Fixing the BBC Sports Web Site: Part 2

October 31, 2016

Three Leaders We Deserve subscribers made further contributions to the recent post dealing with the challenges facing the BBC in changing its Sports web-site

Contributors: Paul Hinks, Susan Moger and Conor Glean

Paul:

September 1 2016

I really enjoyed your blog about the BBC commentary of the Olympics in Rio. In terms of the BBC generally I’m a big fan -great value, still a world class service and still a leader in my opinion – but I agree with the sentiment of your blog.  Its sports website is on the back foot at the moment.

The BBC sports website needs to do better.

Great Britain is a sporting nation – we are passionate sporting participants – and equally passionate spectators. What I liked about the Rio coverage was the way the BBC celebrated success in a genuine (un-British stiff upper lip way). You captured this observation perfectly in your blog.

In terms of the other BBC products – there perhaps is room for improvement. I see the BBC website as a flagship product. It would be great to see the BBC deliver more innovation and creativity in a way that provided genuine engagement but also provided expert high quality analysis. This is not an easy achievement, and perhaps one that is easy to highlight when absent, but easy to overlook when present.

The BBC is almost a de facto home page for news, sport, politics, weather, etc.  It has credibility that provides the benchmark for others to reach, yet like you, I’ve also noticed their sports section has really weakening over the past year or so.

Navigation is less intuitive. Content and coverage is thinner than previously noted. There’s a move to media clips rather than written script. The media clips haven’t quite worked out in my opinion. There’s just too many of them, and again the quality and depth is often lacking. It’s a shame because the BBC still beats Sky hands down in my opinion.

The bigger picture for me is that while the Internet maybe (has) disrupted journalism – there is a risk that the quality high-end coverage is being lost/eroded.

We’ve already seen printed press struggle to compete against ‘free’ online coverage – and yet often the online material is a poor imitation of the quality broad sheet journalism that provides carefully positioned arguments from alternative perspectives.

I’ve mentioned previously that this is where I see huge value add in LWD. LWD is very high quality material Tudor – and yet it’s almost a public service. There’s other high quality sites out there too. I suspect they also face the same dilemmas. [Thanks: The editor]

There’s a paradox within IT. Information Technology is inherently extremely complex with many dimensions to it. It is expensive to run and operate – and yet the perception is that IT is free and should be very easy to use. I suppose the BBC faces the same dilemmas as the wider public sector in terms of how it justifies its budget. How do you keep squeezing more out of a forever diminishing pool of resources when expectations continue to rise? A very challenging proposition.

September 2 2016

Susan:

Thank you for such perceptive comments.  I agree with your observations; I think the sport section of the BBC website is really suffering because it is in many ways still following the template of a previous generation of sports reporting and I don’t think there is the resource, and possibly the understanding, about how to work with the website more effectively.  It’s like the established banks trying to offer digital services which are add-ons and not part of the bank’s DNA, as it were. Of course, Sky has set the standard and the expectations of what sports broadcasting now looks like.

I listen to the BBC World service a lot, and I think the same this is happening there; the budget cuts mean that there is a huge effort being made to get more with less and at the same time the ‘digitisation’ phenomenon hasn’t been embedded so it sits awkwardly with the more traditional offering.

The ‘new’ BBC website seems very clunky to me,  and it probably would have been better to have stuck with what they had.  For me the BBC stands for integrity of information and of presentation

I agreed that LWD now has a similar status in that its longevity and the breadth of coverage mean that it can be trusted and in these days, I think that is a very rare thing indeed!

September 4 2016

Conor:

Hi guys, my comments are somewhat echoing those already made but I feel that in a world of constant, instant headlines from the social media sphere, we are used to knowing ‘the box’ of what happens as it happens via a tweet from anyone (e.g. Serena withdraws from US Open) and expect ‘the contents’ (what, where, when why), which come from the news outlets and require time if to be done well, to come at the same rate – resulting in a diluted quality of story in order to be relevant.

