Common User

Me rambling on.

Saturday, October 28, 2006

flickr in the evening standard

This, out of the blue, turned up in The Standard on Thursday. With quotes from Tom Dunmore (from Stuff Magazine) and from Yahoo, it was just a straightforward plug for Flickr. I think the peg was this might be the next Youtube (surely Youtube was once the TV version of Flickr) and/or here are some funny photos taken in London. It talks about the London Flickr groups but didn't bother to get any quotes from an actual photographer or attribute or credit properly the 3 photos they filled the page with.

Labels: , ,

New Guardian Music/Arts blog

It launched yesterday and nothing really to report yet. Its the same principle as Sport; It brings the existing arts blogs (ie: CultureVulture) into the CommentisFree design, aggregates all of the comment pieces from the paper(s) and commissions a few web only ones to boot. Or as Emily Bell puts it:

In the wake of the award-winning and internationally admired Comment is Free, we are launching the arts and entertainment blog which will aggregate our existing critics and, we hope, some new, fresh voices in the world of culture and the arts. We believe this will be a vital and hopefully noisy forum for users and critics to interact on the burning cultural issues of the day.

But the highlight so far has been, as ever, the Guardian's best writer (save Mark Lawson) John Harris and his willingness to er, join in in the comments after his furious piece about why Oasis should have called it a day in 1996. I like Be Here Now too.

Labels: , , ,

BBC Taliban Interview

Newsnight's report from Afghanistan and interview with the Taliban has received extensive coverage elsewhere. Euan, however, raised the point that frustrated at the quality and user experience of watching the item on why couldn't the BBC "just put their videos on Youtube". The issues about using Youtube as a distribution platform are discussed at length in the comments but i raised the point at the end that users are already doing a very effective job of using the site to circulate BBC material. Youtube (i think) index their site every 24 hours so the clips weren't showing up yesterday but sure enough this morning the full Newsnight interview (in 2 parts) has turned up. Newsnight are fully aware of their items/interviews being used in this way and this example illustrates, apart from permissions, that thorny issue of credit. Ripped from BBC2 it obviously has no DOG, and the astonishing reporter David Loyn and Newsnight are not mentioned. The intros and outros to the piece have been edited out. The user (Phantomsby) has titled it "BBC Taleban interview", however otherwise i wouldn't have picked it up in my search. Newsnight followed it up with a debate between Peter Horrocks and Liam Fox last night. with again their blog being used as the place discuss their editorial decisions with some strong support (and criticism) in the comments.

Labels: , , ,

Ruth Archer and the BBC message boards

Feedback on Radio 4 often uses message board postings and users as a way of sourcing items and speakers. The reaction from both the BBC editors when faced with this sort of criticism (and praise) by the presenter; Roger Bolton and then the subsequent reaction from the message board community itself is always filled with tension. The difficultly for BBC producers in how to respond to what is for some, a completely novel and vocal response to their work is sometimes very skillfully done but sometimes they seem v.taken aback by the strength and depth of conversations about "their" programme online and in an arena they were, til then, only partly aware of.

Yesterday Vanessa Whitburn, the editor of The Archers, was summonsed to defend the recent Sam/Ruth/David/Sophie storyline.
Things have been getting very steamy in the cowshed at Brookfield lately and Archers listeners who've written to Feedback talk of sensationalism and complain that some of the main characters seem to have had personality transplants. After David Archer's flirtation with his old flame Sophie, his wife Ruth has now embarked on secret trysts with the farm's cowman, Sam.
Some users had accused the BBC (despite this storyline arc having started nearly 2 years ago) as just spicing the show up for the sake of it. Seeing as there is always an affair storyline in The Archers and its one of the best things about it (Brian/Siobhan, Tom/Woman from Supermarket, Ed/Emma) I personally don't really have a problem but it's upset a lot of listeners. Personally I thought Vanessa gave a very good account of herself but she ended up causing all manner of fuss over on Mustardland (the nickname for the forum because it has a yellowy background) provoking a thread kicked off by Honeysuckle of over 250 comments for "blessing the message board".
Ok, how about a mass protest at VW's patronising attitude to us messageboarders on feedback.
I had to listen to the interview three times to understand what had provoked the patronising jibe amongst users. This is what Vanessa said:
The website, god bless em, they've been going barmy on this one for a couple of years or more. The lovely things they've said. The actings great and the writing of Ruth has been briliiant. One even said the scriptwriters were right on the money with this one. It reflects the lives of two people in my circle and is much more common than is often thought.
I think this shows that Vanessa and her production team clearly use the board as an insight into the succeess or not of their storylines so all credit to them for doing so. Actually The Archers board is one of the most thriving forums about BBC programmes actually within and is the Archers site itself regularly highlights ideas, best postings, faqs written and contributed by its users.

