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Bringing the BBC Manchester Blog Project to an End (is only the beginning...)

  • Robin Hamman
  • 28 Mar 08, 04:06 PM

The BBC Manchester Blog will be closing on Sunday. When Richard Fair and I launched it in August 2006 we had high expectations, not just of the blog itself, but of how the blog would help us to trial a new model of how the BBC and other broadcasters could engage with what the industry calls "user generated content". Our first post explained:

"For years, the BBC has been looking at ways to engage more directly with it's audiences. We've promoted email addresses on air and asked for photo submissions, we've stuck comment forms on the bottom of articles, we've spend countless hours building message boards and community platforms, our staff have reviewed and approved millions upon millions of messages - and what have we learned? That all this is expensive business.

In the past, whenever the BBC has sought to do something with user generated content we've built new platforms, taken on the role of managing all the content that floods in, asserted some rights over that content (although not ownership in the vast majority of cases) and, some would argue, exposed the BBC to legal and moral risks. Furthermore, doing things in the old way had a bit of a sting in the tail - if a service really took off, and sometimes they did, the BBC would actually face increased costs because our services often don't scale well.

This project is an experiment in doing things a bit differently. Rather than building platforms, we want to help people create their own stuff on existing third party (non-BBC) platforms. Instead of contributors sending us content members of staff here at the BBC sifting through that content in a bid to find the good bits, we're simply going to ask contributors to tell us where they're publishing their content online and we'll keep an eye on it. The BBC won't claim any rights over the content and won't own anything..."

Our new way of doing things raised quite a few eyebrows with some, at least initially, skeptical of our motives, and others excited by our attempt to try something a bit different.

As part of the project we ran a blogging workshop and organised some informal blogger meet-ups. And then you invited us to yours. We read your blogs and invited some of you to read your posts on the radio. We quoted from and linked to your posts and many of you linked back. Basically, we did what bloggers do through their blogs and comments and links - we had a conversation.

We have yet to write the final review of the project, in part because our time to work with the model came to an end a long time ago but the blog has carried on under a different guise. That said, below we've provided a brief summary of some of the key things we've learned from the project:

  • Being part of the community by participating as equals, as opposed to participating as a broadcasting organisation keen for new content but not interested in the community, brings with it many editorial and personal rewards.
  • Even if you use time saving tools such as RSS, social bookmarking and technorati, sifting through content and write posts that quote from and link to the best bits.
  • People don't necessarily blog or post content about the topics, stories and events that media organisations might hope they would - and, in our experience anyway, rarely post about news and current affairs.
  • As a stand-alone proposition, the amount of staff time and effort spent was high in comparison to the quantity of content generated and size of audience served. But, when we were able to use the contacts and content we found through the blog on-air that equation immediately changed. That is, in resource terms, the blog was costly as just a blog but much more efficient as a driver of radio content.
  • The best way to get noticed online is links and the best way to get links is to give good links yourself. That is, you have to play by the established rules of engagement and, online, that means linking prolifically.

Many of the ideas, tools and techniques we used as part of the BBC Manchester Blog have since been embraced by other BBC Blogs, websites and programmes. Indeed, word about the model we created for the BBC Manchester Blog has traveled far and wide, sometimes taking us with it, influencing a number of interesting projects elsewhere.

As for Richard and myself - well, we'll probably keep on blogging and, with any luck, will keep in touch with some of the great people we've met through the BBC Manchester Blog.

We'd like to thank all of you who took notice of or participated in the BBC Manchester Blog. You'll find links to some great Manchester blogs in our sidebar.

Finally, we'd like to say a special thanks to our good friend Kate Feld who, for a few months at the beginning of the project, became the BBC's first ever local on-air blog reviewer. If you want to delve beneath the surface of Manchester by reading it's blogs, Kate's Manchizzle is, in our opinion, the epicenter of the local blogging community.

Best wishes - and happy blogging.

Robin Hamman and Richard Fair

Recent entries

Guest Blogger

  • Richard Fair
  • 13 Feb 08, 10:59 AM

This week's guest Blogger is Rose Kennedy who is originally from Hyde, but has recently moved to be near her family in Romania.
Rose KennedyMy New Life in Romania

I was born In Hyde in 1942 in the back bedroom of my Granddad’s second hand shop on Market Street (that's not why they called me Rose by the way!).

I have lived quite an ordinary life really, living in Scotland and London because my husbands job took us there. Like most people I plodded through life doing different kinds of jobs etc.

