It takes little effort to find information these days. Google is easy to use, and it almost always returns some results. Unfortunately some of the time the information is wrong or not what you wanted.
Companies are spending fortunes trying to figure this out.
Most of the ideas revolve around an omnipresent search engine that gathers data that is already out there and serves it up in some useful way.
I would call that a top down solution. It is trying to solve the problem with technology, programming, and as little local input as possible.
Recently I was writing a post, Not a nice gift from Canada, on my blog that I use to stay in touch with my Canadian roots. I wanted the exact address of one our local fish markets.
A Google Search returned this “Insider Pages URL.”
Unfortunately the map was completely inaccurate.
A more accurate map is found at this link.
That came from a local Google map effort of my own.
There is an old rule about data that still holds true. Garbage in, garbage out. The challenge in providing good information is getting good quality data.
While large metropolitan areas might well have enough density and quality data to make some search engines very successful in providing information, I am not certain that it works as well in smaller or less well wired areas.
Actually a friend who had a key role in running the original Blacksburg Electronic Village and I are trying to do something of a bottoms up electronic village with local information entered and verified by locals.
It is a big challenge to make it work, but I think we have a very good chance. The pieces are just being put together, but the Crystal Coast Electronic Village will have a consolidated area calendar for events, a business directory with maps at some point, blogs with pictures, and real estate listings already with maps.
Quite often the best solutions are those that involve people closest to the answers. We will see if we can make it work.