bit of a mix-up (on my part) about what login I should be using. As luck would have it you sent your comment minutes after I had sorted it out, but before I'd had time to compose the kind of considered response that a lot of the comments here deserve.

    To answer your question, I am here on this post & comments thread mainly to listen to opinions, but I am indeed "here" in the broader sense of working on this project in order to try and improve matters if it looks like they need improving - that's why the BBC have asked us in.

    The modus operandi is doing a lot of reading of BBC blogs and messageboards, looking at external examples, talking to a lot of people within the BBC and some outside and reading a lot of other material around the subject (such as @Alfred Hermida's very relevant paper and the others in the book which contains it). We'll then be coming back with some recommendations for the BBC and it's obviously a matter for the BBC how they want to take that forward.

    Will come back in later on some of the specifics - but I mainly wanted to thank everyone contributing for putting in the time and effort, the replies so far have been very useful indeed, and assure you that I'm reading every single comment.

  • Comment number 76.

    back again as promised...

    @Alfred Hermida once again, we’re definitely building on the work you’ve done in your paper as part of our raw material, as well as a number of the other essays in Web Journalism.

    As @Boilerplated said I’m not here to express my own views but with open mind and ears to read yours, and reflect them in the recommendations I make to the BBC. Having said that, I do want to say thanks once again to everyone who's replied for the depth of engagement shown here, especially @Mo, @James Murphy, @Boilerplated, @Lens, @tertium_quid, @OfficerDibble, @ryanw. The links are useful too.

    @Russ in answer to your specific point, the extra dimension of accountability you mention is very interesting and there’s no reason at all why it should be excluded from our thinking.

  • Comment number 77.

    Thanks Matthew, glad you have got back into the Citadel.

  • Comment number 78.

    Matthew, if you have not/are not already doing so can you also take a gander at the current and past moderation Q&A blogs that the BBC Internet blogs have run, this will give a good idea as to how people think the BBC blogs are being accountable in the most direct way possible, also and again if you have not already done so, can you ask for access to have access any removed comments from the blog you have/are studying, this again will give clues as to how well the BBC is making it's blogs accountable (by protecting it's users, non users and not least the "BBC" it's self).

    Moderation is the first element in being able to show 'accountability', remove to little and accountability fails, remove to much and accountability fails.

  • Comment number 79.

    I am starting to think that I am commenting into thin air on here as well, then..

  • Comment number 80.

    #. At 7:11pm on 04 Mar 2010, Malyndi wrote:

    "I am starting to think that I am commenting into thin air on here as well, then.."

    What didn't you understand about Matthews two replies at #75 7 76, he is not here to respond, not yet anyway.

  • Comment number 81.

    Boilerplated in 80:

    I'm always a little dubious when someone starts saying things like, 'especially - (naming of names)'. For the people who aren't included in this esteemed list, it MIGHT just seem that their contributions aren't so valued - but that's just my humble opinion, and I may well be incorrect, which is fine.

    (Give me a chance, this blogging is still new to me ;-))

  • Comment number 82.

    matthew a very interesting quote which perhaps tells alot about the bbc's approach to accountability especially as it comes from a senior person with alot of power on these blogs and messageboards

    Quote:
    "The traditional BBC way would have been to make a decision in secret, act on it and not tell anyone until afterwards. "

    nick reynolds 27 feb 2010

    http://nickreynoldsatwork.wordpress.com/2010/01/22/social-media-what-does-good-look-like

    please take note matthew because history suggests that the quoted may look to cover his tracks...

  • Comment number 83.

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

  • Comment number 84.


    Quote:
    "The traditional BBC way would have been to make a decision in secret, act on it and not tell anyone until afterwards. "

    Good gracious, there's honesty! As it's stated in the past tense, can we safely assume that things have changed for the better now and we can expect maximum engagement with licence payers? :-D

  • Comment number 85.

    #84. At 12:26pm on 06 Mar 2010, Malyndi wrote:

    "maximum engagement with licence payers"

    Define that statement, to those who use social media it might mean replying to questions within a certain time frame, to those who do not use and might not even have a IP capable device it might mean not wasting money on social media, never mind answering questions posed on such media, believing it better to put the money into front-line programmes such as "Feedback" and "Points of View" whilst giving then total editorial freedom, even paying outside media companies (for example Ch4) to make the programmes for the BBC so as to ensure editorial independence.