Hyde Bus Station To cut a very long story short last year in December at the age of 60 I decided to move to Romania, my daughter Kathryn, her husband and three children had lived there for 7 years, I lived alone and just thought “what am I doing in Hyde when I could be near them?” It was a very big decision but off I went on the 17th Dec.

The life here is so different and I love it. The Romanian people are lovely and I soon made many friends, I am learning the language but was soon able to manage to go shopping on my own, the shopkeepers were very helpful and kind. In many ways it is like living in UK in the 50's especially in the villages.

Most people grow their own vegetables and keep chickens and ducks. You often see a horse and cart even the refuse is picked up in my daughter’s village by horse and cart.

Arad Railway Station, Romania A lot of old traditions still remain here too and Christmas and Easter etc. are not as commercial just simple things are appreciated.

Weekends and holidays are very much a family affair; families visit each other after church on Sundays and go to the park or to one of the ice cream parlours for a treat. I have a blog telling in more detail about my life here if anyone would like to read it, there is so much to tell.

All I can say is I did the right thing even though I still love Manchester and Hyde.

You can read Rose's Blog - My New Life in Romania - here.

Guest Blogger

  • Richard Fair
  • 30 Jan 08, 09:55 AM

There was genuine disappointment when the 43 blog came to an end. The simplicity of the idea alongside some excellent writing earned it recognition in the first Manchester Blog Awards. Now Geoff is back with a new Blog called 40three.

We invited Geoff to be our guest blogger and here he explains his reasons for returning to the Blogisphere.

Once a Blogger...

In the scheme of things, blogging is a medium in its infancy: plenty of dirty nappies and the odd bit of vomit, but enough beautiful smiles and an aura of potential to make you glad it exists. Here I share a little of my own evolving experience of blogging, one of an ending followed by a beginning.

I finished blogging, back in April last year, because I ran out of steam and I had to question the whole idea that a blog must be maintained (must they go on and on like The Times and Coronation Street, or can they have endings like novels and life?).

I didn't like the thought of leaving it to gather dust, with some half hope of resurrection, and I knew that a nagging itch of gilt would continually erode my morale, like an unwritten thank-you letter that still plagues the mind long after appropriate window has passed (Happy Easter! p.s. thanks for the Christmas present). I knew I had to end it cleanly.

The End.

However, not long after I had finished blogging I found myself having involuntary blog thoughts- 'hmmm that would make a fascinating blog post' I would muse as half an idea wafted through my mind, prompted by a headline, or a friend's throwaway comment.

I suppressed the urge, helped mightily by the fact that I had no blog on which to post. But come the new year, with resolution in the air (I can still catch it's scent, though it quickly dissipates in the bleak January winds), I commit to return to wonderful world of the weblog.

The Beginning.

So, why? Why begin after you have ended?

To blog is to write, to communicate, to share a thought, to offer a comment; and to be a blogger is to have to think like a blogger. I find myself walking down the street, or reading, or watching a film, and thinking blogger-thoughts - those thoughts specifically about what to blog. To blog is to get out something that is in us, but it is also about being noticed. It is about having a voice, even if a small voice in some quiet corner of the internet.

All these are good things, or at least they have the potential to be. But also there is this: to be honest, brutally honest, I blog because I want affirmation.

Let me be profound and witty, let me be touching and thoughtful, let me be inspired and creative (one lives in hope). Then people will read my blog and say nice things about me.

You can read 40three here.

Week ending - 18 January 2008

  • Richard Fair
  • 18 Jan 08, 10:46 AM

“Tonight, Coronation Street will be a four-hanky episode, the first of the newly scheduled Friday double episodes.” So says Corrie Blog. It’s the night we share our tears with Jack as Vera's lifeless body is taken from The Street. “It's an episode none of us really wants to see”, says Corrie Blog, but just like driving past a motorway crash we’ll slow down a little and gawp before heading off to Channel 4 to cook along with Gordon Ramsey. Talking of which, I did have a double take checking up on their website for the ingredients. On the main course page it says “Cookalong guinea pig”, but I think that refers to someone giving advice on how to cook steak.

Ear I Am’s Nigel in Newton-le-Willows is approaching a mid-life moment when it comes to music. “Maybe it’s the prospect of my 40th birthday (next year, not this) looming in the distance, but my music tastes have become decidedly middle of the road recently.

"The other day I compiled a CD of what I can only describe as DadRock,” he says before going on to list the likes of Kate Bush, Genesis, Peter Gabriel and Eva Cassidy.

I was only musing on my own blog this week about the signs of getting older. Mine are less to do with taste and more to do with how your body begins to rebel.