Meanwhile the woman at the centre of the fuss; Ruth Archer or rather the actress Felicity Finch is even more honest when it comes to her internet usage and the discussion in a Q and A on the site again sourced from many message board comments
I have to confess I never look at the message board. Partly because I never seem to have the time to 'play' on a computer and partly because I know I wouldn't find it at all helpful to read anti-Ruth comments.
For someone who has had Dead Ringers poking fun at her character for over 7 years then I'd say it was the least of her worries. Mind you I think she's playing the character of a mother tempted by an affair with great depth and some sympathy. I almost believe it.
For those desperate to see a conclusion to this plotline then elsewhere in her interview Vanessa hinted that the 15,000th episode coming up week after next would be "worth tuning into" with some "dramatic developments". Blimey.

UPDATE: The Sunday Telegraph has picked up on this story saying; "The website has been inundated with messages from listeners who are using it as a form of mass protest". Except er, as of today it hasn't. Its had about a few hundred negative postings out of tens of thousands. And Whitburn praised the message board community rather than criticise it.

Labels: , , , ,

Wednesday, October 25, 2006

Today: "one person's view is as good as another"

Euan's write up led me to this; a piece on this mornings Today show plugging a new competition for classical music writing in BBC Music Magazine. What could have been an innocuous bit of puffery developed into almost an illustration writ large of Jeff Jarvis' constant cry "When everyone’s a critic, where do all the critics go?".
And for the icing on the cake Carolyn Quinn questioned if bloggers could be trusted to " give a decent concert review". Here's a transcript of the short piece. The audio is still available but only temporarily.

TODAY: (Caroline ) Now not enough people are writing about classical music, so says BBC Music Magazine. To encourage them its launching a new competition called the Michael Oliver memorial prize which will be open to anyone under 25 who hasn't been published in a national publication and who wants to write a feature or a profile of a musician or a composer they admire. The magazine's editor; Oliver Condy joins me on the line now as does Daily Telegraph arts critic; Rupert Christiansen.
Oliver Condy, first of all; What sort of pieces would you like to see be put in for this competition.
OLIVER CONDY: Well we're basically after a chance for young people to get an entry in to the world of classical music. Its so difficult to become a music critic these days, there's no job spec, so we're after people to write a clear 250 words, a review of a couple of discs by the same artist and also a slightly larger feature, just profiling a musician or an issue that they feel really heated about. So its a good chance for people to have a pretty liberated go at pithy music journalism.
CAROLINE QUINN: So you're concerned at the lack of youthful writers
OLIVER CONDY: Well I'm concerned at the lack of youthful writers. Its not that I want us to sweep away the old guard but I do find that there are too few critics and they get bogged down slightly in their journalese and music criticism can become very lazy and uncommunicative and i really do think that bringing young people up and interested in classical music let alone writing about it can only be a good thing for the future.
CAROLINE QUINN: Rupert Christiansen. Let me bring you in here. You are a critic and you seem to have succeeded in a job that is quite difficult to get into. What do you think about this option for opening up the door to young people.
RUPERT CHRISTIANSEN: Well its very good. I don't want to be negative about it but I slightly feel that you've missed a trick Oliver. Its not very challenging and this "musician you admire" thing sounds like a GCSE project to me. The CD Review is so short that once you've got all the names in you're through.
CAROLINE QUINN:To pick up on that, the idea of being a critic you would say is a job that not everyone can do. You don't just write a short piece and then you're naturally a critic.
RUPERT CHRISTIANSEN: I think the energy you need to pick up on at the moment is in blogs, the classical music blogs, probably by older people. It would be great to get them in the fold.
CAROLYN QUINN: Oliver Condy, How do you answer those points ?
OLIVER CONDY: I wanted to set the bar at a fairly basic level.People can make of it what they want, by say profling a musician you admire you can really get under the skin. Its whatever level you want to take it at.
CAROLYN QUINN: Its not just GCSE style ?
OLIVER CONDY: Absolutely not. I'm hoping that people of GCSE age are going to enter and there are some wonderful writers out there. For science writers, for film critics but for classical music there is a real lack..and the point about the blogs. There are, as we know, hundreds and hundreds of thousands of blogs out there and its so difficult to sift through so by giving people a bit of a benchmark, a well known publication to get published in. The prize is to write a cover feature for the magazine so there is a really good chance to get into the limelight, with a blog it would be so difficult to do that.
CAROLYN QUINN: And with blogs do you not think Rupert Christiansen that some people would think well, we can't trust a blogger to give a decent concert review.
RUPERT CHRISTIANSEN: Well perhaps we should trust them. I certainly think there is a problem now. Professional critics now are on our way out.
CAROLYN QUINN: Oh dear. Thanks for talking us before you go (LAUGHTER).
RUPERT CHRISTIANSEN: There is a lot of mistrust of the idea of an expert or an authoritative scholarly critic. Opinion has been democratised pretty much through the internet in the past few years and there is a feeling that one person's view is as good as another. I find that slightly depressing I have to say.
----More plugs for the competition. Interview ends.

