Dan Gillmor’s Bayosphere, one of the first sites to try and organize a “citizen journalism” effort — or whatever you want to call it — has been absorbed by Backfence, another attempt at creating a regional user-generated media network. Dan’s effort, while well intentioned and flush with funding from eBay founder Pierre Omidyar and former Lotus
Notes inventor honcho Mitch Kapor, didn’t really work very well, and Dan effectively shut it down in January.
He later wrote an excellent overview of what he tried to do and why he thought it failed. Tim Porter also had an interesting analysis of why it failed, and included on his list of things to remember that “community can’t be forced.” In other words, you can’t just set up a nice site and wave a magic wand and create a network of passionate citizen journalists.
Now, Backfence has made Bayosphere one of its regional startup sites, and Dan is now working with the Center for Citizen Media, which he helped set up. But will Backfence have any better luck than Bayosphere did? That remains to be seen. Liz George of Baristanet took a look around in November and said it seemed a little like a ghost town. Backfence — which is also funded by Pierre Omidyar — says it plans to launch several new regional sites and has 100,000 unique visitors a month.
Christine Herron, who works with the Omidyar Network and also blogs at christine.net, has a pretty comprehensive list of some of the commentary in and around the blogosphere relating to the Backfence/Bayosphere deal.