Small steps: BBC Backstage


I’ve been working in the BBC now for five years, firstly in TV and for the last few years in New Media
and I can honestly say that I have never felt such a buzz in the BBC as
I do now and I think that’s reflected in the wider industry (witness the flickr sale and the frenzy of activity put out by Yahoo! and Google).  Things are changing and one of the biggest changes is the
rise of the techie.  Techies rule!  (well some of them do). Where once bureaucrats and
‘editorial’ management held sway, now it is increasingly technologists, who understand how to manipulate and manage digital infrastructures and content, who drive change.

Why do I mention it? Because one of the projects that has preoccupied me lately is BBC Backstage,
the BBC’s developer and designer ‘network’.  It ‘launches’ today as a
beta. BBC Backstage, I believe, is recognition of the fact that now
more than ever the truly creative people are those with technical and
design skills, often ‘amateurs’, often our audience; those with the
ability to ‘make‘.  It signifies a shift from the lab to the kitchen and the bedroom.
One of the factors in enabling this shift is the stability and
coherence around  languages and scripts which have matured so that it
is now possible to build with greater speed, collaboratively, and at
less cost due to things such as opensource.  Moreover, the level of knowledge around systems, behaviour and designing for
social software has also improved dramatically, even at the edges: best
practice is easy to come by, the collaborative filter that is the internet  enables the wisdom of crowds
to take effect and pick the shit that works.  This means that we don’t
have to re-invent the wheel everytime you want to make something.  We
just have to pick the wheel that fits the job.  To harness the skills
and endeavour of this talent base in a way that works for the
individual as well as the BBC has taken time and there is still a way
to go.  These are small steps. 

BBC Backstage follows a
model for innovation that has already proved successful with Yahoo,
Amazon and Flickr, who allow people to play with their infrastructure –
for Amazon it’s product ID for Flickr it’s image ID and their incumbent tags and for Yahoo its urls and search terms.  For the BBC
it’s primarily content and that is pretty unique.  I cannot think of
any other content provider that actively ‘syndicates’ its content to
others for them to play with.  In a similar way to the Creative Archive, BBC Backstage has a legal framework
for non-commercial, share-a-like, re-use and redistribution.  I do not
believe this is a coincidence: the two projects can be seen as
familial, complimenting each other in the whole but still as different
as any sibling in the way they ‘work’. One audio-video, the other text
based.  Both offering bright futures for the BBC.

Bengangsta geek
"not pretty, but effective".
…and of course all the talented BBC staff who participated in the beta and whose work is up on the site.

Related stuff:
Cory discusses BBC RSS Licence on Boing Boing
Ben replies
BBC News on

ost now.  I’ve re-written that sentence 3 times already

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