So we finally launched discussion boards at outside.in. It's taken us a while, but I'm really excited about the way we've put them together. As you might imagine, we've built discussion boards with state-of-the-art geo-targeting that happens pretty much transparently. My colleague John Geraci wrote a great post about this on the outside.in blog:
Discussion threads get associated with each individual place they reference. So, say you’re talking about the evictions that just took place at 475 Kent Avenue in Brooklyn. If that place has been referenced before in our system, the discussion boards will detect it and associate your post with the outside.in page for that place. If it’s not in our system, we invite you to give it a place manually (which takes about ten seconds), and thereafter it IS in our system as a place, with your Discussion post attached. All of these different levels of locality then stack up vertically - place, neighborhood and city all nested together. So if you post a question about a restaurant in Hayes Valley, SF, it not only shows up on the Hayes Valley discussion board, it shows up on the San Francisco discussion board, as well as on the page of the restaurant itself - where other people interested in that restaurant can find it and learn from it, or post their own response to it. In other words, the conversation gets indexed at all of the different levels of zoom that are relevant to it.
As John mentions, we're automatically detecting place and neighborhood names in the posts, and geo-tagging the posts appropriately based on those associations. (And we built a brain-dead-simple UI for adding a place manually.) It's a pretty cool system.
Of course, online discussion boards take time to build, so we're trying to seed the conversation a bit by asking questions of the entire outside.in community. (We're calling these outside.inquiries.) The first one is pretty fun: "What local building would you most like to demolish?" (I went with the Atlantic Center Mall.)
So if you've got a chance, go check out our Discussions -- and even better, jump into a thread.