Yesterday I met John Inglis and his partner Jill and had a long discussion with them about setting up a community website for Hampton. John is the driving force behind http://www.hampton-online.co.uk/ and has spent nearly 12 years creating websites to help the local community. He was very happy to offer any assistance he could, but his experience did highlight some potential problems. In particular, he highlighted the danger of any site being hijacked by people with a political agenda and the risk that once this happens the site gets trapped in a cycle of abusive attacks and ripostes. This was not something I had thought much about before and apart from political battles I can also now see a risk of unneighbourly conversations. I will discuss this with the folks at http://www.harringayonline.com/ and see what their experience has been.
So where next? If this project is to work, I need to find some other people who are also interested in this kind of site so that is my first step. I will start with someone at work who happens to live in Hampton and then try a few other local people I know to see what their response is. I might also try to find some local newsletters or noticeboards where I can put a notice on the following lines:
"How many people do you know in Hampton? Do you want to know more? If you want to find some local information or comment on something going on locally, who do you turn to? Today many local communities are using the web to bring people together and to create a real sense of community. We can do the same for Hampton. If you would like to be part of the team creating a dynamic online community for Hampton, send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org.
I hope I can find three or four other people interested in giving this a go!