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Community Business Directory

FROM: Tony Keele

What NEED does this meet?
Our everyday lives are controlled less and less by accountable public bodies and more and more by private businesses both as providers of services and as employers. We need to have easily accessible information about the local businesses so that we can make informed decisions as consumers and employees and where necessary present the commuity feelings on local issues to those responsible.

What is the APPROACH?
There are many Business directories written by business for business. We need one for ordinary people.

Companies have to publish accounts and other management information. Most of them have their own web site these days and there are also articles in newspapers and journals and so on. But there is also knowledge in the community of the many people who have had dealings with firms active in the local area.

Using these sources it would be possible to give a more practical and realistic picture of local business activity than we are usually given.

What are the BENEFITS to people?
The Community Business Directory would bring benefits in many ways.

Jobseekers would be able to get a more accurate view of a prospective employer or find new companies to apply to.

Local knowledge about garages, estate agents and power suppliers etc etc would allow commonplace but important decisions to be made on a rational basis and would encourage a genuinely competitive marketplace.

In situations where companies have a virtual monopoly of an important resource, for instance rail travel, it would provide an avenue for a direct exchange of veiws between the company and the community it serves.

What is the COMPETITION?
Clearly there is an abundance of trade information in the public domain and many attempts to present the consumers point of view in magazines and newspapers but these sources are often controled by the industries themselves and their coverage is patchy and rarely deals with issues of community interest.

Local libraries often have good information about local businesses but it is unexitingly presented and only available only if you go there in person.

In general finding out about a company is hard work. I suspect some companies like it this way.

What BUDGET & LOGISTICS are required?
From the software perspective sophisticated open source development tools like Linux, Apache, MySQL, PHP and Java should allow the system to be built using standard hardware relatively cheaply.

The design of the database structure might get complicated but I see the most difficult part would be deciding what information to display. Clearly there needs to be an overall Editor in charge of the site contents and a well defined Editorial policy as well as clear routes for feedback from all parties concerned. In this respect the project would be similar to a local newspaper or magazine.

November 11, 2003 in Corporate Social Responsibility, Empowering Consumers, User Created Content | Permalink


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I've been working on software which could meet a lot of these needs. Written in perl but other than that it fits your requirements.

Yes, the schema does get tricky when you start picking apart how to do categories and a rich information architecture. I'm working on making ActionDirectory be multilingual in it's information architecture, so that if you have a listing for Housing it can be connected to Vivienda when reading the directory in spanish.

The other tricky part is geography. What i've done is have city, state, country's as basic geographic building blocks. The problem is that if you are doing a directory for New York City you need to get much more local, where as if you are doing a global directory, you need to be working on a broader scale. The unimplemented solution is to have regions which can group listings with or across cities, states, and countries.

I would love to have help developing this software especially if somebody was interested in helping finding financing. I don't need that much, I live in Uruguay where the cost of living is significantly lower than the US or UK.

Posted by: evan at Nov 11, 2003 5:47:24 PM

the employer reviews on disemployed.com (a project of mine) allows anyone to submit and/or view information about businesses from an employee's perspective.

Posted by: Scott Reynen at Nov 13, 2003 5:22:25 PM

I think "corporate social responsibility" in absolute tersm is something we should strive for, but the way MBA's are trained this terms would only be considered an oxymoron.

Posted by: Protest song lyrics for activists at Jan 26, 2004 12:10:15 AM