Good Business

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:

  1. 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).
  2. 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.
  3. 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.

----------------

Epilogue.

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.

53 comments:

Jt said...

Nick, if you go for the forum idea, don't give up this blog. Just attach the forum to it, so they synergise.

Brockley Nick said...

That's the plan, we'll see how it comes out! ;)

Anonymous said...

I can understand local businesses being critical of the site because although the articles themselves are unbiased many of the comments are damaging and tend to linger longer in the memory (In my experience). The problem comes from there being too many idiots who use the site. It's fine for everyone to have an opinion even if it's negative but the site allows them to voice it to hundreds of other people and that is an opportunity they wouldn't usually get. There is no way for any business to redress the balance about what is being said. The consequence of this though is that as a regular user of the site since it started I have become somewhat jaded in the way I feel about it now. Although the negativity never comes from you Nick, the way some of the threads descend into slagging matches, or racist/nationalist arguments is frankly a joke. And it happens again, and again, and again. I think it affects the credibility of the site, your articles and the comments from genuine posters.
P

osh said...

Casual visitors just read the articles - who can be bothered to wade through hundreds of comments underneath?

Regulars know whose opinions to ignore and who they respect.

If only one half of one percent of those 200000 visitors check out a new business because of one of these articles, that's 1000 new customers! That's incredible.

Brockley Kate said...

"There is no way for any business to redress the balance about what is being said."

Yes, there is. As Nick said in his post, the business owners can come on here and comment, just as anyone else can. Or they can write a piece of their own, which would get even more attention. All it requires is a little bit of action. I think Richard (Jam Circus) is the ideal example of this - it CAN be done!

welcome to 2008 said...

P, I hear what you're saying. I don't like the people who regularly criticise things. But when you talk about the "balance", I've read back through a lot of the articles about local businesses - nearly all of the comments are positive.

The odd nasty comment can be hurtful to the person running the business it's about, but the average reader doesn't dwell on every comment, they look at the balance of what is said. That balance is generally very positive.

The Cat Man said...

My perspective is that it is important to consider both aspects - negative and positive.

Give credit where credit is due.

Most people are far to reserved to openly say some of the things on here direct to the business owners (unless prompted and myself is included in this). Business owners should see this as a valuable resource to gain market info and consider why, if possible, they could improve their busiess or why their business is failing/has failed.

Richard - Jam Circus - very good example. He has even opened up his own blog and has considered peoples views on here for specialilty nights etc..

Degustation - also has had input on here, also constructive.

Erin's Broca empire PLC - not that involved on here, but It would be pretty hard to find substantial critism about any of her businesses or community involvement.

I could understand if people were constantly shouting down local businesses but they are not. I love dandelion blue for instance.

If I have to conclude, sometimes negative things have to be said - even if it appears spiteful/hurtful in the short term.

This does not mean credit is given when credit is due.

Businesses fail for a reason. Although this blog is useful, I doubt very much a success of a business will be dictated by a few random bloggers on here.

fabhat said...

I've been using this site for almost two years now (I think) and the atmosphere on the site has changed in that time. In general comments on posts were more informative, rather than combative, as they often can be now. However it's still the best source of information for what's happening locally and businesses should make use of that, rather than rail against the site in general. I've used Peter James the butchers and quite a few other local businesses because of this site.

Perhaps there needs to be a line drawn between hearsay and gossip and criticism. Saying that "Moonbow Jake's has the worst coffee in Brockley",is okay if you have drunk the coffee and that is your opinion of it , but saying "oh they must be closing down because no-one goes there anymore" is not acceptable unless you have proof. If you're a regular poster you automatically take some postings with a pinch of salt - but if you've never seen the site before you don't have that background.

When Nick tried to set up a business thread - the comments and barracking that followed certainly put me off posting anything on there.

However John @ Moonbow Jake's posting was so aggressive that I thought it did more to damage him - most of the comments were about how people would miss it - he's done nothing to promote Moonbow's or counteract the rumours when he could very easily have done that - while making his feelings about the negative comments clear...

