BBC backstage + Web 2.0 = BBC online 2.0?

At long last its ok to write my feelings about what is going on in the bbc recently. Well first up the context. The BBC is commited to public support, innovation and driving the need for digital takeup in the areas of Broadband (online), Digital Radio and Digital TV. Great, but what does that actually mean?

Well I wont explorer too deeply into the BBC response to the Graf report, but one of the many projects is one called BBC Backstage.

The BBC will support social innovation by encouraging users’ efforts to build sitesand projects that meet their needs and those of their communities. Where market impact considerations allow, BBC management will provide access to core infrastructure applications, like the postcoder database at the heart of iCan, which can in turn become the core of new social applications created by our users, for our users. This is exemplified through plans for Backstage, a public site for the BBC’s in-house development teams to share development plans with their peers and audiences. In a similar way to Google’s Labs test-site, this will be a place to demonstrate work in progress, share expertise and invite contributions and collaboration with expert users. The BBC will also be committed to using open standards that will enable users to find and repurpose BBC content in more flexible ways.

Yes think about it like Google labs and your almost on the right track. Unlike google labs, we may expose data which will relate to the people more than google. Things like Search, Postcodes, Weather, News, Listener data, Geography data, TV listings, etc, etc. The applications, services, etc which are built upon our data from the public will not be hosted on our servers. Not to say that BBC employee's wont try things out internally and expose them externally. But the emphases is on explosing the underline data through webservices or simple API's. Or we are asking in return is to keep it non-commercial, tell us about the service, application, etc and add some kind of attribution to the BBC and BBC backstage. Simple!

This goes deeper into the BBC that you may at first think. For example since I've been working for the BBC it has been very cagey about releasing information about planned projects. And of course understandably, no companys wants to see the latest plans taken and modified by others in the same industry. But you have to ask who are BBC's rivials? Specially in the online space, who? Any how google, flickr, yahoo, microsoft, etc all seem to manage to deliver enough content to know whats going on pass the press release but not critical plans. This almost transparency is what the BBC is starting to adopt now instead of just talking about it.

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Author: Ianforrester

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