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 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. 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.