bbc.co.uk Navigation

Rory Cellan-Jones

What makes a tech story?

  • Rory Cellan-Jones
  • 1 Sep 09, 15:02 GMT

If the coverage of technology on this website and across the BBC seems a little thin today, sorry, but there is an explanation.

The team behind that coverage is on an awayday (in a BBC office rather than a country house hotel you'll be glad to hear - and there aren't even any biscuits).

Screengrab of BBC News technology website But we are discussing something rather important - what direction should our technology coverage take?

We started with a "vigorous" discussion on what makes a tech story, with plenty of healthy disagreement.

Should we, for example, cover product launches like Apple's iPhone or a new Sony PS3?

Some felt they had no place on the BBC, others pointed out that some launches marked a sea-change in technology and were worth covering.

What about financial stories, such as Microsoft's attempts to take over Yahoo - or plunging share prices of leading technology firms?

Let's leave them to the Business team, some argued - while others felt that our readers and viewers wanted to know how tech firms were faring financially, as well as what products they were launching.

And there was quite a punch-up over video games - with one group arguing that coverage of games and gaming culture was a vital part of any technology coverage, whereas others felt this was an area that should be in the entertainment section.

Oh, and I think we now all agree - stories about Twitter need to be pretty startling to justify their presence on this site or on the airwaves.

Then we heard an interesting take on all this from an outsider, the technology editor of a major newspaper.

He started by relating one of the many quotes about what news is:

"[N]ews is stuff I care about, and stuff I want to pass on".

Then he set to work to categorise our coverage under four headings, with only the fourth really meeting with his approval:

• Security scare stories, about viruses, malware, phishing etc.
Frightening people but not giving them enough information about what to do.

• Gee-whizz stories - "in five years time you"ll all have personal jet- packs" - which often give misleading impressions of how much technology can deliver.

• "Something should be done" stories - covering petitions for Alan Turing to be honoured or Bletchley Park to be saved.

• Really useful stories, which tell readers something they didn't know. Gratifyingly, he gave as an example our revelations about Spinvox.

Now that is undoubtedly an outrageous misrepresentation of our coverage by a jealous rival. Ahem.

We set to work to tell him about the valuable stories that he'd ignored in his parody of our fine journalism - the ton of advice about staying safe online, the gee-whizz story about new barcode technology which proved hugely popular among readers, the wealth of information about Bletchley Park and the history of computing in Britain, which we see as a valuable contribution to public knowledge.

But maybe, just maybe, he had a point. Perhaps we are a bit too scattergun in our coverage of technology and need to focus more on where we can deliver some added value.

My personal view is that we should aim to deliver useful - but not excessively specialist - information to as wide an audience as possible.

But when I suggested that we should not be too geeky (mainly because I lack the geek credentials of some of my colleagues), others countered that it was important to serve niche audiences.

But what do we know? Let's hear your opinions about what makes an interesting technology story - and which ones should be covered by the BBC.

Comments

  • Comment number 1.

    Besides the pointless Twitter blogs I find that the BBC technology site is informative and excellent (although I tend to prefer Rorys posts).

    Now, time for a blog on eBay selling Skype?

  • Comment number 2.

    Any of the things you mention could make an interesting story, in theory. What makes it worth reading for me is if there is some proper investigative journalism involved. Too much journalism these days is simply regurgitating press releases, and that's a complete waste of time. I can read a press release for myself if I want to.

    Finding out what's really going on behind the story is what makes it interesting.

  • Comment number 3.

    Please don't dumb-down your technology coverage! Ok, by all means, write stuff to help my mum understand *why* she needs an XYZ gadget but go beyond that and be opinionated if at all possible.

    Examples
    1. Apple's Snow Leopard, worth the upgrade or not? (Tech opinion)
    2. Is DAB great or already outmoded? (Audiophile opinion)
    3. Will iPhone be smashed by Android? (Futurology)

    Come on guys, be brave. Be wrong sometimes. Michael Fish was but he's remembered all the same.

  • Comment number 4.

    @DisgustedOfMitcham2 totally agree with you.

  • Comment number 5.

    I would lump tech stories into two categories: some (including non-momentus product releases or tech-sector business items) I might want to know about but could reasonably be summarized into a single paragraph. Others might warrant more background or more detailed analysis. Those are the stories I'd want to read a page or two about. They could be technical, business-related or written from a human perspective (exploring how technology helps people or harms them, how people feel about some technology or how they use it). It's nice if the full-page items have at least one photograph.

  • Comment number 6.

    I think there are two categories, stemming from that brilliant Black and Decker marketing insight from way back. They asked themselves a fundamental question: “What do we sell – drills or holes?”

    How does this relate? As a viewer/listener/reader I think you have a responsibility to deliver “drill” stories that deal with tech developments – new inventions, products that are going to make a difference to people, etc. You also have a responsibility to tackle the “hole” stories – what is the impact of all of this new technology on the lives of people, what can we do differently or better or worse and what are the implications?

    The drill stories are easier to categorise and to find, though not without pitfalls/risks, especially when it comes to accusations of bias and favouring one stylish brand over another. There’s doubtless plenty at the uglier end of technology that has more of an impact on the way the world works.

    The hole stories are where it gets a bit harder to work out where the boundaries are, given that so many of the things that we do these days have technology at their core – healthcare, shopping, marketing, travel, communicating, socialising, politics – really pretty much any of the categories on the BBC News website. I guess the criteria are whether tech is recently and significantly to blame, or neutrally responsible, or due praise for whatever it is you’re reporting on. Often a difficult question to answer, no doubt.

