Did anyone else see the piece on Tuesday's BBC London about the Jam Factory?
They have a residents website that was being heralded as a Forum to unite neighbours and foster a log-dead sense of community.
I think it's great, but was a bit disgruntled that there was a special feature about it when we have an amazing community website here!
Yes, it's a nice website - http://www.myjamfactory.com - and they link prominently to this site, for which I am grateful, and I know a lot of Jam Factory residents use this forum too.
But I thought both the feature in The Independent which inspired BBC London, and the BBC report itself, rather missed the point in hailing this as some beacon of community spirit in the inner city.
What they're doing at the Jam Factory is all well and good, but it's only fostering a sense of community within the confines of the gated community, not beyond.
Certainly sites like the Jam Factory one and the Metro Central Heights forum fill a need when it comes to discussing service charges, residents' association business, refuse and other small-scale neighbourly matters.
That's fine for the 200 out of the 400 Jam Factory residents who use their site, and I wish them all well - but I'm not sure how much it contributes to the bigger picture of re-engaging people with their communities.
Whereas community sites like this one I think can play a role - with varying degrees of success - in bringing together a genuine community with people from many backgrounds; those who've been here for years as well as new arrivals in the smart developments.
Interestingly I had a call this morning from ARD German television, who were looking to follow up the BBC London piece but couldn't remember the details of the site. I did pass on the Jam Factory details but I also put the case for community sites like this one.
Absolutely agree with you James- I live at MCH and the message board there is not used that much and certainly doesn't promote a sense of community in the way that this website does.
I really think someone should do a piece on the SE1 website- as far as I know, (correct me if I'm wrong), no other area in London has such a well frequented community website.
As someone who moved to SE1 18 months ago it was an invaluable tool for me when househunting and also meant that when I did move in I already knew at least one person (the inimitable Jackie) there who invited me round for coffee. Anyway- everyone who uses this website knows how brilliant it is so I'll get back to work now!
http://www.chiswickw4.com - run by our friends at NeighbourNet - has a very active forum. Their email newsletter now reaches 7,000 people I think, whilst SE1 Direct is hovering around the 5,000 mark.
We are part of a loose federation of independent London community sites called London Neighbourhoods Online - http://www.londonvoices.com - but it hasn't been very active recently and the website desperately needs an update.
As a Jam Factory resident I enjoy both online communities although I must say that I agree that the SE1 forum is the ultimate community site. Line sarahmc, I 'ran into' the site as I was considering moving to this area and the Forum has a significant place in my daily life. I made friends, became a true SE1-ner and it gave me a strong sense of belonging.
When I moved into the Jam Factory there was a discussion here about whether gated communities should be here or not. I decided, one year later, to have a SE1 social in my flat to emphasize that I feel that I am part of SE1 in spite of our gates (who are always wide open, by the way).
Both online communities are unique in the centre of one of the biggest cities in the world and I am glad and proud to be part of it. And, I have said it before, I am most grateful to 'our' James Hatts, the SE1 Forum Hero!
A development specific site serves some really useful, specific needs though - "Can I borrow a drill" or "Will the people on floor X keep their parties down a bit". It's all stuff that's valuable even when it's a bit adverserial. And it does give a *little* towards community. I know quite a few neighbours - not through talking to them online but by knocking on doors and saying hello type stuff, but the site definitely encourages a bit more interaction.
For those here that are a bit more "net community minded", they pop up elsewhere too, and can be a bit more free and easy with their views. There's crossover between users of the jam site, se1, thelondonist, urban75... and many others i'd guess.
I guess where I'm going with that is that "it's all good"... yes, somewhere like se1 or urban bring people together more than a development specific site, but community websites in general have been way off the media radar, so any of them getting PR is a good thing.
"Frustration" is the wrong word - like I said, I think the Jam Factory site is very good and I don't begrudge the people involved their moment in the limelight in any way.
Just putting a case for looking at the wider picture too, which neither the Indy (fair enough, it was an interesting profile of a single development on the property pages, so you'd expect that) nor BBC London (who could have maybe added something to the story by looking a little beyond the Jam Factory) did.
If I might share my comments, as one of those involved in creating the site:
The original purpose of the site was to be an intranet with the sole purpose of allowing the JFRA to have an online presence and to allow people to discuss JFRA-type issues - mainly involving the service charge. Therefore it wasn't originally created to create more of a 'community feel', as the BBC feature might have suggested. As the site evolved into the 2nd and 3rd versions we felt that it would be good to move it on from not only a place where people could moan about things, but could discuss more positive things!
Now what we are trying to do is to make the myjamfactory site something that expresses the culture and community within the jam factory. We've started to aggregate resident blogs on the homepage and we have a number of residents' Flickr feeds on the photos page - We are also trying to encourage the residents to take ownership of the site. We don't have time to run the site by ourselves and we also feel that by giving people this 'ownership' it will encourage them to participate in and nurture the site more. We've also opened up a number of the forums so that anyone can look at them. What we haven't done is to enable anyone and everyone to register. This would kind of defeat the point in the site - that is the point of the London SE1 website and our objective is not the same. Indeed whether the myjamfactory site has contributed to the community feel of the whole area is debatable, but we believe that it has helped in some way with the community feel within the jam factory itself - and this is our aim.
Also, I'd just like to add that we could not really steer the direction of the BBC programme. They just did a few interviews with a number of us and then went away and turned it into that little feature. The upcoming german ARD production should be a little more focused on the true purpose of the site. We will see!