Having worked on our open source community Facebook platform for media organizations for the past five years, I found Rockville Central's post about migrating exclusively to a Facebook page fascinating but disappointing.
I don't fault the Rockville folks, they feel that their Facebook Page makes the most sense for them at this time - and they do a good job of explaining it. But, as they acknowledge, this may not be suitable for other organizations.
I was most struck by comments later in their post: "We have no desire to generate revenue". Not too many community building efforts can sustain themselves without some revenue. Volunteer community organizers generally burn out over time. They also acknowledge that competition, notably AOL Patch's new Rockville site, contributed to their decision to abandon their website.
We've long felt that Facebook pages are a poor substitute for hosting engaged and informed communities. Not only are Facebook Pages proprietary, unattractive, inflexible, unsearchable landing pages for browsing but they don't provide hosts the ability to provide unique interactive features. For example, NewsCloud's platform offers e.g. news, blogging, photo & video galleries, resource directories, event calendar, predictions game, classifieds and lending library, question & answer feature, discussion forums, idea gathering, et al. See the complete feature summary.
Yet, we understand that tools like ours are still a bit too expensive and complex for small media sites like Rockville Central.
Beginning in May, NewsCloud will be almost exclusively focusing on making our Knight Foundation-funded open source community social media platform more accessible and affordable to small community media organizations. In the meantime, we've written a guide for community foundations on how to work with grantees to launch sites on our platform.
We see Rockville Central's decision as an indicator that platform providers like us have more work to do to become a viable solution for smaller communities. Stay tuned in the coming months (follow us @newscloud) to keep apprised of upcoming announcements about our efforts in this area.
I'll make it a personal goal of mine to see if we can get the Rockville Central folks to launch a NewsCloud-based site by early 2012.