Tell me more about hyperlocal citizen media

Roosevelt Avenue
The street where I live could easily be home to Sally, Dick, Jane, and Spot, yet it boasts a marvelous diversity that makes it much more charming. Residing in this little suburb is an expensive habit, but there are incalculable benefits.

A group of people in my community recently formed a commission to assist city officials with the selection and implementation of new digital technology. At least a couple of the volunteers are interested in community building and hyperlocal media, which is why I attended one of their meetings earlier this week. I thought a few intrepid citizen journalists might have initiated a community news website, but the commission’s work is still in the discussion and planning stages.

It pleases me that the technology commission created a Yahoo! Group forum where its work is documented for all to see. The city’s technology director urged the commission volunteers to make their business transparent. Citizens unable to attend the commission’s meetings can still chime in with comments in the Yahoo! Group forum.

The proliferation of startups designed to facilitate online communities makes the prospect of choosing an online service for hyperlocal media daunting. Ideally, a local community website’s concept and design should be appealing to citizens of all ages. Above all, it must be easy to use. Free is also good. A company that shares its revenue with contributors whose articles, blogs, podcasts, and videos attract the most viewers is certainly nice.

I’m trying to identify existing grassroots media website services that might interest my neighbors. Here are just a few:

451 Press

AmericanTowns.com

Backfence.com (closing)

EveryBlock

Front Porch Forum

Hyperlocal Media, designing sites built with Moveable Type

ismyhome.com

Newsvine, recently relaunched with new options for hyperlocal groups

Ning, e.g., the Sefton Park Road community network
(Sefton Park Road now requires registration.)

Outside.in Patch

Pegasus News

revver, for video sharing

SlideShare, for audiovisual presentations

Topix

YourHub.com

Can you name other hyperlocal community web services like these? Please feel free to chime in here with a comment or a link. There’s a lot of territory to cover, and your comments are appreciated.

Transparency is communication

My business is communication, which means both content and delivery are of concern to me. Part of my work involves understanding the different technologies used to convey information, because the choice is important to my clients. The medium influences the style and tone of their messages.

Nine years ago, I held an assignment with a police agency that permitted me to successfully implement new forms of internal communication to cut through layers of bureaucracy. Modes of publication evolve, but the argument in favor of accurate, direct, and timely communication is still valid.

In any organization, administrators can encounter a resentful workforce on one side and a demanding public on the other. Left to draw their own conclusions about the rationale for new business policies, personnel allocation, and budget priorities, people who are not in positions of power naturally tend to become suspicious and adversarial. Even when official explanations are provided, the truth is often distorted as it travels from one person to another and through different media. Human beings inevitably filter information as they pass it along.

Executives today face increasing demands to be more open about their businesses and the organizations they run. For those accustomed to having staff who handle requests for information and respond on their behalf, the thought of intentionally revealing details of the day-to-day work process seems counterintuitive. However, the articulate businessperson who uses transparency to avoid misunderstanding is gaining popularity and credibility among clients, customers, business associates, investors, employees, and community members. Clive Thompson explains how some maverick business communicators operate in his March 2007 Wired article, “The See-Through CEO.”

For a top administrator, part of the solution can be to adopt a clear voice heard well beyond the walls of a conference room. At relatively little expense, business owners and government officials can use channels of information that were inaccessible or cost-prohibitive until very recently. Advances in interactive technology can reduce isolation, help lower expenses, encourage business networking, and allow communities to flourish.