    I’m not really sure that this helps with your existential crisis. Maybe the tension is in the word “technology”. It might be easier if you killed that tag and called yourselves something else like “wired society correspondent”.

  • Comment number 7.

    As someone who works in technology PR the BBC technology page is the first page I check in the morning. Not only does it provide great news on technological advances but also tech business, mergers and consumer tech news and gossip which looks at both hardware and software. As a first point of call to get the basics of big tech stories the BBC is valuable and very useful in its analysis for consumers and the wider tech industry. In terms of stories it is great to know when things are coming down in price for example I have a story about elite blu-ray video chip technology which will be hitting the mainstream. Contact me [Personal details removed by Moderator]

  • Comment number 8.

    Another interesting piece. And the comments up before this one make useful points too. By and large I think you get the mix of coverage more or less spot on. However I'd note that I am not an average member of the audience, most likely. These are just my personal observations:

    Yes, don't simply regurgitate a press release. But if the release prompts you to look at something going on behind the story the PR people want to give you, then it could be interesting.

    Your newspaper visitor deliberately phrased their first three story headings negatively, but in fact there are good and bad points about each. Yes, data security stories can be worth doing, but not if they are merely sensationalist and you don't give enough information to act usefully. Yes, technology can be fun and exciting, but that doesn't mean you have to give a misleading picture. And you definitely SHOULD cover Bletchley Park, NMOC, Alan Turing apologies and similar. And yes, technology stories behind the companies, like the excellent Spinvox story, are exactly what I understand by the term "good journalism". Non-sensationalised revelations backed with facts and research are definitely of interest and the Spinvox story is a great example of that done well.

    Basically, in my view, your department has a pretty good handle on what it should be doing as far as tech coverage is concerned, and "…we should aim to deliver useful - but not excessively specialist - information to as wide an audience as possible" is just about spot on. You will inevitably spread across into related fields – such as business – but in the same way, sports stories sometimes spread into general news. There are no sharp dividing lines between categories.

    And finally, no you don't want to be ONLY geeky. You need to target the sector of the audience with a broad interest in technology, and if you've given something coverage for that audience, then by all means add a bit of detail for the niche markets – the tech blog areas are good for this, and so is on-air from time to time. What you need to avoid at all costs is "dumbing down". Never underestimate the intelligence of the audience and don't let preconceptions about the ability of the audience to assimilate information turn into self-fulfilling prophecies.

    BTW, quite frankly I don't mind if you have "away days" actually away from the work environment (where they are most effective) or in a BBC office as you apparently did. Unlike some people, I am happy to pay my licence fee and do actually trust that by and large you'll use it wisely.

    Keep up the good work!

  • Comment number 9.

    I tend to view the BBC's tech coverage as consumer tech with the odd bit of business tech thrown in. That's fine, there are other places to get enterprise and decent business tech stories.

  • Comment number 10.

    How about a category about things that might improve our connectivity and those standings in the way of progress towards this end!

    Take Ofcom consultation on NGN sneaked out on the 30th July! http://www.ofcom.org.uk/consult/condocs/ngndevelopments/

    It's packed with the re-focus and failure of BT original 21C plan and its consequences.

    It's also packed with Ofcoms and industries desire to keep a clear line between it and the internet, failing to acknowledge that full and open access to the internet (something not supported in the Digital Britain report) would provide the very means to reduce our reliance on legacy voice and messaging services and may even lead to a converged fixed mobile service.

    Unlikely in the next decade says Ofcom, and these guys will be in charge of network investment. Good report though it provides an honest assessment.

  • Comment number 11.

    I would be interested in more investigations regarding internet connections and how they are provided.

    It seems that internet service providers are all the time adding more hidden and un hidden restrictions to what you can use your connection for.

    For example BT on its normal package will not let you watch streaming video above 800kbits/sec at 'peak' times even if this is within the speed of connection that you have payed for.

    With most of us using the internet these days it would be interesting to know where we stand when we encounter this sort of thing.

  • Comment number 12.

    Games coverage should definitely, in principle, be in the entertainment section; something I play on a console is no more 'technology' than something I play on a blu-ray player. There seems to be no rational basis for considering games any differently than other entertainment/arts media.

    That said, there's a case to be made for the BBC giving up on games completely and leaving it to the specialist media - the BBC's games coverage has been consistently terrible for ever, it always gives the impression of being written by people looking in at a culture they're not part of, and don't want to be part of, in great contrast to (for example) cinema coverage which is handled by film enthusiasts.

  • Comment number 13.

    I work on a digital inclusion project in Wales and one of the main issues I face, when seeking to engage with the organisations and individuals we work with, is striking a balance between those who are more tech-savvy and those who are using ICT for the first time.
    This is a balance I would like to see achieved on the BBC tech pages. I don’t expect to see things change dramatically, and neither would I want to as I often pick up useful bits of information that I can share with others. What I would like to see your coverage take into account is the growing number of people who are ‘dipping their toe in the water’ with digital technology and who may have a genuine fear of taking their new found skills or interest to a more mainstream level. Not everyone knows what Twitter, Skype and phishing are.
    Occasionally, it would be useful to not only see the wider issue of digital inclusion covered, but done so in a more palatable manner. I discovered a good example on the BBC site today at http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/magazine/8222875.stm . I fear, in terms of public attitudes towards ICT, that the divide between the digital have’s and have not’s may widen if this editorial shift is not achieved over time, by the media in general.

  • Comment number 14.

    Rory:

    I don't know, what makes a Tech Story; But, the stories that the BBC does are always good tech stories...


