City Helps 15 Residents Get Online

15 05 2009

Click over to the Decatur Minute and read how the city is helping 15 Decatur Housing Authority families online.

I love when the city toots its own horn.  They should do it much more often.  Lots of great things going on behind the scenes that we never hear about.

Virtual Decatur Makes List of “Top 5 Most Disturbing MMOs”

4 05 2009

Full disclosure: this story is about two-weeks old.  On top of that, Taylor emailed it to me two weeks ago and I lost it in the shuffle.  This morning, Lump reminds me.

Along with “Hello Kitty Online” and a couple other truly NSFW MMOs, Virtual Decatur recently earned the dubious distinction of “Most Disturbing MMO” by GameSpy.

After pointing out the proposed game’s unfortunate acronym, the article restates much of what we’ve already discussed…

Specifically, you want to start an MMO where the admins physically live in the same town as the players? Really? Do you have no self-preservation instincts? Have you not seen the Internet? It is a place notorious both for its disproportional rage, and the horrors perpetuated behind its pseudo-anonymity. And nobody is more hated than the people in charge.

Forget fruits and vegetables.  Online rage is the elixir of life.

New Onyx Web-Store Benefits DeKalb Rape-Crisis Center

17 04 2009

Here’s another really great example of a local business looking to give back to its community.

Justin at Onyx Consulting writes in about their new foundation, which sells “OCF Certified” used Mac and PC equipment through its web-store at a discounted rate (around 25%) and gives all proceeds to the DeKalb Rape Crisis Center on Church Street in Decatur.

To find out more info about this new Foundation click here.  Or jump directly to Onyx’s web-store and see what’s currently for sale.

If you have computer equipment you no longer use and would like to donate, click here to find out Onyx’s minimum requirements and to fill out a donation form or click here to read about potential tax benefits from donating.

NY Times Profiles “Hyperlocal” Websites

13 04 2009

Not to be confused with community blogs, hyperlocal websites like EveryBlock,, Placeblogger and Patch, aggrigate content for city neighborhoods across the country.

A profile in this morning’s NY Times shows that each of these sites takes  a unique approach to news creation/gathering.  Everyblock (not currently in ATL), and Placeblogger all are powered mainly through aggregation of local blogs and news media.  Everyblock actually goes one step further and also collects and posts things like police reports and restaurant inspections.  Patch is more “community bloggerish”, with more original content of three NJ neighborhoods.

In Atlanta, Kim’s is a good example of a “hyperlocal” aggregator/site.  WABE is also working on a model called Lens On Atlanta, which will focus heavily on promoting discussion (with many of the same “rules” that apply on DM interestingly enough!)

Time will tell whether these sites can fill the metro area news gaps.  As always, money is an issue.  A couple of the sites profiled by the Times sites are sponsored by grants and foundation money, but ultimately they will need to prove profitable.  Additionally content will prove challenging for those sites which don’t produce any of their own, if local newspapers keep folding.

This is certainly a trend worth watching.  My major concern about these sites, in addition to the more universal ones stated above, is the ability to create a loyal, passionate online community.  I think things like site origination  (who created it and why?) and coverage area work against a larger site’s possible success.  Many, spurred by dreams of torrents of ad revenue, try to be too many things to too many people.  As a result, any sense of community is lost.

Can this deficit be overcome?  Probably.  We’ve sacrificed much at the alter of conveinence and profit in the past century.  But I still think that the most valuable sites are the ones that sprout from within existing communities.

But does valuable = enduring?

Thanks to Judy for pointing out this article!

Downtown Deals With Power Outage

20 03 2009

The AJC did a little leg (aka phone) work and found out how local Decatur businesses dealt with yesterday afternoon’s power outage.

Sounds like the area banks were the most put out.

A Virtual Follow Up

13 01 2009

Obviously there has been a ton of talk across the internets about this “Virtual Decatur” concept, but I noticed that – not surprisingly – nearly all of it is just packaging and repackaging of what’s already stated on the city’s Virtual Decatur page.  Personally, I was curious where this idea originated and if the city was surprised by the amount of attention its getting from tech blogs/websites worldwide.

So, I followed up with the city yesterday and RFI coordinator Lena Stevens was good enough to reply to my inquiry earlier today.

She reiterated that no money has yet been budgeted for Virtual Decatur and no timelines on decisions have been established.  If/when a time comes for decisions to be made, Stevens reassures us that there will be ample oppertunity for public comment.

In terms of where the idea originated, Stevens explains that the Decatur City Commission thought it up with the original intent of viewing potential Decatur development in a 3D space  and the idea “branched out” from there “to include the entire Decatur experience – people, businesses and government. Rather than reading about Decatur on a flat website, users could experience the community by interacting with one another as well as with city officials.”

In regards to the online response, Stevens says that the city was “surprised by the amount of media buzz surrounding the release of the Request for Information”, but chalks it up to the cutting-edge aspect of the technology being considered.

Though the city has yet to receive any final submissions for Virtual Decatur, Stevens says that “10-15 companies have notified me of their intent to respond.”  She also promises that “more details about this project will be made available after the responses have been received and analyzed.”

Speaking for myself, I would like to see a comparison of the cost of the commission’s original idea (a 3D model of a potential development) versus this more involved and expanded one.  Because while I have reservations about the “Second Life” version, I think a place to view 3D models of potential developments from a bunch of different angles could be quite useful.   While I appreciate the city thinking outside the box in terms of communication, I’m worried that the more far-reaching version could potentially overshadow the original idea.

