Everyblock’s Adrian Holovaty has signalled a change in direction for the hyperlocal news site he founded in 2007 and which was subsequently bought up by MSNBC.com.
He wants to switch its focus from that of a data-driven aggregator to a “platform for discussion around neighbourhood news”.
He told Poynter: “…we’ve come to realize that human participation is essential, not only as a layer on top but as the bedrock of the site.”
On his blog, Holovaty writes that current social media tools are focused on people you already know and he poses the question: “How many people in American cities can even name more than a handful of their neighbors?
His answer is to use Everyblock to post to them – “instead of the social graph, it’s the geo graph”.
As a way of helping to knit a community together it’s an interesting approach but, as Holovaty himself points out, it’s not attempting to be yet another social network.
“If you want to follow your neighbor’s personal life, friend her on Facebook; if you want to talk about neighborhood issues, use EveryBlock.”
The site was spawned from his Chicagocrime site helped along by a Knight Foundation grant and it has now been extended to cover all major centres across the US.
A skim through the information available for West Seattle brings up local news, messages from neighbours, 911 dispatches, real estate info, restaurant reviews, meet-ups, local photos and much else besides. Every item is mapped and it’s possible to search by zip code, by area, or even by street.
The granularity that comes from mining official data is impressive, everything from building permits to restaurant inspections are available – though the neighbourhood chatter wasn’t evident when I looked because the change in emphasis is still so new.
Less impressive is the chronological design which, without more sophisticated filters or editorialising, makes staying informed an ordeal by parish pump.
Planning applications can, of course, be a big as a story if they directly affect you, but weeding the relevant from the irrelevant needs better tools to let people decide what they want – and what they don’t.