    =Dennis Junior=

  • Comment number 15.

    Anyone care to run a sweep as to how long it will be before we get another Twitter piece? [My entry 3 days]

    As for what should be on the technology news pages, surely it should be NEWS about TECHNOLOGY, this isn't rocket science surely...No sorry this could indeed be rocket science.

  • Comment number 16.

    I think another very important distinction the BBC must make is between products and technologies.

    For example, recently there was a story about an augmented reality app on a mobile phone - the iPhone. Whilst showing the product was unavoidable, the BBC reporter did not mention the product's name (although her interviewee did). Given that at this point it was clear that this app existed on the iPhone, she asked whether a similar app was being developed for any other mobile phones. Clearly, then, this story is a great example of the BBC reporting on new technologies, and going to reasonable means to avoid unintentional product placement. These stories are fine.

    The other is reports on products - for example, Apple's announcement of the iPhone 3GS and its recent release of OS X Snow Leopard. The latter I think that is definitely acceptable, as these can often bring real security benefits as well as help make sure people don't fall behind. The same can apply to any version of Windows for the same reasons.

    Then we come to something like the iPhone 3GS, which on the one hand seems more just like product placement, but on the other hand seems to have all the same benefits of being reported as a new OS. The problem comes, I think, with what is seen as more prominent reporting of Apple mobile phone releases over other mobile phones. However, again, in this case, I think that this seems the case because often the iPhone is doing something new. Overall, I think that the BBC can maintain its neutrality by ensuring it makes customers aware of Apple's product cycles, and asks whether this new product is worth the upgrade or worth it at all.

    Things like potential virus risks, business-related stories, as well as social issues are all acceptable and probably beneficial.

    Ultimately, as long as the BBC's coverage is critical, questioning and does not fawn in any particular direction, it is probably fine. However, I think it should always do its best to avoid simply reporting new products (ie free PR), but focus on the technological and social consequences the product may have.

  • Comment number 17.

    surely the BBC's criteria of interest is whether it includes a certain minor social network/pointless chatter site?

    other social networks are available.

    tweet, tweet, tweet...

  • Comment number 18.

    I read the technology page every day just to get a feel for what is out there and if I need a detailed report I will follow the links - simple really.

    Definition of technology = stuff - that's what the kids say anyway.

  • Comment number 19.

    You know, I am not at all opposed to more coverage on social networking, even Twitter. But Twitter must be portrayed as part of a bigger picture, not as the be all and end all. Your past articles and stories appeared to hail Twitter as the main force behind social interaction in the Web, attributing it to the fall in popularity of movies, or a force within German political influence.

    My best advice to you, Rory, is to tread very carefully when it comes to the journalistic exposure of one product, or one commercial service. Treat technology as a holistic force of different products, vowing for supremacy and public adoption.

  • Comment number 20.

    As long as the storys keep coming thick and fast I'm happy to read them all.... more more more - variety is the spice of life and helps kill a few minutes in the office between tasks! Keep up the good works guys n girls!

  • Comment number 21.

    Have to disagree with some of the sycophantic opinions here. BBC Tech News should be just that:

    TECH meaning...
    NOT fan boy reviews of the latest Apple devices
    NOT reviews of games (sorry they are entertainment)
    but a reflection of how exactly hedge funds can bring down banks, why cash machines can dole out £20 notes in error, what happened in the Air France Brazilian air crash from a software perspective and why living in the countryside could hamper online education initiatives due to slow Internet speeds.

    NEWS meaning....
    NOT Five year old 'exposes' knocking UK success stories (e.g. Spinvox)
    NOT Mergers or Acquisitions which are better covered elsewhere by finance and tech press who do not call on a limited pool of sometines questionable 'experts'[can expand on this].
    Just the latest, relevant developments in technology and written so most of the UK populace can understand them

    Hope you are gracious enough to let this comment through the moderation process thus proving you are open to change.

  • Comment number 22.

    I'd like to see more opinion pieces from the excellent Bill Thompson. His articles are often interesting and thought-provoking.

  • Comment number 23.

    I occasionally checkout the technology stories at BBC, and there is a 50% chance i will read something Reasons for this:

    1. There are a lot of stories in technology - most of which end up meaningless in the NEAR future.

    2. Some of the stories are about big corporations - launching or doing something with each other. The reason why that makes news is - if you are employed at either of those companies - then you will be impacted, BUT - if you probably already know more than the average story. However, your friends now can question you. Relevance - still LOW to a non impacted reader.

    3. Story of something futuristic - but not verified or tried by the writer. So it promises much, but lacks credibility, perhaps too one sided. Interest level High, Value: TBD (usually LOW).

    Here is what I would like to see:

    1. New technology - but verified by someone. Include excerpt from someone the author interviews, who has tried it.

    2. Problems with existing technology. Relevance HIGH.

    3. Scare story; but with suggestions for remedy

  • Comment number 24.

    i think if you can add a category on technology products shopping, that will be more interesting, where you can write reviews, recommendations, deals and coupons to buy those products

  • Comment number 25.

    Covering launches is fine, as long as you cover every major launsh instead of cherry picking the apple ones like present.

    Financial stories can be covered if they have a legitimate technological element. Plunging share prices generally do not, two of the biggest search engines coming together does.

    Video games in themselves should not be dwelt on, however articles that deal with any new development in gaming technology (the wii controller, Milo etc.) would obviously fit in.

    Twitter stories are fine when relevent, the problem was the blanket coverage of what amounted to little more than opinion pieces over and above otehr major stories. If Twitter does somethign important then report it, otherwise do not, same as anything else.