“Virtual Decatur” RFP Idea Jumps the Pond

12 01 2009


I’ve NEVER seen a city RFP receive this much buzz before!

The U.K.’s Guardian newspaper games blog writes up the Virtual Decatur idea, which includes this very British description of our city.

Decatur is a bit Hay-on-Wye (it hosts the largest independent book festival in the country) [DM note: Hay-on-Wye is “the town of books” in Wales], and a bit Oktoberfest (check out the annual Decatur Beer Tasting Festival). It’s also a little bit Beach Blanket Bingo.

Regardless of whether you think the idea has potential or not, you must admit that all this free publicity is quite impressive!

Oh, and congrats to Dennis over at Next Stop for getting linked to by the Guardian for his Beach Party photos!

Onyx – PC & Mac Repairs/Services in Downtown Decatur

27 12 2008

Here’s a Decatur business that’s been open since June that I didn’t know about until the owner, Justin Kenagy, sent me a note a few days back.

Onyx Consulting sits behind McDonald’s at 122 Williams St., just north of the Commerce Drive loop in downtown Decatur.   From Justin’s email, it sounds like he and his staff have been taking care of all kinds of Mac and PC repairs and consulting since the mid-90s at their Northcrest location.  This past June they opened a second location in Decatur, providing the same wide variety of services to our community.

As a Mac user (with a cracked case), I was particularly interested when he said that Onyx did “over 100 Mac warranty repairs a month”.  I followed up with him on this, because I wanted to know for sure whether this meant I could take our under-warranty Mac to Onyx instead of navigating the zoo at the Perimeter of Lenox Mall Apple store.  Here’s his response:

We do over 100 apple warranty repairs alone per month not to mention all of the non-warranty Mac and PC repairs as well. Unless you want the retail experience and want to check out all the new products, we can indeed save everyone a trip to the mall and then some. The Apple stores refer 10 or more people a day to us to do all the things they either can’t or don’t want to do. We can always beat their flat rate repairs on price and speed as well. Ipods, etc. the works. We’re an authorized dealer as well, but our focus is on service.

Excellent!  Just one more errand I won’t need my car for anymore!

P.S. A check of Kudzu shows that both locations have gotten consistent, excellent reviews (Decatur, Northcrest), but let me know your own experiences with Onyx too!

“Virtual Decatur” Idea Lights Up The Interweb

23 12 2008

It seems like all the big tech sites are now picking up on our city’s idea of creating an online version of our little burb.

Both CNET and Wired have shown great interest in the concept. And while CNET is concerned that the idea would inevitably be polluted by porn, Wired seems to like it.

For starters, they’d have to clear a lot of the ignorance out of the air — critics will almost certainly dismiss the effort with the classic “traditional methods work fine, so this is pointless” argument. There’s also the latent fear of computers that permeates much of society, though an argument could be made that clicking on a virtual town hall and chatting with your neighbors could be easier than attempting to participate in a forum or chat room discussion, particularly for those who can’t physically make it to the real-world meetings. It will likely all boil down to who is chosen to develop the interface, and how accessible the end result is.

And after sorting through all the tech-drool and scorn over this issue, probably the most tangible comment I discovered was this one over at Game Politics (which was one of the first to bring this issue to light)

If they want to do a virtual city, I think they would save time piggybacking on Google’s street view feature. At least for the city exploration part. And then add on the interactive landmarks in their own discretion. Google provides development tools to integrate these features into another site, so why reinvent the wheel?

Could be a much cheaper option.

After all of this free publicity, I wonder how many RFIs the city will get on this project.

Decatur Looks to Go Virtual…Yes, Like “Second Life” Virtual

19 12 2008

CSD Mom linked us over to an article which references a City of Decatur webpage that details a new and ambitious initiative called “Virtual Decatur“.

The proposal speaks for itself…

The City of Decatur is currently evaluating the use of virtual environment technology to encourage community networking, improve civic engagement, and promote economic development in the city. Immersive virtual environments, initially popularized by games such as World of Warcraft© and social networking sites such as Second Life©, are gaining popularity for use as educational and training tools. The National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) is currently evaluating this technology to promote learning in the fields of science, technology, engineering and mathematics. Visit NASA’s website.

Similar to other social networking tools, Virtual Decatur will provide an environment in which residents, businesses, institutions and visitors can interact and connect around a common interest. However, it is it is imperative that the project go beyond the features of traditional virtual environments. The overarching purpose of this project is to allow users to interact with the City in new and innovative ways that are not possible in the real world. It is envisioned that the real world experience may be enhanced through participation in Virtual Decatur.

….Virtual Decatur was first conceived as a way to allow residents to experience the look and feel of potential developments in the city. For example, avatars (electronic characters) could walk through and around a model of a proposed parking deck to determine its impact on the community. However, the concept of Virtual Decatur has been expanded considerably to include ideas like allowing businesses to scout locations, allowing avatars to view live City Commission meetings, and promotion of city events.

Read more about it here.

Umm…could I just get the ability to watch commission meetings online?  I don’t need to kill orcs along East Ponce  or fly through a virtual parking deck in the process.  🙂

But seriously, I like the idea of being able to view a potential development “virtually” to get a better sense of it…but all those other aspects?  They seem a bit superfluous.

It kind of reminds me of a story I heard on NPR the other day about “walking around” and shopping online in a virtual mall.