BBC.co.uk is failing to provide an adequate message board service, according to a dedicated group of users that have abandoned the site to set up their own forum.

QQRenegades was founded in August 2003 by former software marketer Anabell Schweinsberg. The group has around 90 members, most of whom have left the BBC Radio 4 message boards.

"There are three ways to deal with things: the right way, the wrong way and the BBC way," she said.

"We feel that our complaints and queries have not been answered. It's left a lot of people really upset."

Ms Schweinsberg told dotJournalism the main problem is that the BBC boards are extremely slow, with comments sometimes taking up to one day to appear on some Radio 4 message boards.

She also claims that the BBC has been employing University students to moderate the boards and that increasingly obscure reasons are being given when some posts are removed.

"QQ is more subversive and much less rigid than the BBC boards, and users can discuss anything," she said.

"We recently started getting visitors from the US, so it has been really interesting to get their opinion on the situation in Iraq."

QQRenegade member Lawrence Jones, an electronics design engineer, has even contacted Tessa Jowell, government minister for culture, media and sport, to complain about the management of the BBC boards.

"I conversed with the most interesting people that I'd ever met in my life on the R4 boards, from all backgrounds, classes and occupations, and they used to thrive with intelligent discussion," said Mr Jones.

He claims that technical problems, as well as a lack of input from the BBC's own writers and production staff, have made the boards far less effective and enjoyable.

Janet Morrow, acting communications manager for BBC new media and technology, said: "We are aware of issues with the message boards - primarily caused by the huge growth in their use - and are working to improve the service."

Production staff are not encouraged to contribute to discussion because the purpose of the boards is to encourage debate between listeners, according to Ms Morrow.

"If people want to contact the producer of a programme they can do that through the 'contact us' button on every page of bbc.co.uk," she said.

The message board servers have recently been upgraded and two new machines have been added. But Ms Morrow admitted that messages occasionally disappear from the boards.

"This is caused by the software, not the hardware. We are planning to eventually employ a different type of message board software.

"Several newer sites, such as the People's War site on bbc.co.uk/ww2 and the Get Writing creative community at bbc.co.uk/getwriting, are already on this new platform, with more to follow over the next 12 to 18 months."

Related news from dotJournalism:
Lucky escape for BBC Online
BBCi ‘threatens’ local papers
External web producers missing out on BBCi work
BBC ruffles commercial feathers

See also:
QQRenegades messageboard: http://qqrenegades.proboards22.com
BBC Radio 4 messageboards: http://www.bbc.co.uk/cgi-perl/h2/h2.cgi?board=radio4

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