Attacking social networking

A couple of fellow bloggers have noticed the BBC’s apparent attack on social networking tools. Dennis and Euan both highlight reports such as yesterday’s one about bloggers getting sacked for their postings. When I read that, I did think to myself that it was scaremongering… clearly people need to be aware about what they write, but I have a fair amount of faith in the common sense of individuals, and besides, responsible companies have blogging guidelines to enable people to navigate this scary new world of the editable web…

Then, of course, we have Stephanie Booth’s appearance on News 24 this week, answering typical alarmist questions about the “dangers” of the Internet (and a good job she did of replying to them, too).

As I drove in to work this morning, I heard a very silly story on the Today programme on Radio 4. Their journalist, Rory Cellan-Jones, was investigating whether Facebook, MySpace, Bebo and Twitter were any use. His conclusion appeared to be that he was too old for them, since he didn’t end up with any friends once he’d signed up (apart from the ubiquitous Tom on MySpace, and the founders of Bebo, once he’d pleaded with them to be his friend!). He also derided Twitter, commenting that people seemed to talk too much about mowing the lawn – ironically I do have one friend who talked about his lawn this week, but I typically find Twitter far more useful than that. He could have mentioned the status broadcast, IM, location awareness and microblogging features, but presumably those would have been too advanced for the Today audience to cope with. It was a very bad item. I was shouting at the radio by the end of it.

The one good thing about the story was that the Bebo folks did make the point that the age profile is getting older as users grow up. I had a similar conversation with a local authority who came in to IBM Hursley today – I was presenting on Virtual Worlds and talking about the fact that youngsters are driving the technology change and bringing social networking tools, and ultimately “games technology” and virtual worlds, into the enterprise.

Of course the week began with alarmist reporting about the dangers of wireless networks. Suw twittered and bsag wrote a commentary on that programme, so I won’t go into it myself.

So, in essence, we’ve now had a week of “the BBC beats up on social networking and the Internet”. A concerted effort? I do have to wonder. And to what end? The BBC already makes a big deal about its own blogs and talks a lot about Web 2.0, and then lays into the tools that are out there. Weird.

Partly as a reaction to today’s news story, I finally signed up for Facebook. Within a couple of hours of Twittering my presence there, I have a bunch (well, 10) friends – and those are only a few of my contacts from other networks. I really need to go and explore some of the groups and look up old friends and contacts from elsewhere – I’ll do that once I get some time.

(annoyingly, is not currently accepting my new identity – hope they get that fixed soon!)

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9 thoughts on “Attacking social networking”

  1. Well I work at the BBC and i found the Today item a little irritating but then you have to balance an item like that against some of the in depth coverage of this area on Radio 4’s In Business, 5 Live’s Pods and Blogs, and elsewhere. Radio 1 obviously aren’t fiddling around worrying about whether Twitter is mundane or not they’ve recently run a lengthy alternate reality game using the platform (and others). Paul Mason’s reports on Newsnight during their, ahem, Geek Week, Alice from the Archers using Second Life even.
    Well with its vast range of output my point is essentially its difficult to say “the BBC” has this or that mindset and it certainly hasn’t been “beating up on the internet and social networks” over the past week.. If only there was a newspaper editor type figure directing *all* coverage across 8 tv channels, 10 national radio networks and so on.
    and he suddenly woke up one morning and thought – bebo- i’ve had enough of it. rory, stephanie …do your worst…

    i’ve updated twitter on my problems with lawn mowers too. we;ve all been there.

  2. Jem, thanks for the comment. You’re absolutely right that the BBC does balance the coverage overall, and I noticed Second Life cropping up in the Archers a couple of months back, even though I’m not a regular listener myself.

    I’m quite aware that the BBC does have different outlets, but it does just seem this week that the coverage across the radio / TV / Internet channels has been a little less positive.

    It was a shame that the Today item didn’t pick up on some of the social networks around business like LinkedIn, too, but of course they had limited time.

    I should also add that I’m totally in awe of a lot of what the BBC does with technology (Backstage stuff, the forthcoming HackDay, sponsorship of Minibar, etc etc) so please just take this as a point in time observation – or a “summary of an interesting week”, as Roo calls it.

  3. I didn’t hear the broadcast but I guess what the Beeb does and what it reports on are 2 different things. We have a BBC presence at the forthcoming Apply Serious Games conference in London (28th June) along with many others delving into virtual worlds and web 2.0 for organisational needs. I guess we have to plug away at getting the right message out as a community. Can you help me find more of the right audience for this as we have some places left for this and for the AI Innovations conf running on the same day. More at Many thanks.

  4. ‘The BBC already makes a big deal about its own blogs and talks a lot about Web 2.0, and then lays into the tools that are out there. Weird.’

    I suspect it’s not the same folks at the BBC 🙂

  5. I haven’t joined Facebook because I worry that I will be reunited with people I have tried to avoid the last 10 years.

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