Fixing the BBC Sports website: The start of a conversation

September 23, 2016

Corporal Jones

The BBC is currently asking users to comment on its Sports website.  I will do, but feel that setting out a few thoughts for wider discussion among LWD subscribers may also be useful

Over recent months I have found the new BBC sports website sadly lacking in the information I have relied on it to provide. It no longer can keep up with the speed of information, and the quantity of information generated by the minute.

Not for want of trying

This is not for want of trying. The BBC new sports website has presumably been changed to meet challenges of delivery to mobiles, iPads as well as PCs. The information is increasingly presented in a format I do not want, such as videos which are not far removed from clickbait.

If you haven’t come across clickbait, it is a means of attracting visits to a location which mainly turns out to be less than was promised. The BBC, ironically, outlines how the system works, and why Facebook is working out how to deal with it

The BBC challenge of sport reporting

I choose as an example tennis, a sport which the BBC lavishes considerable attention to, two weeks of the year, during Wimbledon fortnight. But for the rest of the year, including the other three slam events, tennis is poorly served. When I want to know what is happening, or even what might have happened the day before, I now turn reluctantly to twitter for rapid news.

Typically, the BBC website ‘news’ focuses on a few top tennis stories unable to provide the wider picture. At present (The US Open) the site has been unable to cope with the big stories.  But even the GB players have not been covered, for example Andy Murray’s older brother Jamie in his doubles performances that took him briefly to world No 1.

A web-site design which emphasizes its weaknesses

Even with increased budget constraints, the design seems to have failed to be fit for purpose of delivering what users want, immediacy of news.  The technical challenges are immense. But the chosen design asks too much of the user, too many clicks to get to a sport such as tennis. (I suppose this is the antithesis to clickbait). The design also sends out an obvious signal that the BBC has not been able to provide a complete service.

No market leader

Fortunately for the Beeb, no other site has emerged as the dominant leader in sports information either. In the UK, Sky sports, for example, is hardly ripping up trees, making rain, making the earth move (choose your metaphor). The Sky coverage of the football transfer day on August 31st was mocked for its weirdness. ‘Reached new surreal heightsas the Telegraph put it.

It may well be that such a market leader will emerge from the slick websites of one of the popular red tops such as The Daily Mail, which arrived early into web-based sports news.

Politics and the BBC

The BBC has become something of a political football.  Governments of the right have been sympathetic to the view that the BBC is given an unfair advantage over the poor private sector news businesses such as Rupert Murdoch’s News International.  This has undoubtedly contributed to the travails of the Corporation.  Nevertheless, there is still scope for a creative response to the challenge of delivering news in general, and sports news in particular.  Whether there is time is another matter.

To continue the discussion

Please contribute your thoughts on this matter. There may be someone ready to listen and act somewhere in the BBC, if the posts can attract enough support.


Has Zukerberg gifted Facebook away?

December 17, 2015

 Mark Zukerberg creates headlines with his plans for creating a philanthropic trust with a  donation of shares worth forty five billion dollars. Paul Hinks examines the story for Leaders We Deserve

The headlines were dramatic.  The BBC reported: “Zuckerberg to give away 99% of his shares”. The Telegraph and others carried similar headlines. Mark Zuckerberg and his wife have said they plan to donate 99 per cent of their shares in the social network to philanthropic efforts. Very commendable.

The stock, which is worth around $45bn, will be given to causes which “advance human potential and promote equality for all children in the next generation” Zuckerberg said in an open letter on his Facebook page. That’s an impressive and massive statement of intent by any measure.

The Future needs to be better than today

Philanthropy is about driving sustainable, lasting, positive change – it’s not just about fixing the symptoms; rather the focus is on the root cause. It’s about making a difference, about shaping our future – the future. Being proactive, not reactive. It maybe as simple as that.  Zuckerberg has had enough fun, and now prefers to throw his substantial financial weight behind efforts to the world’s problems.

The Guardian provides another perspective:

Philanthropy perhaps comes naturally to tech entrepreneurs, for whom the line between saving the world and doing business is often blurred. When Google announced plans, for example, to use its computing power to sequence the gene for autism, was it trying to help humanity, or expand its empire into the life sciences industry, or actually both? But if you add the Zuckerberg-Chans’ $45bn to the $34bn distributed so far in grants by Bill and Melinda Gates’ personal foundation then America’s new computing dynasties start to resemble not so much individuals as nation states: rich and powerful enough to shape all our lives, even more than their software has already done. Only a churl would sneer at the Gates Foundation’s contribution to almost eradicating polio, reducing preventable deaths among children under five and distributing anti-HIV drugs.

Massive donations of wealth

So well done Mr Zuckerberg – but there remains areas which require further clarification to avoid the skeptics from detracting from the well-intended claims that your motivations are all good.

The Japan Times made the poignant observation: Mark Zuckerberg promises to give 99 percent of his Facebook shares to charity — eventually.

