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Suw Charman-Anderson

Suw Charman-Anderson

Suw Charman-Anderson is a social software consultant and writer who specialises in the use of blogs and wikis behind the firewall. With a background in journalism, publishing and web design, Suw is now one of the UK’s best known bloggers, frequently speaking at conferences and seminars.

Her personal blog is Chocolate and Vodka, and yes, she’s married to Kevin.

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Kevin Anderson

Kevin Anderson

Kevin Anderson is a freelance journalist and digital strategist with more than a decade of experience with the BBC and the Guardian. He has been a digital journalist since 1996 with experience in radio, television, print and the web. As a journalist, he uses blogs, social networks, Web 2.0 tools and mobile technology to break news, to engage with audiences and tell the story behind the headlines in multiple media and on multiple platforms.

From 2009-2010, he was the digital research editor at The Guardian where he focused on evaluating and adapting digital innovations to support The Guardian’s world-class journalism. He joined The Guardian in September 2006 as their first blogs editor after 8 years with the BBC working across the web, television and radio. He joined the BBC in 1998 to become their first online journalist outside of the UK, working as the Washington correspondent for

And, yes, he’s married to Suw.

E-mail Kevin.

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Thursday, February 19th, 2009

BeebCamp: Collaborative storytelling

Posted by Suw Charman-Anderson

Russell Davis, got a model house and offered to send one to people so they could decorate it as their house of the future. Had more demand for houses than he could fulfil. People blogged about what they would do with their houses, what things might be like in the future. m2050 tag. Whilst doing this, Hugh Garrick put together a collaborative Spotify playlist about what the tunes of the future might be. Collaborative story.

Five Live do it every day, say “this is our story” and people give them additional information to flesh out the story. Crowdsourcing.

During snow storms, network radio’s traffic and travel news was out of date, audience had better information than the official version.

So many tools out there to use. Spotify is a great example of collaboration.

ARG’s are about building communities, story being told, the people themselves make as much of the story as the people running the ARG. We Tell Stories, work with Penguin, instead of putting a book PDF online, which is not that much fun, ways of telling stories that are native to how you behave on the net. One told through Google Maps, one through Twitter where the characters were telling you their daily lives.

Twitter & GPS, BBC Sport tried that during the Beijing Olympics parade.

How do you highlight the voices? How do you bring those voices forward that don’t loose their editorial line in the process.

Messageboards, where people throw up ideas, and then the writers write the next episode for actors to learn.

TwitPanto, got a bit too much to follow, tools not quote there.

People want to converse and if they have the opportunity then they will. Conversation not the same as storytelling.

Are conversations not stories within themselves? Conversations can create interesting stories, but not always.

In BBC, we love being collaborative so long as it’s us talking. Collaborative storytelling that works more richly, someone at the BBC has to take control of the narrative, terrified of the audience might tell a story we don’t want to here.

Not sure that’s really true. Telling a good story takes into account timing, sequence of events, when you try to hand over too much control to too many people, you have more than one story very quickly. If you structure your story to handle that, that’s great, you have lots going on at once and it can be compelling. But if you want to tell a story.

Someone has to facilitate, else it’s just noise.

But allowing a person to own that editing, terrified we’re not going to get the narrative that’s wanted.

Fanfiction, most successful form of story telling, responses to other people’s storytelling. FanFic has very organised system of proofreaders, (betareaders), challenges, etc. Generally managed well as a community to allow people to find and contribute to stories that they want.

Isn’t there a natural built-in story telling process, so stories edit themselves because the best stories rise to the top.

More about giving people the tools to rate the stories?

Maybe a guest editor system? All these contributors, all these comments, some are better than others, and were thinking “we know what we think are the best”, but for the others that’s not a satisfactory experience for someone who’s taken the time. Room to have a guest editor, or filter. People have the chance to join in, it’s not taking control from the top.

radio Five, comments inform your work, but how do you get to the point where you get that sort of material in, because you look for content that conform to your expectations.

Fuel protest, didn’t see it as a valid protest, took a long while for it to be “allowed” the platform. Digital divide, but an editorial divide.

Media decided what the narrative would be after Diana’s death. Media was behind the curve on the hysteria. None of the media wanted to do it, wanted to run with it.

Important to think about story building, not story telling. Pull out themes, timelines etc.

Google epidemiology, can track colds and flu, tap into the zeitgeist before they know, before the press have told them to think it

Teenagers want to be involved but they lose interest quickly, don’t often have the internet. Stories via text messages, can text back, putting all their replies into a “box”, then reflect the opinion of the teens in the ending of a sub-plot for the TV show. Its a type of multiple choice. Teens use mobile more than watch TV. Was set up as a trial but was very popular, some people reply to every text messages. Sometimes get some very surprising responses, very philosophical. People are getting very involved in it, they’re not being forced to do it.

Story is a closed item, but most successful collaborative storytelling is MMORPGs, where everyone has their own story, but they work together on a larger arc. Not traditional storytelling with a beginning, middle and end, but it’s very successful.

But you don’t play these, necessarily, for the big story. It’s more for the community, the doing stuff with their friends, the collaboration, the sense of belonging.

Story building - Coproducer, a YouGov survey platform project, to make a film and there’s 40k to 50k people co-producing the film. Various different levels of interaction from free-for-all, to voting for one of two things. Decided, at a certain point, they are going to have to employ a professional script writer to tidy it up. Sounds like Swarm of Angels.

Joys of aggregated social interaction. But we are also each individual storytellers. But what about discovering other storytellers? Where the storytellers out there get a chance to be powerful in the way that we are. Kind of thinking of them all in a collective, socialised way.

People putting together their individual story to share with others, and collaborate around a theme, but which is, within that, personal.

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3 Responses to “BeebCamp: Collaborative storytelling”

  1. BeeBCamp2 - The Morning After « Just Another Meme Vector Says:

    [...] notes on: books and linear media, co-creating content with the BBC, does UGC add anything?, collaborative storytelling, collaboration and prototyping, and online [...]

  2. pb Says:

    “Google epidemiology, can track colds and flu, tap into the zeitgeist before they know, before the press have told them to think it”

    Are you sure about that?

  3. Suw Charman-Anderson Says:

    PB, I’m just transcribing what was said by the participants; it’s not my plan to verify everything.