Aurora blogs and community forums – 2013 review

After witnessing The Auroran’s leap forward with respect to their web presence it got me thinking about some other local sites and how an audit of social spaces is long overdue.

My last one was back in June of 2011, which you can read here:
https://wattstrending.wordpress.com/2011/06/28/is-your-blog-half-empty-or-half-full/

Back then I reviewed 5 sites, of which only 3 remain standing.

This time I will look at 8 broken down into 3 blogs and 5 community forums.

First, the blogs.

Having been blogging myself for going on 4 years it has my experience that the currency of blogging is authenticity and trust.

If there’s any blogger in town, or even the entire region that epitomizes that statement it is Aurora Clr. Evelyn Buck.

1.) Our Town and Its Business

buck

http://evelynmbuck.blogspot.ca/
platform : Blogger

Evelyn has been blogging since 2007 logging an impressive 2500 posts.

Evelyn has a steady and growing audience, and comments to her blog sometimes become the subject of posts themselves making her blog a go to source of educated opinion from a wealth of experience on the town’s inner workings.

Although the site itself is mobile friendly additional social improvements will be made when Google folds its Blogger property into its Google+ space.

2.) In My Opinon

ballard

http://www.chrisballard dot ca
platform : Weebly

In stark contrast to Clr. Buck’s blog, Clr. Ballard’s site is rather feeble both in its construct and content.

When his blog is sporadically updated the rhetoric is needlessly provocative.

The site itself is not mobile friendly and its layout is stale stemming from the choice of platform. Weebly offers little power to bloggers which is why it is relegated to those starting out, or couldn’t be bothered to learn the tool-set as opposed to communications professionals.

Unlike Clr. Buck’s blog there is minimal commenting and interaction which seems to counter Ballard’s flaunting of his site as a community forum.

Sté Kerwer’s post over on Dukeo.com speaks to how one goes about building a community around a blog. The following words stood out to me:

“like any good community, we have to find a way to let our readers know that they have a certain amount of control of what goes on on our blogs. We have to let them see that they influence our direction and we value their input, even if we don’t agree.”

It appears Clr. Ballard’s blog has failed on all fronts, but you can judge for yourself by reading it here:
http://dukeo.com/building-a-community-around-your-blog/

3.) LivinginAurora

living

http://livinginaurora.ca/
platform : WordPress.org (used to be blogger)

Community is something that Anna, local resident and amazing photographer has done very well, since launching her personal photoblog back in 2007 she has branched out into two community forums detailed in the next section.

Anna’s photo blog offers up a constant source of visual stimulation. A perfect blend of local heritage, nature, wildlife and people Anna’s lens converts the otherwise looked over areas of our wonderful town into real gems.

Her WordPress site offers a clean design, is professional, well updated and usable across all devices.

 

The next 5 spaces are Community Forums, or at least some claim to be.

1.) Aurora Comunity Focus

breezi_placeit

http://www.livinginaurora.com/
platform : WordPress.org

Aurora Community Focus is a fantastic resource for all Aurorans. Offering up opinion, politics, history, real-estate news and some great reviews of the town’s local parks.

Clr. Buck provided a review last year which you can read here: http://evelynmbuck.blogspot.ca/2012/08/nearly-new-blog-site.html

The site is updated regularly and provides content that is thought provoking and unique.

2.) Documenting Aurora

documenting

http://www.documentingaurora.ca/
platform : WordPress.org

Catapulting off the positive reception and engagement from Aurora Community Focus, Anna has also launched Documenting Aurora to coincide with the town’s 150th celebrations.

As the year progresses the site will surely fill in with some great content, and be a great way for all residents to share memories with the community.

3.) Aurora Citizen

citizen

http://auroracitizen.ca/
platform : WordPress.com

Aurora’s premiere community forum, the Aurora Citizen site has sadly seen no action since November 2012.