Monday, October 09, 2006

Nobody but the fans

I circled this in big red ink on yet another lenghty sojourn between Haywards Heath and East Croydon a couple of weeks ago. Its from David Hepworth's semi-regular column in the Media Guardian.
It sums up the problems for any publishers or how shall i put it large media company involved in creating editorial online; just how do you begin to understand the difference between publishing your stuff and what Hepworth calls the "arena". V.good on MSM attitude towards fans.

Here's the creative dilemma for magazine publishers on the web. They know how to fashion a product. A community site isn't really any such thing. A magazine is a compromise between the range of content that can realistically be offered, the people who can be persuaded to go into a shop to buy it and the advertisers who can be lured into supporting it. However, a website is an arena where things take place. The relationship between editor and reader is altered from priest-acolyte to host-guest. The magazine is no longer the gatekeeper guarding the door to the cupboard marked "content". They provide the name above the door of the club and what goes on inside will be dictated by the people who visit.

Editors are always ambivalent about the actual members of the public who pay their salaries. When readers are writing in to tell them how good their magazine is, they're people of rare taste and discrimination. When they're complaining about something, they're dangerous lunatics with too much time on their hands. With a community site you're inviting those self-same lunatics in and asking them to help
hand round the peanuts.

Just as the best websites are run by geeks in sheds rather than employees in cubicles, so the best community tends to be driven by people who are essentially intemperate, possibly not the kind of people you want near your carefully burnished brand.

And not that we need any more youtube commentary but Hepworth was at it again wading into the comments section of his blog for the v.fine Word Magazine which has been monitoring Youtube with love (an obsessive music fan) and horror (he 's a magazine publisher) for quite a while. Of all the tens of thousands of words about that i've ploughed through about that over the last few months, here is the best 100.

Most copyright owners don't pay much attention to their role as historical guardians until there's a pound to be made. Whenever record companies decide to reissue something from the pre-war period, for instance, they don't have a master tape to draw upon and end up having to re-master it from some fan's 78. In order to re-screen some of its old comedy the BBC has had to go to former members of staff who stole early tapes to stop them being wiped. Who's keepin all those promo videos and TV appearances and hanging on to them as companies change ownership? Nobody but the fans, if the example of YouTube is anything to go by.

Friday, October 06, 2006

The UK's top ten UGC news momentsd

Broadcast this week reports on what they call the "UK's Top 10 UGC News moments".
I'd link to the page on their site but blown if I can actually find it (behind a registration/pay wall or not).

They are:

1. Asian Tsunami
2. London Bombings
3. Concorde Crash
4. Terror Suspect Arrests (July 2005)
5. Forest Gate
6. Buncefield Oil Depot Explosion
7. Troops in Iraq
8. Mumbai Train Bombings
9. Whale in the Thames
10.Hurricane Katrina

My colleague; Vicky Taylor from BBC News is quoted.
"Its interesting how many vox pops from [Buncefield] said "and i took out my phone or camera to take a picture as an automatic reflex. At the BBC it is important to harness this willingess to record events. There has been a fairly dramatic change in how people view the news and their part in it... It has a much more humanising influence on our journalism. In the past we may have gone to charities and other organisations for our case studies, we now have direct access to real cases from the audience itself."

BBC Now/Next Module

Just trying out embedding Google Widgets into pages using Mario's BBC now/next module

Thursday, October 05, 2006

2 things in the New Statesman this week.

The best thing in the New Statesman this week is a rather rude review of Colin Murray by Rachel Cooke in the radio column. There's also another one of their odd supplements that document random round table discussions paid for by sponsorship that always seems ill fitting for the magazine. With the not exactly great come on of "IT and modernisation", it has some great stuff (as usual) from Will Davies, especially on the gulf between the perception of public services and our experiences when we actually use them. There's also contributions from Matt and contributions from my boss Tony Ageh about development at the BBC.

"We are much more into the buy rather than build culture. The hope of other industries that have made significant investment is that the BBC's technology will stand still to allow them to recoup their investment. That is an unfair burden to place on a public service body. Other companies can say. "Never mind the people with accessibility issues, its all about getting our return back", whereas the BBC has to go at the speed of the slowest members of its audience"
The full debate is available only as a PDF.
Its chaired by BBC columnist, pundit and "essayist" as the New Statesman puts it, Bill Thompson who has a good pay off quote at the end to cheer you up after 16 pages of legacy systems, mismanaged public sector IT projects, and talk of the National Audit Office.