When I read about "hyperlocal" blog directory Placeblogger on BoingBoing, I immediately thought of "ZipUSA," the feature in National Geographic magazine that presents a slice-of-life mini photo essay of the goings-on in a given U.S. zip code. I envisioned Placeblogger as a sort of ZipUSA directory, the kind of site where I could click around and get immersed in small-town gossip from a West Virginia blogger, urban-planning politics from Austin, or cross-cultural reflections from an expat in Singapore. Basically, I was looking forward to adding it to my extensive list of recommended procrastination tools.
But Placeblogger left me disappointed for a variety of reasons. Most notably, some of the site's features just don't work yet. I plugged in the digits for my hometown zip code and no results popped up within 25 miles; a little strange, since the area of New Jersey where I grew up is hardly unpopulated. Then I realized something was fishy when I tried my current zip code in New York City and it still yielded no results. It appears that the "search by location" is either experiencing some problems or is not yet functional.
So instead, I tried the "browse" function to try to find some local blogs. This did work, but I was once again left disappointed. The directory is quite disorganized, exemplified in the classification of NYC's local blogs: some are listed under "New York," some under "New York City," and some underneath neighborhoods like Chelsea and Green Point. Since the site's so new, it doesn't yet have a dedicated "cleaning crew" in the manner of a massive communal operation like Wikipedia. It's kind of a chicken-and-egg situation: a user-driven site like Placeblogger likely won't build up credibility as a useful service unless it has a team of dedicated enthusiasts keeping it in top shape, but those enthusiasts aren't likely to flock to a sub-par piece of webware. So it's tough to gauge whether or not something like Placeblogger will catch on in earnest.
But the site's operators could improve their odds a little bit by fixing that search bug.