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How we set up a hyperlocal blog in a cafe and made it all about fun

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Recently I got involved in a new blog for the centre of Birmingham called Grounds that has a couple of cool things about it.

Firstly, it’s based in a cafe – Urban Coffee Company in Birmingham. Secondly, anyone can join in. That’s probably the best bit about it – because anyone can send a post via email to post@grounds.posterous.com. We’ve already picked up quite a few different people who have contributed to the blog and the idea is that this number grows. That might be the most important distinction between Grounds and other projects that are a bit like it. We consider the success of the blog not to be measured by the number of people who read it, but in the number of people who contribute.

The Grounds blog

The Grounds Blog

Why?
Well, the simple answer is that, without people contributing, there’d be no Grounds. It isn’t a commercial project (at least at the moment) and so it relies on the people who do get involved to survive.

In fact, one of Grounds’ possible drawbacks – the fact it doesn’t look very swish – may also be one of its strengths. I’ve also been involved in another project called Hashbrum. Hashbrum is a very cool looking site – and so it should be. It’s been set up by a group of journalism students that all have the skills to produce some very whizzy content. That’s great, but it might put off other people from getting involved, even though we’ve always said we’d be happy if other people wanted to.

Grounds rather less sleek, more do-it-yourself, lines may have helped other people feel they could get involved – as Nicky Getgood, a Grounds contributor, pointed out. But – partly because other people have quickly joined the project – it has been a fantastically enjoyable thing in its own right. We’ve started investigations, built maps and attended events – all things we wouldn’t have done otherwise.

Is it important?

Grounds isn’t an attempt to be clever or anything. It’s just a blog for a city centre location. But I think it might be a good model for a few reasons. Firstly, Grounds demonstrates how easy it is to set up a blog. We put ours together in a few minutes on Posterous. And, because of Posterous, it is easy to contribute to, by just sending an email. It also demonstrates that a city-centre location, like a coffee shop, can be a good place to run a blog from. It’s a great meeting place – and source of stories – for a start. But, perhaps most importantly, it demonstrates that it is very easy for people to come together and become involved in something with little or no cost, a tiny amount of organisation, and have a lot of fun.

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