Less of a blog, commentors weren’t really bloggers at all, and the epic failed attempt to contravene Canadian laws of freedom of speech in a ridiculous $6 million suits by a vexatious former mayor ,that also sued unsucessfuly the site’s host, have only served to strengthen Aurora’s sense of community, and its intolerance of such abuses of power.

Hopefully after the town decides how to handle the motion regarding SLAPP litigation we will see a return of posts and traffic to the site.

4.) AuroraClicks

clicks

http://www.auroraclicks dot com
platform : Nabernet

Since my review of the AuroraClucks site I did back in May of 2012 only one thing has changed: the site has suspended its infrequent output and entered the death spiral I predicted.

You can read my previous review here: https://wattstrending.wordpress.com/2012/05/15/auroraclicks-grunts-com/

AuroraClicks was never a community site, it offered little to no reason to visit and the only thing that remains on the ghost town of its site are ads.

in a November 2012 piece in AdAge Philipp Pieper points out how ‘Viewable’ Ads Are Worthless If Your Website Is a Cluttered Mess:
http://adage.com/article/digitalnext/viewability-noticeability-counts/238334/

Ads also only work if you have an audience, something AuroraClicks couldn’t seem to attract.

5.) habachat

habachat

http://www.habachat dot com
platform : siteforum

Applauded last year as being something innovative and worthy of attention habachat describes itself as “your local town’s social network”.

If habachat was a social network, and it isn’t, there would be evidence of socializing but there is none.

The site also claims that “Using gamification and social media, we bring the community together in fun and engaging ways to promote local businesses and support local charities.”

More Marketing bullshit. What “fun and engaging ways” has habachat brought the community together? It hasn’t.

“In doing so, we help the local communities, businesses and people become socially influenced while accomplishing great things.”

What “great things has habachat accomplished?

What “gamification” has been applied?

I see nothing but empty words.

As for “socially influenced” automating notices to go out to existing social media platforms does nothing to bring a community together differently than they already are.

Sporting sections for business, education, government associations, events, jobs, community news and deals when one bothers to investigate the contents there is only placeholder content and links outwards to other sites. There is absolutely no creation, curation or aggregation of content that makes habachat a destination for eyeballs, or provide a reason for anyone to engage with it.

With no differentiation, no engagement and no value proposition all that habachat has seemingly accomplished is becoming a repository of links, replicating what already exists elsewhere, and in a rather unimpressive way.

I’ve heard Habachat described as a “platform, but it is not a platform at all, it is simply licensing siteform software to run its forum: http://www.siteforum.com/. When compared to other siteform clients habachat implementation is sloppy and no doubt explains why after 6 months it is still wearing its “beta” label.

Everything habachat fails to be Nextdoor is succeeding at in leaps and bounds.

Nextdoor is “the first mile” in the provision of social networking, you can get an idea of their execution from this September 2012 piece in Forbes here:
http://www.forbes.com/sites/markgibbs/2012/09/21/nextdoor-the-first-mile-of-social-networking

Yesterday Forbes followed that piece up with another reinforcing how Nextdoor’s model is founded on real human connections and issues, local government can get involved: http://www.forbes.com/sites/markgibbs/2013/03/30/nextdoor-and-hyperlocality/

We often hear the argument for municipal wards in Aurora so rapidly dismissed by a few because the town isn’t somehow big enough.

People chose their neighborhood in Aurora for a lot of different reasons. The existence of ratepayers groups and heritage districts emphasize the diversity within our town and the needs for proper representation that gets glossed over in an at-large system.

Adopting Nexdoor by way of a pilot project in their upcoming web overhaul The town could look to achieve a much higher rate of social engagement than they currently enjoy, and far surpass the one-size-fits-all models employed by habachat and AuroraClicks.

The above review only focused on 8 sites, if I have missed any please feel free to forward them.

Web and social space evolves at such a rapid pace I look forward to doing a similar retrospective next year.

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