In a city of over eight million people, why should one voice be more important?
London is full of opinions and opinion-makers, indeed the future of our capital depends on it. But whereas some opinions have proper status, for example because their proponent has been duly elected or appointed to a position of power, others are simply unfounded. Indeed certain people simply pretend to speak for the masses, whereas in truth their ramblings are little more than outspoken anger, based on baseless prejudice and outright negativity. Why should we even bother listening?
As an example of this phenomenon, I'm going to take a look at the London blogger diamond geezer. This east London resident publishes a daily post every morning around 7am, and speaks out on a wide range of topics. Here's today's, for example. The blog is not yet available by email, nor as a Facebook feed, but remains relatively widely read via other means.
London blogs are extremely hard to maintain, because there's not a great deal of financial reward to be had for blathering on about lost rivers and heritage alleyways. Various talented bloggers have fallen by the wayside over the years, worn down by the pressure of writing words hardly anyone will read, as the tumbleweed of social media indifference passes them by. In contrast diamond geezer has made a genuine attempt to generate a proper sequence of original content, and is what a daily blog ought to be. Or was.
At some point, which readers still find hard to pinpoint, diamond geezer became an outpouring of misery. No petty inadequacy was too small to moan about, no minor failing left uncovered, as his blogging switched from celebrating the capital to pulling it apart. There's a fine line between thoroughness and obsession, and many commentators would say the line has now been firmly crossed. So does the stream of bitterness run deep, or is this simply posturing to gain attention? What do you think?
To find out, I dug back into the diamond geezer archives to last September - well before the downward spiral of negativity kicked in. I analysed all the daily posts to see what kinds of things were being talked about, what levels of obsession were apparent, and how biased the general slant of the writing had become.
In total 30 posts were published that month, ranging from a visit to the Isle of Grain to a report on the proposed Cycle Superhighway 2 upgrade. The most popular kinds of post were visits to places, totalling over half of the monthly output, thanks at least in part to the prevalence of Open House. Commentary on capital-wide projects came a clear second, followed by musings on life. The best word to describe the month's output would probably have been 'geographical', with a dash of cultural diversity thrown in.
Let's also consider tone. 17 of the 30 events were intrinsically positive, that's just over a half of the total. Of the remainder only eight took a less than favourable approach to the topic under discussion, which is barely a quarter. One of these was a rant about the Midtown district of central London, and so was wholly justified, while other less convincing arguments were made against the TfL website and Greenwich's Tall Ships. It's interesting to note that over a third of September's posts concerned TfL, which is clearly an organisation of some focus, and only five slipped the bounds of the capital to look elsewhere.
Now let's jump ahead twelve months. This time I've focused on diamond geezer's posts from September 2015, that's this month, the blog's output now firmly under the influence of unbridled gloom. Again I analysed all the daily posts to see what kinds of things were being talked about, what levels of obsession were apparent, and how biased the general slant of the writing had become.
In total 34 posts have been published this month, some of them short piddly things that smacked of no effort whatsoever. Posts ranged from ramblings on a visit to North Kent to an analysis of new plastic bag regulations. The most popular kinds of post were again visits to places, totalling over half of the monthly output, thanks again in part to the prevalence of Open House. Commentary on capital-wide projects came a clear second, although these were generally lazy armchair rants based on limited understanding of the topic in hand. The best word to describe the posts was still 'geographical', but there was nowhere near as much good stuff about trains as before.
Let's again consider tone. Only 14 of the 34 posts had a positive vibe, a drop of 15% on last year. Meanwhile an astonishing 16 posts launched a direct attack on the subject in question, or had some mumbling undertone, which is clearly not a healthy state of affairs and reflects badly on the author's mental state. Three quarters of posts focused specifically on London, but of these six related solely to diamond geezer's immediate neighbourhood and so were of very limited interest. There were even two posts about Slough, which has to be scraping the barrel, and exemplifies the contempt diamond geezer increasingly displays towards his audience.
What's caused this sudden sour shift isn't immediately apparent. Maybe he's having a rough time at work, or perhaps he's been unlucky in love, or maybe we're simply not giving diddums enough attention. Whatever the reason, it's clearly unfair to take out this anger on those who work in our great capital, all of whom are trying the best they can. Let's hear more about how everything's great, rather than petty nitpicking at every opportunity, because there's enough gloom in our lives without adding more. London is a truly great city, and no single voice is so big that it deserves our attention.