Exact phrasing: the stock, currently worth $45 billion, will be donated “during [his and his wife’s] lives.” He’s 31 and she’s 30, so actuarial tables being what they are, by approximately the year 2065. If Facebook or the Internet or the Earth still exist. There’s also the suggestion of creative tax avoidance and why Zuckerberg has opted to structure the massive donation of wealth through a Limited Liability Company (LLC). To help clarify the decision Zuckerberg wrote in a Facebook post that it will enable Chan Zuckerberg to: “Pursue our mission by funding non-profit organizations, making private investments, and participating in policy debates — in each case with the goal of generating a positive impact in areas of great need.” – explaining that any net profits that resulted from these investments would go back into supporting this mission.

A plausible and valid response to the deeper questioning.

The Tradition of Giving 

At first I found  Zuckerberg’s pledge incredible. It has the potential to drive change and progress in so many different areas. Indeed, there is so much disparity in society, so many problems and complex situations to address.

Perhaps Zuckerberg does understand that he is merely the trustee of all that wealth (and not the owner), and that wealth can – and should – be used to for the welfare of all, and in particular the disadvantaged?

It would be helpful to provide a clearer indication of the goals – an agenda for change; some transparency around the end goal. Otherwise cynics will wait for evidence that Mr Zuckerberg is moving at least partly towards escape free from the shackles of the shareholders.


Richard Branson offers staff autonomy over vacation times and duration. Simples?

October 3, 2014


Richard Branson has announced a revolutionary self-managed policy for his personal staff. At first sight it seems a step towards the idealistic dream of worker autonomy and self-managed work groups. So let’s look a little more closely at the emerging story

This week [september 24th, 2014], Richard Branson was reported as announcing a new policy for his 170 personal staff. They are to have full rights to setting vacations [‘holidays’ or ‘leave periods’ in British vernacular].

Empowerment

‘Empowerment’ of workers has been a theme in OB courses and popular leadership writing for a few decades. This seems to be a further example, with the added weight provided by the authority of Richard Branson.

The basic principle is easy to grasp. The notion has libertarian and emancipatory aspects to it. So what’s not to like about it? And why have such initiatives been the target of Critical Theorists who have tended to dismiss it as a managerial fad?

Behind the headlines

Branson hopes the plan will be rolled out to subsidiary divisions. He has been reported as being influenced by his daughter who told him of a similar scheme at Netflix. The back story begins to take shape.

As one admiring report put it, Billionaire Richard Branson may be the coolest boss ever.

Two ‘maps’ of the story

One perspective is to interpret the story as an example of subtle exercise of power masquerading as enlightened leadership. The scheme is at present on offer to the 170 personal staff of Richard Branson. In his own words, the workers have obligations to act in the corporate interest so as not to damage the company or theirs own careers. The benevolence conceals the power structure on organizational life. The majority of employees are not directly influenced.

Another perspective is to consider Branson to be an authentic leader whose moral compass is towards a happy and autonomous work force. He avoids the dilemma of enforcing democracy by inviting change rather ordering it. He shares a generally non-coercive style with some of the most successful modern entrepreneurs such as Facebook’s Mark Zuckerberg who have built creative organizations

Oh, and one more thing …

The story breaks as the engaging fun-loving Branson is launching his new book. The Virgin Way: Everything I know about leadership.

Simples?


Face to face in Moscow: Facebook’s founder meets Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev

October 2, 2012

Facebook’s founder Mark Zuckerberg met Russian Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev in Moscow to discuss intellectual property issues.

Zuckerberg was beginning his quest for new global markets, as the leader of the newly floated Facebook organization [May 2012]

The Voice of Russia reported:

On Monday [1st October 2012] Dmitry Medvedev and Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg had an informal meeting at the Prime Minister`s residence outside Moscow.

Since Mr Medvedev has his personal video blog, not to mention accounts on Facebook, Twitter and LiveJournal, his meeting with Zuckerberg, whose social networking site already has over 995 million users, has become a hot topic for the media.

Mr Medvedev was reported as saying

“The social networking sites have become extremely popular worldwide. And Facebook`s contribution to this is obvious. If I am not mistaken, some 10 million Russians are on Facebook. Of course, it is not that much compared to the US, where there are about 30 million Facebook users. Still, these figures are impressive. We also have our national social networking sites such as Odnoklassniki (Classmates) and VKontakte (Staying in touch). Besides, everybody is using Twitter. This is a kind of a different reality. And you personally have contributed to this”

Mr. Medvedev and Mr Zuckerberg discussed copyright protection on the web.

“As a lawyer myself I am very interested in this issue. I used to do research on it in the past. I believe that if an object of intellectual property is not listed on the web as requiring special protection it could be used freely” Mr. Medvedev said.

Friends or not?

When the meeting was over, Mark Zuckerberg presented Dmitry Medvedev with a T-shirt printed with the address of Medvedev`s Facebook page. The Voice of Russia report did not say whether Dmitry and Mark had friended each other, and if so, when.

