Introducing South East Central: Because other opinions are available


Trent: Look at this, okay? I want you to remember this face, here. Okay? This is the guy behind the guy behind the guy.
- Swingers

Brockley Nick here.

The speed of innovation in social media is eye-watering. Empires are built and destroyed in months, not decades. YouTube was founded in February 2005 and within two years it was sold to Google for more than 1.6 billion dollars. MySpace lost 10 million users in January 2011 alone.

So only four years after people started asking for it and two years after we decided we had to do it, Brockley Central has built a forum. It's called Southeastcentral.co.uk and it covers the areas that this site tends to focus on: Brockley, Deptford, Ladywell, Lewisham and New Cross. It also has sections to discuss wider South East London issues, such as politics, transport and local services.

Brockley Jon built it and gave it a snazzy logo. Since Sunday, we have been trialling it with BC's Twitter and Facebook friends, to see how it works and get feedback. It's not perfected yet and over time we'll be adding features and making it look prettier but so far the platform is performing really well for first the 70 members.

People seem to like its social networking elements and ability to track conversations, while the structure works well for now and we will make changes as we go along. People don't appear to have encountered any problems registering (which is quick and painless) and even George Hallam should approve - the software is made in Britain.

What does it mean for Brockley Central? Mostly, nothing - we'll continue running stories and debates on this site exactly as before. The two sites are designed to be complementary.

Blogs are far better than forums at breaking news and focusing on key issues. But I appreciate that not everyone wants their local debate strained through Brockley Central's unique filter of reason, optimism, balance, insistence on facts and belief in objective truth. As a blogger, I'm also essentially a gatekeeper for all kinds of things I don't need to be - from lost memory cards to Bridge Club meetups. Forums are great ways for people to organise themselves and debate the things that they're really interested in.

On South East Central, there is no above and below-the-line hierarchy - Brockley Nick is just regular schlub Nick Barron, a de-powered Superman tasting his own blood for the first time in an Alaskan diner. Those readers who complain that BC does not precisely mirror local society or reflect their preferred agenda will find it much easier to do something about it.

Having said that, I expect there will be some side effects. Hopefully, the main effect will be to make Brockley Central bigger than ever. Southeastcentral.co.uk will become a source of stories and traffic for Brockley Central (and other local sites).

On the other hand, some of the discussion that currently takes place on Brockley Central will probably gravitate towards the forum - things like tradespeople recommendations are better managed on a forum while its wider reach means you'll be able to source a broader range of opinion.

Why aren't the two sites integrated properly? Blame Google for not creating a plug-in forum for Blogger and us for being too lazy / scared to tackle the monster we have created - shifting thousands of articles and hundreds of thousands of comments on to a new platform that could cope with both formats was too daunting.

A positive consequence of this approach is that the forum has a name and an identity of its own. It means that people who don't live in this part of South East London but want a local forum of their own can have one, without having to type the word Brockley in to their browser, which would simply rub salt in the wounds of anyone not lucky enough to live here. We can add new areas to the forum as and when users demand them. We've had questions about Catford, Bellingham, Forest Hill, Honor Oak and, er, Rotherhithe already.

So, please try it out and tell us what you think. And above all, start using it. It's your turn now.

26 comments:

patrick1971 said...

"Those readers who complain that BC does not precisely mirror local society or reflect their preferred agenda will find it much easier to do something about it."

Good luck with that...why actually do something when you can moan on the Internet?

The forum's great, I used it on Sunday. Think it's going to be really positive. Thanks for setting it up.

james said...

I don't think you need as many subforums. As a regular user of forums it is a pain to check each one for new posts and everyone just ends up posting everything in the general news area.

Anonymous said...

Not wanting to piss on the bonfire, but have you guys not heard of or seen www.streetbook.com?

It's sortof a different version of what you've described here, though it's nationwide (piloted in Wandsworth, went out to all of London a couple of months ago) and it's very smart - the discussions you see are based on your surrounding and neighbouring areas and you can contract or widen your scope as you use the site. Plus, it's for everyone!