Tressillian James said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Tressillian James said...

I agree with Fabhat - and have been commenting less and less on threads because I'm tired of the constant negativity and haranguing of people just trying to do their best for where they live.

I don't check in as often on BC - loved it about a year ago as it was a real community tool. Now it is a forum for people to hurl abuse at each other or challenge viewpoints (I'm refering to the anti-mung bean brigade) for the sake of it.

patrick1971 said...

Agree with TJ and fabhat; this site does seem to have got more aggressive over the past year. Maybe I've contributed to that; don't think so but it's possible.

Moderation is a very difficult thing to do well; very easy to err on the side of caution and delete lots of stuff, but then people simply stop posting.

IMHO it's a real mistake to allow people to post anonymously. The internet is anonymous enough, and at least if people are reigstered you can ban them or have other sanctions if required. Doesn't stop them coming back immediately with a new username, but at least it sends a message. Having said that, though, many people are still quite combative even with a username :-)

Will be looking forward to the introduction of the forum next year; it'll be great to be able to start our own topics like on the SE23 site.

Maybe we should all take a New Year's resolution to be kinder and gentler in 2009!

Tyrwhitt Michael said...

It is my impression too, that some threads have recently descended into nothing more than slanging matches.

If I see certain names - unfortunately they probably don't realise who they are - I now simply pass over the comments section. The problem then being I may miss some interesting news or comment.

I enjoyed a nice if wet walk round the two markets on Saturday and I also visited Tea Leaf Arts. I thought both markets served a purpose although I didn't buy anything - small family to get presents for.

So my New Year's resolution is if you can't be positive don't post.

Anonymous said...

It's not the anons that cause the most of the contention on here, it's 3 individuals, that the others mostly registered users react to.

Andy is a troll, whether by design or natural inclination, few here know how to handle trolls.

Transpontine said...

Don't close down the site, but I would seriously consider turning off the comments function on the site. There is very little actual information in the comments, and the level of debate often makes me feel quite sick, it it providing a platform for racism amongst other things (e.g. people querying having a black santa!). I know you try and keep on top of this, but with the volume it is impossible. We haven't turned off comments at Transpontine (yet), for a start the volume of comments isn't as high, but we have taken a tough line to deleting comments. If you're trying to put across a particular perspective, you have no obligation to provide a platform for everybody else's view. Free speech means that they people can start their own platform if they want to. Yes it is important that different views are expressed - but the thing is blogging is really easy, if people want to start their own blog to put forward a different perspective they can do. The balance then comes from different blogs putting forward their views. Of course a lot of people would rather 'anonymously' plague somebody else's effort.

Anonymous said...

This site and the news it brings are great, but it would be comparatively nothing without the comments. I pretty much universally disagree with the previous post.

Tressillian James said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Anonymous said...

Please try to stay on-topic. Don't say anything on the blog that you wouldn't say in person to the people you're talking about. Unacceptable comments will be deleted by one of the moderators. Refer to our acceptable comment policy.

The above rubric is there for all of us to read everytime we post. If people have discipline and abide by those principles posting and interacting on this blog is fun.

JPM said...

I haven't really bothered with this site for some time, and for the reasons outlined here.

Additionaly, i noticed that many persons started to 'pack' around any opiniion like rabid intelligencia.

On the othe hand, it seems that some people just hide behind anonymity, in order to be nasty. Or to comment negatively in order to wind up the person making a contribution.

Certainly, if anyone posts anonymously about someone's business to the neagtive, then they should be called upon to supply their email address to Nick in order that a business may challenge, or sue. Failing that, unless evidence is presented, it should be removed as the site owner surely become party to the defamation. Nick is caught between a rock and a hard place.

Although I have posted negative comment, and rightly so I think, I am yet to be sued so there is little that truth has to fear. That's why I always post my moniker, and can be contacted via the site personally if someone wants to correct me.

