Geographic Web Resources Hold Great Potential for Place Making

At the <a href="http://www.planetizen.com/www.communitymatters.org" target="_blank" title="CommunityMatters07">PlaceMatters06</a> fall conference, participants were treated to the first sneak preview of <a href="http://outside.in" target="_blank" title="Outside.in">outside.in</a>, 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 outside.in’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. <br />

March 9, 2007, 4:43 PM PST

By Ken Snyder


At the PlaceMatters06 fall conference, participants were treated to the first sneak preview of outside.in, 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 outside.in'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. Outside.in 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 outside.in. 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 outside.in from a site of real local stories to a community building site where people can cultivate a stronger sense of place.


Ken Snyder

Ken Snyder is Executive Director of PlaceMatters

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