I'm pleased to connect with a lot of different groups both regionally and nationally. It seems that when talking about how to solve getting people in the public connected, the answer always comes to "We should build THE website where people will come to for x." Inevitably, there are any number of sites that already serve the niche but just don't get exposure.
What occurs to me is "why will we be visible and, hence, successful where others have not?" The answer always comes back "We'll build it better!" That may be but my suggestion would be that building a better mousetrap (er, website) does not inevitably equal success. It really is a matter of getting our site more visible than others in an endless wave of information.
How do we solve that problem? We can't; we need another way. The answer really is to share content. Here's an example:
In the Monadnock Region, we have no less than ten calendars for regional events. The Chamber, the City of Keene, the local newspaper, etc. None of them are comprehensive. People post events to the particular site they know about and no one knows to post (or has the time to post) to all of them. They all have the grand idea of being the uber calendar so that the world will come to them for the calendar of Keene.
So here's a thought (from Jon Udell who actually has prototyped the concept) - why can't they all share and, therefore, all have all of the events? Imagine if you could go to any website that publishes a calendar for Keene and get a full list of events. Moreover, if you post an event to the calendar of your choice, it just shows up on all of the calendars around the area.
All of the websites benefit and all of the visitors benefit. Wow!
What's required? For websites that publish their own calendars also publish ical feeds. Jon has done a good bit of the plumbing to display the complete list on his site, http://elmcity.info.
At the end of the day, we need to look to connect sites to share content and help all community based sites' tide rise rather than competing.