I hoped for a Christmas miracle, a new year’s resolution, a resurrection, but I guess it’s not happening–Rockville Central has truly closed its door for good. Started in June 2007, it was an ongoing grand experiment in creating an online community that developed a strong local following and attracted national attention. Yup, 2007–ancient history on the internet (recall that Flickr launched in 2004, YouTube in 2005, and the iPhone, Droid, and Kindle all came out in 2007). Brad Rourke and Cindy Cotte Griffiths independently thought of using social media to create a virtual community and then came together to produce and manage Rockville Central. It started with a Picture of the Day (one of Brad’s signature elements) and that first month included stories about:
- Rudy Guliani making a stop in Rockville during his presidential campaign
- Two new planners appointed to the Montgomery County Planning Board
- A new CEO for Goodwill Industries International, based in Rockville
- Free Wi-Fi in Town Center
- Upcoming Events for the Week
- Sidewalk improvements on Beall Avenue
- Sightings of black bears
- The launch of the iPhone
- A woman killed by a MARC train
Over the following years, it had grown, matured, and morphed by producing an internet radio show and YouTube videos, plotting police reports and real estate listings on maps, collaborating with other online communities (such as Lunching in the DMV and Rockville Living), reporting on City Council and other community meetings, creating editorial cartoons (one of Cindy’s signature elements), welcoming guest opinions and contributor reviews, hosting Rockville Roundtables and a City Council debate (one of the best), and moving to Facebook.
It’s amazing what they accomplished in four years but for two volunteers, it was difficult to maintain the pace and they just became too tired to continue. I know the feeling, which is why I post at a much lower pace. As they said in their last post of October 14, 2011 at 3:43 am (am!?):
It takes a great deal of energy and time to support the online community in the way we feel it deserves. We do not make money off of Rockville Central, and never intended to. It is a labor of love and devotion to Our Fair City. We don’t feel we can devote the kind of energy it deserves and so, rather than let it whither, we decided to make a clean end.
Rockville Central helped identify the important news in the community, facilitated discussions in a civil and respectful manner, made us see our town in new and interesting ways, and introduced us to the many thoughtful and socially-active people who live in Rockville. I’ll miss Rockville Central this year, but thankfully, Rockville still has Brad and Cindy.
Six months ago, Brad Rourke and Cindy Cotte Griffiths moved Rockville Central from a standalone web site to Facebook to both go where most of their readers were and to allow for more convenient interaction among readers. Founded in June 2007, within a couple years Rockville Central had become one of the top five local blogs in Maryland, but now that it’s moved entirely and exclusively to Facebook, how has it fared?
The move to Facebook has generated national attention, including the Washington Post, Huffington Post, Poynter, Media Bistro, and the Neiman Journalism Lab at Harvard University. The articles tend to be struck by the “Facebook exclusive” venture and it’s potential as a model for other community news organizations (e.g., “Industry leaders and media analysts say news organizations have not yet fully exploited Facebook for its total worth,” noted the Washington Post). On the other hand, reader comments often raised concerns about Continue reading →
I took this week off from work to devote my energies fulltime to the campaign. I spent five days walking precincts (I think I visited two thousand homes), attended three forums, and responded to questionnaires in the time remaining. I’m exhausted–I don’t know how the other candidates did it (Piotr Gajewski seemed incredibly peppy at the King Farm Forum, but perhaps that’s because he was on home turf). I was elated that it rained this afternoon and I forced off the streets.
Tomorrow is the penultimate forum, this time with Rockville Central at the new Thomas Farm Community Center on the west side of 270 starting at 9:30 am. From the description of format, it should be a bit unusual (at one point, we’ll draw names from a hat and ask another candidate a question–should I be nice or naughty?). The eighth and last forum for this election season will be next Thursday, October 29 at the Rockville Senior Center. They’ve all been well attended so if you haven’t been to one, you have two more chances.