The Local Web Experiment: Fort Smith, Arkansas

A while back, I wrote about what I’m calling the Local Web. The Local Web, in my mind, is a group (an infinite number of groups are possible) which arrange their interconnectedness by sharing a geographical point of reference, traditionally Metropolitican Statistical Areas, or MSAs. The Local Web is already built in many of the larger cities, with directories and vertical search engines to allow you to search for stuff in major metropolitan areas, but a good percentage if not the majority of Americans live outside of a major metropolitan area. The connected netizens from those areas are being largely overlooked by current major initiatives to create localized web experiences.

I’m starting an experiment in a town that should be the perfect size. My hometown is Fort Smith, Arkansas, a town of about 80,000 with about a quarter million in the MSA. There are billions of dollars of business done every year here, and many companies here ship worldwide. However, for doing business in town, most people still reach for the phone book. The reason for this, of course, is because you can spend days Googling around for information about Fort Smith businesses without finding much but spam sites. No one in this town has made a concerted effort to make sure things are easily found on the web about businesses they’d like to do business with.

So, I’m starting an experiment. I’m going to organize a blogger meetup to start. I’ve already found several local bloggers and I’m going to find or create more. I’m going to organize them and attempt to get them to write about business and other activities (softball, church, whatever) they that they do locally and where they do them at. I’m going to try to incent people to create links from site to site across town and try to make information more easily indexable by the search engines so that when you search for something in the area you don’t end up at a spam site. We will be holding the meetings at Kirkham Systems of Fort Smith.

Once this is going strongly, I, along with the staff of Kirkham Systems are going to start showing the results to local businesses and convince them they should have a website with a blog and incent them to link to the people they’re doing business with and write about their experiences with it. The goal is to create an interconnected web of links focused on this geographical area, so that if you end up at Kirkham Systems website you’ll find annotated links about the people we do business with, and when you end up there you can find the people they do business with.

If I’m right, by the time I’m done, Google will be a far more interesting resource to find information about businesses, things and places in Fort Smith, Arkansas than any other resource, anywhere. This may seem boring to people who live on the coasts and can find a well designed and well organized website for even local businesses, but for the large portions of the country that have been ignored by businesses attempting to organize information for them on the web, I think this will be a large step forward. No one understands or cares about this because they haven’t been educated as to what it can mean for both their businesses, themselves and their community. My goal is to educate everyone here.

The Local Web is long overdue.