A Common Place for the City
By STEVEN VALLEY
Falls Church Times Staff
January 5, 2011
What do you get when you combine the Internet, social media, and a motivated 2008 George Mason High School graduate? www.fallschurch.ourcommonplace.com — that’s what!
You may have noticed the flyers around town promoting this new online gathering place; some of you have even contacted the Falls Church Times to let us know about. We recently sat down with Falls Church City resident Peter Davis at Panera so he could give us a guided tour of the site. Davis and some of his fellow students at Harvard conceived the idea and developed the software for it in their spare time — ahh, youth.
“For the past two years, some people at college and I have been building CommonPlace, a web and community organizing start-up. We build these web platforms for local communities — central locations (“CommonPlaces”) online that are designed to help neighbors connect and share with the people and organizations around them. On CommonPlace:
- People can post needs, announcements, invitations, and offers to their neighbors: ‘Can I borrow a ladder?’ ‘Lost my cat…anyone seen him?’ ‘Selling Nats tickets,’ etc.
- Local civic organizations, municipal institutions and businesses can post announcements to people in town: ‘VPIS meeting today;’ ‘New Falls Church Times article;’ ‘Trash Pick up rules for January,’ etc.
- Everyone can post and view upcoming community events
The goal is to build a robust community information infrastructure for each city, helping make neighborhoods and local communities in America even better places to live in — more civic and more connected. You can find out more information at our main corporate info site, www.CommonPlaceUSA.com,” Peter told us.
Peter and his partners have been creating CommonPlaces in neighborhoods around Massachusetts this past year, and now CommonPlace is coming to Falls Church this January. “Falls Church seems like the perfect city to try out a community information network in– it’s one of the most civic towns in America, it has high levels of internet access, and is known for trying new things out (in fact, my experience growing up in such a civic town as Falls Church is what inspired me to build CommonPlace)” Peter stated. As we talked he laid out commonplaces history of development and what he hopes to gain by offering this software to Falls Church City.
Peter explained how he and a friend as well as three developers, as well as the help of faculty advisor came up with the concept of commonplaces and then brought it life. Coded in a program called “Ruby on Rails” and using screen scraping and public RSS feeds the software as a service (SaS) will centralize information, bulletin boards, list-serv’s, and public announcements in a convenient easy to use site that will broadcast relevant content to the residents that subscribe to it. Peter and his group broke down the City into eleven small neighborhoods that will allow the site to more easily categorize and properly place the posts and events that will affect those residents.
Peter explained that “there are two strands to CommonPlace’s January ‘implementation process’ in Falls Church. The first is to get as many residents of the City signed on with the platform (and thus receiving neighborhood posts, community event information, and announcements from community organizations). The second is to get as many ‘civic content providers’ to start ‘Community Feeds’ on the platform– have major organizations, businesses and institutions posting their announcements and events to the platform.”
To sign-up simply go to: http://fallschurch.ourcommonplace.com/ fill in your full name, email address, and street address (that last part is so that the site can place you in the correct jurisdiction of the City) and start posting. The Falls Church Times will be featured in the City’s version of CommonPlaces and we’re looking forward to seeing how this develops. Good luck Peter, we’re happy to see one of our own starting a new venture like this.
By Steven Valley
January 6, 2011