Archive for January 24th, 2008

The work / blog balance

Workign stuff out...

Nice Pen. The Pig’s Lipstick and Faces in Places work stuff out

OK slightly weird one this… I’ve just checked all my fellow ‘Channel 4 employees who blog’ websites, and none of them have yet written about the session we had this morning about how channel 4 staff handle their blogs. Maybe I’ve too much free time tonight?

Anyway, first a bit of history. Channel 4 has come a little late to the staff-who-blog policy thing. When I was at the BBC two years ago Nick Reynolds ran, in my estimation, a perfect example of how to come up with a staff blogging policy. He started a wiki, threw up some thoughts with a nod to HR and stuff, and asked us, the bloggers, to edit and tweak the guidelines. After a short debate consensus was reached and the whole lot put on a public facing page for the world to see. Nick was it that easy?

So this morning I attended a session about staff blogging for channel 4. There was a previous session which addressed the idea of an official channel 4 blogger attended by Press and Publicity, Marketing, Legal and Compliance and other interested parties. Of Channel 4’s traditional approach to media communications I will say this, and it’s an observation not a critism. Our set up, our DNA, is programmed to deal with the likes of the Liverpool Echo, not Cory Doctrow. There was talk about the channel 4 ‘line’, but the day a company of 900+ souls speak as one voice on a subject is the day we become bees. If my time at channel 4 has taught me anything, it’s that the staff actually care and have a huge range of opinions on our output, it’s just that in the past you had to go to the Barley Mow or the Greencoat Boy to (over)hear those views and that those views were drowned out by ‘the line’. This isn’t the case anymore and there are parts of the organisation that have no frame of reference for this; It could be described as the introduction of rats to a previously perfectly balanced eco-system of flightless tropical birds. Just how does the channel respond to people who blog about our content, and staff who blog about… well as it turns out, all sorts of things.

Some topics that came up from the session, and maybe my fellow workers can fill in the blanks.

Public vs Anonymity: anonymous blogging is ok, it’s often how many of us start. But hiding behind anonymity for the sake of being controversial is not very good. Many of us, myself included, hid behind a nickname or moniker. Which makes us all sound like American truckers “Cowbite this is eyedropper you got your ears on good buddy 10-4?” Let’s face it, we’re not whistleblowers, using annonymity just to be bitchy is.. well it’s a faux pas.

Say it loud: I think there’s loads of brilliant people at channel 4, with knowledge and skills and tips and experience. Everyone should feel they can talk about what they do, not matter what their dept or job title.

Staff safety: Channel 4 has a duty of care to its employees. Jon Gisby talked in he opening gambit that the ‘do right by the company and the company will do right by you’ culture is a good thing. Some of our staff are at the front line of user interaction or work in some very sensitive or controversial areas. They must be careful how they conduct themselves in the digital world because of the implications.

Other things: Channel 4, indeed broadcasting itself, has gone through a crisis in the past year. Our users – not viewers – are having the debate on our output and services. To remain silent is dumb, literally. We should engage with the debate, not in an attempt to win over anybody or fight fires, but to put our point across. People might not agree with what we say, but at least we’ve said it.

Here are some of the points we came up with.

  • Rule 1. Help us write the other rules.
  • It’s the internet, try not to make a tit of yourself.
  • Don’t smoke cigs in your school uniform.
  • Don’t ask managers, ask peers.

It was a really enjoyable session.

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These are my personal views and not those of Channel 4 or the BBC
January 2008