Points Of View Message Board 3: Football or Rugby?
Heads of Department at BBC, should get their butts over to the messageboards and talk to US too"
So why aren't BBC executives eagerly piling on to the Points of View message boards and talking to people there?
Firstly this is not some kind of conflict between bloggers and people who use message boards (the functionality of both of which we will be improving). And if there's two conversations going on about the same thing and people can't move from one to the other easily, then that sounds like some improvement in navigation is needed.
But I think the key question is: what's the best way for BBC people to talk to licence fee payers online?
BBC people should talk more to the people who pay their wages. But I also think they should have a choice about how they do it. Answering letters or emails quickly may be just as good (if not better) than posting on a blog or commenting on a message board.
If, as niclaramartin again puts it
Blogging is for footballers, messageboarding is for rugby players"
... then people should have a choice about what game they play. Some don't want to play rugby. Some want to play golf.
And the mention of rugby brings us on neatly to what Bill McLaren would call the "argy bargy" of messageboards.
Since I started participating in blogs and message boards I've attracted abuse both on BBC Online and elsewhere. Indeed I got some only a few weeks ago.
So either I have a particularly repellent personality or there's something about blogs and message boards that makes people SHOUT.
I've got used to it. But you could understand why a BBC executive (someone more important than me) might think twice before going somewhere where they are likely to be accused of "blatant lies" and given a "black eye". Especially as (unlike me) anything they say in public is likely to be scrutinised by eager (and perhaps hostile) journalists. You could forgive them for wanting, if not a armour plated tank when they go out in public, then perhaps a bullet proof vest.
(And incidentally this kind of argy bargy can also annoy and alienate other licence fee payers)
And you can also forgive them for asking "why should I do this? Am I going to get anything useful out of it?"
I believe you can use this kind of conversation to help make better decisions (among many other things). But a conversation online is likely to be just one element in a decision. Other kinds of audience feedback, research, financial information and creative instincts will all play a part. While I'm sure that Danielle Nagler read all the comments about DOGS on the Internet blog, I would guess that didn't she make her decision about them simply on the basis of what people were saying in comments.
So in order to get something useful you want the conversation to be as focused and efficient as possible. As I've said previously, so far on the POV boards the amount of time I've spent deleting off topic threads has outweighed the times I think I've started a useful conversation.
On the Internet blog by contrast its much easier to keep a conversation focused. I spend less time clearing out the rubbish and more time trying to get answers. Even if comments turn into something which feels more like a message board thread it's much easier to keep on top of it.
So to answer the question which some of you have asked: "why do you prefer blogs?". This is not about my personal preferences. It's about my assessment of where licence fee payers are more likely to get meaningful answers or good information.
And I do think a blog like this one is a better way than the POV boards to get BBC people to talk to you for the following reasons:
1. People complain that the BBC is "faceless". At least on a blog you get a name, an up to date job title and a photograph.
2. People complain that the BBC doesn't respond to comments. BBC people are more likely to respond to comments on a blog, particularly if its one they've written themselves. I'd single out Andy Quested as one good example, but there are others here, here and here.
3. It's precisely the fact that BBC people can start and control the topics on a blog that makes them more likely to participate. It feels like a safer space where they have more "editorial control" (rather important to BBC people). They are less likely to be ambushed and dragged into places they don't want to go. If it works they may become more relaxed and participate more. And so there's a trade off. People who comment have less freedom on a blog than the blog owner. But in return there's more chance of a useful result, of the blog owner participating and actually giving you answers.
One of the questions I am asking is "what are the Points of View boards supposed to do?"
I'm trying to keep an open mind. But at the moment I'm afraid I rather agree with WombatDeath who says:
...there are much better tools (blogs, market research etc) which can - and presumably are - employed to gather feedback in a more focussed and less chaotic manner
Just one final point. Just in case you didn't know we have a new host for the Television part of the POV boards.
This is my last post about the POV boards before Xmas but there will be more next year as we continue to talk to each other. Your comments are welcome.
Nick Reynolds is editor, BBC Internet Blog, BBC Online, BBC Future Media & Technology