A few years ago, while I was Web Producer at s1, I was asked to develop a ‘hyperlocal’ community web platform. The system I designed and developed with Duncan McDonald, s1community, went on to power over 100 s1-branded community sites, 80 Evening Times local sites and still employs full time journalists to curate content from thousands of public contributors.
It’s a platform I’m very proud of, but in the six years or so that have passed since we launched there have been huge changes in the wider web. Most notably, people are no longer tied to their PCs. The growth in web access from smartphones and tablets has been explosive and many people – myself included – now rarely look at a desktop or laptop computer outside of office hours.
Against that backdrop I was itching to do something different in the hyperlocal space. I think there’s a big opportunity to connect people, businesses, charities and council services in a much more integrated and cost-effective way than has ever been possible before.
When I saw Nesta’s Destination Local, with Ł50K of funding for new hyperlocal ideas, it seemed like the perfect opportunity to try something new that would be too risky to try independently. I called the idea Our Town, and we submitted it to Nesta as a Herald & Times Group project a couple of months ago. Ten winners were selected from 165 entries and I’m delighted to say that ours was one of them.
I spent the day in London on Wednesday with the other winners, discussing our ideas and working out what comes next. It’s going to be a big job but I think it could be an exciting future direction for local communities online.
Here’s the video I made: