Back in 2005, Bostonian Adam Gaffin noticed that only a select few violent crimes were being covered on local news. With people being gunned down and held up near his neighborhood, he drew up Boston Crime, a Google Maps mash-up that cataloged every single violent crime on a map of Beantown.
What started as a simple accounting of violent crimes, though, became something else. In the beginning of 2007, friends and family of victims of violent crimes began using the comments field on the pages of individual crimes as a sort of virtual online memorial. Dozens shared memories and feelings of loss.
Anyone who runs a blog knows the challenge of an open comment field: you want to encourage open discussion, but you don't want negative comments to take over the discourse. Recently, Gaffin faced an extreme version of this, when some began making threats of retribution in the comment fields of Boston Crime. He says his next step is to do a better job editing these out. "The last thing I want to see is for this to become a virtual extension to these increasingly violent crimes in the streets."