Broadcast Support – Thinking About Virtual Revolution

Watching the OU/BBC co-produced Virtual Revolution programme over the weekend, with Twitter backchannel enabled around the #bbcrevolution hashtag, I started mulling over the support we give to OU/BBC co-produced broadcast material.

Although I went to one of the early planning meetings for the series, where I suggested OU academics participate with elevated rights and credentials on the discussion boards as well as blogging commentary and responses to the production team’s work in progress, I ended up not contributing at all because I took time out for the Arcadia Fellowship; (although I have a scattergun approach to topics I cover, I tend to cover them obsessively – and so didn’t want to risk spending the Arcadia time chasing Virtual Revolution leads!)

Anyway, as I watched the broadcast on Saturday, I started wondering about ‘live annotation’ or enrichment of the material as it was broadcast via the backchannel. Although I hadn’t seen a preview of the programme, I have mulled over quite a few of the topics covered by the programme in previous times, so it was easy enough to drop resources in to the twitter feed. So for example, I tweeted a video link to Hal Varian, Google’s Chief Economist, explaining how Google ad auctions work, a tweet that was picked up by one of the production team who was annotating the programme with tweets in real time:

I’ve also written a few posts about privacy on this blog (e.g. Why Private Browsing Isn’t… and serendipitously earlier that day Just Because You Don’t Give Your Personal Data to Google Doesn’t Mean They Can’t Acquire It) so I shamelessly plugged those as well.

And when mention was made about the AOL release of (anonymised) search data, I dropped in to a post I’d written about that affair at the time, which included links to the original news stories about it (When Your Past Comes to Haunt You). Again, my original tweet got amplified:

It struck me that with an hour or so lead time, I could have written a better summary post about the AOL affair, and also weaved in some discussion about the latest round of deanonymisation fears to do with browser history attacks and social profiling. I still could, of course… and probably should?!;-) That said, within an hour or so of the programme ending, I had popped up a post on Google Economics, but I’d obviously missed the sweet spot of tweeting it at the appropriate point in the programme. (To have got this post to appear on the blog would have taken a couple of days….)

Just as a further aside – I have no evidence that tweeting links is beneficial; it might be seen as a distraction from the programme, for example. The mechanic I imagine is folk see the tweet, open the link, skim it, and then maybe leave it open in a tab for a more detailed read later, after the programme has finished? It’d be good to know if anyone’s looked at this in more detail…?

Now I know that most people who read this blog know how Twitter works, and I also know that the Twitter audience is probably quite a small one; but social viewing in the form of live online communications are still evolving, and I suspect audience involvement with them reflects an elevated level of engagement compared to the person who’s just passively watching. (It may be that discussion was also going on in various Facebook groups, or isolated instant messaging or chat rooms, via SMS, and so on). And that elevated level of active, participatory engagement is one of the things we try to achieve, and capitalise on, with our web support of broadcast programming.

So how best can we engage that audience further? Or how do we make the most of that audience?

One of the tools I’ve been playing with on and off displays a list of people who have been using a hashtag, and their relationship to you (Personal Twitter Networks in Hashtag Communities). These people have demonstrated a high level of engagement with the programme, and to be blunt about it, may represent weakly qualified leads in a marketing sense?

So as the dog looks up at me, hopeful of a walk, I’m going to ponder these two things: 1) how might we engage in realtime backchannel activity around broadcasts in order to maximise reach into an engaged population; and 2) how might that activity, and post hoc analysis of the engaged community, be used to drive sales of OU warez?

PS here’s another interesting possibility – caption based annotations to iPlayer replays of the programme via Twitter Powered Subtitles for BBC iPlayer Content c/o the MASHe Blog (also check out the comments…)

Author: Tony Hirst

I'm a Senior Lecturer at The Open University, with an interest in #opendata policy and practice, as well as general web tinkering...

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