Beebcamp 3

Published on 27 November 2009 in , , ,

Friday 27 November saw BeebCamp 3 hit the BBC – a BBC type unconference run for BBC staff. Lots of people will probably blog about the event far better than I ever could but I’ll give it a go.

Beebcamp Manchester viewed on the webcam at BeebCamp London

The day was split into half hour chunks, so there were eight session times, with several sessions going on at any one time – some in London, some in Manchester, and one each from each location but done over video conferencing. Or at least that was the plan – there seemed to be some technical hitches with one of the links.

There were lots of great sounding sessions and quite often I wanted to clone myself in order to see everything, but here’s what I did attend…

Session One – Twitter on air. Is it a bit Vicar in trainers?

That’s a title that needs explaining. Someone from Five Live spoke about how presenters will really promote their personal Twitter accounts during shows, but the reality is that they get very little response for the show from there. In contrast, they get bombarded with texts. So why aren’t presenters plugging text more? And does it make the presenter and station sound like they’re trying too hard to be trendy when most people don’t care (cue the vicar in trainers reference.)

This made a really interesting discussion which would easily make the subject of a whole detailed post in itself. I confess I have a bit of a problem with presenters promoting their own Twitter account on air – you wouldn’t accept a presenter plugging their new book on the BBC every day, yet presenters can plug their Twitter account and on there plug their book!

There were lots of debates about the tensions between the brand of the presenter and the brand of the station on this one, and how people want to interact directly with the presenters, but for my money (for what it’s worth) every presenter should be Tweeting on a single, official station account – StudioAtBBC6Music or something. NME Radio do this really well – people interact with the station AND the presenter at the same time.

Don’t think we reached consensus but it was a really good discussion.

Session Two – Wii Social Gaming

Ste – who is a design trainee at the BBC and has been doing some sterling work for us on TV iPlayer – showed us his university project. It’s a game concept that’s all about using the Wii to play games with friends. His belief is that the Wii’s missing a killer game in this area that really suits the user base and I tend to agree.

It’s rather hard to explain in brief words – you really need to see it to understand – but again there was some really interesting conversations about what direction you could take the concept in to develop in and take it in different directions.

Session Three – Improving the BBC intranet

After coffee I went to a session cohosted by a former colleague, Michelle, who worked with us in TV Platforms for a bit but is now at the BBC Intranet team.

As with many corporate intranets, ours is often impossible to use, so this was a good brainstorming session on how to make it work given the intranet team is often (sadly) lacking in resources and buy-in for what they do.

One of the results was that often the tools we all need to get the essentials done, are actually available already but they aren’t well known. Time to go on a publicity drive…

Session Four – Mobile media around the home

I was trying to live tweet Beebcamp and this session gave rise to perhaps my most unintelligible tweet of the day:

walk in the door, MP3 player on – I want the music on the speakers straight away!

What I was thinking was this. Sometimes I’m on the way home and I have my MP3 player on and I’m really loving a song that’s on. I want to be able to walk through my front door and be able to quickly and easily listen to that song on my hi-fi straight away. No faff, no hassle.

Now imagine that it was a song but I’d been watching a BBC TV programme on the train, and I get home and want to watch it on the TV. And millions of other ways you might want to be able to move around your house and interact with BBC content. Cue subject of this discussion!

A lovely thing about this session was that we could talk about great ideas. Normally in BBC meetings like this it would be hard to escape talking about the problems, and ultimately you’d get bogged down in them. Great to talk about the ideas instead.

Session Five – Project Natal and what the BBC could do with it

If you haven’t heard of Project Natal, then I suggest you watch the video on YouTube. It’s Microsoft’s vision of a controller-less X-Box and does lots of clever things like voice recognition, mood recognition and all sorts. Well that’s the plan.

After lunch, Merv (who works with me in TV Platforms) hosted a session about what the BBC could do with such technology. Children’s stuff came out very strongly, with my favourite idea being the suggestion that an on-screen Tweenie could tell a kid to get an apple and wouldn’t let them watch any TV until they’d eaten it. It would naturally not allow them to proceed if they picked up a chocolate bar! Evil I know but fun.

Other suggestions were ideas like detecting your mood and finding you some iPlayer content appropriate – if you were sad, show some comedy. That kind of thing.

In a few years this kind of technology will be everywhere, so it’s useful to think now.

Session Six – Rupert Murdoch Censored My Comment

Joanna Geary from Times Online was with us and spoke a bit about their experiences live blogging from the G20 protests and about how if comments weren’t moderated quickly, the accusation came out that “Rupert Murdoch censored my comment”.

Rupert naturally doesn’t have anything better to do clearly(!) but this lead to a great debate about moderation in online communities, and what you do with the content. And indeed how you make user generated content better.

Lots of stuff discussed and I can’t remember it all I’m afraid. I’m sure someone will write this one up better than me! I was far too busy being impressed that I was in the same session as BBC London News’s Mike Ramsden. I am easily pleased.

Session Seven – Blogging War and Terrorism

Dan is doing a PhD and he spoke a bit about blogging in areas like Afghanistan and the differences in the number of journalists blogging in areas like war coverage, and (say) politics and finance.

I suspect bits of this one were slightly lost on me as there were a few more newsy people in the group. Interesting to listen to but I’m hopeless at summarising it. But I’ll leave you with a thought.

In business the BBC’s star blogger is Robert Peston. In politics, it’s Nick Robinson. Who could be the celebrity war and/or terrorism blogger?

Session Eight – Should the BBC make more data open?

Final one and the answer is yes from pretty much everyone, but the time old question is how do persuade management that it’s a good idea because half the time they don’t understand it or why it’s good. As one person said, it’s not about letting the develop community have access to all this data, but about what great stuff users can do with what the community has made.

Don’t think we got a conclusion on this one, although I did resist suggesting saying “Look, if you can, just do it, wait for the applause and let management moan about it later. It’s hard to moan when you have adulation coming at you from everyone.”

Maybe I should have said that…

Wrapping Up

So that was my BeebCamp, but I can’t end without saying what a great day it was, that I’m already looking forward to next years, and to give a bit thumbs up to BBC Manchester’s Bubble machine. Everytime someone used the #bc3 hashtag on Twitter, a machine in the room in New Broadcasting House blew some bubbles. How cool is that? And I want one.

The photo at the top incidentally is of the guys at BeebCamp Manchester viewed via the power of the webcam on the telly in BeebCamp London. And in the bottom corner is me in London taking a picture of the telly showing BeebCamp Manchester. Rock and indeed roll!