I did it! I finished writing the first iteration of SocialAnimalsDC.com, a social event aggregator for vegetarians, vegans, animal rights, animal welfare, and wildlife conservation.
What problem does it solve? To get a complete calendar of events in this (or any, you’d have to visit about two dozen websites. Most of these sites don’t have an easy way to subscribe to updates. Some are seriously irregularly updated and are just waiting to be re-activated. Some of these special interest calendar sites are national, which isn’t too handy if you are stranded in DC and surrounding counties.
How does it compare to Meetup.com or the like? Many organizations large and small won’t discover Meetup.com for years. My site serves the same role as the community newspaper, except the events in the local newspapers for some reason are dominated by for fee spectator events.
How do I do it? I use RSS readers and page watchers to gather the information, then I manually republish the information. The audience can either read the event listings or subscribe to them with an RSS reader.
What features are in the works? I want people to be able to easily import the events into calendaring software, like Outlook or Google Calendars. I also hope to create some membership features like commenting, tagging, user event submission.
Why’d I do it? Issue advocacy in the US is mostly about writing checks to lobbyist groups and other impersonal communications. I want to redirect my issue advocacy towards actions that involve human contact. A social events aggregator that aggregates similar but different groups exemplifies engaged compassion–staying involved with the community rather than sticking within one’s comfort zone with people who already agree with you on most issues.
Why the name? I was originally going to call it CompassionEvents but decided that that name was too serious sounding for a recreational social events site. SocialAnimals.com was taken, which was fine, since I wanted the domain name to reflect the fact that the site is strictly for MD/DC/VA. SocialAnimalsDC.com sound like a sober party animal with a mission in mind.
What are some future challenges? The biggest challenge will be keeping the content quality high over the next five years. Calendaring data becomes stale after about a week or two, so every week I’ll have an opportunity to lose my audience.