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Staying engaged

Steve Herrmann Steve Herrmann | 15:40 UK time, Friday, 2 March 2007

Yesterday's exercise was a bit of a revelation.

A graphic of the BBC News websiteI asked you (blog readers) about the blogs vs diaries question, while Mark Mardell also asked the same question of his diary readers. I suppose it shouldn’t be a surprise, but opinion divided very clearly, with the blog readers agreeing on the merits of this format, and Mark’s regular diary readers urging him to stick with the diary.

Some of you (Richard, Kendrick, and Jonathan) made the extremely sensible point that we can combine the best of both worlds and get the blog advantages (RSS, easy updating, item permalinks etc) along with longer format, considered writing - if that’s what we want to do.

Paul is right when he says the tone of the content is completely independent of the software used (at least I think he is – is he?).

Your comments on the issue of interaction (how much we do or don’t engage with comments and follow them up, or whether there is tumbleweed blowing through) are another interesting issue.

Mark Mardell’s diary, in common with some of our other features and columns on the site, do carry a comment form and we publish a small range of responses on the story page itself. We don’t tend to then respond to the responses because by that time we are all busy working on the next feature or diary piece. So to that extent they are less interactive than a blog.

But as some have pointed out, this blog doesn’t behave very typically - there’s more than one author, and all those who write in it are also responsible for and busy with lots of other editorial output - the blog is just one bit of their line of communication with you, the audience, so there’s less follow-up comment.

I’m not sure how much of an issue that is, but I think it is probably just the nature of this particular forum. But in any case, there's a lot of illuminating thought in your responses which I will factor in as we proceed - so thank you.


  • 1.
  • At 07:18 PM on 02 Mar 2007,
  • Sam wrote:

Well its nice to get some sort of a response on this issue.

However you say you pick out some comments and publish them ok fair enough, but if time was an issue then why do you publish several blog enteries on the same issue?

Why not reply within the blog itself and counter some of the comments?

If i remember rightly there was more than one entry published relating to BBC bias and like i said before a comment was posted but only in response to a poster whos post was completely irrelevant to the issue at hand.

Please learn from this. If you ignore people in such a way you frustrate them as you appear to be arrogant sitting in a ivory tower. Thats when the flames begin.

And of course its important that you acknowledge certain things. Like the BBC DOES have an issue with liberal bias you know it i know it the people know it. So lets discusss how this can best be delt with eh?

Writing – and particularly reading & responding to – blogs must be as time consuming as one wants it to be. Editors are in a fast-paced and time-hungry environment and I can easily imagine that they might feel they do not have the time they would like to devote to blogs.

For example, twice I have submitted to Peter Horrocks’ blog “Trusting the BBC” and my comment has yet to appear. I suspect this no more sinister than the fact he has not had time to read it yet (I presume it will appear shortly).

At a very rough guess I would say that about 40% plus of comments to editors blogs are critical of (i) liberal bias, (ii) bias against Israel/pro-Arab, (iii) bias against security forces (in the widest sense).

If the BBC were to tackle these issues head-on, perhaps, as a start, admitting to these problems, and, specifically, publishing the Balen report, then, after an initial flurry of responses, this may clear the air and reduce blog responses to something more manageable.

I believe the BBC is tainted by these problems and they will eat away at its integrity until the boil is lanced. For what it’s worth, I detect that things have improved in very recent times. I also tentatively believe that Helen Boaden has the pragmatism and realism required to put things right (as do other editors). This may be wishful thinking on my part! If it is, and the same liberal bias (and other bias) continues, then things will deteriorate. Those on the right will step up monitoring of the BBC as we get closer to a general election and the whole thing could blow up. If things have improved, the problems of the past will not go away and will continue to haunt the BBC as too many people feel aggrieved and want redress.

Of course, it may just continue rarely responding to blogs, or worse still, employ dedicated blogs editors, thus building another BBC empire, adding to bureaucracy and costs and thus, not tackling the real issues.

  • 3.
  • At 06:57 AM on 03 Mar 2007,
  • Dottie Magill wrote:

I am a latecomer to this conversation - hopefully I'm not too late.

I think blogs are great. I would like to see the BBC do more stories on blogs and how to get the best out of them. There are not that many posters that maximise the uses of blogs. The inclusion of hyperlinks is one of the great things about blogs. These not only support the poster's argument but they also create a great network of information and different perspectives that simply cannot be contained in a single news article.

I also think that the problem raised by posters, that the editors don't respond to posts, could be easily overcome without tending to individual posts. The link from "Blogs or Diaries" to "Staying Engaged" is a great example. I think editors/journalists could let posters know in follow up posts/stories how their viewpoints/information influenced new content.

An issue with blogs is that some posters see this space as a place to *vent* (particularly their grievances with the BBC). I think that problem could be alleviated with more information from the BBC about how best to use blogs. Blog posts should be conversational – that means listening and responding. In my opinion, if the BBC is going to provide the blog then they need to explain to us how to get the best from it.

In response to the editor's concern that this blog might not be typical, I think it's a good idea to have different editors writing in this space - it creates different communities of ideas. I was also a bit surprised to hear that editors have more important things to do than tend to their blogs and I disagree that it is just "the nature of this particular forum." It's certainly not the nature of blogging and therefore I think it is a big concern. I wonder how practical it would be for news organisations to consider modifying their daily news practices to adapt to this technology and whether that would provide an improved service to that which is currently offered to the public.

  • 4.
  • At 02:28 PM on 03 Mar 2007,
  • Kendrick Curtis wrote:

I think this is about the second time ever I've noticed on the editors' blog that comments from a previous post have actually been followed up.

Good on you for doing it.

Actually, I suspect that the editors pay a lot more attention that commenters here realize, but certainly I still get the feeling myself that this blog is a sort of one-sided debate - posters can ask questions of the readers, as they usually do, and probably are interested in the answers they get. But we as commenters have little power to get the bloggers to listen to us about issues that are only tangentially related, or perhaps negative towards the BBC on a particular issue. There's no sense here that the editors are prepared to listen to critism as well as positive comments and answers to their questions, and that's a shame, because a direct link between determined viewers and editors seems like an awfully good thing to have.

I'm certainly glad that this blog exists, but I would like to see more feedback from the posters to the commenters. It's very rare to see a BBC poster replying to comments in the comments thread to the post itself, and yet this "right to a reply to my reply" is a staple of the blogging medium.

Clearly, as you say, you're busy chaps, but perhaps you should consider that writing for a blog takes a little more effort than simply posting the articles in the first place. It's called "being polite to your audience", and I'm happy to see that it was done on this occasion.

Well, if I post a comment, my only expectation is that the blogger will read it. As long as that happens, I'm happy. I'm not a regular commenter though.

  • 6.
  • At 09:03 AM on 28 Mar 2007,
  • Hugh wrote:

Any progress on the flip4mac front? BBC is the only site on the net that I have encountered were it doesn't work for windows media files.

Using quicktime and flip4mac is a much more elegant solution than having to install realplayer.

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