Jimmy: Hey, what gives?
Jimmy's Dad: You said you wanted to live in a world without zinc Jimmy. Well now your car has no battery.
Jimmy: But I promised Betty I'd pick her up by 6:00. I better give her a call.
Jimmy's Dad: Sorry Jimmy. Without zinc for the rotary mechanism, there are no telephones.
Jimmy: Dear God! What have I done?(Jimmy pulls out a gun and points it to his head and fires)
Jimmy's Dad: Think again Jimmy. You see the firing pin in your gun was made out of…yep…zinc.
Jimmy: Come back zinc, Come Back!!
- Bart the Lover
Brockley Nick here...
This article follows a discussion in this thread, prompted by a comment by the manager of Moonbow Jakes, who is frustrated by the criticism his business has received from some readers of this site. Although his post was highly critical of Brockley Central, I am glad he said what he did because I am aware that some local businesses feel similarly and I think it is helpful for some of the people who use this site to understand the effect their comments can have on local businesses. This is something I have tried to convey a number of times and, ironically, I have been slated as a patsy for doing so.
So firstly, I need to say a few words about the site.
Brockley Central is not a commercial enterprise, it's run by three volunteers, whose interest is in promoting and improving Brockley. If we felt it wasn't making a positive difference, we wouldn't do it.
To that end, we try and publicise anything and everything that's happening here and nearby. Since the site began, there's been a lot to promote, from the opening of Degustation, Dandelion Blue, The Broca, The Shop on the Hill, The Broca Food Market, Feast Your Eyes, Tesco Metro, Open Gym, Geddes Hairdressers, Oscars and the Tea Factory Gallery to the refurbishment of the Ladywell Tavern, The Brockley Jack, The Wickham Arms and Budgens. There are also many long-standing businesses that we love, frequent and recommend, such as Moonbow Jakes, Toadsmouth Too, Meze Mangal, Jam Circus, Nu-Spice, Mr Lawrence, La Querce, Babur, Smiles Thai Cafe, Long Time Cafe, City Noodles and Sounds Around.
You will find positive articles (sometimes several) about each of these businesses on this site. And you will not be alone, this site reaches more than 3,000 people a week, every week - most of whom are looking to find out about Brockley and what's on offer. Before this site existed, that was virtually impossible to do online. Its reach is enhanced by the media which use it as a source, from The Guardian to The Telegraph, BBC News, BBC World Service, the local newspapers and even Findaproperty.com. This reach has helped to take issues such as the proliferation of bookmakers in Lewisham to the campaigns to save the Rivoli Ballroom and a Forest Hill beauty spot to a mainstream media audience.
I say all this for two reasons.
The first is that I - and the other editors - understand the responsibility this reach carries with it and we take it very seriously. We don't write or allow malicious rumour and we strive for factual accuracy. Moreover, in terms of our own contributions, we generally take the view that if you can't say anything nice, then don't say anything at all. I support those who are trying to make a difference. My criticism is generally reserved for inaction or negative campaigns from elsewhere (Portland and Costcutters might dispute that). If you see any criticism of local entrepreneurs at all, it will generally be of the gentlest or friendliest variety.
We encourage the same attitude of those who visit and use this site and regularly challenge those whose attitudes are unremittingly negative and deleting the comments of those who overstep the bounds. However, we do allow others who visit the site to post criticisms, for a number of reasons:
- You can't stop people criticising things. If this platform didn't exist, they'd be doing it somewhere else (like the dozens of review sites such as Fancyapint to WeLoveLocal and Toptable, which allow anyone to post whatever they like, without remorse).
- You shouldn't stop people criticising things. Sometimes their criticisms are valid and at least online, the businesses can see what people really think about them and - perhaps - respond to those comments and ideas. But most importantly, the criticisms people make help to make the positive reviews (which are still in the large majority of comments posted on Brockley Central) credible. If there was nothing but praise, people wouldn't believe it.
- The community is fairly good at self-policing. This site (like every similar site) is plagued by one or two cretinous regulars, but their comments are always challenged and exposed. Almost every criticism of a local busines provokes a fiercely loyal response from someone else. The fact that this blog is regularly accused of being both a haven for lefties and a refuge for rightwingers suggests that the site is doing something right. True diversity means accommodating those whose opinions you don't agree with. And there are plenty of people who use this site that I don't agree with and whose ways of expressing themselves I find to be juvenile or abhorrent.
I know that this policy has annoyed a few people along the way - if it makes you feel any better, moderating this site has probably taken years off Kate's, Jon's and my life.
Having said all that, any business that feels they have attracted unreasonable criticism is welcome to email me to point out the problem, as one or two have done. If I have written anything inaccurate, I will endeavour to correct it immediately. If a reader has posted something unacceptable, I will delete it.
Better still, please come on to the site yourself and put the record straight. Tell us what your business is doing - what promotions, offers and initiatives are you running? We'll happily report them. Which brings us on to the second reason for talking about the site's reach.Brockley Central represents an opportunity for local businesses to promote themselves to a wider audience, as a post by the manager of Jam Circus here neatly illustrates. And it's free. It's free because we all want local businesses to succeed. Everyone on this site wants local places to eat, drink, shop and spend time and money.
And whenever you read a reader comment that makes your blood boil, please remember that the vast majority of people who visit the site never actually go beyond the home page. They read the latest few stories and go without ever reading or posting a comment.
But hopefully they leave with a few ideas about how to spend their time and money in Brockley.
At Brockley Central we are not afraid to take our own advice, which is why, in response to a range of comments on this site in recent months, we are developing a new-and-improved site, which should be with us in the new year and will hopefully strike a better balance. But that is moving at the pace, which Brockley Jon's actual job will allow.