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Geographic Web Resources Hold Great Potential for Place Making

Ken Snyder's picture
At the PlaceMatters06 fall conference, participants were treated to the first sneak preview of, a spatially enabled hub for blogs and forums that adds location-based information to online discussions. Steven Berlin Johnson, author of several books including Emergence, and The Ghost Map, and the leading inspiration behind's conception, demonstrated the beta site during his keynote session. It created a buzz with conference participants quick to recognize its potential as a tool for encouraging community dialogue and place making.

Johnson's team publicly launched the site last week after making some great improvements. They have already cultivated a large user base and information in an impressive number of locations. Simply type your neighborhood name or zip code (or any place of interest) and you'll instantly gain access to real-world issues, discussions and the latest news unfolding in that location.

The information found on the site feels very organic as it provides access to much more than one might find through community-sponsored sites. Beyond restaurant reviews and upcoming events, you gain access to wide-ranging information through blogs and forums. You can learn about the good, the bad and the ugly. Read complaints about local schools and journal entries of a biker's experience with aggressive drivers. helps bring knowledge of all the best blogs and websites together.

Two new features in the version recently unveiled are Neighbors and Places. Neighbors lets you create a profile page, which lets you add a bio and image, as well as track all the stories you've contributed in the past to You can see Steven Johnson's neighbor page here. The Places feature allows users to add important place-specific information, everything from local schools and restaurants to dangerous road intersections as a means to help focus community conversations to one particular place.

These additions have transformed the beta version of from a site of real local stories to a community building site where people can cultivate a stronger sense of place.
Ken Snyder is Executive Director of PlaceMatters



Not exactly a sneak preview

With respect, Ken, has been available in beta for almost six months—I played with it on and off. (Full disclosure: Steven Johnson's a writer for Wired, though I don't edit him.) It's a good idea, the web site, but in my experience not so great for smaller neighborhoods

no, Ken's right!

Hey guys -- first off, Ken, thanks so much for the great write-up. Glad you like the changes we've added...

I mostly just wanted to say that Ken's actually right -- I did do the first public preview of at the PlaceMatters conference -- it was about five days before we went live with the beta...

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