BIF and Euan Semple

Euan Semple

Independent Advisor on social computing for business

Semple is a well-known writer, thinker, public speaker and independent advisor on social computing for business. As the former head of Knowledge Management for the BBC, Semple pioneered the use of weblogs, wikis and on-line forums, enabling the staff to work more effectively. Semple’s unique experience enables him to provide inspiration on this wired-up world of work and strategies for how businesses can prepare themselves for challenges and opportunities that come with new technologies.

  • collaboration in the BBC – introduced blogs, RSS, wikis etc into the BBC
  • 15 yrs ago, had a serious problem that had been escalated all through the experts.  Got to the top consultant, very disengaged, did a lot of tests and told him there was nothing wrong!!1 
  • looking at the boards and forums, found information from people, and made some decisions that allows him to change the way he lived
  • evident that the gatekeeper role of the specialist was not good for him, there was more information out there that helped him
  • in the BBC, a lot of time in the World Service, 47 languages and there was more collaboration in that department than in the rest of the BBC
  • later ended up managing some of the editors, 2 groups – film editors and video editors.  Film were very arty and creative and video people were engineers, more ‘manageable’.  But the people who changed things were the film editors. 
  • I ended up running a unit called digilab – looking for new technology and how to use it in the organisation
  • some of us were playing on the web at the time, using their own servers…got some of these tools in the business – did not have to speak to IT!  had own servers
  • Got Chris Locke in to speak to a bunch of managers, to introduce them to the web.  CL started the talk about how his life was falling apart, how he was splitting from gf..and then he stopped and stated that this is how they talk on the web – it’s personal, not objective business speak
  • we used advocacy to grow the use of the tools.  Last yr there were 23k using the forums, 5k using the wiki.  Slow growth
  • Asking questions is often a problem, admitting you do not know things can be an issue.  Add on to that the feeling that managers feel they are in charge, in control, these tools were a challenge.  We encouraged the staff to talk about anything and some of the threads tested even me.  One of the threads was about being single..which turned into a dating thread!!   We let it go..and 3 days later one of the producers came in and said the thread had done half the research for a programme he was making. Being human and social had helped.
  • The BBC had done a number of attempts to get people to behave socially – lots of top down initiatives.  the forum had done more than those to develop the one BBC
  • One thing he believed was the content had to be collectively owned..avoided going in and ‘sorting’ it.  It would not change if it was always controlled.  They went in and asked questions…tried to get people to think.  There’s no one currently managing the system, but it still grows, it still has life.
  • at home there’s all this stuff that people are doing and then they come to work and get told what to do. 

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