I think this relates to the ease of use of the BBC sports website, because, although you can specify which sport you want, the number of ‘box’ headlines in all sports clutter not only that specific sport’s page, but the homepage, causing for what seems like a poorly put together site which confuses when it’s just trying to keep up with the demands of 2016 sporting journalism.

I don’t think that the issue is exclusive to BBC as (to my shame) I’m a sky sports news mobile app user and since not having a smart phone for the last few weeks, I downloaded the Sky Sports app on my friend’s phone to see an average rating of 1 5- 2 stars out of 5 (it was the only outlet I’d ever used so I didn’t notice if I was up to date or not). Also, when trying to find stories that I knew had broken during the transfer window on sky sports’ website as opposed to the app, I experienced some of the issues you have highlighted in using the BBC’s.

September 5 2016

Paul:

Great note by Conor with many relevant comments.

I agree that in general terms online coverage of events can improve – but equally I feel it’s important to highlight and acknowledge that technology – and how it enables the effective dissemination of information – has come a long way in a relatively short timeframe.

Mobile computing is here – it’s maturing quickly – but there is more to be done.

You make a good point in that the BBC is not alone in terms of opportunities for further improvements to its website – I still believe that the BBC could do more, but they should be given credit. The BBC site remains a leader in my opinion. Consumer expectations are being set higher all the time – it can be difficult to reconcile those expectations with the reality of here and now. Particularly in a world of finite/reducing resources.

The BBC is still a leader in many different ways (in my opinion). However, it is right to look for opportunity to continuously improve its offering, but there remains a great deal that is ‘right’ about the BBC.

Editor:

Thanks to Paul, Susan and Conor for these follow-up contributions to the earlier post. There seems to be consensus around several points The BBC retains the admiration of the contributors but as Paul put it:  Its sports website is on the back foot at the moment.

All three note the difficulties of competing against sites with much larger budgets. Susan noted a similar problem with the BBC World Service.

Paul continued his defense of the BBC with his closing remark that The BBC is still a leader in many different ways (in my opinion). However, it is right to look for opportunity to continuously improve its offering, but there remains a great deal that is ‘right’ about the BBC.


The Divestment of Openreach from BT is not a simple case

February 8, 2016

It would perhaps be easy to jump on the band wagon and champion the case for freeing Openreach from its parent BT, which according to the press is a given. But in fairness, both Openreach and BT deserve credit in areas

BT is a truly world class business. It is a leader. It has delivered (mostly) on its promise to provide the UK with its Information Super Highway. But yet more change and progress is sought after.

Better apart?

The proposal to divest Openreach from BT may bring more challenges than we have today opposite speed of change and progress. More complexity. More governance and regularity issues. Investment may actually stall rather than speed up. There are no guarantees that Openreach and BT will perform better independently, or indeed that others (business customers, partners, consumers) will benefit from a split.

Openreach is already functionally separate within BT. The challenge is whether Openreach operates in the spirit of openness, or whether it favours the agenda of its parent. Would an independent Openreach really deliver improved competition or speed up investment? Would the perceived rate of change and progress – the perception of more innovation actually be delivered delivered if Openreach were no longer ‘restricted’ by BT’s agenda, governance and control? Both BT and Openreach’s customer service are questionable, but where would the real alternative appear from?

I know some {LWD subscribers] who believe that BT does trade on its monopolistic position. Ordinarily most would condemn the incumbent as the bullying type leveraging their position for self-interest. Perhaps part of this argument is true. Listening to a BT video link, I note that the speaker does acknowledge that the competition [Sky, talk talk, Vodafone?] consider the BT Openreach relationship as unfair.  Perhaps this is natural position for them to take. Of course they would. They are the competition after all.

Depending on an individual’s perspective

Depending on an individual’s perspective, BT are cumbersome, inefficient, and an abuser of their monopoly position. Or perhaps they could be seen as actually being efficient, well run, and a true global leader in a competitive market place.

IF the UK is to continue to benefit from the technology infrastructure that Openreach has built and delivers to us, then perhaps one of the most important questions Openreach needs to ask itself is whether it is investing enough cash fast enough to align to customer demands and expectations.

