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Last Updated: Friday, 29 April, 2005, 12:10 GMT 13:10 UK
From the editor's desktop

Pete Clifton, editor of the BBC News website, looks back at a week in the newsroom and lobs in a few intriguing ideas about the way ahead...

CITIZEN SNAPPERS?

So you want to be a photographer for the site? Well, let's get on with it...

Lots of messages this week from fully-fledged photographers who were indignant that we would ask for pictures from our users. But many more responses from users wanting to get involved. So, after careful consideration it is time to sit up and listen to... the users.

We will keep using numerous pictures from agencies and other professionals, as I acknowledged last week, but anyone can help if they think we have a problem with our "stock pictures" - the cow, gay couple, woman having scan, odd dog, person looking cross, child on doorstep, police car door etc.

VOTE RESULTS
Should the BBC ask its users for their photos?
Yes
 70.50% 
No
 14.16% 
Don't care
 15.35% 
5877 Votes Cast
Results are indicative and may not reflect public opinion
Each week I'll pick a topic and you can send in your picture best illustrating it. We'll show you the top ones, put them in a gallery, and then use some of them on reports when appropriate in the months and years to come.

This week, it's animals. Pets, farm animals, big things at the zoo, that thing you keep seeing out the back. Take a look here to find out how to send them.

Clearly a controversial decision to open up for pictures in this way, so why not vote, using the vote form here.

Labrador
Bess in show
All of which could be bad news for the stock picture of a dog we have been using too often. For the surprising number of you wanting to know more about the dog (including Alan Turner, Lancashire) her name is Bess, and she belongs to Jon Amos from our Science team. Depending on your pictures, you may never see her again. Let's make that our objective.

There was also plenty of anger from photographers unhappy with the "snapper" tag I used to describe them. Capitals have, again, been invoked to emphasise the point...

"SNAPPER!!! I, sir, am NOT a snapper." Brian Leggett, Associate of the British Institute of Professional Photographers. And you can check that out here. So maybe no cuddly cat shots from you, Brian?

(The BBC is not responsible for the content of other websites.)

IRAQ IN FOCUS

Another week, another set of headlines about insurgents and bombings in Iraq, and the US admitting the attacks are "undiminished".

Reporting from Iraq is still immensely difficult, but it feels to me that we should have another concerted effort at examining the reality on the ground.

So this week I've asked our planners to set up a "Day in Iraq". We've just started mapping it out, but I want us to fix on a day when we look in detail at the level of attacks, what it's really like living in Iraq, where life is improving, and what people are saying about that reality.

I'll let you know when we do this, in the meantime tell me if there are ways you'd like us to tackle this; people we could talk to; blogs we could take a look at.

AFTER THE UK ELECTION - A REVOLUTION

Well, something like that. In the second week of May, the BBC News website will be completely liberating the availability of its content.

RSS page
RSS? Look for the orange "XML" button
RSS may sound like a souped up car, but many of you will know already that it's the way to access our reports from across the site. You can see a bit about it here.

In a nutshell, it's a way to be told when your favourite parts of the site have new content to look at.

We've been a bit cautious about it up to now. "Personal use only" has been the mantra, but after a lengthy discussion with the BBC's editorial policy department we are about to free things up.

So in May we'll be happy for outside websites to dip in and take our headlines. We're also adding new feeds, like one with the most recently published stories, and still to come will be an RSS search telling you when reports have been published about particular topics you are interested in.

May sound a bit much to get your head around, but it's the way ahead for lots of people. In March, we registered 16.5 million click-throughs to reports from RSS feeds, and our target is 10% of our traffic driven by RSS by the end of this year.

Don't worry if it sounds bewildering. Watch out for high profile promotion of RSS feeds during May, spread across all our indices, and some easy guides to get you involved.

STAT ATTACK

First of all, last week's vote. Nearly 53% of the 1,975 votes (last time I checked) thought this column was good, so it will be carrying on indefinitely. Tough for the 20% who said it was bad, and for the 26% who didn't care. Well, get an opinion or go out more and take some stock pictures of animals.

Our election site is hotting up, with more than 500,000 unique users every weekday, 25,000 downloads for the Peter Snow desktop alerts and 30,000 already entering our Take 10 election game.

The Iraq war has drawn about 10% of the 30,000 emails we've received so far, and the reports on Iraq this week were attracting 200,000 page impressions a time, about double the previous best items. So it looks like an important issue for our users.

But nothing to compare with the joy of a very big plane taking off. Pack your flask, grease down your hair and grab your notepad and biro. The report on the Airbus 380 taking off for the first time picked up 1,131,622 page impressions on Wednesday - straight into the top five for the year - while live video of the flight drew nearly 200,000 pairs of eyes, and the subsequent on-demand video package 413,000.

