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Last Updated: Friday, 3 June, 2005, 11:41 GMT 12:41 UK
From the editor's desktop
Another Pete Clifton look-a-like... he wishes
Pete Clifton, editor of the BBC News website, stops scratching his head and asks readers to help him out - and there's a tasty treat for people who want to look under the site's bonnet.


At last it's time for the Webby Awards and I'm packing my bag to pick up two trophies on behalf of the team - best News site and the People's Voice winner in the same category.

The Webby Awards trophy
I'll bring two of these back to base
Should be quite a thrash and I'll give you a rundown of the publishable goings-on next week.

One problem. Traditionally, winners of a Webby are expected to make a five-word speech. My initial thoughts were "nation shall speak unto nation", or less grandly "see you in the bar".

Neither seemed quite right, so I wondered if you could do it for me? After all, one of the awards was voted for by readers around the world, so it would be a neat fix if you could craft the speech.

The awards are on Monday, so you have the weekend to come up with five words. I'll abandon all form of democracy and choose the one I like best, and deliver it to the great and the good on Monday night in New York. So crack on, it shouldn't take long, and I'll find a suitable prize for the winner. Use the form at the bottom of the page.


I mentioned a while back our plan to introduce some different features on the News site by the end of the year/early 2006. We've done some more thinking and there are five projects we are going to tackle. I suppose it's confidential, but no harm telling a few of you.

1. Indexes and navigation - includes de-cluttering the left hand navigation of the site, improving promotion of our audio and video content, better visibility for radio and TV news brands, making minor indexes less complex, making the front page more flexible for big news events.
We've added too much to the left hand side down the years, so time for a prune. When we have great video there should be good ways to promote it, including what the rest of BBC News is up to. Simpler minor indexes could mean fewer text links to stories, less grim stock pictures. And a front page that could change its look for major stories would be great.

2. Story pages - rethink the links we use in the middle of reports and on the right-hand-side. How can the page promote breaking news, and other content on the site?
With RSS feeds becoming so popular, more readers are coming to us at story level without seeing the front pages or other indexes. So can we use the right-hand-side to promote other riches around the site?

3. Use of pictures - redesign the In Pictures index, and agree a number of clear approaches for using pictures on the site.
The picture index could do with being picture led, and we have too many approaches to pictures on the site - pop-ups, enlarged images, pop-ups with larger images, photo journals, audio galleries etc. Time to work out the best ones, and use bigger pictures whenever we can..

4. Introducing elements of personalisation.
We'll be careful here because readers have been very clear that they don't want stacks of this. But I think identifying a part of an index page that could be "yours", where local headlines, weather etc, could appear, is interesting. In the meantime, we will be launching an intriguing new version of our "desktop ticker" by the autumn.

5. Live stats - can we use them around the site?
I think this has great potential and could tie in well, for example, with promotion on the right-hand-side of stories. Most popular stories now, just published, top e-mailed stories. You get the idea.

Keep all this under your hat, but you can drop me a line if you have any thoughts on the plans.


Always good to take credit for a new initiative, but to be honest the first I knew about this was when it appeared on the site.

Page grab
This kind of up front appeal for news stories, not necessarily linked to any big event we know about, is another bold bid for reader content. We have a long way to go - how to handle the e-mails we get sent, checking them out, allowing the reader to write the story, what help do we give? Lots of questions and I'll give you an update next week on how it is going - if anyone will tell me.

We had our planning meeting looking ahead to the rest of the year this week. I'll have a rundown on the juicy bits next week. Student Robert Holbach was our guest from Wales, after he had the raw cheek to ask if he could come. I'll get him to write a few lines on what he made of it too.

But one thing we did agree was it was time to think some more about the citizen journalism thing. The idea above is just one approach - so we will find someone on the team to spend a couple of months looking at this some more. If you have any thoughts on this, places we should check out, let us know.


OK guv, I see the problem - it's your server side include
If you know your html from your opml, and ssi doesn't sound like a souped up car, then this is the bit for you. Several readers have been asking for more details about how our site works technically.

I could have knocked this out in 10 minutes, of course, but decided instead to ask Kevin Hinde, one of our senior technical chaps. Click here if you're interested, if not, consign it to the Cgi Bin (hilarious technical gag).


