BBC Labs rises again!

I’m very pleased to say that the deeply talented Matt Cashmore and Morag Cartwright have picked up the baton of the BBC Innovation Labs, and is currently winging his way around the country with Frank “Mr Labs” Boyd on the launch days.

Matt, as usual, is making a much better job of this than I did when I was at the BBC, and has introduced a couple of innovations in the process. The briefs are a lot more focused and tangible this year, which I think is partly because this is the second year that some of the commissioners are involved in the Labs, and they’re using their experience to write better briefs. There are also some really nice videos of the commissioners explaining the brief, so even if you can’t attend a launch day, you get a good idea of what they’re looking for. Its such an obviously valuable thing to do, I wish i’d thought of it last year. Still, nice to see Phil Gyford’s elegant MT templates for the Labs site is holding up well for the 3rd year in a row…

But the most significant innovation is the promise that at the end of the 5 day Labs, any team selected for further development will know how much they’re being commissioned for, will have a development meeting within a week, and contract within 2 weeks. This is great news, as the most disappointing thing for me at the Labs was that the enthusiasm and commitment to ideas that would flourish on Labs would quickly dissipate back in the sterile conditions of White City. It often took months to get post-Labs kick off meetings organised with indies and commissioners, and often much longer to actually get projects going. In the first year, some projects ended up abandoned, as commissioners moved on to other roles before they were put into development.

Its really, really good to see the Labs continuing, and I hope this means they’re a permanent fixture from now on. They’re a vital part of the growing network of projects that the BBC is using to have better conversations with the creative digital media community. They’re an incredible amount of fun, as well, so if you’ve not thought of attending a launch day or proposing an idea, then do it. NOW!

As a taster of the kind of thing that happens at Labs, look at Muddy Boots, a prototype developed out of an idea from James Boardwell of Rattle Research. Its a neat hack that looks for contextual content from around the web to support BBC News articles. Here’s some info from Backstage.

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