BBC Backstage – The End of an Era

So there’s been talk about the end of BBC backstage for a while and in certain circles its been heavily discussed.

As has been discussed recently in the press and various channels online, the BBC has taken the decision to close BBC Backstage in December 2010. Given the report recently in the Guardian Tech blog this no doubt comes as little surprise to most. However, I thought I’d take the opportunity to explain why this decision was made and what it means for the BBC as an open innovator in the future.

BBC Backstage has been a great success. I am very proud to have worked with the team on numerous projects. It was the forerunner to many other emerging, successful initiatives and has made a valuable contribution in driving the BBC towards genuine open innovation. In many ways it has been very much of its time.

More details will follow over the next few weeks but I can say…

  • I am not out of a job instead I’ve been planning to do more research for a while
  • The BBC have not done this behind my back (I’m still off work on sick leave)
  • We had planned to shutdown BBC backstage since May but thats exactly when I had my bleed on the brain, so everything got pushed
  • I had planned to do an announcement at Thinking Digital 2010 in Newcastle
  • I’ve been behind backstage for about 4 years and I really do care about this amazing innovative project
  • I’m not the only person whos been involved in its success. James Boardwell, Ben Metcalfe, Matthew Cashmore, Rain Ashford, Ant Miller and Brendan Crowther all have worked for BBC Backstage.
  • Also Matt Locke, Tom Loosemore, Jem Stone, Huw Williams and Adrian Woolard have managed the slippery beast which is BBC Backstage. Oh and never forget Sarah Mines the BBC Publicist whos work life was changed when she got bbc backstage as her new project.
  • Although there was lots of events and large scale prototypes which will be talked about over the next few months. Please please don’t forget the small prototypes, events and sponsorship which bbc backstage was responsible for, as those matter as much as the big stuff.

Hopefully over the next few months, we’ll explain the impact backstage has had on the BBC as a whole and why all good things must come to a end.

Welcome to Steve Jobs distortation field, where open is closed


Steve jobs is a tricky figure, theres no doubt about that. When he talks, you can feel the distortion field emerging from everything chosen word he uses. As I’ve always said Steve Jobs and Apple are against choice and therefore freedom. Evidence? Well theres tons this week

Steve jobs slagged off Android saying Android is too difficult to build for due to many different types of handsets. He then said "Twitterdeck" (yeah I know – think he meant Tweetdeck, has he got any clue about social media? This wouldn’t be a problem if he didn’t use it as a example) was having a nightmare developing for Android.

Steve Jobs’ amateur sleuthing last night brought up that gorgeous TweetDeck chart showing the vast variety of Android handsets out there, which the Apple CEO used to illustrate the "daunting challenge" he perceives developers have to face when creating apps that work across all devices and OS builds for the platform. Only problem with his assertion (aside from Steve calling the company TwitterDeck)? His opposite number on the TweetDeck team thinks nothing could be further from the truth: "we only have 2 guys developing on Android TweetDeck so that shows how small an issue fragmentation is."

Next evidence.

"Let’s talk about the avalanche of tablets. First, there are only a few credible competitors. And they all have seven-inch screen. This size isn’t sufficient to create great tablet apps."

"And this size is useless unless you include sandpaper so users can sand their fingers down to a quarter of their size. We’ve done extensive testing and 10 inches is the minimum tablet size."

"Given that tablet users will have a smartphone in their pocket, there’s no point in giving up screen size. Seven inch tablets are tweeners — too big to be a phone, and too small to compete with the iPad."

What a load of crap, if people want something smaller then the Android tablets are ideal to serve them. In Steve Jobs head, a 12inch tablet might be ideal but for the rest of us, its too big and too heavy to be really useful. Once again choice is the key word here. If you like the idea of smaller tablets, then Apple isn’t offering you the choice. Most iPad users I speak to wonder when the camera version is coming.

Even more crap…

We think this open versus closed argument is a smokescreen that hides the real question: What’s better for users, fragmented versus integrated?

"We believed integrated will trump fragmented every time."

"We are very committed to the integrated approach, no matter how many times Google characterizes it as closed, and we believe that it will triumph over the fragmented approach, no matter how any times Google characterizes it as open."

Android is fragmented, we all knew it would happen but thats not a excuse to give up your choice. I have friends who would like a physical keyboard why penalize them for this? For some people the touch screen isn’t friendly, but steve jobs doesn’t care about them. In actual fact its "Its my way or the highway!"

iOS is closed and google are right to call it so.

Finally in Q&A

One of these days we’ll eventually learn the Android numbers, and I imagine we’ll compete with them for a very long time. But we have very different approaches — ours is to make devices that just work.

Oh yeah of course just work? I’m very sure Android developers are thinking the same. Your not alone in that steve. No in actual fact your only interested in telling people through hardware and software how to live there lives.

Welcome to the steve jobs distortion field…