Monday, April 17, 2006

Dan Gillmor at Backfence

Welcome to Backfence

By now you may have heard about the new direction that Bayosphere is about to take. The folks at Backfence, a community information network based in the Washington, D.C., area, are expanding and have offered to continue our operations here under their wing. My business partner, Michael Goff, and I made the decision with our investors. We all agreed that this was the best possible outcome of several alternatives.

I'm truly pleased with this move. Let me explain why.

Backfence, which launched its first sites in the Washington area, is a genuine pioneer in the citizen media field. The company focuses specifically on "hyperlocal" sites, forging new media and models to better serve communities and neighborhoods in ways we couldn't do before the Internet came along. Its founders, Mark Potts and Susan DeFife, are smart, talented and energetic -- and combine terrific backgrounds in journalism, the Internet and business. They care deeply about the future of local news and information, and they've put enormous thought and effort into their operation.

They're expanding, and have known since they started that the Bay Area would be a great place to try some new ideas. We’re able to give them a leg up with what we’ve done here at Bayosphere

I'm happy that this means the small community we’ve nurtured here has a chance to grow and mature. (There's also some small financial relief for me, as I’ve been covering Bayosphere’s costs for months now.) One of the obvious options was to simply shut it down. We never wanted to do that. But it wouldn't have made sense to keep it going indefinitely, either, without some clearer purpose and direction.

There will be changes, major ones. Backfence is all about local, not global, serving needs that many of us believe has been underserved by traditional media -- for entirely sound business reasons. Take a look around the Backfence sites, and you'll see how their tools focus people in a relatively small geographical area on helping each other know what's going on.

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