Digital Public Space: Watch This Space
Shakespeare from around the world features on The Space, including a version of "A Midsummer Night's Dream" from South Korea - part of the Globe to Globe season
Hi - I'm the Managing Editor of The Space.
I'm responsible for leading and managing the day to day delivery of The Space as a live service. I do scheduling, quality, compliance and editorial process. I try and make sure we have the necessary content mix, respond to audience and user behaviour, and ensure coherence on all platforms. I manage a small team and work closely with the technical team (lead by Jake who blogged last week) on the development of and implementation of the platforms.
When I was recruited (I only joined the project at the beginning of February - 3 months before launch), Tony Ageh told me 3 things which I have held on to. Firstly, that The Space is asking a question (or a series of questions), and is not supposed to be the answer. This means, he explained, that it will be a hard project, but we and others will learn a lot and therefore so long as we learn, we cannot fail.
Secondly, that while he needed me to hold on to my BBCishness, he also needed me to not always respond in a BBC way to the challenges I would face in dealing with the arts organisations who would be our "suppliers".
Thirdly, he warned that me and others on the editorial team would find it very hard not to roll up our sleeves and start fixing and doing and making output on behalf of the arts organisations. This we were expressly forbidden from doing until the last possible moment, because while we were there to advise, question, probe and even suggest, we were not there to make the projects. How else would we learn what the arts sector was capable of? (That was one of the questions being asked by the project).
So armed with this advice, I'll say it's been all that and more. Launching a service from scratch, in a few months, with an outside partner organisation (Arts Council England) and showcasing a whole lot of material which neither us, nor the people who are making it can define in terms of scope and ambition has been very challenging. There is literally never a dull moment.
I feel total affection for all the 53 arts projects which Arts Council England commissioned for The Space. They all deserve their moment in the sun and the editorial team here all work really hard to ensure that the projects look as good as they possibly can on The Space.
I can't detail all the art we've published so far, about 1/3 of the total and in excess of 100 pages of content, but here's a sample:
there's the audience attention grabbing John Peel Project, which delivers every week;
the constant audience demand for all the Shakespeare plays from The Globe, sometimes before they had even been shown in the theatre;
the unusual, in the form of the sound of Twitter by the Britten Sinfonia
and my personal favourite, the mix of poems, readings and archive footage from Faber & Faber of Carol Ann Duffy's Jubilee Lines.
The unbelievably prolific Alan Sillitoe Committee are setting us a regular challenge of how to promote, link and interrelate their material.
And finally the Vanilla Galleries, who for the first week of our launch did 6 hour blocks of live art every day, including the bank holiday weekend and overnight, which called on all the live service team (Ana Lucia Gonzalez, Dora Sommerville, Mike Osborn and Sally Taft) to work even longer hours than we already had to launch the service.
My best moment so far: with less than a week until launch the first piece of actual content arrived in the office (7083 TVC) in the form of a donation from Gilbert and George, delivered by Paul Wu. Cue hysterical joy at the idea of actually having something to publish on May 1. We'd calmed down a bit (only a bit) by the time the next generous gift arrived from David Shrigley - they will have friends in Space forever.
It's been unexpectedly fun engaging arts organisations in compliance, less fun encouraging them to do music reporting. More fun than you'd expect promoting art/The Space on Twitter and Facebook and much more fun than it normally is at the BBC working with the technical and ux team on developing a service which is still very much work in progress.
One of the hardest parts has been managing user expectation about any project that the BBC is associated with, particularly in relation to accessibility, Freeview HD and browser compatibility. Everyone expects it to be perfect from the very beginning (if only they knew!) and it's hard to explain that this is more like a mini start-up, rather than a full on BBC service. We're still working on the CMS and developing it every week, as challenging projects require new features.
For a proposition which was launched quite softly, the initial stats of over 250,000 visits in the first couple of weeks have been encouraging. More than 3,000 people caught up with Britten's War Requiem on The Space in the week after we streamed it live (only available in the UK) and the OverWorlds & UnderWorlds Festival in Leeds on the weekend of 18/19 May was watched live by more than 6,000 unique users.
On the editorial side there are still lots of challenges ahead.
We're trying to find a good way of telling the audience what's available - how do you search for something if you don't know it's there? - how do you schedule something when you don't know when it will arrive? What's the balance between a self-publishing model for arts organisations and a service provided by an editorial team which puts the user at the centre of the proposition? So, it's a huge relief to have launched and survived the first 6 weeks. But there's a lot of work ahead, especially to get answers to all those questions Tony talked about.
So if you use the Space please do a leave a comment.
Hilary Bishop is Managing Editor of the Space.