  • Comment number 86.

    boilerplated..i take your point but you are being a bit harsh..maximum would suggest pushing all these ideas as far as they can go..not cutting back on them and censoring them for control purposes...if there are economic choices to be made fair enough..but i think at the moment decisions about engagement are being made for power reasons.

  • Comment number 87.

    Boilerplated - I thought my statement would have been self-explanatory, but maybe I should have inserted the phrase 'social media-using' before 'licence payers' - anything outside of that scope would be off-topic for this blog given the title, don't you think? ;-)

  • Comment number 88.

    The BBC seems to be "pushing" blogs heavily this week.... but does the public know? Does the public want them? If the "Audience is at the heart of everything the BBC does" what were the drivers behind the adoption of blogs? Having been a POV poster for 5 years, I had not seen any audience shift to a desire to read BBC blogs.... although message boarding seems to be ever popular, despite the clunky BBC software and poor hosting we see now. ... and of course the audience patronage of the POV boards is many times more than all the blogs put together.

    http://www.bbc.co.uk/blogs/tv/2010/03/lambing-live-adrenaline-and-sh.shtml
    Is also curious. Did Kate Humble blog this? Or was it simply ghost written by Fiona Wickham? (as she implied)
    I have a concern that the BBC's blogs all seem to be fire and forget. Jana Bennett even says she won't be replying often - managing our expectations. I'd be surprised if she ever replies... and like most BBC blogs, VERY few reply. Ironic that her blog set the agenda which has been resolutely ignored in 99% of the replies.
    http://www.bbc.co.uk/blogs/tv/2010/02/welcome-to-the-bbc-televis.shtml

    So if the intention is just to publish a press release, why enable comments at all? Katie Humble isn't going to interact (and may never have seen her own blog). Jana doesn't have the time nor inclination to respond. So just setting up the blog is not sufficient to tick the engagement box, and it is hardly accountable if the audience posters are talking to themselves - in fact it is counter productive in that we feel we have been fed a lie, and that Kate Humble isn't really listening, and that Jana Bennett is just pushing her spin at us - even her language implies the dialogue is actually goin to be a monologue (with background noise from us) - how many blogs have replies from the Blog owner? I can't count many - this one (a non BBC Blogger) and Andy Q - but most of the others have no engagement and eventual disengagement from the audience as the momentum of comments runs dry - no response, no answers, no empathy. Blog fail.

  • Comment number 89.

    I think you are being a little harsh OfficerDibble. Andy Quested is a very good example of engagement but there have been others on this blog and elsewhere. I'd accept the BBC doesn't get this right all the time.

    So the question is why? And what might encourage more engagement from BBC people? What might cause them to think twice about it?

  • Comment number 90.

    I used Andy's blog as a good example, but it is such a rare example to be misrepresentative. The vast majority have no second posts from the blogger, and/or no comments from the audience. By any measure that is a widespread failure.


    Nick wrote:"So the question is why? And what might encourage more engagement from BBC people? What might cause them to think twice about it?"

    Once again Nick... you are putting the blame on us. It is not our choice to launch all these blogs with no engagement. It is not our fault that the driver for all these blogs is to tell us something, rather than listen. The BBC thinks all that is needed is to put a blog on and that is it. The audience expects more from a blog, otherwise it is not a blog. Mark Damazer, Jana Bennett, Danielle Nagler... none of them had any intention in entering into a dialogue... and that was before any of us posted.... and most don't bother to post anyway, because it soon becomes very evident it is one way.

    There is NO ENGAGEMENT that results in change - so there might as well be no comments at all. On evidence, it makes no difference what we say, or if we say anything at all. The currency of blog dialogue is devalued and then chaos will ensue.... leave an empty shop with no shopkeeper and eventually it will get vanadalized, or like Jana's blog, squatters move in to use it for something more worthwhile. And Nick, please don't say again that it is our fault for expecting our views to change BBC policy - "the audience is at the heart of everything we do" says the BBC - except where a minority, or majority respond to a blog or message board and the overwhelming concensus is dismissed. Show me something which HAS been driven by the audience via a blog. THAT will be engagement... and don't even think of mentioning DOGS on HD - you are totally deluded if you count that as a success of social media!

