Blogging at the BBC: Part 5 - Blogging from the inside

 by Martin Belam, 17 December 2007

Last week I started writing about the way the BBC began to incorporate blogging as a medium within their web offering in the early 2000s. By the very end of 2002, I was joining in, with my very first currybetdotnet post, about disappointing results when you searched Google for Turkey just prior to Christmas.

For the next three years, whilst working full-time at the BBC's New Media department in London, I often blogged about my work. I wrote about the project work that myself, and later my team were developing, announced product launches, commented on technical developments, and even sometimes pointed out the odd problem we'd had.

I was one of a group of BBC employees from the New Media area who had begun to blog in public about their work at the corporation. In the first part of this series I mentioned blogs like Blackbeltjones, The Obvious and Evil Coffee which were already being written from within the Corporation firewall for public consumption. It occurred to me one day that there wasn't any particular reason why I couldn't do something similar.

It wasn't as if I hadn't self-published before. The name 'currybet' derives from a football sweepstake I used to have with a group of friends, and the very first currybet site on the web was a way of collecting the photographs from our big days out, and for publishing the statistics and news about how people were faring in the bet. [1]

Early Currybet sites

Before I found the joy of HTML, I had done this by laying out a fanzine style leaflet at home, and then photocopying it at the newsagents around the corner. During 2002 I took a month off work to watch every second of the World Cup, and kept a daily online diary of the tournament as it went on. It wasn't strictly in blog format (no comments for a start) but it did have chronologically ordered posts and anchored permalinks.

Having recently restored the archive of older posts on this blog, I'm well aware that my early efforts were generally one paragraph notes along the lines of "Someone just posted something interesting on Webmasterworld" and "You'll never guess what I just saw on TV!".

In March 2003 though, I posted on the currybetdot site an article based on my internal BBC presentation - "A Day In The Life of BBCi Search". Having not been on the receiving end of it before, I wasn't really prepared for how quickly a link could spread around the internet. I soon found links to my article appearing on weblogs and sites from far-flung corners of the world, and I began to realise that keeping up a weblog could be something very beneficial for me - but that if I was going to be blogging about my work, it was something that I would have to take seriously.

I was, of course, very lucky that I worked in a place that had a general air of encouragement about blogging. At the time I was working as part of the 'Applications' team under Tom Loosemore, and he left the occasional comment on currybetdotnet. At the time I rather thought that was quite handy, as if I ever ended up hauled before some kind of internal disciplinary panel for blabbing about the BBC on the internet, I could cite the tacit approval granted by my boss having joined in.

In the next part of this series of posts I'll be looking at some of the positive sides of having been a 'BBC staff blogger'.

[1] Believe me, if I had realised for a moment how important this blog would become as one of my main sources for attracting work, it would not have been called currybetdotnet, but something much more like "The Martin Belam Blog- for hire at very reasonable rates" [Return to article]

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