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.

3 Comments on “The Local Web Experiment: Fort Smith, Arkansas”

  1. ZuDfunck says:

    Fort Smith is lucky to have you as it’s homeboy.

    Your logic is sound and should be of great benefit.

    Please update us as you proceed. It would be a great formula for other areas.

  2. Two things. I think I mentioned them two you.

    First Greensborough north carolina… they have a renowened local presence. Other keeywords are hyper-local, citizen journalism of course.

    Second, I never did find the IT conversations podcast on pigeon forge kentuky’s local web. I searched all over for it too, it’s to bad because it’s the flip side of what you’re trying to do.

    Finally, I’m in a mid size town here in Michigan right now, Monroe, MI… since we’ve talked I’ve uncovered I got to doing some reasearch and uncovered a tremendous amount of local activity. Shocked me really. Citizen journalism stuff through and through. There’s a group here trying to do the same thing you’re doing there. Really interesting.

    One last thing… I know you’re busy and your changing gears but i know you developed some widgets for WordPress to help with vlogging/ blogging. I think i’m using one in fact that works with delicious. Would you be interested in participating in any way in a video blogging open source community. A few of us are laying some groundwork right now.

    I think there’s tremendous opportunity to expand on the vloging platform to make it easier and more accessible to all. I realize there’s tons of little pieces of source and widgets and stuff out there but there’s little open collaboration and no place to find them. I’m thinking a vlogging community source forge type thing… mostly just wiki’d and perhaps some sponsors and some bounties for code.

    We should chat soon.

  3. Dawn Hreben says:

    I am a new arrival in Fort Smith Arkansas. My family and I were relocated so that my husband could work with Schlumberger (a gas and oil location and well maintenance firm). I am a marketing student with red hot ambition and I was disappointed and saddened when I discovered that there was little internet knowledge here. I wondered where in the world I was going to find a job after school…had I waisted our hard earned money on a degree that would be useless?

    The answer was simple….NOPE.

    I decided to follow my late granny’s advice…so, I got off my tush and did something. I started my own business endeavor.

    My business will be launched as of June 2007. It’s called “SweetBash!” and it is a party planning service that specializes in upscale children’s parties. After doing some research on the businesses tied to event planning, I found that the local ones, here in Fort Smith, are underutilized because those who need the services aren’t finding websites nor do they feel their needs could be met by a local firm.

    New customers are what make a business grow. Loyal clients maintain the growth that has already been achieved. I’ve found that a lot of firms in this area feel that their product will make it to a new customer’s attention by word of mouth spread by their current customers. The problem is, most new customers are more than 15 years younger than the new customers. These two social circles usually never cross.

    I wanted to get rid of the “a small town doesn’t have what I need” myth to which most “out sourcing” customers subscribe. I plan to do this by selecting a few experts in fields such as baking, catering, transportation and entertainment as my recommended favorites. I have selected a few, but it is difficult since many firms are only advertised in the phone book.

    Wish me luck…I’ll keep you posted on my endeavor!

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