The IP challenge

The conversation ever-so-politely introduced the challenges of intellectual property rights facing Facebook and other Western organizations as they seek to work globally.

The bonds that tie

It occurred to me that for all the differences in culture, America and Russia have been parts of the world which have seen the rise of self-made entrepreneurs cum billionaires. In that sense Zuckerman has a head start over the more traditional Fortune 100 CEOs in doing business there.

Acknowledgement

Image from biz Russia. IP rights as indicated by Mr. Medvedev


Social media helped the hunt for the murderer of Jill Meagher

September 28, 2012

The investigation of the disappearance of Jill Meagher in Melbourne, Australia appears to have been accelerated through the use of social media and CCTV footage released by the police

The search for a missing woman in Melbourne, Australia ended tragically but was immensely speeded up through the use of social media.

Jill Meagher a young Irish woman working for an Australian media company, ABC radio, went missing after leaving a bar in the early hours on Saturday [20th September 2012].

A Facebook page was set up to raise awareness drawing on CCTV footage. Within days the police were able to identify and interview a suspect, and locate Jill Meagher’s body.

The breakthrough

The breakthrough came a day after police released CCTV video taken from the store, which showed a man wearing a hoodie talking to Ms Meagher, 29, at 1.43am on Saturday as she walked home after a night out with ABC work colleagues. Police say they were led to the scene by the man charged with the murder and rape of Ms Meagher.

The role of social media

In a statement issued on behalf of the family, Mr McKeon [Jill’s uncle] said: “We are devastated…There are no words to describe how we feel at what has happened. We acknowledge the role that social media has played in the search for her. It has helped us to reach a conclusion, although it is not the one we had hoped and prayed for.

The down side

Social media coverage is not a universal good. On the down side, even in this case, a senior Melbourne police chief joined with Jill Meagher’s grieving husband in calling for people not to post anything on social media websites which might prejudice the trial of the man accused of killing her.

Technology and crime

Police investigations often take advantage of the potential of technological inventions.

In 1910, less than a decade after the commercialisation of wireless system, the captain of the westward bound SS Montrose, asked his Marconi operator to send a brief message to England: “Have strong suspicions that Crippen London cellar murderer and accomplice are among saloon passengers. Accomplice dressed as a boy. Voice manner and build undoubtedly a girl.” A detective from Scotland Yard boarded a faster ship and arrested [Crippen] before SS Montrose docked in Montreal.

See also

Crime investigator outlines procedures


Facebook IPO helps define the American dream

May 19, 2012

The initial public offering for Facebook shares reveals much about the American dream

The valuation

When the dust settled after the first day of trading [18th May 2012], Facebook’s valuation, of just over $100 billion placed it roughly on a par with Amazon.

The dream of wealth creation

The wealth accruing to Mark Zuckerman and the other young co-founders has been widely noted. In America, much has also been made about what is seem as tax-dodging by Eduardo Saverin, who has taken up residency in Singapore and renounced his American citizenship, although his actions are seen differently in Singapore

Expectations

On the date of the public offering [18th May 2012], The Verge attempted to answer the question of why the stock appeared to be trading at a figure based so much on expectations.

Why would so many smart, rich people put such a premium on the stock? IPOs are an insider’s game. Buying the stock today at $38 means paying a premium to the founders, early investors, bankers, and even the bankers’ best clients, all of who have passed the stock down the food chain and taken their bite along the way.

Can Google and Facebook be compared easily?

The success of Google and its continued growth after its own share launch is now being used to justify the excitement. Google’s revenues are roughly three times those of Facebook ($9 billion to $3.5). But the prospects for the two companies seem difficult to assess (although the graph offered in The Verge article is worth studying).

The Initial Public Offering [IPO] was considered less than a success. The Los Angeles Times put it this way

“There was all this pressure and hype and attention with all eyes on Facebook — and the starlet tripped on the red carpet,” said Max Wolff, an analyst at GreenCrest Capital Management in New York. What went wrong? Analysts point to a variety of factors that might have given investors pause. Its valuation at about 100 times earnings likely struck some as too high. Its growth in new users is slowing. And Facebook has not yet found a way to cash in on mobile devices, where social media is gravitating.

This week’s decision by General Motors Co. to stop advertising on Facebook because it wasn’t getting results heightened concerns about how Facebook can profit from its 900 million users.

But perhaps the biggest blunders came in recent days as the company and its largest shareholders moved to maximize their profits at the expense of new investors.

Friendship and economics: The dilemma for Facebook

Other commentators have gone beyond the financials, suggesting a flaw in the proposed growth model of Facebook. The massive popular reach of the corporation comes with a belief that ultimately it was a social phenomenon primarily about achieving social goals. In particular it has redefined personal identity and the concept of friendship. There was always something apart from economics in that set of beliefs.

The dilemma for Facebook becomes more visible now that the corporation is legally obligated to conform to economic principles and governance. Considerations of ethics, stock price and social vision increasingly will interplay. Even its efforts to promote the American Dream may be scrutinized more coolly and globally.