Wednesday, October 07, 2009

Hartsville Today - RIP, but being reborn

Hartsville Today, the almost 4-year-old community news service serving Hartsville in eastern South Carolina died on Friday when the Amazon server (and it turns out the backup) on which it was being run went RIP.

HVTD, as it was known, was one of the first projects funded by J-lab in 2005. In many ways, it was a success, having grown to 1,900 registered members and at least triple that in unique users in a market area of 20,000. The "cookbook" about creating the site (link in the right rail) has been translated into Russian, we are told, has been downloaded more than 3,000 times from our servers and has been linked to by Yahoo's You-Witness News site.

In some ways, it wasn't a success, having never been integrated into the operations of The Messenger, its publishing partner that, in the middle of this, was sold to Media General (research report here, Grassroots Editor, Winter 2008 (pdf)).

Now, Hartsville Today begins a new life. It is being rebuilt by Media General using the Expression Engine platform instead of Drupal, which was our original publishing system. Some things will be different; we're not entirely sure yet. Of course there will be some differences in filing, but we're still looking at things like pictures, calendar functions etc.

A page-holder should be up shortly, and the first phase of the rebuilt site should go up sometime next week.

So now we have some potential new research. HVTD was a vibrant community. Can such communities stay together given this kind of disruption and digital tragedy? What will it take?

We'll see.

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