The history of BBC Backstage (the ebook)

At long last the Book charting the highlights of BBC Backstage is available for everyone to download and read.

Download in [PDF] [print ready PDF] [EPUB] [MOBI] [RTF]

Originally I wanted to celebrate the 5th Anniversary of backstage in May 2010 with a book made up with the contributions of the actual people who made it work over the years. So I contracted Suw Charman Anderson back in early 2010 to start work collecting the material for the backstage book and newspaper.

By April 2010, she collected and started to write up whole sections of the book with help from Kevin Anderson (Suw’s husband and good friend of Backstage). The whole thing was done over Gmail, Google Docs, Basecamp and Dropbox. The plan was to go to print with the book by Thinking Digital 2010, which was also the time when I was going to announce the closure of BBC Backstage. Of course we all know what happened in May/June to me (I had the bleed on the brain if you don’t remember).

This of course put everything in a tail spin and so we missed all the dates for printing, publishing and announcing the end of Backstage.

So fast forward to the point when I’m out of hospital and things are shifting at work. It made sense to pick up the large body of work which was almost finished back in May and put it out in the public domain. Of course this was easier said that done.

Brendan Crowther, Ant Miller and Adrian Woolard worked there socks off collecting together all the bits which were floating on these different services. Not only that, they built a small team of professionals who helped manage the process of making the ebook (as it became).

One of the things which I never got around to doing before my bleed was the design of the book. We had planned to use the newspaper club’s default templates with a little fix here and there. But Nicole Rowlands has done a amazing job stamping her distinct style into the ebook.The copy also had a rethink and re-edit by Bill Thompson and Production editor Jim McClellan. Between all these people and of course Sarah Mines everybodies favorite BBC publicist and PR Lady…

….We finally give the world Hacking the BBC: A Backstage retrospective.

BBC Backstage was a five year initiative to radically open up the BBC, publishing information and data feeds, connecting people both inside and outside the organisation, and building a developer community. The call was to “use our stuff to make your stuff” and people did, to the tune of over 500 prototypes.

This ebook is a snapshot of some of the projects and events that Backstage was involved in, from its launch at Open Tech 2005, through the triumph of Hack Day 2007 and the shot-for-web R&DTV, to current visualisation project DataArt. We take a diversion to Bangladesh to see how a Backstage hacker helped the World Service keep reporting through the horrendous Cyclone Sidr, and look at the impact of the ‘playground’ servers, used inside the BBC.

Backstage’s mandate, throughout its history, was for change. It changed the way people think, the way the BBC interacted with external designers and developers, and the way that they worked together. So what remains, now Backstage is no more? The legacy isn’t just a few data feeds and some blog posts. Backstage brought about permanent change, for the people who worked there, for its community of external developers and for the BBC. What better legacy could one ask for?

Download in [PDF] [print ready PDF] [EPUB] [MOBI] [RTF]

Author: Ianforrester

Senior firestarter at BBC R&D, emergent technology expert and serial social geek event organiser.