    More on security, yes!

    More on blue-sky (5 years from now...) projects, yes where there is a realistic chance or a practicle application.

    Petitions, no. These are entirely political, whether Turiong is pardonned or not makes no difference to our level of technological understanding or ability.

    Spinvox would span several of these groups but should be reported on the level of it being a technological story, the emphasis being on whether the technology works, what are the applications and benefits etc. Leave the human interest stuff to the news journalists.



    Might I suggest if you want to include reference to news items then do so via a quick list of links attached to the end of the main blog, this would allow you to if not cover more areas at once then at least provide a round up of what is going on.

  • Comment number 26.

    Now, time for a blog on eBay selling Skype?

    ---------

    No, this is a purely business story, it has no impact on technology at all.

  • Comment number 27.


    Examples
    1. Apple's Snow Leopard, worth the upgrade or not? (Tech opinion)
    2. Is DAB great or already outmoded? (Audiophile opinion)
    3. Will iPhone be smashed by Android? (Futurology)

    -------

    Again no, I would shy away from offering anythign that could be construed as consumer advice. Fine write a blog highlighting any of these three technologies and ask the question, perhaops even add some links for further reading. But offering up an "is it or isn't it" opinion will just lead to a barrage of insults from posters.

  • Comment number 28.

    Your approach to stories should be one that I don't get from commercial media which celebrates technology and runs adverts alongside. You have the license fee, I want to see lots of investigations not being done elsewhere. Your best reporting Spinvox; worst reporting Seesmic

  • Comment number 29.

    The beeb needs to remember that if someone else is already doing it, they don't need to.

    I use the Tech pages to see the big stories, and to know what my boss is going to ask me about (when it is IT Security related especially).

    If I want product reviews, detailed security blogs or games news, I know where to find it.

    Techrepublic
    The register
    All the AnitVirus firms
    SANS
    PC Magazines
    Techcrunch
    Schneier
    Microsoft
    MilW0rm

    and many more.

    For the record I loved reading about Spinvox - reminded me of when Homer Simpson "built" a robot for robot wars...

  • Comment number 30.

    Congratulations on the introspective; even better that you've thrown it out to a wider audience... just hope you've planned to at least review some of these comments and harvest them for ideas.

    My tuppence worth:

    I am generally happy with the news stories on the site, though I could think you could cater for the more niche techies more often. For example, you occasionally mention "the cloud" which sounds like some mysterious entity, but you never go further. What's happening with the cloud at the moment? Yesterday, IBM launched their first DaS (Desktop as a Service) cloud-based product. Last month, Microsoft opened up the clould-based Azure network for developers. These are stories with potentially HUGE impact on the technology world, yet the BBC doesn't cover them. Why? Is it a conscious choice that they are too niche, or is it simply that you don't have the skills or the expertise to report on them?

    You need a coherent strategy on product launches. To the outsider looking in, it appears as though you are bedazzled by a the marketeers of a small number of companies, while ignoring their (often much larger)competitors. Some have suggested an "all or nothing" approach. You have suggested only attending events where the product is a "sea change". The only problem with that is that it's based on your own subjective (and subconsciously biased) opinion.

    Finally... "Twittergate". It's worth noting that the technology website wasn't really affected by this, it was the blogs. In particular, Maggie's blog. So I wouldn't worry too much about this, unless this "awayday" also relates to the blog as well.

  • Comment number 31.

    Agreed with 22
    Bill Thompson in my mind writes what makes a good blog, and would be a great addition to make the odd blog here or there.

    In the main for actual tech news, I'm inclined towards keeping how you are now, in regards to news about new products and upgrades etc. But more in the way of investigative journalism like spinvox. I'd appreciate looking a lot more detail in some of the government proposals, I mean journalism is supposed to be about examining propsals and what not isnt it?

  • Comment number 32.

    Agreed with 22/31. Bill Thompson's insights are particularly valuable, both on the blog pages and on Digital Planet. You always get something interesting, thought-provoking and well-presented from him. He's an excellent asset.

  • Comment number 33.

    A lot of these guys have hit the nail on the head. Less Twitter, please. and also try to remember that some of us were using blogs long before Livejournal, Myspace, and Bebo came along with their cheap and cheerful interfaces, and basic functionality. There are many, many better options out there, and most of the aforementioned only really made it big after groups like the BBC made a huge song and dance about them.

    Also something to consider is the whole Apple-centric reporting that goes on. Yes, when a new OS is released, give it a shout, we're all interested in that. Just like you report new Windows or Google OS (Although it would be nice to have some reporting on the open source community occasionally.

    Apple though, people in here have said how Apple are groundbreaking, so should be reported. They're not really groundbreaking. What they do is take existing technologies, combine them inside a very easy to use interface, and then put their amazing marketing machine onto it. Apple can market like nobody else on the planet. That's why the original Ipod took the entire market, despite being a low-quality copy of the Creative range (incidently using the exact same software that they later were forced by court to pay compensation for). And people going on about how the Iphone is such a hugely popular bit of kit, well what about the Nokia 5800? Never a mention on here about that, but it's outsold the Iphone in most territories.

    Don't fall into the hype machine BBC, you'll end up missing some really interesting new bits of kit (like the new Intel i7 processor, a new approach to processors from the biggest chip manufacturer in the world.)

    Technology moves fast and you have to keep up.

  • Comment number 34.