MONITORING THE MONITORS

I've been watching the people watching the people who watch us.

This website and the rest of BBC News gets plenty of feedback every week from Medialens. They bring a fair degree of scrutiny and can organise e-mail campaigns in a mission described as "correcting for the distorted vision of the corporate media".

Nothing wrong with that, of course, and in this splendidly accountable world, we now have Medialens Watch, "correcting for Medialens' attempts to distort the vision of the corporate media".

Quite neat, but let me know if there are other watchers worth looking at.

WANTED YOU TO KNOW...

My highlights of the week included the highly original piece by Ollie Stone-Lee on speed dating during the election, where talking to women purely about politics proved almost entirely pointless.

And some remarkable coverage to mark the 30th anniversary of the end of the Vietnam War, including very powerful picture galleries and a very informative guide.

On my soapbox now, of course, but it is this sort of in-depth coverage that is so important in our quest to be distinctive.

And on the subject of pictures, we had some positive feedback from using much bigger images from the funeral of Pope John Paul II. You can access the pop-up gallery from this report. Now our web producers have changed our picture templates, so we will be using larger pop-up galleries much more often.

YOU WERE SAYING

Lots of you wrote in response to the special index put together by our guest editor David McDowell last week.

The vast majority were in favour of this chance to see a "pick of the week"-type service, so it was well worth David's trip down from Lockerbie. We are now giving some serious thought to doing something like this on a regular basis.

Among the comments, Ann Jordan of Atlanta, Georgia, USA: "I think it is an excellent idea. I am a regular BBC online visitor (addict?), but I had never seen several of the articles Mr McDowell selected for the test page. I'm sure I would return if this became a regular feature."

But some were left wondering a bit. Keith Hursthouse of Stroud, UK, had two problems that he was prepared to admit to. "Who decides what is best?" and "your example page has roughly a dozen items, which is possibly not enough".

The site gives me a similar impression to that of London - a wondrous fašade built from piles of disused and neglected crap
E-mail from David, Concord, California
That should be part of our pondering. I think ultimately we should be asking the users to tell us what they like best. A dozen should be enough, but it should focus on the absolute top of the pile. If you are looking for more of a catch-up on general reports we have written, there is always the Week at a Glance.

On the back of the vote about the column last week, thanks to a stack of nice notes about this Friday frolic. And sorry to those who wrote to say they tried to vote in favour of the column, only to get a "page not found" error. Sounds like the kit playing up, though the fact my four children were instructed to vote on a rota basis, 24 hours a day, may have upset the machinery.

But thanks to Timon, of Bath, UK, for reminding me that child votes cannot silence everyone. "This column is a self-indulgent waste of electricity. I am switching off."

Former newspaper editor Geoffrey Somers from Hong Kong wrote again to ask if I could clarify where Mineralsky is in Russia. Not surprisingly, I can't. But Mr Somers' original e-mail, capitals and all, did attract a strong response.

James Button, from Northampton (my birthplace), observed to Mr Somers: "Sir, please be a good man; go away, sit down, be quiet and let those still in the business of news presentation do their job in peace." Thanks James. Up the Cobblers.

Anthony Singer, from Brussels, Belgium, is commenting about comments. He wants to know who reads the e-mails people send in to our daily debates. How many do we get, how important are they to us?

Well, the answer is 10,000 or more a week, depending on what is happening in the world. We have a dedicated Have Your Say team to read them, though I've made no secret of the fact we can't possibly read them all.

We publish as many as we can, and we will introduce a new system later in the year that will allow us to publish thousands more. So please keep writing in!

Algeria profiles
On the right - a profile of Algeria; on the left - one we made earlier
David, from Concord, California, USA, is going off on one this week:

"Being from the US, I know very little about any other part of the world, except that everyone's 'jealous of our freedom' and that if the President's popularity is down we'll probably bomb you. I've been doing a great amount of research on your site, mainly using the "see also" links. This leads me back to the beginnings of news.bbc.co.uk . The site gives me a similar impression to that of London (having seen the documentary Neverwhere); a wondrous fašade built upward and outward from piles of disused and neglected crap. I think this amazing bit of time-travel proves my point. Could someone please hire some interns to update older pages?"

Deep sigh. Not sure how you found this very old page, because this is the up-to-date version.

I would say that generally our archive is the thing the BBC News site should be proudest of. Millions of stories and features, a fantastic resource for people to search through. And I'd only start thinking of employing people to update archived pieces, well, when Northampton Town win the Premiership.


You can send me your comments using the form below. Don't forget, though, that if you want to point out an error or have a complaint you want dealt with, the best place to go will normally be our Feedback page.

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