Tacoma is a mid-sized city situated on the waters of the Puget Sound in the Pacific Northwest. There's a great balance here between plenty to see/eat/do while still feeling like a small town where social circles constantly overlap. Once I became conscious of these local nuances my personal blog started reflecting as such in all the Tacoma-focused posts I increasingly wrote. Around the same time I became aware of a handful of other bloggers with a similar lean towards independently covering our City of Destiny. I realized Google searches for events, restaurants, businesses and more frequently hit our sites first and realized we were a force subtly shaping what our friends, family, and neighbors learn about Tacoma. The thought that this responsibility should rest on any single casual blogger's shoulders seemed right out. Enter: FeedTacoma.com.
Testing FeedTacoma on various devices
FeedTacoma is a community website I put together that helps relieve that individual burden on bloggers by pulling together each Tacoma-centric piece we put out into a central place for everyone to get at it. What started with 5 contributing blogs has grown with local events calendars, discussion forums, blog writing tools, free e-commerce tools for local business, and even locally-focused comic strips. It's become a repository via the search function where anyone can mine from among 26,000 blog posts, 52,000 comments, 630,000 #Tacoma tweets. It's been a labor of love I enjoy to which I could only dedicate my continued effort where time and energy allowed. My SiteCrafting sabbatical was a departure from that norm that allowed me to make this community side project my top priority for a month.
The temporary tech corner at my beach place
I packed up my computer and cat and headed for my cabin on the coast where I carved out a little corner to work. I'd recommend anyone change up their scenery for a sabbatical. For me it meant the distractions of normal life were minimized and I could let my mind and body work and relax on their own schedule. During the day I'd enjoy walks, taking photos, or skimboarding and, in between and [uncharacteristically] late into the night, I'd work on FeedTacoma. My routine felt somewhat luxurious but in those weeks that seemed to pass too quickly I was able to hammer out a new design and applied it to every nook and cranny of the site, feed in new types of content to the homepage to bring in more Tacoma perspectives, setup email conversation notifications, add new features to encourage interaction, re-vamp our mobile site and even setup a few local webcams for the community here and Tacoma and out at the beach to enjoy.
Everyone deserves a sabbatical where you can have lunch in a place like this
The case for corporate sabbaticals may not always be an easy one for a company to make but the impact is clear to me. I returned to the office refreshed with some great experience via my community web development and excited to see what other eligible folks here at SiteCrafting decide to do with their sabbaticals.
You can follow some of my adventures over on my personal blog, take a look at my sabbatical progress posts over in the FeedTacoma forums, or see the first [of hopefully many] Tacoma webcam and Tokeland's new webcams.
Community, Deep Thoughts, Dev