I believe BT does recognise and acknowledge the challenge. In the video, the speaker states that customer demands are very high. The customer asks that Super-fast broadband is always available, from anywhere, from any device. Realistic expectations? Or difficult expectations to deliver?

How quickly can BT deliver the services that the customer and the market place are demanding. Are BT and Openreach driving change and progress quicklyy enough? Maybe not, but the problem is tempered and made more complex by the fact that BT is a commercial organisation and no longer a nationalised industry. Therefore, it is right to treat each major investment decision with the correct level of due diligence and moderation before overcommitting spend and investment to services that may not be commercially viable in the short term.

Major Investment is still needed

That said, it is still of question when, not if the investment is needed. The speaker in the video talks about maximising the use of the existing infrastructure using innovative technology to deliver high speed broadband without replacing with expensive fiber. This sounds like an equitable and sensible compromise.

Fiber based superfast broadband for all may well be the next major step, and an end goal – but we need to be sensible with expectations around timescales. Some of that investment and infrastructure has already been made and is available to some lucky users. For others perhaps in rural areas, they need to wait. These are the folk most likely to argue BT needs to do more, and faster too.

With faster greater bandwidth comes downstream opportunities for all. The popularity of new services would grow faster than at current rates – for example: the move towards On-Demand content could happen quicker. Cloud is now a mega-trend. I remain convinced Cloud computing will be seen as a separate computing paradigm. Openreach and BT do deliver the services that underpin downstream Cloud provision.

BT is adapting too

We can also flip the argument around. BT themselves are now delivering content and challenging Sky with BT Sports. I do believe that TV as we have known it will continue to change and be disrupted. Openreach are in some ways influencing and controlling the rate of change because of the overall dependency on bandwidth and superfast broadband.

I’m sure there will be a shift towards faster lines and that eventually the demand will be there to justify the investment and provide the requisite return on investment. Eventually it’s just a case of getting the business model right.

Conclusions

I suppose my concluding thoughts are that investment represents a double-edged sword for Openreach. There is no guarantee that consumers or big business will take-up new more expensive services with immediate effect. This is very much a generic business statement though. No investment comes with guarantees. It’s about understanding the risk versus the reward.

Greater speeds and more bandwidth are nice to have, but in our cost conscious world I too often hear the phrase ‘is the provision “good enough”– often the reality is yes. What we have today is good enough and meets our needs.

So there is a dilemma here. What comes first, the chicken or the egg? Greater, faster investment from Openreach against the commercial reality and ‘guarantee’ of customer demand for new products.

If Openreach is split off from BT, and starts to either compete with rivals, or offer technologies that align with specific customer/partner needs then really we may just have new different challenges around agreed technology standards and regulation. These are the same issues that exist today, perhaps just in more complex forms.


The filing system of the future

January 2, 2014

IT Innovations have made the traditional filing system obsolete. Leaders we deserve offers a glimpse into the future of personal information systems

Filing cabinet [floor version]

Filing cabinet [floor version]

In the early hours of 2014,

In the early hours of 2014, the editor of Leaders We Deserve examined his filing system in anticipation of resuming his labours …

The image reveals the superficial structure of the existing system, post-modern with a hint of bricolage – even if his spell-checker continued to suggest there is a hint of bricklayer rather than bricolage about it.

What’s the sphere?

The spherical object is a word-ball which provides, yes you guessed it, words to help fill otherwise blank spaces in blog posts as and where required. The much-used red dictionary in the background serves a similar purpose.

The elements within the filing system

The system is designed to accommodate books of all sizes, reports, office products, folders, games, IT relics, recycled boxes, tins plus items I would have to examine more closely before I could identify them.

The dynamism of chaos

There is a dynamism of chaotic forms. Their apparent timelessness is defective. [Or as my spell checker suggests, detective].

