Nick Reynolds is editor of the BBC Internet blog (which is an interesting phenomenon in its own right), a BBC old-timer (sorry Nick!) and a man who seems to know just about everybody of influence at the Corporation. I’m working next to Nick for the duration of my tour of BBC FM&T and he’s my guide to the place. The first proper meeting Nick arranged for me was with Rain Ashford at BBC Backstage yesterday.
Backstage is part of Innovation Culture (which is led by Adrian Woolard) and is FM&T’s effort to connect with developers and creators on the outside (plenty more information in its Wikipedia entry, obviously). Since it was set up in 2005 a number of fairly high profile projects have made the news pages of the trades and even broken through to the media and technology pages of the national press.
Interesting events like Mashed at Ally Pally a few months back have caught the imagination of geeks and new media creatives. Rain runs Backstage with Ian Forrester (who took the project over from Ben Metcalfe a couple of years ago). They’re to be seen at all the coolest events, spreading the word, sponsoring conferences and overnighters and, above all, making sources of BBC content and code available to coders to play with.
At Ally Pally they very boldly opened up the BBC’s fabled Redux system to developers for the weekend, for instance. Much fascinating code resulted. Rain clued me in to the project’s current efforts and explained that the project has no charter as such but does have an FAQ (which is an interesting observation in its own right when you think about it: I wonder if institutions and organisations won’t bother with constitutions or founding documents in future and just rely on a good FAQ?).
I’m going to stay in touch with the Backstage team throughout this project and I hope they’ll keep me up to date with their efforts to open the BBC’s codebase. Couple of things that strike me about Backstage:
- The project seems to be right at the heart of the BBC’s effort to be more open with resources and capacity but is hardly in the limelight. I’m new here but why isn’t Backstage staffed by the kind of clever lobbyists and operators that characterise the BBC’s other critical efforts to influence policy and culture? Surely a beefed-up Backstage could drive the openness agenda much more directly and effectively?
- Also, why doesn’t Backstage, which is an effort to reach techies and creators from outside the corporation, have some kind of governing body including some of those outsiders?