On Tuesday 13 March 2007 I attended the JISC Conference 2007. As always, this is a valuable opportunity to meet people from the sector and catch up with gossip, developments, etc. There are also a number of plenary talks and workshop session to attend as well 🙂

A great development this year was the provision of the speakers slides and a commentary on the sessions, which was provided shortly after the conference had closed. Many thanks to the organisers for doing this. As these materials are available online (from the link given above) I will avoid duplicating this work. Instead I will mention the highlight of the conference for me – the talk on “BBC 2.0” by Tom Loosemore, project director of BBC 2.0.

Tom described a review of the BBC’s involvement in the provision of Web sites which was initiated in 2004. As a result of this work, the BBC had identified 15 key principles which underpin their approach to the provision of Web services. And with the widespread acceptance of the “Web 2.0” phrase, this enabled them to coin the “BBC 2.0” term to describe their lightweight user-focussed approach to Web development.

The 15 key principles are summarised below:

  1. Build Web products that meet users needs, is the first principle.
  2. The best Web sites do one thing really, really well. For example, the BBC news site attracts 5.5m users per week and answers the question – what’s going on right now.
  3. Do not attempt to do everything yourselves… link to other high-quality sites yourselves. A good example of this is the John Peel Day Web site, which brings together an enormous number of concerts and festivals run in the late DJ’s memory. Interestingly the BBC make use of the Flickr photographic sharing Web site to enable photos taken by music lovers at these events to be uploaded to the Flickr website and tagged with the keyword ‘John Peel’. The Flickr community can then chose their favourite photographs, which can help the BBC to chose photographs to be uploaded to the BBC Web site from this short list.
  4. Fall forward fast… make many small bets. By this Tom means making small developments and testing them to identify successes. An example which was given was the Catalogue site (but it should be noted that the success of this site ironically causes generic zithromax us performance problems and the site is not currently available!)
  5. Treat the entire Web as a creative canvas. The best example of this is an ABC programme which spent three times more on sites away from its own ‘Lost’ site than it did on the ‘Lost’ site itself, including ‘Lostpedia’, and the commissioning of a book which was available on Amazon. Note I use the term ‘blended Web sites’ to describe this approach (based on the ‘blended learning’ phrase) and I recently coined the phrase ‘blended blogging’ to refer to online and offline relationship between this blog and use of the content in my talks.
  6. The web is a conversation… join in. Adopt a relaxed conversational tone (rather than telling people). Admit your mistakes.
  7. Any Web site is only as good as its worst page. Rigorous processes are needed in developing and editing websites.
  8. Make sure all content can be linked to forever. Linking is what is key to the Web.
  9. Remember your granny won’t ever use ‘Second life’. If you focus only on early adopters then you’re missing many potential users; too much on everyone and you will lose the urge to develop web sites and cutting edge services.
  10. Maximise routes to content. Develop as many aggregations as possible reflecting as many people, places topics, channels, networks and time as possible. Optimise your site to rank high on Google. BBC sites do this extremely well.
  11. Consistent design and navigation needn’t mean one size fits all… Architecture should reflect interaction.
  12. Accessibility is not an optional extra. The www.traintimes.org.uk Web site, for example, is the result of a passion on the part of the developer to ensure that everyone could use the Web site.
  13. Let people paste your content on the walls of their virtual homes. YouTube is an excellent example of this.
  14. Link to discussions on the web, don’t host them… Only host web-based discussions where there is a clear rationale.
  15. Personalisation should be unobtrusive, elegant and transparent. Respect your users’ data.

I’ve heard many people saying how useful they thought the talk was. For me it was great to hear that an organisation like the BBC (with its expertise in Web site development and large budgets) makes use of third party services like Flickr and has moved away form developing services such as bulletin boards. This has been a theme of several of my recent postings – so I was pleased to hear that this view seems to be mainstream thinking within the BBC.

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