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For the citizens, by the citizens. Posted on 01/01/2003.

Reading Gawker, the catty New York weblog, has made me want something similar-ish in my new city of residence, Berkeley. I was chatting with Adina about this. She lives in Austin.

What would a Berkeley Gawker be? An Austin Gawker? Obviously, they'd take on the regional flava... I don't think Berkeleyites would be nearly as obsessed with Prada and J. Lo (thankfully).

But I could definitely see a network of city/region blogs developing. For me here in Berkeley, it would be something that could delve into local issues, politics, referenda, as well as new restaurants stores, and even local events, library happenings. One of the nice things about Gawker is that it doesn't fear mundanity. And that's something that sets the web apart from other publishing media. Mundanity is important in a citizen's life. I'd love to know that I ought to avoid the intersection of Sacramento and Oregon because there's a massive pothole. Stuff like that.

It's particularly valuable in cities too small to warrant a good local paper. I mean, we've got the East Bay Express, but that covers the whole East Bay, and comes out only once a week.

We also have things like CitySearch, which are nice, but too commerce focused.

Anyway, the point would be to have 5-10 folks, different people scattered around a region, writing about what's happening in their neighborhood, providing insight on all sorts of topics.

As Adina pointed out, "column inches are cheap" on the Web.

What would be great is if a blog tool was modified for regional use... Easy access to maps, some form of archiving/categorizing that included geography, etc.

Like me, I'd talk about the Thai Temple Brunch two blocks from my house, or the Jumpin' Java coffeehouse that offers both free wireless AND wired connections (ethernet cables you can plug into your laptops). Or maybe get a discussion going about the best places to play pinball in Berkeley and North Oakland.

Anyway, I suppose this is one for the LazyWeb.

26 comments so far. Add a comment.

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That's similar to what I've been trying to build into
Posted by jonah @ 01/01/2003 07:47 PM PST [link to this comment]

craigslist is something like that, though not entirely, with almost all of those categories, though some of the information is hidden among other different topic heads.
Posted by carol @ 01/02/2003 06:02 AM PST [link to this comment]

As an advocate of the multi-centered city, I love citywide blogportals like LABlogs and my hometown But you're right, it's at the neighborhood level that we need new publishing schemes. NYCBloggers lets you read all the blogs at your subway stop, but I'd really want to filter by subject as well as neighborhood.
Posted by Andrea Moed @ 01/02/2003 09:29 AM PST [link to this comment]

It would be nice to pull all the city internet information together, web services style, into a single site, with preferences, edited by neighborhood, with integrated maps (not Yahoo/Mapblast/Mapquest style--actual usable street and alley level with toggleable layers) filtered on search, story, service, food choice, etc--linked to reviews, stories, etc. The human element of neighborhood editors (and submitted stories/articles) would add the crucial personality needed to make the site work as entertainment. My hometown of Chicago is ripe for such a neighborhoodly site--beyond such a paradoy as
Posted by J. Lowell @ 01/02/2003 10:07 AM PST [link to this comment]

It's not exactly the same thing, but I started a Berlin Guide that I've opened to firends (and friends of friends) that still live there.
Posted by Andrew @ 01/02/2003 10:56 AM PST [link to this comment]

Great idea, and it's just been done in the UK... see

The biggest issue is one of critical mass... and privacy is also a problem, but not insoluable.
Posted by Tomski @ 01/02/2003 11:24 AM PST [link to this comment]

Great idea, and it's just been done in the UK... see

The biggest issue is one of critical mass... and privacy is also a problem...
Posted by Tomski @ 01/02/2003 11:25 AM PST [link to this comment]

Looks like John Hiler is trying to do something like this with Cityblogs. Doesn't seem like it's something that can happen easily from the top-down though...but rather start when interested people just start doing such sites for/in their communities.
Posted by megnut @ 01/02/2003 12:42 PM PST [link to this comment]

Oh, man -- I can imagine the Berkeley blog now -- a fascination with Noam Chomsky and Birkenstocks that would rival the J. Lo / Prada combo of Gawker.

We should start it now, and set the tone right, just to make sure some blasted hippie doesn't get "there" first...
Posted by michael @ 01/02/2003 01:20 PM PST [link to this comment]

I thought you lived in Oakland? Why must you wimp out on your city like that? Aligning yourself with wimpy intellectuals instead of representing for your home... oh wait, I forgot that you are a wimpy intellectual. nevermind.
Posted by charlie n. @ 01/02/2003 03:43 PM PST [link to this comment]

Oakland is a city with no wimps allowed. Homicides were at a all time high in Oakland when in the rest of the country they went down. Aligning with Bezerkley seem more 'sane'. LOL
Posted by Janice @ 01/03/2003 12:15 AM PST [link to this comment]

if anyone's interested, I've just found out that I'll be talking about the creation of

at ETcon this year. It does exactly what you describe, although the format is old-fashioned threaded discussion, rather than blogs per se.

I've written some stuff here too.
Posted by Stefan Magdalinski @ 01/03/2003 06:14 AM PST [link to this comment]

if you follow mr. rogers format, you can't go wrong.
Posted by julieme @ 01/03/2003 06:30 AM PST [link to this comment]

Peter, I was thinking of doing this a couple years back with my metafilter codebase. MetaFilter worked pretty well in 2000, when the crowd was small and hyper-interested in everything (maybe it was under the magic 150 number of active contributors?). The same problems that plague the site now could plague a localized version, if there are comments allowed and visitors end up "hanging out" on the site. Perhaps a group blog without comments would be more fruitful. I never launched it due to time constraints of watching another multi-user community when I already had one to run, and also I was scared away by the prospect of dozens of them popping up.
Posted by mathowie @ 01/03/2003 10:56 AM PST [link to this comment]

Also, just noticed that a philly area weblog just popped up.
Posted by mathowie @ 01/03/2003 03:27 PM PST [link to this comment]

If you're looking for the "regional flava" of Austin, it already exists in the decades long column of John Kelso ( in the Austin American Statesman.
Posted by anon @ 01/03/2003 04:46 PM PST [link to this comment]

Now the Gawker team are going to get hassled for subdomains.. :-)
Posted by Peter 'Wacky Brit' Cooper @ 01/04/2003 03:53 AM PST [link to this comment]

If just for a good way to manage a real events calendar and reviews of local shindigs that mean something, I've gotten as far as registering a domain name and playing with logos for one for Marin. It can't be that hard to do better than the Codependent Journal. A reasonable tie-in to maps and user uploaded GPS data would be great, especially for hikes.

What I haven't found yet is a core group of people who'd be willing to help make this a collaborative effort. All those who've said "what a great idea, I'll type in all the events and calendars I'm interested in" have been dwellers of the Peninsula or South Bay, and whenever I mention "web page" to the whiners who go and kvetch at every town meeting, their eyes glaze over.

I think I just need to find an extra two or so hours a week and start with the live music calendar in Fairfax.
Posted by Dan Lyke @ 01/06/2003 01:43 PM PST [link to this comment]

Dan, the hiking/GPS application sounds intriguing. What do you have in mind?

What would somebody want to blog? What would other people want to read or look up?

- Adina
Posted by Adina Levin @ 01/06/2003 01:57 PM PST [link to this comment]

Right now I'm carrying a GPS along when I go hiking or biking, then downloading the track points. My thought initially was that it'd just be nice to have enough GPS data that I can say "I took a photo close to there" and start to attach lat/lon information to my photo database. But I'm doing this with Un*x through various cool but non "user friendly" means, if I can find easy ways for more people to do and set up some sort of application to annotate and manage these tracks a little better, then we could also start to build a big collaborative map that'd have information that no single map publisher can put out right now, and with data of which a good bit of which probably doesn't exist in digital form.

Marin has a ton of great hiking, none of the documentation is complete, and it all changes a lot with the seasons. Gathering that collective knowledge would be a really cool resource. That's why that came up as one of my concerns.
Posted by Dan Lyke @ 01/06/2003 02:39 PM PST [link to this comment]

How good is Marin's GIS, have you checked? Is it open? A lot of municipalities have publicly available GIS base maps that could be used for this purpose. The hiker-blog would overlay individual comments onto points on the map.

- Adina
Posted by Adina Levin @ 01/06/2003 02:44 PM PST [link to this comment]

I haven't checked out Gawker yet, but a local blog would be an interesting idea. That kind of mundanity is what I miss about the demise of the Berkeley Daily Planet. Great journalism, it wasn't, but it filled a need.
Posted by Spidra Webster @ 01/07/2003 12:52 AM PST [link to this comment]

Adina, we're pulling this way far afield of the original discussion, but... The main problem with GIS is the software to display everything. There's lots of data out there, including DEM files which give fairly reasonable elevation data and with false color can be an amazingly effective way to build "topo-like" maps, and all sorts of boundary information. I just need to learn how to parse all these things and create web images from them.

Maybe starting with those tools is the way to build the backbone of such a system.
Posted by Dan Lyke @ 01/07/2003 10:18 AM PST [link to this comment]

I think the Gawker works best as a New York publication and not a franchise. It's also the opposite of a lazyweb production, in that it is based on the focused effort of just a few people. I immediately wondered if Oakland, or the East Bay, or the San Francisco Bay Area could support a similar publication, but it's hard to say.

Didn't realize you'd moved to Berkeley. Any luck finding a dentist? I seem to recall recommending my very excellent dds (on Telegraph just north of Ashby) about a year ago...
Posted by xian @ 01/09/2003 10:16 AM PST [link to this comment]

I see a need in Berkeley as well. I rue the demise of the Berkeley Daily Planet (see, but what I liked best about it, the coverage of local politics - the local political scene, the school board, the high school, and the ever popular police report, would be hard to replace with a blogger. You would need to either pay someone, or find some local politics junkie in Berkeley. In my experience, it is a lot harder to find a local than a national/international politics junkie.

All that said, I know I little bit about Berkeley after 10 years here, and I'd be happy to work on such a thing as "The Berkeley Blog" if you ever get interested.

Posted by Tim @ 01/14/2003 01:14 AM PST [link to this comment]

I wish my hometown of omaha, nebraska had something like gawker.
Posted by keith knutsson @ 02/06/2003 06:03 AM PST [link to this comment]

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