That said, I have been plagued via third party harassment for 9 months now. Some person fills in coupons from daily newspapers and gets all sorts of things sent to my door; five pairs of oversize polyester trousers, a Pride of England braclet, a pair of over large bras (Yes please.) The phone was ringing ten times a day at one point and with all sorts of life insurance and funeral arrangment offers. Obviously upset some sad effer. So I can perhaps understand that not all people are anonymous out of spite, but due to it. Still, here's my mark.

Danja said...

Great blog.

The comments just get derailed into the same old dead ends so often that the interesting bits/posters get lost in the pointless and tedious trolling and sniping.

Wild Bill said...

What I don't understand on this blog is why you all respond to Catman et al's obvious attempts to get a reaction out of people.

Catman is a troll, he is a sad little man who comes on this site every day looking for attention because he obviously doesn't get any in the real world. You all give it to him, so he keep coming back and derailing threads. Next time he leaves an underhanded bigoted comment, IGNORE IT. Ignore every post he makes. He'll soon go away.

As it stands the guy rules this blog.

Anonymous said...

I reckon the answer is for the moderator to delete irrelevant, overly negative posts and 'slanging matches'.

Anonymous said...

No he doesn't - he just contributes to it, like Headhunter or Anon or anyone else.

Graham said...

Agree with Wild Bill. There'll always be the odd idiot on comments pages. Don't worry about it. Win via your strength of argument or ignore them.

Keep the blog comments page open, and save Moonbow's if you can! Great place.

Anonymous said...

I used to be so addicted to and proud of this site, but have nearly screamed with fustration at some of the petty comments ( often irrelevant to the post) over the past year or so.
I think the three "Brockleys" are still doing a great job, but I try not to look at the comments as they often ruin a good evening.

Nosy said...

What in particular makes you annoyed?

Anonymous said...

Has anyone else noticed that some of the more scathing posters have gone quiet? Let's hope it stays that way.

The Cat Man said...

Boo!!

nobbly brick said...

But it shows the anonimii up for what they are, which is also a good thing

Anonymous said...

why has coulgate street closed?

Anonymous said...

The Highways dept should know why.

Anonymous said...

What's wrong with being anon?

State the obvious said...

Sorry who said that?

Anonymous said...

Me :)

Hi to everyone from last night by the way

john at Moonbow said...

The closure of Colgate St is a disaster for the businesses there. One of the main contributors to the demise of Moonbow Jakes was the severity of the damaged caused to the finances by the gas works throughout our summer months.

John

Anonymous said...

Did someone forget to pick up the barriers from the Christmas market?

The Cat Man said...

Maybe the council has given all their workers, contractors included, extended leave for Christmas.

drakefell debaser said...

I thought the barriers were left over from the market as well but if, as John suggests, they are digging it up, then I hope they manage to do it quicker and with less disruption than they managed on Drakefell Rd.

Hi Anon…are you Welsh Anon or IT Anon?

Anonymous said...

Welsh anon! :-)
Nice to meet you and A

Hyps said...

I wholeheartedly agree with what you say here. This is the first time in months that I've been to this site and it's only because it came up in a search.

My problem is that I think some of the visitors to this have a really awful and somewhat elitist attitude which is very off putting. I can fully see and understand how it can affect local business. Fair enough, if you have received poor service or whatever, by all means, comment on it. But to just berate establishments because they aren't your cup of tea is beyond stupid.

I love living in Brockley and to be honest this site has opened by eyes to a divide that I have to say I never noticed before. I think the key thing about Brockley is that there is something for EVERYONE and that's how it should remain. If you want to live in somewhere like East Dulwich then that's where you should go.

drakefell debaser said...

A moniker for you?

Good to meet you too, the debasette and I both enjoyed the evening.

Anonymous said...

Coulgate street will be closed until the completion of the common project in March.

Anonymous said...

I was rather hoping this would be the start of the pedestrianisation (is that a word?!) of Coulgate Street.

How fabulous would that be, tables outside the Broca, the common finished - ahhh I can see it now!

Headhunter said...

Back again.... Quick weekend trip to Lisbon, a bout of heavy flu which has now descended into a general bad cold and just catching up on what's been going on.

