What great town Web sites are there? Or what should be on one?
August 4, 2009 5:44 PM   Subscribe

I have an opportunity to produce a kickass community Web site for my town. What cities already have wonderfully interactive, community Web sites I can look at for inspiration, or what do you think a killer town Web site should have or be like?

I recently bought my town's domain name (in its .co.uk variant) but despite having 15,000 residents, my town is not very well represented online, although the residents are heavy Internet users (on Facebook especially).

I have plentiful spare time and resources and I'd like to do it for a challenge, for something to do, and as a way of engaging in local life. In my previous life I sold a couple of tech businesses I developed, so I can do almost any sort of custom development for this.

I am at the very earliest stage. I have the domain and.. that's it. I'm figuring out what to offer. I have not yet done any local market research (although I'm sure that would be interesting, I think the local populace will need to be led by the nose..)

So I want to get some initial ideas by seeing other kickass community/town Web sites. Can you recommend any? Further, if you can't or if you were in my position, what would you put on or develop for a kickass local community/town Web site? What do you think I should be doing?

Just so you have a rough idea where my imagination is flying, I sorta want to get people posting and interacting.. so something like Craigslist mixed with a no-sign-in-necessary Twitter.. vague, I know.
posted by wackybrit to Society & Culture (13 answers total) 14 users marked this as a favorite
The Davis Wiki is great for a visitor; I'm not sure how it'd be as a community member but I bet also great.
posted by you're a kitty! at 6:23 PM on August 4, 2009


although the residents are heavy Internet users (on Facebook especially)

If so, are you sure you need separate community site?
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 6:47 PM on August 4, 2009 [1 favorite]

Like Davis Wiki, there's RocWiki, for Rochester NY. Have you looked at Ning? Easy-peasy setup, I hear. I am part of the Ning for my neighborhood and I'm not a daily visitors, but I'm really glad it's there.
posted by knile at 7:13 PM on August 4, 2009

Response by poster: Re: Facebook — If so, are you sure you need separate community site?

There are no town-specific goings on - just people from the town socializing in their same-age groups. I don't intend to replace that. I'm hoping that the lack of town-related cohesiveness is not because none is required (I could be wrong!) :) One reason I think a separate site may work is in classifieds. They are quite popular in the town newspaper but they are not reproduced online and the town newspaper's site has little traffic and few interactive elements.
posted by wackybrit at 7:33 PM on August 4, 2009

Except that it's flash, I like madeinmtl.com for Montreal.
posted by You Should See the Other Guy at 7:44 PM on August 4, 2009

Best answer: I think the local populace will need to be led by the nose.

This is a great opportunity and a great project. Congrats.

But sorry, wrong start.
A community is not a mass media.
Community members are not a populace.
The founder of a community doesn't intend to lead the members by the nose.

The most important part is to change your mindset.

Let's try again.
A community is made of people who enjoy doing something together, one person at a time.
So I guess the first step of your community is to talk to one person in this town and to find out what this person would like to do online with you, preferably something that is not available on facebook.

Rinse. Repeat.
Once you have 4 people, you'll know about more activities, games, news that your members want to do online together, and you can help them do it.
Provide a platform. Welcome them in their own personal pages. Give them a common playground. Etc. The technical part is the easy one.
The community way of leading is to listen and to serve.
Good luck.
posted by bru at 8:01 PM on August 4, 2009 [4 favorites]

I've always liked Bourne, but it's one man's project with a happy side effect of a (somewhat small) online community forming. However, that is a viable model (perhaps the best model) for a small community site--have one person, or a small core of people, enthusiastically writing and gathering information about a locale, and you'll attract an audience.

I have seen several local efforts fail here in rural NW WA despite good tech behind the scenes...there was "no there, there" and people never used it because of that--most people are shy. Our local community does have a forum that is somewhat well-trafficked, but the only issues that get a lot of traction are the contentious ones, and that leads to moderation and/or hurt feelings a lot of the time.
posted by maxwelton at 9:01 PM on August 4, 2009

I have seen a few pretty remarkable local web communities (albeit all here in the U.S.):
posted by anildash at 9:08 PM on August 4, 2009

The Davis Wiki is great for a visitor; I'm not sure how it'd be as a community member but I bet also great.

As a former Davis resident, I used daviswiki fairly often. It has tons of reviews of businesses, restaurants, apartment complexes, etc. There's a page for pretty much every establishment in town. I wish the town I currently live in had something similar.
posted by getchoo at 2:23 AM on August 5, 2009

Perfect Duluth Day
posted by electroboy at 7:02 AM on August 5, 2009

Live Here Oak Park
posted by desjardins at 8:30 AM on August 5, 2009

Oxford's Daily Info, kind of like a Craigslist thing, but with added reviews, listings, and guides to the city. I'm pretty sure I hit this site every day.
posted by TheWaves at 11:06 AM on August 5, 2009

Arbor Wiki is a wiki focused on Ann Arbor that's really taken off, especially if you want lunch under $5.
posted by shirobara at 5:54 AM on August 8, 2009

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