The chaotic aspect visible in my filing system masks a deeper order. If I produced a time-lapse film it would show the changes as a project progresses. As the project tails off, so the filing system resumes an earlier state

The Filing system of the future

The filing system I have in mind for he future is already taking shape in my mind. It is more distantiated, if I can borrow a term from a lecture by Tony Giddens I attended some years ago. It occupies a different and more virtual space. The floorspace could be extended to the under-utilized area beneath the desk. Some piles of objects could be increased in height by removing irregularly shaped ones thus forming new clusters in office space.

Hyperspace is already beckoning.

My assorted pictures are increasingly tagged for retrieval. My array of student theses is no longer growing as physical and bound volumes. E versions are accessible from the University archives. Increasingly, the textual materials are up there somewhere in the cloud.

Perhaps in Second Life, an Avatar Archivist will soon be able to stack and unstack items, like a zero-hours worker from a Tesco’s in hyperspace.


Will you say yes to yesware?

July 31, 2013

Yesware offers a way of managing your emails. As emails increasingly are becoming unmanageable, the product is tapping into a widespread business and social need

The Yesware organization has hit on a great business idea. The videolink here is the corporate webpage

Its software has attracted positive reviews:

Yesware does a few things;

Tracks emails – you can see when someone has read your email, and more (please read their FAQ for info on any limitations)
Custom email templates
CRM Sync – connect email right to your CRM
Analytics – see your email analytics right in Gmail

It’s designed and marketed for Sales. But, “Hello” link builders… meet your new best friend.

I look forward to following its progress. Meanwhile, here is the output of an imagined nightmare scenario for the entrepreneurial organization:

To Yesware

We are a global company with headquarters in the Vatican. Our CEO has encouraged us to use social media to promote our brand and to retain a customer focused approach. Can you help us.

To Yesware

We are a global megagiant. We would like to do no evil but we are increasingly plagued by email messages that sneak though our very expensive spam filters, purporting to come from potential customers. What should we do?

Dear Yesware

Loved the review I read about about you on the web. You should beware of phonies out there wasting your time with spurious emails. I bet you get thousands every day. You should try our proven nukespam system which reaches millions of potential customers every day and filters out time-wasting replies

Dear Yesware

Jime bottle is the pretty much buy our clean no in the Internet. Lowest prices for oval tube boring. Wrapping oral tube supplis.

Dear Yesware

We successfully promote crowdsourcing events. We need a system to avoid infiltration from security forces, hackers and leakers, imprisoned fraudsters, juveniles using parents’ smartphones. Can you help us?

Dear contact [Message from Yesware]

Thank you for your contribution to the overwhelming volume of traffic we received due to recent publicity on the world-famous Leaders We Deserve site. Unfortunately we have become the victim of a service denial attack. Normal service will be resumed as soon as possible.


Geek Speak will not rescue Blackberry’s future

January 30, 2013

Blackberry 10RIM re-launches its Blackberry 10 product today. It is not helped if its executives can only use Geek Speak in press interviews

In the UK, RIM’s press agency has done its job and an interview arranged for a senior Blackberry executive to explain the new product to BBC’s Five Live radio audience [8am, Jan 30th 2012]. After a few minutes, the interviewer realised he was dealing with someone speaking a difficult executive dialect of Geek Speak.

When asked to simplify what was new about the new product the executive, naturally, continued in Geek Speak without a translator to hand.

I may have missed something

I may have missed something, as my grasp of Geek Speak is also limited. I thought he said something that sounded like the new product ‘enabled transition to a unique and exciting end-user proposition.’

Blackberry Jam

I have this scary image of discussions around RIM, owners of Blackberry, the messages communicated in geekspeak so that salespersons are able to gain optimal buy-in to the uniqueness of the offering and its platforms.

Anticipation is high

Anticipation is high on a launch believed to be make or break for blackberry. [See also here] Let’s wait a little longer to see if the Geekery justifies the GeekSpeakery

Update

First reviews [31st Jan 2013] suggest that the Z10 is chock fulla design elements . A cunning aspect is (if I understand it) a sort of firewall between stuff for and from its Corporate use and stuff for and from its personal use. Which says to me a neat way of attracting individuals to embrace the Z10 for personal use in a way that can be sold to he Corporate paymasters dishing out the product.