Meanwhile at the other end of the age scale Oscar and Isabelle are on a steep learning curve when it comes to raising a child. “Nine weeks in, what have we learned?” they ask. Amongst the gems are:

“Babies aren’t very bright sometimes.
Parents aren’t very bright sometimes, either: it took Mummy and Daddy a while to realise that you should never change a nappy in a room with carpet.
If Mummy forgets to wash behind baby’s ears, baby starts to smell of cheese.
If Mummy isn’t ‘allowed’ to shower, put the washing on, get dressed, iron clothes or brush her teeth, then Mummy starts to smell of cheese, too.”

Suddenly I don’t feel like eating my steak anymore.

Guest Blogger

  • Richard Fair
  • 16 Jan 08, 10:00 AM

This is the first in a series of postings from guest contributers to the BBC Manchester Blog. Guests are welcome to write about anything they have a passion for and if you'd like to be considered as a guest writer please contact us at the usual address - you don't even have to have a blog.

The Rochdale Canal by Paul of IckleWEB
Rochdale Canal
Hidden away under the streets of Manchester lie large stretches of the historic canal network.

The majority of which have been reopened over recent years to enable the public to use and walk along their towpaths once more.

For those with a few hours to spare when in the city centre, there are some impressive feats of engineering to see.

Take for example the Rochdale Canal tunnel running under the Malmaison Hotel on London Road - I counted a total of 9 different structures making up the tunnel, the brick arches over the road being the oldest, other forms of construction including riveted metal beams and also modern concrete.Rochdale Canal

It was fascinating to see such a variation in construction techniques all in one place.

For me, the biggest surprise was what I found under the adjacent 111 Piccadilly tower block.

It is as if there is a small subterranean world down there that nobody is aware of - locks, a small loading dock and a colourful mural are all hidden away under the tower block.
Rochdale Canal

The building itself has been constructed on many concrete columns which are unmissable but which enable the Rochdale Canal to remain navigable.

I would definitely recommend a wander along that section of canal heading out towards Ancoats as there is just so much to see from historical structures to new building developments.

Visit Paul's website

Week ending -11 January 2008

  • Richard Fair
  • 11 Jan 08, 10:52 AM

The working week started off with the sound of the Beetham Tower moaning in the early morning wind and will end with Jamie Oliver doing pretty much the same thing with chickens. Let’s hope it doesn’t get too windy – which leads us into:

Quote of the week
Local butcher John Mettrick, speaking on BBC Radio Manchester, said, “My farm is on the edge of the Pennines and with the winds we’ve had this week they (the chickens) would have ended up in Sheffield.”

Website of the week
Perhaps I’m being a little previous by including 40three. There are only a couple of posts on there, but if Geoff’s previous form is anything to go by, 43, then we can expect a high standard of writing and interest. Welcome back Geoff.

Also a quick nod to Day Of Moustaches who’s blatantly lifted a great idea from Every Day I Lie A Little. Basically the idea is to swap short stories for useful objects. Every Day’s top three wanted item is washing up liquid, while Moustaches will settle for a massive wide screen TV.

This could kick-start a whole new trend in bartering.

The next blog post will appear after a delivery of doughnuts.

That was the week...

  • Richard Fair
  • 4 Jan 08, 11:31 AM

Here’s the first of our weekly round-ups of what the Manchester bloggers are up to.

It seems that majority of bloggers are still getting over the festivities as blogs are still fairly quiet . But there are still a few interesting bits around.

Picture of the week
Paul in a cow hat. Ickle Web has kept us all up to date with his travels over the holiday period. But this has got to be the best picture of the week - Paul in a cow hat in Edinburgh. I presume he was there for Hogmoooooonay.

So what have we learnt this week?

The old British Council building at Grand Island is now just a shell - see 'Manchester Grand Island former BT Building under demolition'. I remember reporting from there on the day it opened. They’d spent a million pounds on a carpet. Wonder where that is now.

Tom has a new camera - see 'New Year & New Camera'. And like the good little boy he told Santa he was, he's been letting others use it too to take photographs of the sky - see 'Jane's Sky-Watch'

Almost Witty doesn’t understand Girls Aloud – see 'Lost In Music…'

And Corrie’s Gail’s eldest was originally going to be called David Daniel Tilsley, till Gail realised his initials would be DDT - see 'This week in Coronation Street history'

Let us know what you're up to via the e-mail address and we'll feature the best of the blogs here. Look out too for some guest bloggers starting next week on subjects ranging from blogging to not blogging.

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