    Just another thought:

    One of the problems with most technology is it just doesn't work. We seem to have collectively developed a high tolerance for this. How about turning that on its head? Let's have some technology stories with a zero-tolerance attitude for computer stuff that crashes, isn't secure, doesn't do what it says it does, etc etc.

    Let's shame the developers into making stuff that actually works.

  • Comment number 35.

    BBC mission - To enrich people's lives with programmes and services that inform, educate and entertain - http://www.bbc.co.uk/info/purpose/

    Modern journalism, especially as expressed in the technology press, misses some pretty vital ideas about editorial content. More precisely, as shown by your guest, it thinks journalism is all about the "what" and completely forgets the "how."

    Under a basic "technology" remit, you can cover pretty much anything that you believe your readership is interested in - however, how you cover it needs to be examined with a little more care.

    BBC journalism currently divides itself into two, extreme camps. On the political side, everything is suspicious, lots of annonymous sources, lots of gossip and as much government kicking as possible. This is BAD journalism. It leaves the reader with an impression rather than any verified knowledge that may help them consider the political landscape.

    On the other side of the coin, we have a little what the Tech journalism in your department has suffered from: a bouncy passion that everything that twinkles and has bright lights attached is a boon to society, and that the iPhone and Twitter will save the world. This is BAD journalism. It leaves the reader with an impression rather than any verified knowledge that may help them consider ..... well, you get the idea!

    Your audience divides itself into two camps, and you have the difficult job of appeasing both (and you do "appease" an audience, trust me.)

    One camp are what I will call the web 2.0 crowd. This is the mass of users who don't want to dig through techy style download sites, don't care what Linux or Unix is and have far better things to do than wade through vast, badly written manuals - and I dont blame them either! (When are software designers going to learn how to write documentation? What is out there is universally dreadful!)

    The other camp are more technically aware (not necessarily geeks), are interested in the open source movement, think the whole idea of web 2.0 is daft because it is what the web has done since day one, and believe that for every new flashing light, there are a thousand other answers out there (though most of them look dreadful, even if they do the job!)

    You have to write for both camps in some way without driving away either, because both camps are within the general BBC Audience profile that you must cater for.

    This is a difficult task, but not impossible. The first thing to do is to make sure you DON'T write like the various technology magazines and sites out there. Aside from the fact that the writing is often below par, they are more often or not concious of their advertising revenue, which you have the luxury of not needing to worry about.

    Secondly, when you look at a story idea, whether or not it is a "boon to mankind" or even fun should not be why you cover it. Rather, you should simply ask yourself whether or not the story is of interest to any of your readership. This MUST be guided by the quote that I opened this post with "inform, educate and entertain."

    Thirdly, when covering the story, enthusiasm is wonderful, but remember you are a "reporter" not a sales person; you must take all promotional literature with a pinch of salt and ask yourself the core questions of journalism for any product launch: What is it for? Is it Needed? Does it work?

    Fourthly, (and you may need a bit of site rearrangement here), you must not allow your organ to become a first stop for companies wanting to promote their product. And trust me, I am an advertising man of 30 years, the BBC has always been seen by media buyers as an "advertising outlet" and your tech column the top of the hit list.

    So, on your front page, stick with the hard headed technology news - keep the style a good two or three paces back from the promotion, and report launches, new developments and other stories with a keen eye on the subjects bottom line - they want to make money, most of the time. On inside pages, as it were, you can go for a more magazine style format. Review products (with not too much cynicism, but less gullibility) from both a users perspective, remembering to make comparisons with other solutions, and from the more technological standpoint.

    However you approach this, there is one very important thing you should remember, and maybe write on your office wall.

    "We are not here to promote the internet as a cultural movement."

    One common problem with much of your reporting is that you appear to see the internet as a panacea for all man's ills - it is not. It is a communication device, just as the phone is. You need to make sure that your coverage is always within the context of the wider world. Where things make a genuine difference, say so. Where they are just frippery, make that clear too.

    Over the next few years, the internet will more and more become a device owned and controlled by big corporations with the user being fodder for the advertisers. Nothing is going to really change that.

    You must be careful, as the BBC, not to be too caught up in this, despite being a powerful news player. And your tech column should put a healthy distance between its aims under the BBC Mission, and the less noble aims of the other main players on the internet!

  • Comment number 36.

    @halfamo RE: Twitter story. Mine is 5 days. :)

    I would to see:
    1. More stories about the business of technology mixed with some investigation. 2 examples would be the impending sale of Skype and Murdoch's decision to make his news sites paying (this could have far reaching consequences).
    2. More opinion pieces from the team. Please encourage Bill T to write on this blog, he has fascinating insights and it would be great to have him as part of the community.
    3. Stick to product launches (be they mobile, gaming etc) only when they are going to have a large impact on usage.

  • Comment number 37.

    V40man wrote:

    Stick to product launches (be they mobile, gaming etc) only when they are going to have a large impact on usage.

    ####

    The problem here, especially with new websites, is that you cannot always see this coming. The things that are obviously going to make some impression are the things with large investment - that is why everyone has heard of them. However, that leaves out all the smaller, less well financed ideas - and some of those become big hits too!

  • Comment number 38.

    @ Gurubear, very good point and I completely agree. I suppose the trick is to find the happy medium between the over-hyped (eg the latest iPhone, adding video does not constitute an important development) and the under-reported.

    A good example of the trying to tackle the "problem" (and where the BBC tech team did a great job) was with Rory's reporting from the Mobile Conference in Barcelona (on the blog and TV). It showed a genuine attempt to try and highlight some different and under-reported players in the market who might make an impact in the next months/years.

  • Comment number 39.

