BBC Backstage needed to close, for BBC Taster to happen

BBC Tatser front page

It is my opinion. BBC Taster could not happen if BBC Backstage was still running.

A long time ago there was BBC Backstage, it was great and did a lot for the BBC and the licence payers who didn’t quite fit in the SME/Company bracket but were also not just consumers of the BBC’s output. I would suggest they were the 9% (I don’t think this figure is correct but go with it as it fits the 1% theory) which the BBC had a harder time understanding.

BBC Backstage was a great success and lasted 5 years achieving some incredible things including the first UK hackday. It changed the relationship with the tech & media-savy 9%, who frankly had enough of being treated mere audience members.

But it had to end, for good reasons as explained in my blog about why I shutdown BBC Backstage.The BBC Connected Studio and the newly launched creative playground BBC Taster. Would have been a very different proposition if BBC Backstage was still around. It would also been an injustice to the changing and diverse 9%.

I said in a previous blog

Things need to end (such as BBC Backstage, Innovation Labs, etc) for others to spark, grow and mature like BBC Connected Studio.

Well you can add BBC Taster to that list of others to spark, grow and mature… I know its not every-bodies cup of tea but change never is, but give it some time.

“Times change, people change, situations change, relationships change… the only thing constant is change.”

Talking at Thinking Digital 2013

Ian Forrester, Show and Tell

3 years ago I was meant to stand up at Thinking Digital and call an end to BBC Backstage, although I bet my reasoning wouldn’t be so well reasoned back then due to the obvious. A year before that I had the honour of speaking at Thinking Digital the next generation (a one day event aimed at young people of school age to twenties) and just after that hosting the makers workshop/panel. But having been at Thinking Digital right from the start, I had made talking on stage at Thinking Digital one of my aspiration in life.

Now I’m sooooo excited to announce I will be talking at Thinking Digital about one of my favourite subjects right now – Perceptive Media.

I will be sharing the slot with Adrian who will talk about BBC Connected Studio, like a phoenix rising from the end of BBC Backstage and BBC Innovation Labs.

I have been planning a different type of presentation from my usual one I did everywhere last year.

Expect short sharp and pretty intense… On top of that I’ll be showing something which we believe is a worlds first.

Yes your not going to want to miss this years, Thinking Digital conference

Connected Social: Design based thinking

My parents were deeply worried that I was doing too much again. Specially after what happened to me with mybrushwithdeath almost two and half years ago. I can tell you and them that my blood pressure is normal…

So what have I been up to…? Because my blog has also suffered due to the hectic schedule.

On Tuesday 30th Connected Social and 31st EpicWerewolf

BBC Connected Social

BBC Connected Social

I stopped arranging events because frankly my skill isn’t in arranging or managing them. Something Matt Cashmore was much better at than myself. However I’m good at being the spark and inspiration for the event in the first point.

After watching a few Connected Studios it become clear something was need to make it a more complete experience for people involved. Hence I convinced my manager of this need and we tried out Connected Social in July. That went well and after a bit of a break it made sense to bring it back.

The evening was all ignite style talks around the theme of design based thinking.

BBC Connected Social

It was a good night of talks and further concentrated the need for a social event following the connected studio events in my mind. Maybe a little shorter and around one set of talks instead but everyone still enjoyed it.

Of course by the end of the night I was glad it went well and I was able to create a good informative event for people, however I was already thinking about Epic Werewolf…

BBC Connected Studio/Social


I haven’t mentioned the BBC Connected Studio on my blog to date. However its about time…

So its a new (its been running since May) BBC project which is all about open innovation. Every month we put out a brief around a certain product area in the BBC. To date its been to redo the homepage, rethink the Weather and Travel services and this month its re-imagine services for the Cebeebies audience.

Every month theres one day of idea studio and the pitches at the end. The idea studio gives people a chance to come together and explore ideas against the brief. Of course you can just go into a corner and develop the idea with yourself or your pre-selected teammates. Its about what ever works to get the best ideas. I find people come with a rough idea and tend to combine the ideas together or build on each others ideas. Open innovation is the key here. After the ideas build up and you’ve had a chance to run through a series of workshops including a end user pitch (or not if you don’t want to). Your now working things up for the pitch to the commissioners and everyone else.

If everything goes well, you get selected and receive a email to say the commissioners would like to see it developed into a prototype. At which, about 2 weeks later, its build studio time.

The build studios are like hack days (our learning from hackdays, mashed and over the air) but they run over 2 days and the end presentation doesn’t receive some token prize, they receive a good daily amount for being there time while developing the prototype. However at the end there is the opportunity to pitch the prototype to the commissioners for more serious amounts of money.

The events take place in Manchester, Glasgow and London which means theres no reason not take part. And that applies to staff as well as externals. Actually theres something quite magically about seeing BBC staff collaborating directly with externals. I’ll be excited to see how things work when one such team go through to the later stages.

It sounds slightly complex but actually its pretty straight forward, and takes the best parts of Innovation labs and Hackdays on a ride.

The BBC is serious about Connected Studio and has pledged a million pounds behind the whole project.

Ralph Rivera

Ralph director of Future Media talked about how he loved BBC Backstage and what we built back then. And to be honest theres a air of Backstage floating through the whole process. For example anyone can register there interest via the BBC Connected blog (no secret handshakes or secret buddy systems just apply). This means you have as much chance as those on the BBC’s official supplier list. Connected Studio has attracted SME’s, startups, hackers and early adopters. Unlike backstage were talking about things which are made for deployment on the live site, so generally theres shorter term innovation (aka less 2 years).

The majority of new BBC Online products are built according to long term product roadmaps and the published commissioning process. However, we believe there’s room here for more disruptive thinking – that is, more experimental ideas that can be pitched, built and delivered to audiences in a faster, smarter way. We would like to hear from agencies and individuals who have fresh, innovative ideas to bring to this event and to seek funding.

The process isn’t perfect (but what is?) but is adaptable and is always looking for feedback.

BBC Connected Studio at Central Working

So whats my role in the connected studio?

Well thats still being worked out but I’ll have my R&D glasses on when watching the pitches and I’m very interested in the network of people who are doing innovative things and have been to a connected studio.

However, something I can talk about is BBC Connected Social, which are events linked to the BBC Connected studio process.

Like Connected Studio its still very early days and I’m expecting it to twist and change as it matures. But its a good chance for people external to the process because they can’t spare the time, never heard of it or didn’t make it into the process to learn more, network and pick up some really useful knowledge all at the same time. For those on the build studio, its a chance to take a break, network and consider a slightly different take on the prototype there building towards (if they wish).

The first one is Tuesday evening at Media City UK while future ones will also match the location of the Connected Studio (be it London, Glasgow or of course Manchester)

Its a chance to learn, debate and socialise on topics closely aligned to the BBC’s strategic themes.

The Build Studio for July is centered around CBeebies, and we are running a panel talking about building for the ages of under 13’s. With useful advice and tips from Mystic mobile & Lancaster’s Dr Paul Coulton, BBC’s Games grid Simon Lumb and BBC’s Children’s Jon Howard.

Hopefully we’ll see you at a BBC Connected Studio or Social soon… You know where to sign up and the next brief is around CBBC (Children’s BBC). Hopefully the next social will include a panel of young people talking about there media habits because that is always insightful.