360-degree panorama of the newsroom

The picture of our newsroom prompted many comments.

Stuart Adamson, UK (ex US): "Wow, what a waste of time the 360 degree photo is. What makes it any different to 50,000 offices in the world?"
It produces the best news website in the world.

Dan Sullivan, Kent, UK: "How many people in your office? I could do the same output with 5/10 people - what a waste of money the BBC fee is - bet half those people don't do enough.
Rubbish. Some 500 stories a day, updated thousands of times - your 10 will have RSI or wrists like elephants' legs.

Becky Chantry, Cambridge, UK: "I noted with interest that the 360 degree panorama begins by focusing on pretty much the only two neatly dressed men in your entire office. The rest are certainly a scruffy lot - are you sure the first two weren't hired extras?"
No, that's the deputy world editor and the chap at the helm of our Asia Pacific desk. The empty chair behind them, by the way, is mine. Must have been opening time.

Sean Rose, Charleston, US: It's sad to see a room full of Dell computers here. I read the BBC news because I generally think it's smarter and less biased than it's American counterparts. I would think that enlightened individuals in media publishing would know the value of using Macs - at least some!
Well the kit seems OK for the journalists clattering away in our content production system - but the designers in the room next door all have Macs. OK?

Ernest Adams, Guildford, UK: "Is that really your newsroom in the panorama? I wouldn't ask a dog to work in those conditions. At the very least give your people real cubicles. Do you really think everybody wants to hear their neighbour's phone calls and smell their neighbour's breath the livelong day? No, I'm not a BBC employee writing in anonymously. I am... appalled in Surrey.
Well that's Surrey for you. We've just had the newsroom done up, you should have seen it before! I think our hygiene standards are higher than you give us credit for, generally, and cubicles sound terribly sterile and anti-social. We do have cubicles, but they have toilets in them.

Bryan, Dallas, Texas, USA: "Just behind the seated young lady in the purple blouse, there appears to be a pair of phantom legs and spectral body. I would like to know if the BBC is covering up anything, or if they've now gone into the ghost hunting business.
Several wrote in about this. We've no idea. But surely not even a ghost would work in those conditions?


Whatever we do with our pictures and audio galleries, we're some way off delivering anything quite as impressive as this.

A reader wrote in to New York Times columnist Nicholas D Kristof asking why the US should care about the fate of people in Darfur. Brilliantly produced, utterly compelling.


Two mistakes in last week's column, rapidly pointed out. Yes, I planted Geneva in the wrong country, probably because I was distracted by the man's naked bottom. And it did say "click her" to see your reaction at the top of the page. There was an "e" missing, so it's not a new, slightly dodgy, interactive game.

Leave 'chummy' to the commercial folks - stay aloof!
E-mail from Neil Sutherland
Easy to spot those who didn't read to the bottom of the column last week - all those asking why Rick Parfitt was at the top of the page. Clarke Sayers, Perth, Western Australia, Paul W, New York, US, Mickey Corr, Belfast, Northern Ireland ("doesn't the picture look like the bloke from Status Quo")... chaps, what on earth is happening this week?

Plenty were asking if I only receive negative comments about the column. This week, upbeat ones outnumbered the moaners by about 10 to one, so thanks for that. Clayton Adams, Naples, US: "As usual, the wit and intelligence of BBC News proves far superior to anything in the US. We Americans do seem to have the one brain usually, but there are actually several more scattered about the countryside."

But the abuse is hard to resist. Neil Sutherland, Atlanta, US: "When did the Beeb decide to get all chummy as you strive so hard to be in your column? The BBC was at its best when it was austere, autocratic and culturally dictatorial. The days of the Empire, in other words. Leave "chummy" to the commercial folks.. stay aloof! It suits you best!"
Dear Mr Sutherland: I note your comments. Don't write again. Yours, P Clifton.

And finally, one to ponder. Harcharan Singh Mehta, Toronto, Canada: "You journalists, taxi drivers and lawyers all over the world have special instincts, habits and thinking about every aspect of life which are common. Like you want a story however it may come into your hands."

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