Local is fn hard. Having worked at least 2 lifetimes ago on Sidewalk for Microsoft/ninemsn, and Citysearch being a Sensis property when I was there (along with the whole Yellowpages) I’ve seen alot of 1.0 + 2.0 local. It’s been good to at least see the ascent of Yelp.com in its geo-hotspots + lifestyle categories, and it’s a definite disappointment I couldn’t have achieved more in this category downunder in the last 4 years. The equivalent site we helped deliver locally with a partner ended up having legal moderate all content incl blog comments, posts, reviews etc a month out from launch, which was limited to one state, with no post launch support. Stillborn. Sound familiar ?
It’s been good watching outside.in innovate, and their product features are definitely pushing the right set, even if they’ve needed alot of capital to get to where they are, and the service hasn’t had the same must haveness that twitter and facebook have, both of which are inherently local products, but these are just one of a bundled element. It’s not like I can export from Facebook my friends (and their followers) mini-news feeds within a few blocks, kilometres or suburbs.
LocalOnliner have a good piece on the “news feed for your block” mission stated - Everyblock.com - “Among the news data that EveryBlock tracks are crime scores, police calls, bike rack locations, foreclosures, street conditions, liquor license applications and bike racks. And the list keeps on growing. The rise of RSS has made EveryBlock especially relevant. There are millions of RSS feeds enabled by the site, says Holovaty. One of the site’s core features is that it enables people to choose news feeds around them for one block, three blocks or eight blocks. Holovaty says that it makes sense for less dense cities like Charlotte to be set for eight blocks. But a major city like Chicago is going to suffer from information overload with such a wide radius.”
This is something I’ve wanted to, and continue to enable for Australia (and any location - England, parts of Europe, Asia) - where u can filter the noise on a local level - along with ideally reviews of the location. The most basic problem with this beyond getting the support of an investor or media partner that understands the value of this - is that there arent enough bloggers in Australia (as none of the major portals promote this behaviour as they are scared about defamation and dont have the technology platform either; From ninemsn not pushing Microsoft’s live.com/spaces/mesh or even Google promoting Blogger locally (and a Youtube Australia default home page doesnt count)
Even News Digital that do have a MySpace Australia presence dont have an excess of Australian syndicated content, as even though MySpace blogs have rss, the juice of a myspace page - the group messages on a MySpace member’s page doesnt have an RSS feed, nor a way thru API to export the Australian members wall and blog content. And while Facebook may or may not have a regional salesperson, Facebook Australia to my knowledge doesnt exist, and while there are increasing feeds available for MySpace for status updates etc, the mini-news feeds etc are being closely protected by the 2.0 borg. Luckily twitter has an API and there are definite things that could be done there, as too there can be with Flickr due to geocoded entries and tags, that have feeds too. Bottom line with the low level of blogging in Australia, more access to the local data of social networks is needed for local 2.0 to have any success downunder.
About the best (planned) attempt so far in this space locally is the StreetAdvisor.com team partnership with RealEstate.com.au the #1 property site downunder - which has started in South Australia, but results TBC : “The content sharing arrangement offers realestate.com.au visitors with the opportunity to learn and share vital details from a ‘locals only’ perspective about streets including noise levels, traffic, neighbours, entertainment and public services etc in a way that wasn’t previously available.” - However as Streetadvisor doesnt aggregate content beyond their own, Realestate.com.au are only getting a fraction of the content out there. Which even in the press released example of Glenelg - the suburb has a score of “73″ from Streetadvisor users (incl those driven from realestate) while the Third Avenue featured location does not have one review, oops.
In a perfect world, there would be an open source, creative commons usable horizontal index of local user generated content. Publishers like Realestate.com.au and everyday bloggers could use aggregate data via API query or generating a widget - and could then syndicate that content. In return they’d provide portions of their data to be remixed by others. This 2 way street would greatly increase the chance of Local 2.0 in Australia happening successfully. There would obviously be some commercial hyperlocal_gnip like applications built out of it at arms length, which would provide sustainability and reinvestment. Imagine u extracted all the Aussie stock mentions out of blogs and twitter for example ? In a country of oligopolies though, will this happen ? Um I’m hopeful but Local is Fkn Hard and I’m also not holding my breath. It’s bloody hard algorithmically to make sense of the mash of user generated content, and very hard to bootstrap the business as a startup. If there were a few social networks and blog platforms, 5 or 6 corporates in designated verticals (travel, finance, telecommunication, fmcg etc) that were interested, combined with an open source approach where bloggers and developers could put their stuff in and get others out… then there might be a chance Someone needs to tell Aussie companies “It’s not the Data, It’s the Flow.”