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The RoBlog
Sunday, June 19, 2005
Neighborhood Information System
Here's an idea that's been circling in the back of my mind for the last couple of years: a Neighborhood Information System. Basically, this would be a place where all members of a community could contribute information to a central location for the benefit of other people in the neighborhood.

I have some pretty ambitious plans for what such a system might be like, and what it could do...which means it will probably never happen.

The GOOD news (depending on who you are, I suppose) is that it occurred to me that there are plenty of useful tools out there right now to do a pretty good first pass at such a system without having to build it from scratch. Wikis, for example are a good place to host information that is relatively static, like neighborhood history. Blogs are a good way of providing news, and message boards are a great place to share dynamic information, among other things.

My short term vision is that the best of breed open source versions of these tools would be combined into one system for the primary purpose of providing a single login for all of the tools. This would then be released as open source for any other neighborhoods that wanted to put it in to place, and potentially add their own improvements.

The driving force, however, is to allow ANYONE to contribute to ALL aspects of the system. This means add/change historical information, create news items, and create a new topic in the message board. I believe this system will work best if there is no centralized control (though I DO think it's appropriate to have oversight committees for such things as taxonomy, design, and contribution guidelines). Instances where a single person, or group of individuals should have absolute control over some portion of the system should be exceedingly rare.

It is in this spirit that I've started a Wiki for the Laurelhurst neighborhood in Portland, Oregon. This is a test set up on a hosted wiki service that uses ads for revenue. Ultimately the goal would be to get on a system that was not ad supported and ran an integrated system, but at this point I'm thinking baby steps.

If you live in the Laurelhurst neighborhood, feel free to drop by, sign up and start adding stuff. If you are interested in the concept and think it would be interesting, drop me a comment even if you don't live in my neighborhood. As I said previously, I see this as being something that every neighborhood could use for free (though you may have to provide your own hosting) so there's no reason it has to just be about where I live.

I've looked around to find if such a system already exists and didn't come up with much luck. But if YOU know of such a project in progress, leave a comment with a link. I'd much rather not rebuild the wheel if I didn't have to.
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