I’ve just returned from the official launch of Freospace, the council’s new publishing platform for precincts (not to be too alliterative about it or anything), at the North Fremantle bowling club. It’s a collection of blogs, one for each precinct, to which precinct members can post news and whatnot—mostly minutes of meetings so far, but it’s early days—and on which anyone in the community can comment.
They’re using WordPress, with the multi-site feature enabled. The choice of this is almost too obvious and sensible to mention, because if someone is setting out to create any sort of group of blogs, WPMU (or whatever they’re calling it these days) is likely to be at the top of the list. It’s just that when it comes to government, one can’t take sensible decisions to be inevitable (don’t take that the wrong way!).
It’s not completely open-slather: user registration is closed, so the hoi polloi aren’t able to post news—but they can post comments on anything, and I’d imagine that anyone wanting to get involved would be able to do so pretty easily. Far better getting involved with this sort of community-web stuff face-to-face, anyway, I reckon. Keeping it all online isn’t necessary when we all live so close!
Which is an interesting point: the precinct group meetings seem to still be the focus of engaging with Freospace—but again, that may change, as people get involved who mightn’t be so keen on the meetings. Get ye along to freospace.com.au!
There’s lots of talk about ‘conversations’ and these blogs enabling community collaboration and whatnot. Which is great, but I can’t help but feel that ultimately this is about community relating to Council, who are still somehow separate and in the position (within this framework at any rate) of power. I don’t mean that in a negative way, really; just that this doesn’t strike me as being the online equivalent of the noticeboard at the shops. The element of anachism, or collective ownership, is possibly missing. I might be wrong about this. Freospace seems more part of the mechanism of representative democracy, a fantastic way for us all to meld our ideas and reach a better understanding of the “will of the demos” or something. It’s not somewhere to post your announcements about lost cats or upcoming book club meetings.
All up, I think Freospace is brilliant, and absolutely in the right (technical, and social) direction. Thank Stallman that the Council didn’t see fit to use Friendface or Ning, or some other ridiculous silo’d means of communication!