It’s not a blog but the BBC News editor’s site is a good read

I wrote a critical commentary earlier last month about the BBC News website and how its editor, Peter Clifton, had started writing commentaries that "look back at the week in the newsroom – and tackle some of your questions."

My commentary focused on what I think the BBC could have done with this new idea rather than what they have done:

[…] But why not do it properly and give your section the attributes that would make it a far more realistic interactive experience between you and site visitors and enable you to develop some actual relationships with those visitors? Make it like a real blog!

Well, none of that happened, so I have been lurking on the section every now and again to see how it develops. As I subscribe to almost all the BBC News RSS feeds, I hardly go to the website now, so I have to remember to actually go to Clifton’s section and see what’s going on. How quaint that behaviour seems now that RSS is everywhere!

Anyway, lurking on a website can have its benefits at times when you spot some interesting content.

Clifton’s latest commentary on Friday includes these two items:

1). A fan of the BBC News website is going to take over as editor for one day, this Wednesday 20 April:

David McDowell, from Lockerbie in Scotland, […] has agreed to come down on 20 April and help run the site – make suggestions in the editorial meetings, join in the day-to-day decision making and put together an alternative view of what our front page could have looked like that day. […] Watch out [this] week for David’s unedited view of what it was like here, plus the front page he put together. And there will be more invitations to come, maybe overseas next time.

2). A user in Canada wrote in to ask: "Regarding the availability of the News ticker for those of us using XP at home. We have been told for almost a year that you guys are working on it? How is it going? Will we ever get News Ticker?" Clifton’s reply:

Work is due to start this month (honest) on a new, state-of-the-art version of our desktop ticker. The plan is for it to bring in more headlines that a particular user wants […] and with a couple more features I’m keeping quiet about for now. But I think it will prove a new and exciting way to keep an eye on the site. When will it be ready? I’ll keep you posted, we’re working as fast as we can, and this year for sure.

That ticker’s pretty good. I used to use it long before RSS. A bit too push-content-only these days, though (think PointCast – remember that?), even though you can customize what the ticker displays.

Clifton’s section may not be a blog (it’s definitely not) and you have to email in any comments, but he does write informally, conversationally and with personality.

Sort of like a blog, in fact, but without the dynamic conversational aspect that emerges through things like direct commenting and trackbacks. And on commenting, Clifton says:

As I have mentioned before, we are planning a completely new approach to e-mail comments later in the year. It will allow us to publish a vastly increased range of e-mails from users, and we’ll also be asking users to help lift the best ones to the top of the pile. Watch this space.

One step at a time.