Speakloud raised a couple of valid points a) regarding the way that new subjects are introduced and, relatively quickly, deviate from their starting point and, b) the culture of complaint rather than action.
Speaking personally, I find a thread more useful if it stays 'on topic' and Speakloud's thread about crime is a case in point. It went very quickly from comments about security to an exchange about cyclists. I went back to read it a couple of times and had to carve my way through a lot of 'off topic' banter which I find tedious. If people want to talk about cyclists on the pavement then there is nothing to stop anyone starting another thread on the subject.
I'm also with Speakloud regarding constructive suggestion/proposition. Complaining about this or that and how 'someone' (usually the Council) should do something about it always leads me to think that the writer can't be bothered.
At the end of the day, the SE1 Forum isn't a 'moderated' newsgroup in the general sense which means that it meanders - maybe a good thing for some and not for others?
[Moved to Feedback section - hope that's OK Niall]
Niall raises a fair point, and personally I was disappointed that the Bermondsey Street crime thread got diverted onto pavement cycling, a subject that (IME) seldom produces a constructive debate and has been done to death on previous occasions.
I very nearly intervened in the thread at an earlier stage to ask that it be kept on-topic, and I wish now that I had.
I hope Speakloud won't be put off from contributing to the forum in future.
I'd certainly like a bit more intervention to keep threads 'on topic'. However I accept that such 'moderation' would require more time than is probably available and therefore the 'chatroom' style of exchanges will probably remain the norm. It undermines the credibility of the forum but everything has its price.
As you know, I'd also prefer that contributors made their contributions publicly ie under their real name. Its always easier to throw in comments, and insults, from the cheap seats.
As for moving the topic to the 'Feedback' section, its your call.
I know we've spoken about this in the past. I do prefer people to use their real names (and this is pointed out on the registration page).
However, I don't feel the need to enforce that as anything more than a statement of preference. On the whole (or at least compared to other forums I have experience of) - IMO - people don't abuse their anonymity on this forum, for which I am very grateful.
I think the forum generally works quite well with minimal intervention, and generally self-polices itself well. If someone is really out of order, then others will say so, often avoiding the need for me to step in at all.
There is a danger - which I am very conscious of - that the forum doesn't appear friendly to those who are nervous about dipping their toes in the water for the first time, and on occasion I have stepped in when some of the 'regulars' have been a bit OTT.
Generally I think the signal-to-noise ratio here compares favourably with other forums. Of course if others disagree I'd like to hear it.
Thank you to those who make use of the 'Send alert to moderators' button when the occasion demands. It is appreciated, and does help things to function smoothly.
On anonimity - I couldn't post here under my real name, or at least I wouldn't be able to post on half the things I do, because you can plug my name into a search engine and work out very easily who I am and which organisation I work for. There are several others (doctors, lawyers, postmen, people in the planning and regeneration areas) who are in the same boat. I'm not sure if you were a regular poster two years ago, but if so you may remember that one person was actually told by their work to stop posting on the board because the organisation felt the member's personal views reflected badly on the goals of the organisation (after an inadvertant outing by another board member).
I know what you mean about it being too easy to take a pot shot at someone, but I don't think you would find the quality of the dialogue half as good and meaningful as it is.
I agree with everything you say above - however, I also don't think there was any call to post the following "Apart from a few of you who actually FOLLOWED the initial subject the rest of you are totally inconsiderate and a bunch of pathetic moaners."
IMHO personal attacks have no place on this forum. I know that people on here (me included) have their own personal pet subjects, but there have been a couple of instances recently where people have posted this kind of thing just because respondents don't agree with their own (clearly, strongly held) views. That worries me far more than threads meandering off topic every now and then.
On anonymity, I accept the point that you make. As someone who worked for Southwark Council (three years in the Regeration department), I believe that I managed to Balance my responsibilities to my then employer with my involvement as a local resident. If anything, that Balance probably caused me to think more carefully about what I committed to the public domain. I have always felt that being accountable adds to credibility hence my dislike for and suspicion of statements made from behind the veil. But having also been on the receiving end of self-interested and ignorant abuse from members of the public, I can easily understand why anonymity is so attractive.
Regarding 'On or off topic', Speakloud made a statement with which, based upon my own experience, I disagreed. Bermondsey St and its environs has always been subject to a background level of crime. From my experience, 10 years ago that background level was higher than it is today and for that I am grateful. But I would also recognise that there is always an increase in such activity in the run-up to xmas and I suspect that it is that festive effect that Speakloud had noticed. I felt that it was important to place their views in context and I regreted the fact that the thread sank beneath a discussion of the rights and wrongs of cyclist's behaviour.
With regard to moaning vs action, I can only say that I prefer proposition/action to complaint. In this regard, when I observed the regularity of thefts from cycles on the bike rack in Tanner St park, I put some stickers on the racks telling people to lock their bikes, front and back. Simple. It took me about 5 minutes and I hope it saved someone another trip to Evans or On Your Bike. We can all do this and take some ownership of our community. Not only that, it feels good.