On August 31, 2004, Angela and Jimbo met some staff from the BBC, primarily from the New Media division, at Bush House in London. Here are some notes about the day.
At 9am, we met at a coffee shop to make the final preparations for the talks we would be doing later in the day. We then went to Bush House, and met Ashley Stewart-Noble. Ashley talked to us about the BBC's search engine, and various aspects of that such as their "porn watch" to ensure only appropriate sites get listed. We also got a brief glimpse of one of the BBC's internal wikis before talking to Natalie Johnson from h2g2 about how their community differs from ours.
At 11am, we had a meeting about using wikis for internal documentation, communications and as a tool for project management. This was attended by a mixture of project managers, developers and personnel staff who wanted to know more about running their internal wikis. Currently, the BBC has a number of internal wikis, and they discussed whether it might be beneficial to merge these into one. They mainly use MoinMoin at the moment, but we pointed out some of the benefits of using MediaWiki. Issues included having some pages which should not change frequently, such as standards documents. One problem raised was that of navigation, and whether wikis were harder to navigate. We explained the use of navigational templates and categories that MediaWiki allowed and how this could be used to solve that problem.
During lunch, we listened to some presentations about BBC projects, including WW2. This is a community site where people can add their own memories of the war, or those of their families. Tom Coates, who works in the BBC Radio's research and development department, told us about a number of projects he's working on, including briefly upmystreet.com that he used to be involved with.
After lunch, we met with Ashley Highfield, Director of New Media and Steve Rogers, Head of Production and Development. They had a number of questions about Wikipedia, and how we dealt with issues such as vandalism.
We made an hour long presentation about Wikimedia and its projects to around 40 BBC staff, followed by a question and answer session. We also spoke to Stefan Magdalinski and some others from TheyWorkForYou about possible integrating Wikipedia articles into their glossary. We were then interviewed by Jo Twist, the technology reporter for BBC News Online. This was focused on community aspects of Wikipedia and is now available on the BBC website.
At 5pm, we discussed Wikimedia's hardware with Mark Hewis, a technical architect while having pizza. This was followed by a public talk at Oyster. This was essentially a repeat of our earlier presentation, but was open to the public. There were around 30 people, mostly not involved with Wikipedia, though also some Wikipedians and some BBC staff. In between this and retreating to the pub, we met with Tony Ageh, the BBC's internet controller, and other BBC staff about potential ways we could collaborate. This included the possibility of a BBC branded stable version of Wikipedia, which would meet BBC quality standards.
We concluded the day around 10:30pm by talking to Steve Coast, the founder of OpenTextBook about the reasons he started his own site instead of using Wikibooks. There's more about this in the OTB archives.
There will be some follow up with the BBC as we discuss collaboration with them since they seemed quite keen to do something with Wikipedia, but it's not entirely clear yet what that will be.
(now rebranded ‘Action Network’)
iCan is a site run by the BBC about a range of issues such as politics, education and health. The site aims to provide impartial information, links to relevant resources, and an area for the community to share stories and campaign news.
Angela met with Anno Mitchell from the BBC on September 15 2004 to discuss ways the project could make use of relevant Wikipedia articles and Wikisource documents.
There are plans for some iCan content to be licensed under the Creative Commons in the future, and the BBC are represented on the Legal Advisory Board to iCommons UK. GFDL content would not be used before the BBC's lawyers have approved that they are happy with this sort of free licensing for BBC content. Having the next version of the GFDL compatible with the CC would make it possible to combine our content with iCan's.
iCan apparently are not in a position to contribute anything financially for the content, but feel they would benefit Wikipedia by bringing in a different audience and directing those users to our site. There are around 30 people working for iCan, but they do not plan to have professional editors work up the Wikipedia content before they use it.
It isn't yet known whether they want a stable version, or a direct XML feed from the live Wikipedia version. Something in between, such as a version cached from 24 hours ago, is an alternative option they are considering. Whichever method is chosen, the use of Wikipedia content on iCan will not be a fork. Any editing that occurs will happen on Wikipedia or Wikisource, not on the BBC site.
Issues which iCan seem particularly concerned about were the possibility of copyright violations and libel. Extreme solutions would be excluding images and articles about living people. In terms of content, they apparently have no issues with controversial aspects such as profanity.
Further contact is planned to discuss technical details, such as linking directly into Wikipedia's search engine, though Angela did mention that this is not always enabled. The BBC's search technology is all handled externally, so this is not something they could help with unfortunately.
They work for you
TheyWorkForYou.com is a non-BBC site that Anno Mitchell is involved with who are also interested in using Wikipedia content. Also discussed when Angela and Jimbo visited the New Media department of the BBC in August, this site would like to make use of the introductions of various articles for their glossary. It is possible this would act as a fork since they would not want to import whole articles, but have something much shorter and more specific to that project which their users could edit.
Working at the BBC
Jimmy Wales and Angela Beesley spent two weeks at the BBC at the end of 2004, and Angela a further period throughout February 2005. This is reported at WQ/2/BBC in the second edition of Quarto. One of the presentations they made to the BBC is available at WikiSearch (sxi, ppt).