Also, discussions first, subforums second. Otherwise it's like the forum equivalent of an "under construction" sign on a website.

Anonymous said...

p.s. it's now called Streetlife... d'oh!

www.streetlife.com

Gilbert said...

It would be useful to have a RSS feed for "all posts" on SEC. That's the only way I can keep up with forums.

Brockley Nick said...

@James - fair point, will probably rationalise some of the forums - Jon and I have been arguing the toss over how many there should be. We will definitely keep the local sub-forums though, because ultimately, most conversation is hyperlocal, not general.

@Anon - yes, there are lots of different forums out there, doing similar sorts of things, just like there are lots of different blogs out there, covering Brockley and other local places. I hope that South East Central will be useful and entertaining enough in its own right. I've seen Streetlife before and was put off by the registration process.

Headhunter said...

I've tried to register and it tells me it's sending me an email to activate my account and then nothing arrives.... Clicked on the link to send another mail but still nothing.... Is it broken already?

Brockley Nick said...

Have you checked your spam filter?

Mark said...

Yep, nothing in there....

Headhunter said...

....It says I am logged in but my account is not confirmed. Just tried to change the email address but it said that my password was not correct.... Except that I'm already logged in apparently...

osh said...

That streetlife thing is empty

Mb said...

I had issues registering. Brockley Jon sorted it through a secret brockley elite email.

Anonymous said...

Registration for streetlife is really simple. Either put your address in and they send you a card in the post next day, or use your credit card to verify the address. Once (and only once) you've done that, you get the ability to send messages hyper-locally - even to your own street or its neighbours if you want. It really is a great system, and yes other forums exist, but right now it's like someone coming up with a micro-blogging network having not considered twitter.

Headhunter said...

I'm still in limbo.... Half registered, waiting for an email that never comes...

Brockley Nick said...

Thanks for that advert on behalf of Streetlife. You don't happen to be the guy from Streetlife who emailed me about this the other day, do you?

The point about any forums (or blogs for that matter) is that they are NOT about technology. They are about content and communities. There are new forum-type businesses being launched every week. Most fail because they are tech-led, not community led. Likewise, there are much nicer looking and more gizmo-rich blogs around here, but BC is popular because of the content and the community.

Good luck to Streetlife and everything, but our benchmark is the East Dulwich Forum.

Anonymous said...

No, just someone who likes it.

Brockley Nick said...

Cool.

Anonymous said...

Think I'll be confining my trolling to here, thank you very much!

Anonymous said...

Great benchmark
look forward to it taking off

Anonymous said...

what is the difference between this and BC?

Brockley Dogging Society said...

Any chance of a Doggers' Corner subforum?

New Cross Dogging Partnership and 'Dogtanian' of Brixton have one :-(

Headhunter said...

Brockley Jon! Brockley Nick! Someone! Help! How do I complete my registration to SE Central without the promised email? Am still in limbo.... I am half registered as "Headhunter", if you need to check....

Nick said...

Hi Nick,

I’m the guy who emailed you about Streetlife the other day!

Just came across this thread and wanted to clear up a couple of points... We only launched in your area two weeks ago so it is quiet, but here’s an example of a busier place: http://streetlife.com/upper-tooting/.

Streetlife is all about conversations. We’re just providing a free place for local people to connect and share practical information. In some areas it’ll quickly become a really useful source of local knowledge, but like you say, only where enough people choose to join the online community and contribute content. For the record, address verification is totally optional, and you don’t have to do this to start or join conversations.

Charlie said...

There must be big money in all this, hence all the competition

Brockley Nick said...

@HH - try again using a different email address?

Osh said...

"Streetlife really is a great system, and yes other forums exist, but right now launching Southeastcentral is like someone coming up with a micro-blogging network having not considered twitter."

I've been a lurker on Southeastcentral for a while and it was interesting to read this so I looked at Streetlife. There hasn't been a new comment about Brockley or anywhere near in months and months. On the other hand these guys forum is getting pretty lively.

Whisper it, maybe the BC team know what they're doing?

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