    So Nick, you jump on your normal mantra of blaming us for preventing BBC engagement, whilst you fail to make a comment on the suggestions and observations I (and others ) have made about whay the BBC has failed in achieving accountability or engagement.

    If you look at Andy's successful blogs it is marked by the effort he puts in (as an engineer) to his blog -despite being busy. Where it fails is where he has clearly got political agenda's and is prevented from disclosing, or admitting more.

  • Comment number 91.

    @OfficerDibble just a follow-up question for you (and others who may be interested). Assuming that Jana Bennett isn't going to reply often or at all on comments threads, let's leave aside for a moment whether or not that's a good thing (and I've registered you clearly think it's a bad thing). If it's a given, does it help at all for her to manage expectations by saying so?

  • Comment number 92.

    Hi Matthew,

    My initial impression when she says she may post a few times a month, is that it immediately says to me that it is not a blog she owns, that she reads, nor that she is interested in. How can she say what we post will not require a reply from her before we respond? She is effectively admitting that the blog is not a personal diary, but a corporate PR tool. It won't make much difference because when we look at each staffer's blog history, their lack of interaction becomes evident.

    Contrastingly, blogs I read outside of big corporates ARE personal, about passion, and about trading ideas, opinions and affinity. The BBC blogs are not about a personal interaction - we know it is a mission statement from Future Media to extend the use of blogs (without any visible drive from the audience) and so when katie Humble pops up with a new blog, I see it as Fiona Wickham ringing her up and saying "Katie - you know that stuff on the Lambing website, can I rehash it into a blog and put some lo-res photos on it? You don't have to do anything...I have a techie who'll post it up. It'll really help Erik say we are embracing Social media".

    Sorry if it sounds cynical, but I think the BBC's use of blogs is very cynical too, and clearly it won't wash with your audiences for very long either - hence the tumbleweeds blowing through most of them (that and the lack of notification stalls any continuity)

  • Comment number 93.

    Officer Dibble, you're spot on !

  • Comment number 94.

    OfficerDibble - I am not blaming anyone.

    It is also worth pointing out that people also complain about BBC people not engaging on message boards either. So it's nothing to do with blogs as such.

    Regarding DOGS on HD - I think that once again you are confusing "I want the BBC to talk to me" with "I want the BBC to do exactly what I want". With DOGs on HD Danielle did use comments on the blog as an element in her decision making. But she didn't give everyone what they wanted.



  • Comment number 95.

    Nick you are still not understanding the distinction between Message Boards and BBC Blogs. The message board is driven by the audience. They are at the heart of the content. The blogs only exist to further the aims of the BBC, the audience has no say in setting the agenda, yet after the initial post it is left to us to further the blog in the absence of BBC staff, so yes we see the double standards when no-one engages - we don't like your blogs, we didn't start them, you trumpet accountability yet don't engage on YOUR own blogs.

    As for HD DOGs - no-one in their right mind can see anything but a complete failure from Danielles blog- one sided, hijacked, unanimous, ignored, bullied and then closed.

  • Comment number 96.

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

  • Comment number 97.

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

  • Comment number 98.

    Nick. Why have you moderated my post? Once again your arrival on blogs hijacks the discussion and distorts the view. I had hoped to avoid the subject of why your provocative presence on blogs / mb brings down the community spirit. And then irony of ironies you delete my post. Were the facts not on message?

  • Comment number 99.

    #97. Thanks for the support Joe. I hope Matthew can see that the small number of posters on this blog is the tip of the iceberg evident on the message boards. If the BBC Trust ran a survey on accountability I am sure the results would echo the concensus, tone and trends that are clear for all to see on the message boards.

  • Comment number 100.

    Matthew. I thought more about your question re; jana managing expectations. If she were to just oil the wheels by regularly posting "I'm listening, interesting comment, That is something we are concerned about.... etc" then even though she didn't engage, it would give us the feeling we were influencing. ( as long as it was honest )

    we don't won't to get into a Obama situation - the most followed twitterer yet he has never posted anything - totally false. And that is why the Stephen Fry brand is so valuable - honesty. It is him, he puts in the text, they are his opinions and his passion. and that is why Clarkson should not be allowed to do a BBC blog, because we will suspect it will be Andy Willman writing it to meet corporate objectives.

    I am seeing a theme here; honesty. So number one BBC priority for Social media is : ditch the "audience at the heart..." mission statement. When we see that is true, then you can start saying it again

 

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