Well done to Charlie Beckett for getting his piece on Monday evening’s BBC Trust seminar online so quickly, practically before I’d left the building. And he managed to hit the nail on the head, when he says ‘consultation is a process not a product… in the new networked world’. Maybe that’s why we’re having so much trouble identifying the right way to make formal consultation work online: maybe the whole premise of the question is wrong.
Perhaps the only way to engage with the blogosphere is to be a part of it, and play by its rules. A BBC Trust blog, as a ‘continuous assessment’ exercise rather than an occasional fixed-period ‘examination’, would turn the spotlight on specific matters as they arose. The legalistic process demanded by the licence fee will always require a ‘final report’: perhaps this could be an end-of-year review of how various developments had been received, and the extent to which the BBC acknowledged it and (where appropriate) responded.
But what form should that blog take? For a while now, I’ve been working up an idea for ‘virtual group blogs’ (for want of a better term), whereby relevant posts on existing blogs could be aggregated into a single place – and this might be an ideal use case.
The Trust would take on the role of moderator, on several levels: choosing which bloggers to invite in, ensuring appropriate political and geographic balance among those bloggers, monitoring the suitability of individual posts, moderating the comments which would hopefully ensue. And with the bloggers being entirely free from BBC control, they would naturally be raising sensitive topics, in a way that Trust staff might not feel comfortable (despite their nominal independence). I’m pretty sure I know how this could be implemented technically, and it’s a lot easier than it probably sounds.
Many thanks to David Wilcox for the invite; and a pleasure to meet people like Charlie, Antony Mayfield and Mick Fealty in the flesh for the first time. Quite an odd experience to have such a significant percentage of my ‘blogroll’ all in the same room.