Tuesday, May 26

The Local Pub Just Got Robbed & Its Burgers Really Suck

Chicago NPR had an interesting interview with the founder of EveryBlock.com -- a micronews aggregation service that provides newsfeeds for events occurring in your neighborhood. Here is a description via the radio transcript:

"There’s a bunch of crimes that happened here. Wow there’s an armed robbery right on Briar. Someone reviewed the new cupcake place that just opened. What else is interesting – I can filter to foreclosures."

On the screen I can see there were six foreclosures filed on one day in April – a little glimpse into how the housing crisis is hitting this area. Tracking foreclosures may sound tedious, but it’s precisely by sifting and sorting small pieces of data that EveryBlock is creating such excitement. The site locates that data, on a given block, within the limits of a particular city, as fast as it becomes available. To Holovaty, any new information in the public realm - not just news stories but internet reviews, public records like crime stats and building per, or personal photographs - is news.
One-stop access to localized content/news isn't a new trend. Microsoft started up Sidewalk.com 10 years ago. AOL's Digital Cities was even earlier. But those sites were directly reliant on paying people to provide the local content; usually via newspaper content feeds or freelance writers. Those sites were only as good as those creating the content.

Now there is a flood of both professional and user-generated localized content online, the search technology to find and compile it, and the personal devices to deliver it 24 hours a day.

But what happens when the Always On Generation -- raised on a steady stream of Facebook updates and Twitter tweets -- applies the same voracious appetite for real-time content to news about their neighborhood? Will we become digital versions of those guys glued to their police scanners, waiting for a convenience store robbery car chase? Does having your iPhone beep when you pass a neighbor's house in foreclosure really make you a better local citizen?

And what about the declaration that anything is news? Does a cupcake restaurant review demand the same priority as a mugging down the block? Should video of a three alarm fire compete with video from your block party? The melting pot of public vs personal news will be very interesting to watch.

The latest trends in real-time social media have taught us the difficulty in turning off the information firehouse once it starts. Opening up the corner fire hydrants on a hot day may be fun for awhile, at least until your basement starts flooding. The real challenge is not drowning in your own front yard.

No comments: