- Last Updated on Sunday, 17 March 2013 07:47
Well, here I am, again.
That's what I first wrote, almost two years ago, when I first started slapping together a few ideas for a site that would focus on the area south of the Fraser river.
I grew up in Surrey, in fact I was born here. After over two decades of living elsewhere I've circled back, although it seemed to have changed a bit. Bigger. More cars. More people.
When, by accident, I discovered that "southofthefraser" was available I jumped on it without thinking about it too clearly. I had no desire to create another aggregation site, and no pretensions that this would redefine journalism through some misplaced hyperlocal idealism.
At first I thought...
My first thought was to think big(ish) and create an inclusive space for Delta, Surrey and Langley. But that's too big. Too much work. Too much of a hassle. Who's got the time? Not me. I have to work. So I have to focus.
The notional working plan now includes:
- creating an almanac of data and news about the area
- collecting public sentiment about the area, as it is publicly expressed through Twitter, because it's convenient
- experimenting with moving statistical data from tables into graphs and narratives
- occassional blog-like posts about flora, fauna and other discoveries
The South of the Fraser project makes extensive use of news alerts and rss feeds, and Twitter, through @southoffraser. This isn't just a marketing tool for the site, but also a method to (1) share content that may not be shared by every other person, and (2) collect news items of interest for other projects, like weekly news roundups, or perhaps (at some point) a year in review.
In practice, I've noticed...
I get intrigued by problems. One early project was to take every mention of Surrey on Twitter, the bad and the good, and make a daily post out of it. This has turned into a fascinating adventure, one that's still evolving. If you're interested in that sort of thing, I have a blog, in the original sense of the term, here, where I vent over technical and other issues about this site.
The daily "What are people tweeting about Surrey" post has become the main content. I'm slowly filling in other areas of interest as I get around to it, and along the way trying to be more inclusive of other cities. The contact page on politicians from Delta to Abbotsford is the most comprehensive I've seen anywhere. Gathering the information for that shows just how difficult finding some of this material can be. You'd think by now online contact information would be easily accessible, accurate and comprehensive. It isn't, especially once you get to the municipal level.
A few influences
Although the hyperlocal dream hasn't lived up to it's initial promise a lot can be learned from the variety of its manifestations. A good example I've enjoyed over the years is New Westminster's Tenth to the Fraser, the counter-cultural Beyond Robson, plus a few personal blogs that have a civic point-of-view like Gordon Price's Price Tags and Frances Bula's State of Vancouver.
Complaints and commendations