'Tucson Superblog' Launched at bTucson.com

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Internet Workshop, the company that used to own Tucson.com, has launched a new grassroots site for Tucson, Arizona they are calling a 'SuperBlog'. Specific categories let users post information under any yellow pages heading as well as under recreation, political and other areas. So far users have posted event info, consumer complaints, even notes about zoo animals. The site gets over 5,000 visitors daily and seems to be growing rapidly.

bTucson.com, a new grassroots site for Tucson, Arizona, has been launched by a local firm.

"Any news or note about Tucson has a place on this site," declares the front page, and indeed no item is too minor to earn 15 minutes of fame on the new Tucson 'Superblog'. "The Web is big," explains owner Golda Velez. "It really fundamentally changes the nature of content publishing in ways that are still being explored. Instead of limiting content, we focus on helping people find it using precise categories and keyword searching."

Though still undergoing rapid development, the btucson.com site is live with about over 22,000 business and organization listings and about 1,000 or so text comments and descriptions. "We actually started a Tucson site way back in 1996, using the domain Tucson.com," explains Velez. "Very early on we had what we called business directory agents, who could add listings and descriptions. We kept that data, bought an updated commercial database of listings, and merged the two. All the people who originally signed up ten years ago are able to add new listings now, and its still free to sign up to add information on your business or organization."

Not all the data on the site is about local businesses. Recent articles include notes on Parks & Rec classes for two-year olds, and a feature about the tigers at Reid Park zoo. The new field of citizen journalism seems to be getting a workout on the bTucson.com site. The standards aren't the same as at a traditional paper -- there is a KIDS section where Velez' 6-year-old daughter writes unedited posts -- and there is no guarantee that information in any section is complete, or up to date. But lots of information is there, and the ability for anyone to add to it may make it worth a look both for research and marketing purposes.

The business model of the site is strictly advertising supported. "In fact, regular posters or those interested in getting involved with the development are welcome to run their own ads rotated with ours," mentioned Velez. So far one co-developer, Diane Page who also does local web design, is running ads in the Education area. "Google Adsense has really made this possible, because it is so easy to run content-related ads now where it wasn't 4 or 5 years ago." Including all the sub-pages, btucson.com gets about 5000 actual human visitors daily, and about ten times that many automated visits.

Technically, the most interesting feature of the site has to been the cascading drop-down menus. "You can navigate 8800 categories almost instantly," explains Velez. "Using Ajax technology, which is really just a new term for loading snippets of code dynamically, we can make all these categories accessible without bogging down your browser." The menus, like the rest of the site, give the impression of lots of data and power if not complete polish. Hovering over the small '»' symbol makes subcategories appear, and from the Business Directory area you can quickly drill down right to any category from Fishing Tackle Dealers to Radiology Clinics.

Future plans? "We have just barely scratched the surface of possibilities for this site. We want businesses to be able to post sale events, individual products and prices; people to be able to post comments about particular doctors and dentists, contractors and counselors; neighborhood associations to use sub-areas of the site for organizing and publicity; and anyone to post anything of interest in a specific category. I want to be able to look up whether there is snow on Mt Lemmon today or tadpoles in the Santa Cruz. I want to know which optomologists are patient with kids and how many at-home dressmakers are in Tucson. It may sound far out, but I believe this is the future of the web: bringing communities together through a web of specific, localized information."

To search or submit, visit http://btucson.com. Queries may be directed to Golda Velez, +1-520-440-1420 / http://goldavelez.com/contact.html in Tucson, Arizona.

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