I put a few questions to Matthew Eltringham from the BBC’s UGC Hub on how the team dealt with comments from users during last night’s controversial Question Time debate featuring the BNP’s Nick Griffin. Here are his responses in full:
How did the volume of contributions to Have Your Say etc. compare with a typical Question Time?
Because of the way we structured the HYS round this QT the statistical comparisons can’t be exact.
This time we ran a programme based messageboard from first thing in the morning; usually it is launched much later in the afternoon. The number of responses to that debate — and the one we set up this morning on the impact of the QT has been extraordinary; an average programme-based QT HYS might get a couple of hundred comments; this one got more than 10,000.
And by 1130 this morning we have already received nearly 2,000 for a new messageboard about the impact — again a very, very big and fast response from the audience.
An interesting statistical comparison is the response to the awarding of the Nobel peace prize to President Obama, when over the same period of time we recieved about the same number of comments – though the audience was a more global audience in that case. And interestingly, we had a bigger response on HYS than any of the big US media organisations in their comment forums.
How did the hub prepare for that – did it do anything special for this broadcast?
We brought in extra staff to cope with the expected work load, especially in the evening around the programme transmission; we also discussed appropriate moderation as we were aware there would be some tricky issues.
How would you describe the balance of reaction that was coming in in terms of pro- and anti-BNP?
There were three clear strands of opinion — those who disagreed with the BBC’s decision to put Nick Griffin on QT; those who articulated their support for Nick Griffin and the BNP; and those who either didn’t offer any view on Griffin/ BNP or said they weren’t supporters but strongly argued that he should be allowed on the programme. This third strand was the largest.
A couple of people suggested that some comments were part of an “organised trolling campaign – the same typos keep recurring in several posts – ‘BMP’” – what is the policy on that? Do you look for repeated IP addresses, or copy & paste jobs?
We have very clear House rules against spamming and if – amongst the 10,000 comments that came in – we detect any organised campaign we would act on that by moderating the spam out. We don’t have any technology to help us with that.
We make it very clear that HYS is a manifestation of the balance of opinion recieved by us, reflecting the views of the members of the audience that wish to contribute. It’s not scientific, nor is it a balanced opinion.