Frequently asked questions about the changes to 606.
There has been a lot of debate about what we have recently done to the 606 site, removing the current topics and instigating a more restrictive number of debates. To help users realise why, here are some responses to some of the feedback we have received since introducing the changes.
Why don't the BBC come clean and admit it's simply cost cutting measure?
There is no intention to spend less on community/participatory services, although we do definitely want to cut the "cost-per-user" figure by offering services which work on a bigger scale and have wider appeal than message boards.
I think there's some inconsistency in your figures in as much as you quote 150K people rating as more than five times those posting on 606 but elsewhere wave around figures of 250K users on 606.
For every service of this kind there are people who contribute and people who just look at the results of their contributions. 606 has been getting about 250,000 people looking every week but no more than 20,000 contributing. The FA Cup final ratings saw 150,000 contribute and more people on the web looking than ever look 606 - plus the massive TV audience.
Did each message board get enough warnings? As its seems that there is a lot of bad blood which stems from people losing their community overnight.
We have been discussing the need to move forward with users ever since February 2006 when we warned that complete closure was an option if the situation did not improve. This is what happened to some BBC message boards in 2005, including Eastenders. Thankfully we have not had to take this step but the 606 site still exists and there is a freely moderated topic for people to post alternative locations where they are chatting.
There is no longer anything of interest to warrant me trolling through every post from every other club in every other league's fans?
That is an issue with the interim service. There will be search feature when we launch the new service which will aid navigation and provide a place to find content and comments about your team, without it being a place that wind-up merchants can easily dominate.
I'm pleased to read that the user created content block is a temporary measure. I am however interested in what format the new article type posts will take; will they simply be written and posted by users or will users still have to submit these to the BBC for acceptance?
People will be able to publish freely within house rules.
Are BBC Scotland exempt from the Graf report's recommendations?
No they're not. BBC Scotland say Fans Forum's future format is under review, just like 606's, but they didn't feel the need to immediately remove their team topics because Scotland are not in the World Cup. BBC Sport and BBC Scotland are working together to provide a consistent service for fans of all teams everywhere in the UK. For example Fans Forum users now have the same three-minute restriction on repeat posting as 606 and other message boards.
I do understand for the need to re-modify how the 606 messageboards were being operated particularly with the costs of running such a service but to then go on and talk about users creating their own pages, surely this is even more costly to administer?
We're hoping that the new format will encourage a higher, more consistent standard of content and also that the community will find it an easier place to police troublesome users. That's why I'm hoping that people help us with their ideas to do that and I'm grateful to those that are.
Did Mr Graf take into account in his report the fact that a lot of people who use the BBC service at work (like me) cannot use other web sites? I am restricted to only BBC sites from my work PC, but that never bothered me before because the content of 606 was enough for me. What do you suggest I do now?
We are aware of employers doing this but it would be up to them to restrict or deny access to services for employers.
People want a message board - they are not inclined to create their own content and it seems crazy to hobble the single most important feature that the majority have demonstrated to be of value in pursuit of some blue sky thinking self creation ideas that no-one wants and probably won't work. (H2G2 has hardly been a resounding success has it?)
There's huge evidence inside and outside of the BBC of people creating content - Flickr, YouTube and in fact H2G2 itself, Film Network and Collective. We have done research with all our audience, whether they use 606 or not and it suggests a far greater appetite for such services than there is for message boards.
If you look at the archives for the League Two board you will find the impassioned appeal from Wrexham fans for support in their appeal to the Football League. I don't know where else on the web such a response could have been generated?
We believe such networks will be possible to build up on the new 606. The Wrexham fans could be able to set up their own set of member pages and network and gather support from the community. In the meantime the League Two board is back and a thread on this topic would almost certainly be published.
I'm not a technical expert, though I work for a software house, but to use your traffic/motorway example - it's as if you're saying the number of 606 drivers compared to the total number of BBC drivers were significantly less, yet they still managed to create jams (server crashes). This, to a relative novice, suggests the motorway/road network 606 drivers were expected to use was not, in fact, a motorway, more a B road!
On the scale of these things, the system is a motorway in terms of the numbers it supports but just like most of the motorways in the UK, it still gets jammed a lot of the time. Having said that, we do plan to invest more heavily in technology which supports distinctive interactive services and changing 606 makes the case to do so stronger.
Sure, there are plenty of different services, MB's etc., on the web. But, rather like visiting a library, you would prefer to find what you are looking for in either one place or in places nearby. Imagine if you asked for a book on, say, football and were directed by the librarian all over the library (in sport, politics, health, religion etc.,)?
When you look at the way the internet has developed and is developing isn't that actually what happens? When you ask for a site on football from a search engine surely you are directed all over the "library", the internet. Increasingly services are aggregating content from all sorts of sources too.
Keep the structure of the boards as they were but change the registration process so that to be able to post you have to provide a current TV License reference, which could only be quoted on a limited number of registrations. Barring someone from the boards would have teeth because the only way to be re-admitted would be to go out and buy another license.
We will investigate but don't currently believe the licence can be used in this way.
The Graf report was published in 2004, yet copying what already existed on the web is exactly what the BBC did last year with the launch of 606 Mk2... why was that? The indented threads of the first 606 were distinctive, 606 Mk2 wasn't.
Systems take a long time to develop and while we did relaunch the message board services a year ago, that project was actually started in 2004 before Graf was published. The benefit of what we're proposing for next season is that these kind of features do exist on the BBC system and can be quite easily reversioned for sport.
You tried to "bury bad news" by sneaking it through at the end of the season.
