Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Too much information, too decentralized?

Update:  The Downtown Lowell Blog is already on my blogroll on the right, but this post of an email from COOL, has a great list of upcoming events.

I almost totally missed Winterfest this year (not as if I would've gone anyhow.  Nothing personal.).  The huge sign that announces the date is up in front of City Hall, and my commute stops at Market St.  I've also been reading The Sun less often the last few months, although I do maintain a subscription.  I catch most of the big stories online, and I'm lucky if I leaf through the print version once or twice a week.  So...I've noticed I've been having trouble finding important information about local happenings this year.  And it's not through a lack of places to find information.  It's through the lack of one central location.

I noticed that lowellma.gov didn't have any information about Winterfest on it this year although I do think I found it on lowell.org.  It was not on lowellevents.info.  The same thing is happening right now.  Turns out it's Great Plates 2010, which is an event I really like attending.  Not a single mention anywhere.  I understand the budget is tight this year, but those banners on the Lord Overpass are really effective, and a huge number of residents pass underneath there every day.  Once I had finally heard it's happening, I did find it on http://www.greaterlowellchamber.org/.  It's not on lowell.org, or lowellma.gov, or lowellevents.info.  Nor is it on www.merrimackvalley.org.  You know how I finally heard about it?  Facebook, through friends joining it.  http://www.facebook.com/event.php?eid=266070406569&ref=ts.  Not even the Chamber of Commerce site has the menus.  Just Facebook.

Conversely, the fact that the city is running a good discount program on food/retail bought downtown called iShop Lowell is only mentioned on lowell.org and lowellma.gov.

There needs to be a place where all of this information is centralized!  Obviously, this problem goes way beyond finding out when good dinners are at lower prices in Downtown Lowell.  This is exactly the same complaints about Google Buzz that popped up recently.  Facebook is a natural monopoly.  Adding Buzz to the list of things you need to constantly be updating and checking will help nothing.  However, when it comes to advertising, Facebook, while it has a huge pool of regular users, is probably still not the most efficient way to go.


  1. I think the great thing about Facebook in this case is that it brought the info to you as opposed to vice versa. Plus you had the "social proof" effect of seeing friends sign up.

    Facebook makes life simple enough in that I log on every day and can generally keep tabs on what friends are up to via their status updates, just by checking my News Feed or Live Feed as opposed to having to be proactive and check on each person's profile. Through that I can find out about things but I know there's still a good chance stuff will slip through the cracks..

    I guess an e-mail list could bring news to you, but it seems more and more like people just ignore mass e-mails. For now, I remain a huge fan of Facebook as a way to push information out widely and to have it spread in a viral sort of way.

    And much agreed about Google Buzz...as great as it might be, I'm just not tempted to find out. I'm quite happy to have Facebook be my sole social networking site...I've been meaning forever to update my LinkedIn in the hopes that it might help me find a job, but other than that I just feel like the last thing I need is another account to remember, another site to log onto, etc.

  2. That's wicked funny - we wrote on each other's blogs at exactly the same time.

    I totally agree that Facebook is a great tool. Like I wrote last night, I was on it fairly early as RPI was one of the first colleges allowed in. Back in those days, it was of limited use. Only during the last few years did it become a great tool for sharing and spreading information, versus a repository of embarrassing frat party photos and finding people of the opposite sex looking for "whatever I can get" (the profile search option and "whatever I can get" in the "Looking for" section are long gone). I'm on it multiple times a day, reading and commenting on news, my friend's happenings, etc.

    I also agree on your mass email comment. I get the weekly lowell.org email, and I skim it at best at this point. Sometimes it's just a little "tl;dr" (too long; didn't read). My own fault, but a lot of the stuff on there doesn't interest me. My friends on Facebook, you are correct, are more likely to share my interests. And yeah, other than Facebook, I too only maintain a LinkedIn. Deleted my MySpace years ago.

    I just think something like Great Plates has a fairly wide appeal. The Facebook event only has 112 confirmed right now. It has gotten hard (but not impossible) to find someone without a Facebook, but my guess is a large percentage of those people aren't daily users anyhow. Even many of my friends from high school or college are not best reached by Facebook.

  3. Corey--Just now learned of your great website from my brother who lives in Sun City Florida. I live in Fountain Hills, AZ was born in Lowell and worked at City Hall when the OPA Rationing Board was located there in World War 2. I lived out Varnum Ave and can remember the Big building that was the Lowell General Hospital. Anyhow, I just wanted to let you know you have a National following!.