    I feel some article are really lacking in substance. For me, Snow Leopard is a major leap forward - Grand Central Dispatch, Open CL, 64 bit, these are all massive core improvements that will benefit developers as much as end users, however your video review of the software mostly talks about speed (no problems there, but you only need to say "it's much faster") and bemoans 'no new features'.

    The new features are there, they're just not apparent, and they shouldn't be - that's the point of Snow Leopard - refinement.

  • Comment number 40.

    I'd just like to point out that if you're going to decide that games should be left to the entertainment section, then that's sort of ok in principle but make sure they do get covered somewhere. So far they've fallen between the cracks. Given the size of the game market (about the same as film) the coverage on the BBC is appalling.
    I also think that it's wrong to be afraid of being geeky. Take a look at the politics or business pages - they assume that anyone clicking there is at least vaguely interested and informed in their topics, you can do the same. And more so on this blog!

  • Comment number 41.

    On the whole BBC coverage of tech news is good, but for pity sake please ease up on the incessant, boring articles on file-sharing, torrents and the like. The articles are veering away from the technology aspect and becoming very moralistic.

    It's beginning to seem like the BBC is on a crusade to vilify anyone who is deemed to be on the wrong side of the P2P line.

  • Comment number 42.

    KingofallSamurai, I agree with most of what you have said, but not with all your comments on product announcement.

    The BBC technology website reports on a wide range, as the blog post says, so reporting all new products releases is obviously not sensible (there are other websites for that). New products that have a significant changes to technology in general should be reported. The problem is the BBC sometimes gets overboard with these, with the iPhone and Twitter being prime examples. A few articles, more than most other subjects would have been acceptable, but there seemed to be a flood. This makes it seem like advertising. Groundbreaking technology that comes along very infrequently should perhaps get such get such coverage, but the iPhone wasn't such a moment.

    Also, if the BBC should make people aware of Apple's product cycles, shouldn't they make people aware of every other technology companies cycles? If product cycles are given, it shouldn't be in a slew of articles, but rather just a link in one article, a rather minor pert of the reporting, but present non the less. In general though, those who care about product cycles can go to websites that are better catered for reporting on them.

  • Comment number 43.

    A tech site should be about technology so make it geeky, but with explanations for everyone to understand.

    e.g. to just say that something haas moved to a 64bit OS will only be understood by a small collection of people. To say that that allows more RAM will increase the circle of people who understand, and to say that that enables computers to be built so they can run more programmes and opperate more quickly includes pretty much everyone. Therefore the article can still be of interest, educates a number of readers, possibly extends their fields of interest as they now understand the subject matter whilst at the same time keeping the geekier readers happy as there is sufficient detail.

    As far as games go, don't just follow the sensationalistic stories, such as "The Wii is amazing, everyone must buy one" but instead look at things such as PC games that push modern computers to the limits (think when Crysis was released) or small release games from low key manufacturers which are often as good as the mainstream products and regularly place fewer restrictions on their software e.g. SecuRom. Speaking of which, here was a subject that could and should have recieved more coverage, as a number of customers had never heard of it until they experienced problems.

    Don't just agree with the big companies!

  • Comment number 44.

    more Bill Thompson and investigative stuff

    less twitter/facebook centric stuff

    off-topic: in an ideal world there would be more separation of business IT, consumer IT, IT reviews, etc but you're hands are probably tied and beyond your remit

  • Comment number 45.

    The problem I tend to have is not what the BBC picks to write a story about, but the depth at which it does it, and the important factual details which are omitted (or worse, incorrect) as a result of trying to make a story readable by non-tech-savvy consumers.

    Who’s the target audience? Is it a tech-savvy twentysomething, or their parents? The distinction’s important, because the level of detail required to engage each with many stories is quite different.

    The devil is in the detail. Many things seem like they’re not important distinctions to make because much of the public don’t know the difference, but that doesn’t mean those distinctions should be perpetuated (and it makes things worse if they are given the BBC’s standing). What’s the difference between a virus and a trojan? Between MB/sec and Mb/sec? Between “theft” and “copyright infringement”? Between “peer-to-peer” and “illegal filesharing”? Between “DNS” and “BGP”?

  • Comment number 46.

    How do you explain this press release dressed up as a story on todays tech section "Microsoft tries to revive mobile "

    This is a good example of the above complaints. It adds no technological facts, it just has lots of MS bods quoting how they will update the Microsoft phone software in the coming months.

    If you run this story it should have facts in it. How does it improve on the previous version etc.

    Incidentally, what I would like to see would be a link to a comments page for each story so the matter at hand can be discussed.


  • Comment number 47.

    Oops, missed link to relevant BBC news story

    http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/technology/8230923.stm

  • Comment number 48.

    True, the Beeb has a responsibility to cater to an audience who are not technologically literate - but genuinely good technology journalists can be experts and still capable of communicating with any audience. The technology reporting I see at the BBC is usually fine as pure journalism, but very rarely gets the nuts and bolts right. In fact, it sometimes gets it dangerously wrong; dangerous because of the size of the audience who then believe what you tell them. Perhaps your priority shouldn't be looking inward at what you are doing right or wrong, but looking outward - for new and savvy talent.