Much as I love the articles which start the discussions, I love the comments and would certainly visit less if comments were disabled. I love the banter, but must admit, I have noticed that things have got a LOT more aggressive than they usde to be when the site first started back in early 07 or whenever it was. It would be nice if everyone toned down the aggression and anger sometimes! I'll try to do so in future...

And yeah, what is up with Coulgate St? There are literally barriers right across, but absolutely no sign of anything going on. Why set the barriers up days/a week before starting work? I can't actually believe that much is going to happen now before Christmas anyway

Anonymous said...

Perhaps it gives cars a good couple of days to clear off before shutting the road off and digging it up proper.

Perhaps the wreck outside Broca will have to be towed!

Headhunter said...

The "wreck" has gone already. There are no cars on Coulgate St. Public access has literally been removed apart from through narrow pathways between the 7 foot high fencing

Anonymous said...

How anyone can call a well preserved Morris Minor a wreck is beyond me.

Last time I saw that comment it was because some cardboard boxes were being stored in it. Some very fussy folks around here I find.

lb said...

I'm with Headhunter on this one. A forum is...well, just a forum, whereas this site, as it stands, links well-written opinion pieces and the (often less well-written) opinions given in the comments in a seamless whole. Why not just make the comments open in a separate window if people are that squeamish about them?

If anyone finds that comments on a web site "ruin a good evening" then they should probably seek some form of counselling - or alternatively have a look at the letters page of any local SE London newspaper if they want to see real, green-crayon-to-paper idiocy.

Headhunter said...

I must admit, I never saw any problem with that Morris Minor, it was hardly a rusting hulk.

Regarding the comments, I also don't see a lot of problem with things going a little "off piste", I love the way they flow like a normal conversation covering a multitude of topics. As long as they don't descend into general slanging matches or return to yet another bitching session about Cat Man, there's no problem in my view...

drakefell debasette said...

Was lovely to meet some of you at drinks on Tuesday night.

Keep up the good work the three Brockleys.

Will most definitely write a review next time I go out for a meal in Brockley and I am sure it will be positive, as I am yet to have a bad experience eating out in Brockley.

Headhunter said...

Debasette - Are you Debaser's other half or something? Or just Debaser's female alter-ego?

Transpontine said...

I'm sure that the Morris Minor belongs to Erin, proprietor of Broca, outside which it was parked. Hopefully the fencing won't have too much impact on shops there, as hardly anyone drives to Coulgate St as you can never park there anyway.

Regarding 'disabling comments' as I suggested earlier on, as a commenter I would be sad if that happened. Anyway it's your blog, so you decide! But as Bloggers we do have to take some responsibility for the comments that we host. I have recently moved to approving comments prior to them being published, because I don't want to provide a platform for snide bigots. Appreciate this is hard with your volume of comments, and slows down the speed of debate - but maybe a cooling off period would be better for everyone involved. I think BC does an excellent job as the one stop shop for Brockley news, but I am aware that some friends of mine (not just business owners) have a negative view of it based almonst entirely of the tone of some of the comment threads. Damaging your core brand innit?!

welcome to 2008 said...

Transpontine, I think that there are a lot of people in Brockley who think Brockley is full of sociologists and artists and - for all their ostensible support for "diversity", they haven't been happy to discover that Brockley also has a lot of people with jobs in financial services, who read the Telegraph and who want slightly different things from the area - which is why you get people who say without a hint of irony, things like: "I love Brockley for its diversity - anyone who thinks different should bugger off to East Dulwich."

The fact is, there are all different types of people in Brockley and the comments on this site reflect that. Anyone who thinks that an argument over the types of sofa in a coffee shop reveals a huge social rift in Brockley is a little naive.

If people want to go on living with blinkers on, let them. I prefer to know what people really think.

banksee said...

Basically, you can't please all of the people all of the time. This blog is up there with the opening of Dandelion Blue and the Broca as one of the best things to have happened to Brockley in a good long time. If people grumble about it now again, that strikes me as inevitable.

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