We would have seen a far more negative reaction if we had done this mid-season. We waited until the end of the season - the last play-off game. Editorially our focus has shifted to the World Cup as well.
It has been stated that the decision to do what was done with 606 has taken a long time, but it is plain to see that this decision has been taken without an ounce of input from the public (asking for input days before the changes take place and all decisions have already been made does not amount to involving the public in decision making!). It is only now when these changes have already been made that the BBC is listening a futile attempt to show they listen to the public.
We have been doing a considerable amount of research recently into what people want from BBC Sport and a lot of this has prompted us along this direction.
1. In January we did user testing which suggested bringing more 606 content into the main news pages and every user had a negative view of the message boards.
2. The recent review of BBC Sport called Creative Future contained research into the website and its audience.
3. Recently there was an exercise where users of BBC sites were asked "would you recommend this site to a friend". On 606, from the site's own users just a month ago, there was an overwhelmingly negative response with comments such as
"The 606 messageboards are a complete disaster area"
"It has gone downhill in my opinion"
"Too many kids post on here"
"Too many idiots posting sick things about Hillsborough , Bradford fire and so on"
"Great idea....just a shame about the idiot posters and the bad server".
As you might expect there were also negative remarks about moderation, the server and reduced opening hours. The handful of positive responses included caveats about poor experiences and the one which was most enthusiastic said "I LOVE THIS SITE FOR WINDING UP PEOPLE YOU KNOW YOU LOVE IT TOO MODS YEAH YEAH".
I can't discuss what I want to discuss - I can't talk with people I know.
Regardless of the interim service's limitations you can definitely discuss football by suggesting a thread or joining an existing one.
I can't even put down WUMs.
One of the biggest failings of the old system was the way that the wind-up merchant seemed so easily capable of provoking reasonable posters into reacting like this. We're hoping that the full new 606 will have better ways for the community to police themselves. Send us your views.
If I criticise the new board I get modded. If I post a link to a protest thread, I get modded, despite mods allowing it elsewhere.
There are a number of users happily talking football on the interim service now and we're trying to encourage this while still allowing places for debate and complaint about the new service. Links elsewhere and discussion of the changes are restricted to the Other Boards area and threads about the changes, plus the Sport Editors' Blog.
Exactly how many users or competitive message board operators have asked you to close down 606 because it is not distinctive? Has anybody outside your immediate team expressed such an opinion?
We don't believe anyone has although there is constant criticism from our competitors at the scope of the BBC website. Lots of other people have urged the service to change or close. Members of the audience have emailed us to suggest it, pointing to unsuitable content as well as lots of other failings. Since January there have seen dozens of posts on 606 itself from users saying "it's so bad you might as well close it".
I left the site due to the nanny state mindness of the hosts and mods. It appeared to me that unless you did or acted as these people wanted to your posts would be removed or you risked being placed in pre-mod. The fact is supporters enjoyed the banter and real fans realised that the WUMs would invade rival boards. WUMs exist in real life. I do not need to be wrapped up in cotton wool and be protected from this ilk. Neither do I need to be told what to say how to think and act.
We have BBC standards and guidelines which we need to adhere to, so even in a user-generated community area it is simply not possible for us to continue to ignore breaches of the house rules. As many users have commented, we couldn't effectively moderate 606 in its old form, so this was a major factor in the change. As we've said, areas exist elsewhere on the web where freer speech is tolerated.
You state that the personal space feature will remain, yet there is no indication that malicious complainers won't be able to access it. Therefore stalkers will still be able to go about their "work". Worse still, it's not hard for them to put fake details in when registering for the umpteenth time.
We're going to change the registration process so that hopefully only people who really want to play a useful role in the community sign up, and we will look at whether users could be allowed to block other users seeing their profile.
Relieve the workload of the moderators and hosts by allowing self policing systems, trusted user moderators who can remove the purile nonsense instantly, leaving a much reduced workload for the BBC employees.
We will be looking into this as part of the new full service.
Is there some problem with simply blocking proven annoyers from posting? Help me out here, I don't understand.
We can't significantly restrict access to BBC services so it's very hard to block email addresses or IP addresses or other measures which people suggest.
Your blog is outdated. There are plenty of blogs out there on the internet. It's not distinctive. Your World Cup streaming ideas are outdated. Web TV has been around for at least five years, with channels showing sport from all around the planet, therefore the WC streams should be removed immediately - they aren't distinctive. You've had player ratings and flash content for the past three years in various forms - they aren't distinctive.
You and others are right when you point out that disctinctiveness is a subjective measure we see this blog, which is actually part of a trial into such services on the BBC, is distinctive because we are being transparent about decisions here. As far as streaming video, nobody else in the UK is (legally) streaming events where we hold the rights such as the World Cup, the Olympics or Wimbledon.
If your servers cannot handle message board content then they sure as hell aren't going to cope with medium resolution format video streams, which will have a compressed format and file size far in excess of that required for a database.
We have completely different systems for streaming and message boards.
I once posted something called 'A Rough Guide To Manc Logic'. It was all part of the banter of these boards and, in fact, it was copied and pasted and can still be seen adorning various football websites. If I suggested to a host that a post like that should start a thread today would I be successful? Obviously not.
It would depend on whether it was a deliberate attempt to wind-up fellow fans.
Any chance of a European Board to discuss European leagues & games?
We will keep this under review but there is no European club football to speak of during the summer.
Why are 606 so against looking again at the MB and giving them another period (say until Christmas) with the suggested changes to combat WUMs.
In February 2006 we made a number of severe warnings, including one that the site could close if the situation didn't improve. After thorough investigation we have not seen any workable alternatives to keeping the current service open.