Changes to the Radio 4 messageboards

Friday 15 October 2010, 13:34

Jem Stone Jem Stone Editor, Social media and Syndication, BBC Radio

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A screenshot of the BBC Radio 4 messageboard.

Editor's note: Jem Stone is the manager in charge of the messageboards at BBC Radio. Listen to his appearance on Radio 4's Feedback from earlier this afternoon - SB

At lunchtime today I was interviewed on the weekly Radio 4 programme Feedback for an item that covered recent changes to the design of the Radio 4 message boards. After the forums were updated last Wednesday afternoon, various threads were started by users upset with the changes and several users emailed the programme frustrated with a number of bugs and overall how the new board was working. The interview was pretty brief so I've tried to summarise. Here are the points that I discussed with Roger:

Why did you make these changes?

The change in look finally brings the messageboards in line with other pages on BBC Online. The pages have been simplified and several new features such as 'sticky threads' - which users and hosts had been asking for - have been introduced. I scheduled the work for Radio 4 as part of a change that's been going on across all the BBC's messageboards over a number of weeks.

Are the problems fixed?

I regret there were some immediate snags to do with font size, opening hours and the ability of users to start new threads. These were all fixed earlier this week thanks to board users identifying them quickly and alerting these issues to hosts. Thanks again for doing so and also helping other users who turned up on the board with similar queries and problems. The remaining batch of minor fixes are scheduled to be rolled out next Wednesday.

Why didn't you foresee these issues before you made the changes?

We always expect a number of bugs and snags when we make a change as substantial as this. It was of course, significantly tested but I'm sorry that for a few days, some users were affected.

David Williams, the product manager for blogs, responded yesterday, and explains in detail the process for launching the changes and fixing problems. There is a further update to the message board software next Wednesday which should fix the remaining bugs.

What about The Archers?

The Archers is Radio's most popular message board and I had scheduled The Archers message board to be upgraded by the end of the month. However we've now put that back until we've done some more testing and I'm satisfied that the latest round of bug fixing is successful. We will obviously be in frequent discussion with Mustardlanders throughout.

Where do message boards fit on Radio 4, alongside recent launches of blogs, Facebook pages, and Twitter profiles?

We've had message boards at the BBC for a decade and they continue to be important for Radio 4 programmes such as Word of Mouth. The parodies, instant feedback, and insight we get from the large Archers community is shared regularly with scriptwriters, for example, and are an integral part of that programme's website and production. However, many users prefer to engage with Radio 4 in other ways, on Twitter or on Facebook, for instance.

We regularly update our blogs, making announcements and providing a place for managers to explain their decisions and we think this is an effective way for Radio 4 to interact with listeners and users of our digital services. You can see the full range of ways to join in with Radio 4 on our new Comment page.

It's worth saying that these days budgets are tighter than ever and, for stations where users are increasingly engaging with us in other ways or where the boards are used by a small number of listeners, then we have had to close some.

I'll be keeping an eye on comments here but also over at the board so feel free to ask questions here.

Jem Stone is Executive Producer, Social Media at BBC Audio & Music

  • Listen to this week's Feedback, produced by Karen Pirie, get in touch with Feedback, find out how to join the listener panel or subscribe to the podcast on the Feedback web page.
  • Feedback is on Twitter. Follow @BBCFeedback.
  • All of the BBC's messageboards are listed on this page.

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