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Changes to 606 message boards

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Chris Russell | 15:27 UK time, Tuesday, 30 May 2006

As you may know, the 606 message boards have been suffering from a number of problems recently. I’d like to thank all the users’ patience and loyalty during recent months. The team who run the service have been working hard to work out the best way to move it forward in the future.

We have identified some principle aims and objectives:

• To provide a richer, more in-depth user experience
• To raise the standard of contributions
• To reduce the amount of ephemeral, low-quality chat
• To make 606 more distinctive
• Raise expectations of users and of content

Next season, the 606 format will change and will feature a number of different types of high-quality content – users can submit match reports, articles, and team/player profiles, as well as debate the latest football.

We also have plans for personal pages for users plus, in time, enhanced privileges for trusted users, members’ journals, and many more. We also want to have better links with the 606 radio show. More details on this as these ideas develop but please tell us here what you want to see too.

We have more immediate plans for the World Cup.

While we continue to develop a much-improved product for next season we still need to produce a service during the tournament which is more suited to events in Germany.

I’m delighted to say that 606 will revert to longer opening hours. Every day during the World Cup we’ll open at 10am and close at 11pm.

There will be three main topics:
• World Cup – for general debate around the tournament
• World Cup city guides - for people to share information about venues and stadiums
• Transfers – for domestic football

We are planning for the new topics to be in place later this week. Many 606 members will be unhappy at the loss of their team’s or division’s topic and I'm especially sorry to those supporters of the teams promoted to the Premiership who are looking forward to having their own board.

However it’s clear to us and to many users of the boards that the structure creates an antagonistic atmosphere that plays into the hands of the “wind-up merchants”. For those of you still seeking a more team-based experience we will continue to allow people to publish links to other sites.

Another major change will be that only hosts will start threads. I hope this will create a better quality of debate and content and avoid off-topic conversations.

I promise there will be no shortage of discussion – with pages for every match, story and all the latest talking points. While users won’t be able to start a thread you will be able to suggest a discussion via a postform on the site and we will publish as many of the high quality suggestions as possible. This feedback will be very important to us and will also mean our journalists can see what you want to talk about more easily.

The short delay between posts introduced last week, whereby users can only post within three minutes of their last contribution, will remain.

Finally we also have another change planned for next week which we expect will more effectively target repeat troublemakers. More details of that when it happens.

Why we have to change

We have not taken these decisions lightly. They come after various attempts to try to address some of the problems in recent months. The opening hours were reduced. We urged users to limit off-topic and overly long threads, and to help us deal with troublemakers. More recently, we introduced a gap of five and then three minutes in between users’ posts to try to improve the quality of debate.

Some of these have helped to some extent but the 606 message boards are simply not sustainable in their present format and neither do we believe they provide the best solution for interactivity and "high quality football debate". Like the rest of the BBC, be it television, radio, news or elsewhere - we also want to provide a distinctive, high-quality service.

The boards’ massive growth over the last three years is now presenting problems, not just of performance, but of financial viability and quality.

We understand that an online community evolves over time, and many users want to discuss things other than football with the fellow fans with whom they have built relationships over time. But the boards have strayed from the initial intention – providing football fans with a space for high-quality football debate - and we can no longer justify their existence in the present form. We will happily facilitate users publishing links to any online communities outside the BBC which pass our editorial guidelines.

I am very excited about our plans for the future, and firmly believe we can provide a better alternative to 606 as we know it. I really hope you share my optimism that the new boards will offer you a much better all-round experience than they currently do, and would greatly value your feedback. We will monitor your responses and suggestions closely and will publish as many of your comments as possible on this blog. You can also provide feedback on the message board. We will, of course, keep you posted about any further developments.


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