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Computing Thoughts
Need Recommendation for Community Site Software
by Bruce Eckel
April 24, 2010
Summary
The problem is this: People come to Crested Butte (it's mostly tourism-based) and they can't find out what stores and services are available, or what's going on.

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To solve it, I'm trying to help a group of people here in town start a free community informational web site, and need simple software for them to use.

Oh, yes, we do have directory services -- printed guides and a couple of web sites (there's even a cartoon guide). The problem is that these charge a fee for a business to be displayed (much like pre-Google search sites). That just doesn't work because not everyone is willing or able to pay, and with multiple competing guides, even if you do decide to pay up, which one(s) do you pay for? The result is that you'll see some of the stores and services in one guide and not another, and some things (especially bodyworkers, snow shovelers and other independent services) don't appear anywhere. You quickly lose faith that you are getting any kind of coverage. Looking at any one of these guides hoping that you are getting a complete list of, for example, restaurants, rapidly makes you feel stupid for even considering the possibility.

The answer is something very simple -- Craig's-list simple -- that allows anyone to list themselves for free. In addition, designated writers can post articles, and there's two forms of a calendar: one which shows upcoming events, and a widget that draws from the other calendar and tells you what's going on right now and this evening (really just a different view of the calendar).

People must create accounts to post their business, service or event, and the person who manages the site must be able to exclude posters, to prevent the usual spamming problems and inappropriateness.

I could imagine one solution: using a blog as the landing spot, with links or widgets that allow people to search the store & service directory, which could be a second application. Assembling it from existing applications seems like one of the better approaches. I would also guess there's something in Drupal (which seems to be a very useful and flexible CMS that can be used anywhere there's PHP -- basically everywhere). That would be fine, but if there's some pre-existing service where you just create a site (Like Tumblr and Weebly do for web sites, for example), that would be better because my friends are not technologically inclined. They can certainly figure out how to manipulate user interfaces, but they don't know anything about servers, configuration etc.

Has anyone had any experience solving this kind of problem? I'd love to get some recommendations. Thanks!

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About the Blogger

Bruce Eckel (www.BruceEckel.com) provides development assistance in Python with user interfaces in Flex. He is the author of Thinking in Java (Prentice-Hall, 1998, 2nd Edition, 2000, 3rd Edition, 2003, 4th Edition, 2005), the Hands-On Java Seminar CD ROM (available on the Web site), Thinking in C++ (PH 1995; 2nd edition 2000, Volume 2 with Chuck Allison, 2003), C++ Inside & Out (Osborne/McGraw-Hill 1993), among others. He's given hundreds of presentations throughout the world, published over 150 articles in numerous magazines, was a founding member of the ANSI/ISO C++ committee and speaks regularly at conferences.

This weblog entry is Copyright © 2010 Bruce Eckel. All rights reserved.

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