Feb 20

Notes from BeeBCamp

I was honoured to be invited along to the BBC for their second BeeBCamp, one of a group of external people who came along to, as Philip says ‘to leaven the mix’. Hopefully I contributed something, I definitely learnt a lot. Each session was only about 20mins, not nearly long enough, and many ran over.

UGC: What do you do with it?

Ran by Charlie Beckett, this session asked questions about why the BBC asks for UGC, what they do with it, what are the transaction costs and what is it worth. The session specifically focused on content that is SENT TO the BBC, often current affairs/news related, through the website or after on-air requests. From the discussion, the BBC thinks it obviously does add value, both for the participants (happy to submit things) and for content that is used. But they only use a small handful, with the recent Snow Day resulting in over 60k images being sent in and only a few displayed.

The discussion later went onto the difference between ‘publisher’ or an ‘enabler’. For example, with the snow photos, they BBC could publish a few of them and that would be it. But for one of the audience, who worked in the education site, the BBC could also be an enabler – take the UGC, comment on it and use it to add further value to the relationship, ie discuss how people could take better snow photos.

When it comes to more newsy items than photos of snowman, there is always a burden of verification on the BBC, they have to be sure that what they use is truthful, valid and genuine, so they have to think carefully about what they use and how they can use it.

Games and the BBC

The next session I took part in focused on what the BBC is doing and could do with games. A key issue seems to be the definitions used, which are not consistent. A better set of words to use would be ‘playful content’, stuff that the public can play with. Games/interactivity are part of the BBC remit and their is an opportunity with some re-organisation to consider the strategy and plan for new things. However, there is a cultural issue (as there is most other places) about what games are and what they actually mean to people.

Different groups across the BBC are working on this problem and this appeared to be a great session for them to connect, as the work in London, Radio, Salford and Glasgow were all discussed. There’s some fascinating collaboration taking place between the Glasgow BBC and the University of Abertay in the gamespace.

The BBC could offer some valuable development opportunities, giving game companies the opportunity to do stuff they would not normally be able to do. Dan, from Six to Start, suggested that they BBC need to ensure that there is a clear structure in place to talk to about ideas, as at the moment, it is spread out and not clear at all.

I’m a pirate, what are you going to do about it

A general discussion about ‘piracy’, the Pirate Bay trial in Sweden, alternate routes for getting content and making money out the content, such as bandstocks.com, rights, iPlayer, streams and downloads. According to some around the table, many people are torrenting because of the ease and convenience. Another group argued that actually, it is far easier for most to hit the play button on iPlayer (or Hulu, or whatever your choice is) and torrenting is far too difficult. A key reason why people may struggle through the set up of the clients is because the entertainment is not available in ways that make it easy for them – in their format, their time, their place.

There were three key types of ‘pirates’. those who do it because of ease and convenience of access (the ones who would most easily switch to channel provided routes), those who do it as they will never pay for anything and want to ‘stick it to the man’ (unlikely to choose an alternartive route) and those who want the content to do things with – the remix brigade)

BBC Blackops – post lunch there were a few wild moments triggered by a laptop sticker, where a new pitch for a TV show was considered: BBC BlackOps. It included stealth helicopters, men in uniform zipping down lines, secret computer rooms with computers that could never be turned off and the porn highlight editing suite, producing highlight packages in the same way the sports guys do. (although there was a discussion about how you determine what a porn highlight is). However, the madness soon abated and we got back to the serious discussions.

UGC: Enabling co-creation and remixing

Following on from the first session this morning, which looked at the public sending content to the BBC, I decided to run a session on how the BBC could help enable co-creation and remixing my letting content OUT from the BBC. I tried to steer away from data, which I know they do a fair bit of already via Backstage, and look at the entertainment properties. One rational, which I don’t think I explained in the session, was that the BBC make some great programmes based on the ‘classics’, programmes that appear make a fair bit of money in foreign and DVD sales and win awards. These stories and characters are in the commons, in the public domain, so how are the BBC contributing back to the commons. My notes on this are understandable brief, but it seemed to go well; there were some interesting future activities discussed which will become visible in the next few weeks/months but were not bloggable – I’m looking forward to see what happens with them.

Some notes I took were:

  • Comedy Soup tried something like this, released the raw material, but the uptake was small and had little focus
  • Producers are concerned about people subverting the content. (this is the same argument found in my industry, but brands can be very surprised at how much good stuff can be created
  • Commissioners don’t necessarily have the same understanding as the people round the table
  • Adventure Rock – a children’s virtual world – had great success letting the members create the story around the assets, gave them all the tools to work with.
  • Teachers TV does it all the times – expects remix, reuse and re-release. Al Jazeera does something similar
  • Major concern about allowing more certain types of content (mainly currently affairs/news) out. I think this was a misunderstanding about the call for content to be released – I primarily wanted to focus on entertainment not news. Also, it was never said that it had to be done with everything, you would choose what to release just as carefully as you choose what to broadcast.

A new kind of Book Club

this session was about a new tool that is being developed by Adrian Hon, which allows you to annotate texts/books online. Not new, but he’s adding a lot of social network tools to it, such as groups, notifications etc to make it a far more community appearance. The discussion extended to being able to do this with videos, scripts etc.

Communities and Comments

A mainly off the record conversation about message boards and comments on the BBC. One things I learnt, which is never realised, is the the Points of View Boards have lots of conversations about ITV programmes, such as Emmerdale, as those sites don’t allow conversations. Completely weird in my opinion. In general, the conclusion was that boards where there is clear direction from hosts (community managers) were far more effective than those without, which is not an unsurprising conclusion

That was it; then we went to the pub. Well some of us did, I think a lot of the BBC people went back to their desks! I had a good day and was exhausted at the end of from concentrating hard. This was the second BeeBCamp, i hope they run more.