Meet Mr Inquisitor - Nick Reynolds
Ladies and gentlemen, children of all ages. Welcome back to the interview column that's had more ill-conceived resuscitations than Leonid Brehznev – Meet Mr Inquisitor!
This isn't a trailblazer for a brand new series, but it does mark one of this column's most exciting guests ever. Thanks to some manoeuvring from our new editor, and the goodwill of the powers that be, let me introduce Mr Nick Reynolds!
Straight in with our first question. Your current job title is "Social Media Executive, BBC Online" – I take it that we can thank you for the BBC's renewed interest in h2g2, without levelling accusing fingers at you for the terrible Two Pints of Lager... on BBC Three?
My job title can be a bit misleading as it implies I'm in charge of a lot more things than I actually am. But one of the very small number of things I am in "charge of" is h2g2. You should really be thanking Sam and Natalie for the renewed interest in the site as they worked very hard in the past few months on arguing the case for it successfully.
I used to watch Two Pints a few years ago and I thought it was funny.
When did you first become aware of h2g2, and what were your first impressions?
To be honest I think I first became aware of h2g2 many years ago when I was working in editorial policy. My impression was "this is a bit strange".
I think in order to really get h2g2 you have to spend a bit of time with it. When I sat down and actually used it for a couple of hours earlier in the year my impression was "this is a bit strange, but it seems to work and it's good fun".
We're half-way between a true social interaction site and a wiki-type encyclopaedia. Do you think that's a strength or a weakness for the site? Do you have any ideas on which way the Beeb would like it to lean in the future?
It's a strength. If you look at what's happening with Wikipedia it feels like fewer and fewer people are really participating and it will turn into a "proper" encyclopaedia. h2g2 should be different. For me h2g2 works because of the balance between a strong community and their drive to make good content. The two things fit together but the community is the most important thing.
We don't have many places on BBC Online which are fun. I'd like h2g2 to be a place where people can go to have fun, learn how to write and how to behave in communities, which I think is playing to its strengths. The rest of the BBC's social media will become a bit more serious, so I'd like h2g2 to be a place where the usual rules don't necessarily apply and people can let their hair down a bit – which should work because the h2g2 community are so well behaved and nice.
Given that Twitter's leapt into the public consciousness (and the headlines) over the past few months thanks mainly to celebrity adopters, have you ever been tempted to hang around the BBC canteen with your laptop, pointing different sites out to Stephen Fry and the like?
I tend not to hang around the BBC canteen. But the rumour is that Stephen Fry is already an h2g2 fan. In the next few months myself, Sam and Chris will continue to sell h2g2 to the rest of the BBC. In my opinion it's one of the few places where we've got the balance between content and community right and the rest of the BBC could learn from that.
As you're a Social Media guru, you'll be more aware of the range of social media websites than the "What's a Facebook?" section of our readership. What do you think is the most innovative way for people to connect and interact online?
"Innovative" is a word I try and avoid. Too many bad ideas have had money poured into them because they're "innovative". I think that this is all about people and talking, and these days I tend to go to wherever the conversation is. Where ever there's an argument that's where you'll find me!
However, like most media luvvies I am obsessed with twitter at the moment. It seems very flexible and has a simple discipline that makes it fly. I'm using twitter all the time, but my personal blog a lot less.
Pageflakes is a really useful tool for my job. Just a selection of feeds so you can see what people are talking about in lots of different places.
Taking it away from the internet for a moment, what's your favourite ITV or Channel 4 programme?
The last ITV series I liked was the drama Boy Meets Girl. On Channel 4 I watch Peepshow and, at the moment, Misfits.
Hopefully you're not like me, and so don't rush home from the office to get back on the PC (using your phone in between to stay online). What do you do when you're not within arm's reach of a keyboard?
To be honest, I am very like you. I watch less and less television these days. Twitter is just more enjoyable. Other than that my family are very important to me and I also spend time chopping up wood for the new wood burner.
Back to the day job. 'Strictly Social' is one of the most innovative and exciting things I've seen come from the Beeb's online team in a long time (not that I'd watch celebrity dancing, you understand!). Are there any plans to follow that up with interactive support for other BBC shows?
There are lots of ideas floating around for the kind of social interaction being tried out on 'Strictly'. When we're ready to tell you about them, we will – usually on the BBC Internet blog.
Do you ever read some of the comments people come out with on 'Have Your Say' (or indeed 'Ask h2g2') and wonder just what planet the commenter comes from?
Yes, but that's what's interesting about it. You get exposed to people you would never talk to in real life in a (relatively) safe way. That's how you learn – or how I learn anyway. Everybody's entitled to their opinion and there's always someone somewhere out there who's cleverer than you.
Before we go, there's one last question, that we ask everyone who gets interviewed in this column. What's the most important thing you've learned through being a member of the h2g2 community?
A well behaved community is a joy to be a part of.
Thanks very much to Nick for agreeing to do this interview, and to B'Elana for knocking on my door and demanding I give her some content.
Thanks for reading. I've been Psycorp603 being Awix being Mr Inquisitor. Toodle-oo!