BBC BLOGS - The Editors

Comments and making our coverage more social

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Alex Gubbay Alex Gubbay | 09:25 UK time, Friday, 18 March 2011

Following on from our website editor Steve Herrmann, I wanted to share with you more details about how we plan to integrate your comments into our stories, as one element within our overall aim to make our website feel more social.

Screenshot of Have Your Say

And why, as part of that strategy, we have decided to close our Have Your Say platform.

We have for many years made a virtue of including UGC (user-generated content) in our output - for example, within our recent coverage of both the Middle East and Japan, across TV, radio and online, you will have seen, heard and read lots of newsworthy first-hand material which has either been sent directly to us or which we have sourced and verified from the wider web.

But take one look at our popular Live Page coverage on any big story, and you'll now also see tweets, comments, blogs and other web links regularly curated within our overall narrative to help provide context and rounded reaction to unfolding events.

We have also for many years run our Have Your Say debates, but within a specific section on the site, often in something of a silo away from the rest of the content. So having changed the underlying technology last year - to bring it into line with the pan-BBC system, we are now in a position to surface that interactivity more within the stories - themselves.

Screenshot of comments

And in doing so, we hope - with the introduction of editors' picks and the return of a recommend option - to showcase interesting additional insight and perspective.

Editors' picks will be the default view once any comments have been selected, but users will be able to then tab to see all comments and also rate them, functionality I know has been sorely missed since we had to remove it in last year's transition phase.

The eagle-eyed among you will have noticed us trying out our comments module across different stories in recent months. The full functionality (including rating and promotional modules showing numbers of comments) is not yet implemented, but should be within a matter of weeks.

Even at this point, we will still only enable it on a selection of content each day, determined by our editors and the news agenda - as is currently the case with Have Your Say. Moderation will also work exactly as it does now.

However, once we have rolled out, we intend to close Have Your Say in its current form - most likely in early April. Though World Have Your Say - the BBC's global interactive news discussion show - will continue across BBC World Service, World News TV and online.

It is a reflection of the changing online landscape and the advent of social media that we feel the time is now right to move on from Have Your Say.

This process is essentially about us online focusing more now on encouraging discussion around our content itself, rather than looking to host or manage a community.

As my colleague Ian Hunter mentioned a couple of months ago - in terms of bbc.co.uk as a whole, "the next phase of our approach to social will be to move from a site which offers a few fairly circumscribed social experiences to one which is more social everywhere".

And indeed embracing the different ways and places we can look to do that, on Facebook, Twitter and elsewhere, as well as on our own site.

This is why, in the coming weeks, you will also notice changes to our share tools (showing total shares/breakdown by site and using short URLs), making it easier for you to send our stories - as with this story - onto your friends and comment on them via your networks.

We have also built up a more established BBC News presence on social media - spearheaded by our @BBCBreaking Twitter account - which last week broke through the 1 million follower mark. We'll be doing more to make this and our other BBC News social media accounts easier to find from the website.

At the same time, we're also taking the opportunity to think about how we can better promote and integrate key information, stories, pictures and video which you send or share with us into our online output as well as TV and radio, and more consistently signpost when we want it, and how.

I'm really proud of the excellent curation and audience relationships we build from our UGC team with so many people each day - and I want us to reflect that even more clearly when the result of that work is, to name but a few examples, video which makes it into a package on our News at Ten, a great interview which leads the Today programme on Radio 4, or an iconic image for a website photo gallery.

We have some thoughts in development now, but any feedback would be appreciated, not least about ways we can make it easier for you to submit newsmaking content to us, especially via mobile, and even if you also intend to post it online in other places yourself.

In the meantime, I'll come back on here soon to confirm when comments will be fully functional across the News site, and the precise closing date for Have Your Say.

Alex Gubbay is BBC News's social media editor. You can find him on Twitter @AlexGubbay

Changes to Have Your Say

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Alex Gubbay Alex Gubbay | 12:12 UK time, Monday, 15 February 2010

Next week, we will make some changes to the News website's Have Your Say section.

BBC iD logoThe technology we currently use to host debates will be replaced by the system we use for our blogs - including this one. That system includes BBC iD, our sign-in process for comments and other user-generated content, which we are rolling out across BBC Online so you only have to sign in once to use any of our services.

This means old Have Your Say accounts will no longer be valid; so if you do not already have a BBC iD account, you will need to create one.

Some elements of the current service - including recommendation - will not be carried over to the new system, but we hope the switchover will address the most frequent complaint we get about Have Your Say: that comments take too long to appear.

We are not promising instant publication, but we are confident that moderation queues will be significantly reduced and the moderation process more transparent. With any luck, there should be a big improvement in your user experience.

The developments are the first step in a gradual development of our interactivity, and I look forward to keeping you up-to-date with further enhancements over the coming months.

*** UPDATE 13:00 Wednesday 24 February ***
We have just published our first debates on the new system - one on Ofsted's criticisms of the Three R's, and one on the political situation in Nigeria.

Alex Gubbay is BBC News's social media editor.

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