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The communal

Two inspiring talks in a row at Webstock about building communities, first from Derek Powazek of Fray.com and then from Meg Pickard, the Guardian’s head of communities and user experience. Inspiring, but infuriating too … it’s a reminder of how much thought and care is going into creating online communities at a level way above raw technology, while in New Zealand most of us are barely scratching the surface. (There are exceptions, of course, like Geekzone, Throng and, as always, Trade Me.)

It’s small comfort that many of the mistakes Powazek and Pickard point out can be found at the sites of our biggest publishers. Perhaps that’s part of the reason why Throng is the community of Kiwi TV nuts, not the Listener, and Geekzone is the happening place for technology discussion, not PC World.

I’m really enjoying observing the ways traditional and online media are complementing each other. Powazek launched Fray.com, “individually designed, true first-person stories”, and then turned it into a print version: Fray, “the quarterly of true stories and original art”. The hyper-connected Jane McGonigal is writing a book. Adrian Holovaty has reinvented online journalism at the Washington Post and his startup, EveryBlock.com is the most exciting expression of mashup journalism, but at heart EveryBlock is a new-media expression of the local newspapers that once were common (I discussed this with Holovaty at Idealog TV). The Guardian’s Pickard put it neatly: Content may no longer be king, but what’s important is context. From across the Pacific, an Everyblock listing is interesting, but if it’s your ’hood it would be compelling.

This is easily the most inspiring event I’ve attended since, well, the last Webstock. Even the campaign against the misguided and unfair Section 92a legislation going on somewhere outside the conference is a great example of the community efforts that are possible. So much to do. So much opportunity.