General

Two more friends of the family to speak at #1000flowers; two more people who know that by building *together* we can still find an answer that works for every block…


Many, many moons ago, I wrote a blog post on here about Adrian Holovaty and EveryBlock. March, 2009, to be precise.

When it comes to both data and hyperlocal, Adrian is – and will remain – a Hall Of Famer. What he did with the ‘neighborhood’ data feeds through Chicago suburbia was brilliant. He was among very first of the quonts, the wonks and the geeks to be ‘mining’ out hygiene reports and crime updates and then tying them to zipcode locations on a map.

Anyone in this country that thinks they are breaking ‘new’ ground in that regard, you’re five years behind the curve.

And last week EveryBlock’s owners, NBC, shuttered it. And as the Gawker piece reveals, it’s demise brought much hand-wringing on the far side of the Pond that the whole hyper-local thing was a false dawn; no-one can get it to work.

I disagree. EveryBlock was a step-change project that lacked just one thing – the ability to get an ad onto the corner of EveryBlock and find the revenue needed to support a part-time ‘curator’ of said crime and hygiene data. Moving into social merely heightened that issue; moderation costs – and in individual, neighborhood blocks passions and emotions can run high. So don’t let your community run riot on your message-boards. But, as I say, moderation costs.

All EveryBlock ever lacked was a way of funding a part-time ‘block correspondent’ to keep their community playing nice – something akin to our own visions of a ’21st Century Village Correspondent’ for the community of Loddon, Norfolk.

But it proved one point; a point that ought to make people over here sit up and take notice – on its own data won’t save journalism. Its a team effort; that involves a neighborhood story-teller and a neighborhood ad seller. Data just makes the story-teller’s job that much easier; particularly if said data rolls across his or her desk in real time. Then it becomes a ‘breaking news’ feed. Which the ad-seller can them sell around.

Around 365,000 individual data points across the country in the case of Jonathan’s transport API; chart the real-time movement of every bus and train in and out of, say, Newcastle and Leeds. A piece of data content for every bus stop in the land. Not just London.

Data that he and his API can drill into any equivalent of an EveryBlock; most ‘blocks’ have at least one bus stop. And most people want to know if their bus is running late. Why too, ideally.

Most blocks also have a local shop or two. That’s why I am equally delighted that Nick from Voovio is joining the same panel at #1000flowers next month. The trick there is to look at the button on the top right. ‘Visit Local Shops of the World…

Because where Adrian also got it right was the fact that from early doors he recognised the power and the value of thinking like a network; that ChicagoCrime.org morphed into something that was of the web, not just on it. It became EveryBlock; that worked on AnyBlock. Adrian thought like a network, not a single city silo… He didn’t pin all his hopes on just making Chicago work. Therein might lie a lesson for one or two in this LocalTV space. Think like a silo and you will be building a coffin, not a TV station.

… which is excatly why I’m delighted that Jamie Conway is joining us too… fresh from winning the gig to do Local TV in Leeds.

As well as in Newcastle, Cardiff and Bristol.

Because he’s thinking like a network; from the start. Just as the Bishop does here in Norfolk. He builds a network, not a silo.

And, again, go back to the success of the Evening Standard in winning the LocalTV licence for London; what under-pinned that award? The commitment to deliver content through a pan-London network of 33 IPTV sites – one for every London borough. In doing that, they were not pinning all their hopes on whoever happened to sit beneath the Crystal Palace TV transmitter.

They were turning that old broadcast model upside down.. and offering a platform of engagement that was from the ‘bottom up’.

And this is what #1000flowers is all about; it is about people building networks. Of data, of course. But both Jonathan and Nick get that their neighborhood-level data needs a route to money.

Something, alas, that Adrian never quite reached with his EveryBlock. But, boy, did he ever break the mould.

All the details for #1000flowers are here… Come and join us in Newcastle on March 5.

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