  • Comment number 49.

    two points

    1) story given as an example the 'gee wiz ... barcodes' is a bad example:

    I normally think you do well because, as mentioned by others, you are able to cover core element of a story and then use the many other links or related news to add to it.
    I consider the example given was a story that did NOT work to demonstrate this. The story failed totally to explain how a 3mm diameter powered 'bokode' tag device could be read from as far away as 4m (theoreticaly 20m) with an ordinary mobile phone camera. Following the associated links did not seem to explain this. So the story covered a prototype gee wiz device that works but did not mention the key leaps in technology allowing it to work. If I point my phone camera at a 3mm spot 4m away I get a few pixels of information so how does the 'bokode' work, in that situation, what are the principles behind that mode of use.
    (maybe a reader of these comments could ad an explanatory link)

    2) Improve comments section on these blogs:

    On a blog asking for comments you can expect to get a high response. Very few readers will be interested in my personal opinion. It would make sense for the bbc to group or order the comments other than in the order they are submitted. Readers will get bored and not read most comments.
    (If anyone considers that smacks of censorship instead of good editorial policy consider: making comments searchable and order by subject, or order by number of views, or allow viewers to vote.)

  • Comment number 50.

    Cryotek wrote: off-topic: in an ideal world there would be more separation of business IT, consumer IT, IT reviews, etc but you're hands are probably tied and beyond your remit

    #####

    Actually, there is an argument that having a specific section just for IT technology (and the occasional other bits) is possibly very out dated now.

    It would make far more sense if news about software and hardware aimed at particular markets were primarily in those sections.

    So, games in entertainment, accountancy software in business and so on.

    Obviously, the Beeb do this to a certain extent anyway as a story can belong to more than one category and the section front pages are actively managed.

    But perhaps it is time we moved beyond the idea that just because something uses IT, it must go in the tech section at all.

    This would leave technology for things like OS, engineering, chip news, and so on - things that dont neatly fall into another obvious category.

  • Comment number 51.

    My view is that tech stories shall cover a broad range of topics. Innovations in the field of hardware and new devices emerging each day, like the Apple example you mentioned in your text, shall be taken seriously. News about software and internet are needed and vital, as well. For instance, Google's attempt to make its own OS, or Microsoft's Bing coming out were among the most interesting tech news for me. We need to know about new internet threats and viruses, as was mentioned in other comments.
    In regard to the financial facet of the world of technology my answer is why not? It is odd for me to hear the news about Microsoft, Yahoo, Google ... financial cases anywhere but in the Technology part of the BBC website. However, this might be part of the business news, as well.
    Introducing games? I don't play games, but there are many, even around me, who fancy them. So, I think you should do them some favors, too.
    As a result, I think everything is vital to be covered in your tech stories.

  • Comment number 52.

    Why does the BBC's idea of "technology" encompass only information technology (IT)?

    Where is the coverage of, say, new energy technology, transport technology, materials or even nanotechnology? Indeed, where do we read about neat new engineering?

    IT is but a small subset of technology, and probably one of the least interesting and out of date. Anything you buy in the next five years or so will rely on 'technology' that has been around for a long long time. They have just put it together in new ways.

  • Comment number 53.

    Seems to me there's an easy solution to all these 'dumbing down' accusations - create a BBC glossary of tech terms and products/technologies. This could be constantly updated as and when niche terms are mentioned in the blogs, and reference links could be provided after each article to help out less tech-savvy readers. That way articles would be an enjoyable and informative read for people within the industry, deal with more interesting angles etc., and casual readers wouldn't be put off by the jargon.

  • Comment number 54.

    michaelkenward, the other forms of technology that you mention are all covered in "Science & Environment" ... just one link up. It wouldn't be a good fit to combine too many disparate topics all in the Technology section.

  • Comment number 55.

    OK, so here's a tech story for you... perhaps not the biggest headline of the day, but since (as the author has already complained about the lack of newsworthy material) we have just launched a product suite today, as an IT firm dedicated to helping SME's, we thought we'd mention some details.

    You see the problem I found when running my own small business was that to get a website, I needed a couple of thousand pounds in the bank, when I needed email marketing software, I couldn't avoid being locked into some form of contract, and as for search engine optimisation; anyone who has been down this path will be extremely lucky not to have had their fingers severely burned by contracts which tie you into ineffective SEO which you are relying on to drive traffic to your website.

    Hence we've designed some easy and powerful email marketing software without a monthly contract, quick and well-supported content management systems (yep, without a monthly contract), and finally: search engine optimisation with guaranteed Google Page 1 results or your money back (yeah, you guessed it - no monthly contract here either.

    I defy anyone to find a better offering for SME's online, and if you can, then I'll eat my shorts...

    Unfortunately, we don't want to break any posting rules here, which is a shame because a back-link from the BBC website would be killer! The BBC is one of the most respected sites (if not THE most) in the UK by Google.

    So-far as we haven't named any names, I guess were not "advertising" anything, so hopefully this post will stick, but if you were keen to find out more then googling some strings of text in this post might, just might, land you on our home page (then of course you'd never be sure if you had landed on our home page or not, as we haven't named any names).

    But hopefully this is of interest to some of you, and will bring more awareness to our industry, while fitting within the remit of the subject at hand - news about IT.

    So, THIS is what makes a tech story... mi|

  • Comment number 56.

    Hmmm .... now there, from "emailmarketing" above is a challenge for an old advertising and media hack like me:

    Promote a product without actually mentioning a name and still achieve a rise in sales.

    Of course, it has been done before. Many years ago, I came across a massive billboard in Swiss Cottage, London. It depicted a very large, Chinese frying pan wedged in a chocolate gateaux. The slogan read:

    "We cannot tell you about our product, so here is a Woc in the Black Forest."

    Although the health warning at the bottom of the ad was a bit of a clue, most people at the time got what the specific brand was. (Obviously, I can't mention it here.)

