Welcome to Olocal, a web platform dedicated to supporting and enhancing local community.
What Is It?
Olocal is based on a core idea — bringing together different social and web technologies that augment each other, with a focus on supporting and enriching your local community.
The iPhone Moment for Social Media
The iPhone brought together multiple technologies – phone, touch screen, computer, internet connection, gps, camera, proximity sensor, ambient light sensor, gyroscope, compass, and barometer – which replaces dozens of individual instruments and creating capabilities that never existed before. There’s actually a practical joke where you tell someone that there’s a scale in their phone so they can weigh themselves but you need to use two phones, one for each foot, and a surprising number of people believe it because we’re used to our phones doing so much.
We’re used to having separate, specialized websites and apps. What if we combine functions of multiple website types and unify their functions in the same way the iPhone did?
Olocal brings together a real world/virtual events calendar, a blogging site, a real world/virtual places directory, classifieds and job listings, a list of service providers, a combination forum/chat room/instant messaging system with audio and video one-on-one and group chat we call Circles, a meeting scheduler/calendar and a comments/reviews system for all listings. Along with all these are classic social media functions including a wall, friends, groups, and individual and group galleries for images, documents, videos and audio/podcasts. And we’ll be able to plug in more functions over time — we’ll soon have an online creators marketplace and event ticket sales, and we’re planning to include a comprehensive set of collaboration tools.
By including all these functions together, all for your local community, it allows things that normally would be difficult or impossible.
Here’s an example of what we’re working toward:
While perusing the latest events in your chosen categories on your phone, you notice a gallery opening in your town. You tap to open it, read all about it, check out the image gallery, and then submit a reservation and then you tap the button to add it to your calendar.
After that, you click the link in one of the images to visit the artist’s gallery in their portal, and you notice they have a chat button. You tap it to ask a few questions, and once you post you see they come online to respond and you get into a conversation. At one point, they ask if they can show you something so you start a video chat. As your chat winds down, they offer to friend you and mention that they’re going to be doing a virtual tour of their studio that night, so you tap to add yourself to their calendar and add invites to several of your friends.
That night you get a reminder on your phone with a link to the virtual studio tour which ends up being a group chat about the arts, and you all decide to create a Circles group so that you can continue the conversation over time and bring in more people.
After that, you tap on the artist’s store button, peruse their offerings, and end up purchasing a print. You’re so excited that you end up posting a review on the gallery event and adding the artist’s real world gallery in the Providers section to your favorites.
Some of this you can do right now, some is coming soon but you get the idea. Now imagine, could you do that now without Olocal? How much work would it take, visiting multiple sites/apps, sending IM’s with links, etc?
Where did it come from?
Olocal is the brainchild of Sam McClellan. Back in 1999, Sam saw the devastating effect big box stores and the internet were having on local community and commerce, and recognized the need for a “town square” website. That first project was well on its way when the dot com crash eliminated all sources of funding. So Sam pivoted, taking the software they had been developing for managing an online community platform and converting it to manage websites for small businesses, organizations and people with the idea of creating a funding source and gathering the expertise to try again. Seventeen years later, Itabix, Inc. was a successful web development and hosting company, and Sam had spent that time watching the progression of social media and web technologies. That’s when Itabix began development of the Olocal platform.
Who’s paying for it?
Obviously, it costs money to develop and host Olocal. We received $14,000 from the Community Foundation of Western Massachusetts which was helpful, but otherwise it’s paid for by all profits from Itabix’s operations and by Sam. Once Olocal starts to be used by several thousand people, the next step will be to make it sustainable. We don’t believe in advertising, as described below, so the plan is to offer services to our members and to the public including premium memberships for businesses and organizations, a percentage of marketplace and ticket sales, integrations with existing websites, and grants and donations. The objective is to make the normal use of Olocal free.
Who Is It For?
Most social media survives by keeping you online and away from the real world. You are the product, and the customers are the advertisers and companies wanting your information, your attention and your money. Olocal is dedicated to supporting local community. You aren’t the product or even the customer, you are a member and you have a voice.
Olocal doesn’t include ads, and doesn’t ever share your information. Olocal is for us, it is ours, and that includes you. It will survive and thrive based on all of us investing it with information, creations, events, places, conversations, articles, news, opinions, etc. Giving feedback on what is working, what isn’t, and what could make it better. Making it something that we as a community want, that is of value to all of us, that connects us to each other and the amazing treasures around us. That provides information, entertainment and connection.
How can you help?
Olocal is basically an online space where you can do lots of cool things, but it’s only useful if people use it. And people aren’t going to use it until it’s useful, which means having lots of people and content. We need members to fill it out, add content, use it, make it a part of your life and invite your family, friends, associates, etc. to use it.
We especially need people to create groups of interest to others, and to invite people to join.
- Post your events
- Start a blog
- Make a photo gallery
- Create a circle to keep in touch and interact
- Fill out your profile
- Post interesting local places to visit, both in the world and on the web.
And hugely important, give us feedback on what works and what doesn’t. Throughout the platform there are flag icons that allow you to send a message directly to the Olocal management. You can also use it to report what you feel is inappropriate content.