September 6, 2006

SkokieTalk and UNR

Last week I worked myself up into a froth about placeblogging, and in particular placeblogs that are set up and championed by outsiders, people who don’t live in the community the site is covering. I mentioned GoSkokie, a site that was built by university students as a class project. They picked a suburb of Chicago and built a community site for them. But after the class was over and they got their grade, the students pulled out and the site collapsed. Nobody was willing to stick around and tend to the site when it needed it most. This story pisses me off every time I think about it, and just bringing it up led me off on this tirade against newspapers and universities.

But this week, I have two good pieces of news to report:

1) I found out from Jeff Jarvis, who was as pleasantly surprised as I was, that GoSkokie didn’t in fact dry up and go away. After the university kids dropped the ball, the Skokie Public Library picked it up and built SkokieTalk, a true placeblog run by members of the community. Same idea, different URL. And the site seems to be thriving, which is good to see.

2) In the comments I lashed out at Mr. Jerz for being involved in one of these university projects, which led him to post a really impassioned defense of it. He came back with some good points that show he’s committed to the site he’s building, which is a good sign. Here’s what he said:

We’re doing Tahoe because we’re focusing on environmental issues and not just news. It’s about citizen participation in government, so we need something that people are fired up about. TRPA fires people up. At least, that’s how I see it. The Sagebrush is entirely its own entity, and despite the many shortcomings, it does well for itself, so they’re not exactly in the market to be overhauled.

I see your point about the J-school sites. Two things here. First, one thing our program did was to bring in people who live in, work in, and care deeply about Tahoe. There are also old-school reporters, graphics people, photogs, and tech nerds like me. We’ll make this thing happen (and get our grades)! Second, we’re a graduate program dedicated to this website and this website alone, so I’d hope the interest is greater than a jerkaround three-credit prerequisite for the TV class.

And how many people, exactly, call the campus home? I take issue with calling us out on UNR issues. The most impossible people to get involved, at least in my experience, are college kids. Ever seen the returns on an election up there? Somewhere in the neighborhood of 1,500 people vote. That’s under 10%. Why? Because way too many people have become accustomed to rolling onto campus, hitting their class or two, and immediately heading out. Nobody is on campus, it seems. So why talk about campus life when there really isn’t campus life?

I like being wrong, because it lets other people teach me how to be right. I should do it more often.

Filed under The Computer Vet Weblog

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  1. frances roehm says:

    Hi Scott, I wanted you to know how grateful we are to Professor Gordon of Northwestern’s Medill School and his students. He started us thinking out of the box, and although his model wasn’t an exact fit, he was right about the importance of creating a community commons for Skokie.

    We already had a dynamic Community Information Network in Skokie, but needed a vehicle for residents to share their stories, opinions, pictures, etc.

    All told, we experimented with three different software packages before we found the functionality we needed for our community. Geeklog used in GoSkokie came close; Movable Type is easy for broadcasting information and we have used it for What’s New and our Career Coaching website, but it could not accommodate a community of users; Drupal proved to have the flexibility we needed to handle the complexities here.

    Do please join me in thanking Rich Gordon and his class for making a case for our commons and helping us clarify our vision. We’re pleased with the response we’re getting from tweens and senior citizens alike. Folks who use it love it. Thanks for your help in getting the word out about the importance of community information and participation. Best regards, Fran

    Posted September 13, 2006 @ 8:32 pm

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