    Strangely, a similar form of advertising was used for years on BBC local radio. (I have to say, I am not sure this is done any longer, but it was just a few years ago) Here is a fictitious example:

    A client wants to promote their lawnmowers "Bloggs Mowers." We get a gardening expert to come into the studio to talk for up to five minutes about looking after your lawn. We connect this expert up with twenty or so BBC and Commercial local radio stations. THe expert gives good advice, and slips in a plug for the product twice. The producer the other end makes sure that he says something like, "Use a good cylinder mower like the the ones made by companies like Bloggs Mowers and others."

    As long as he is subtle, the producer will let us feed another short interview at another time.

    The station does not charge air time. They get free content for a few minutes and we get our free advertisement on air. Very gentlemanly.

    The best one we did was to promote a special issue Mint - it was meant to be the bit left over when they cut a hole in a well known mint.

    We had a double act on that occasion - professor Heinz Wolff and Arfur Smiff (well, that is the way he pronounced it!)

    Arthur was meant to be the chairman for the Campaign for the Protection of Holes, and the Prof was giving us the technical lowdown. On our first connection, Arthur did a short introductory bit and handed over to the Prof. Heinz launched into this ten minute monologue about how these holes were from the anti-matter universe, and that was why they was solid and so on.

    It was complete gibberish and absolutely brilliant. Arthur was almost under the table with laughter and DJ the other end was dumbstruck. It was one of the best bits of radio I have ever heard, and damn good advertising in the process!

    Which brings me back to the BBC Technology section. We are clever in the advertising industry, so, to make sure your are not doing our promotional work for us, you have to be on your toes! Currently, I think you are losing ......

  • Comment number 57.

    Hi Gurubear, interesting post. The "the mint with the hole" - great stuff!

    As a little experiment (perhaps a little cheeky) I thought I'd mention a company based in "Montpellier", Cheltenham who specialise in "Interactive" marketing... you can probably guess what they are called!

    Although if anyone rises to your parting comments, perhaps this one won't slip thru the net! Lets see...

  • Comment number 58.

    As far as CMS is concerned, I am a Liferay man personally, which is open source.

    Actually, that would be a good story for you chaps. The development of "portlet" technology as an industry standard in Java.

    Much is said about "apps" in things like mobiles and social sites, but on these pages at least, the implications for such plug-in solutions for serious intranets and company websites has been ignored.

    That too is a growing industry and a company can now put an intranet together very much faster and easier than just a handful of years ago.

  • Comment number 59.

    PLEASE PLEASE let us keep reading the stories (whether anyone thinks them good or not) after they have been taken off the technology page. The Telegraph iPhone App allows you too read any stories you may have missed in the past few days. I've lost count of the times I saw something interesting only to find it had gone by the time I went back to read it.

  • Comment number 60.

    One area you could really improve is to give Microsoft the same toughing over that you gave to Spinvox. They produce the most widely used OS which happens to be (or of the box at least) the least secure and most responsible for spam and hack attempts.

    The BBC almost never mentions this, its about time you did.

  • Comment number 61.

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

  • Comment number 62.

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

  • Comment number 63.

    I think the BBC should offer a strong thread of the political aspects of technology. Politicians often seem to make naive and simplistic decisions about technology (e.g. databases for everything). Are they being conned by the big software vendors and system integrators? Or are they merely falling into the common trap of expecting technology to magically solve all sorts of social problems? A lot of this is excellently covered by Computing and The Register, but I think you could perform an excellent service bringing some of these stories to a more general audience, as well as helping to educate the political class about how (and how much) technology really works.

  • Comment number 64.

    I very rarely throw myself across to the Technology section of Auntie Beeb's website, but I'm an avid reader of this blog.

    Many stories that interest me I find out about from other sources because they're usually mainstream enough, but I like to see opinions or a unique and unusual post (e.g. Spinvox) on a blog.

    In my opinion, you should offer opinions and more in-depth looks at many big stories so I can see your regurgitated press release and, if my interest is piqued, see what other people think about it and read the details.

  • Comment number 65.

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

  • Comment number 66.

    I think that to be "more-geeky" would be exactly what the BBC needs. The technology coverage is often very basic and often oversimplifies news to make it accessible to the "normal" BBC reader. To geek up would bring in a whole new audience, to combat the superb coverage from both online and offline competitors, such as The Guardian and The Register.

  • Comment number 67.

    IMO the BBC should highlight things that make a difference in our lives.. making life easier, quicker, simpler etc. Please continue with breaking stories about new and useful web sites like spinvox.. I love that sort of thing. By the way there is another called Jott which does similar I believe... http://jott.com/default.aspx and also Vlingo for the iphone http://www.vlingo.com/

    Some other great examples of sites that use new technology and new media that I've come across recently...

    Music search: Can't name that tune... Play a song into your mobile when you are out and you hear something you cannot identify and use this application to tell you what it is... http://www.shazam.com/music/web/home.html

    Video for recruitment: Nervous about recruiting someone from farflungplaces, then this web site gives you the chance to see the video introductions of au pairs who live in different countries http://www.1stchoiceaupairs.co.uk/

    Audio help: People who find it difficult or impossible to read can order MP3s or listen to books via the web http://www.listening-books.org.uk/what-we-do.aspx

    Learning with video: Want to improve a language then this site will povide a much richer experience by using interactive video http://www.bbc.co.uk/languages/french/mafrance/flash/


    Maybe most of these examples aren't exactly ground breaking, but they all show the uses for new media/new technology can do for us...




 

The BBC is not responsible for the content of external internet sites

BBC.co.uk