Disclaimer: I submitted content to Creative Stoke between 2002 and 2008, first as a Millenium Volunteer and then fitting in what I could while working.
So, Creative Stoke – kicked off by David Haden in 2001/2002. David teaches at BIAD in Birmingham, and chose to relocate to Stoke as property prices there were not being influenced as crazily by Sarah Beeny and sub-prime lending as most other places in the UK. an early blogger, he started a mini-directory of Potteries creatives which grew and grew from there. Being a skilled designer and web designer kind of helps as well.
Come 2009 we have the launch of Creative Central. Designed to be a directory / portal for creatives in North Staffordshire, it all starts to sound a bit familiar, no? Funded by the local regeneration partnership, local councils and so on, and built by Fudge Studios. A North Staffs design agency, maybe? No, they’re in Bolton – which is no offence to Fudge, as I’ve met them and they’re a skilled, talented, friendly bunch. Why would they say no to the work? But it’s a strange message to the very same creatives the funders would like to see signing up to the site.
Looking into my crystal ball – admittedly a biased one – and I think Creative Stoke will easily outlast Creative Central. For very simple reasons: the latter runs on a fixed-cost model CMS. No extensibility, no modification. Everything you see is what you’ll be getting, full stop. No dedicated editor or tone of voice – apparently the community of users will drive it for vaguely-articulated reasons. Creative Stoke is hand-built, mainly with CSS, HTML and Photoshop, and all the better for it – it’s properly user-focussed and interactive, and search-friendly. Funding issues aside, there’s a lesson there for public sector commissioners of these networks, though they’ll be thin on the ground for the foreseeable future.