Philadelphians like to be heard, even if they have to shout.
The recently developed site PhillyShout.com, created and owned by John Henning’s Web site development company Syber Service, gives Philadelphians a forum to “shout” their opinions on various topics from the city’s budget to the Eagles’ fate.
Henning spoke with The Temple News about his purpose for creating Philly Shout and his plans for the site.
The Temple News: What was the catalyst for starting Philly Shout?
John Henning: Well, I wanted to put a way for people to voice their opinion. [Syber Service has] about 240 Web sites that we’ve developed around Pennsylvania and the United States that have to do with various things like online newspapers, media sites and video sites. Since I’m from this area, and I like to voice my opinion, I figured there’s got to be others [who] would like to do that, too. We just wanted an open forum where you could really voice what you wanted to say.
TTN: Did any particular event, per se, make you want to start it, or was it just to provide a way for people to voice their opinions?
JH: There wasn’t an event. With the way the economy has been trending, people tend to get more vocal when things happen that directly affect them. An example of what would prompt me to do this [is] when they started closing libraries and firehouses and taking trucks away [in Philadelphia]. I figured there had to be a group of people who would want to get their voice heard.
TTN: Why did you name the Web site Philly Shout?
JH: I think [it needed to be] a very short description, something that would really catch their attention [and make them ask] “Philly Shout? What does that mean? What is it?” Or they’d think that’s a place [to go to] either listen to, see or hear other people’s opinions.
TTN: Why does a city like Philadelphia need a Web site like Philly Shout?
JH: I think that every city needs a Web site like this. There should be a forum for people to express their opinion in every city in the United States, so this is really our testing forum, the first of many we would set up.
TTN: Do you see the Web site as a forum for Philadelphians to voice their opinions or are you hoping it inspires some sort of social activism, to help rectify some of the city’s problems?
JH: I definitely would think of it as a forum where someone [can] go and at least get a pulse of what’s happening in the area for what the people think. I don’t know if anyone in any type of important position would ever pay attention to it. If they see enough opinions on there [and] hear enough voices, there would definitely have to be some form of reaction to it. Right?
TTN: As far as funding, how do you keep Philly Shout up and running since there aren’t any advertisements currently on the Web site?
JH: It’s solely funded by me… and my company.
TTN: So what are Philadelphians currently “shouting” about?
JH: [We] only have  registered users, but we’ve only placed a few postings on various Web sites to try and drive traffic because I have about 200 different projects on a national level.
Once [there are] more users and we post more and I’ll get a few moderators involved to help promote the site, then we’ll start to see more growth. Right now, I believe there’s only a very few shouts on there.
TTN: The Web site states that it’s “a place where local people can voice their opinions about local issues,” but is there a particular audience within Philadelphia that you are trying to reach?
JH: No, any residents in Philadelphia or the surrounding area. It’s open to anyone. We’re not targeting a specific person.
TTN: Blogs, social networking sites and other interactive media are known to help create or sustain connections between people. Do you believe Web sites similar to Philly Shout help create a sense of community in large cities like Philadelphia? Are you hoping that Philly Shout can aid in community building?
JH: Certainly, I definitely think that anytime you can involve a group of people, there’s going to be good ideas. I read an article the other day about how some private corporations and some volunteer groups are taking over some of the closed libraries and community centers.
That would be the type of thing we’d want to see from the site, where people can really voice what they think and maybe even come up with some ideas for how they could do different things to keep facilities like that open.
TTN: Ultimately, what do you hope to accomplish with the creation of the site?
JH: It was strictly created as a venue to be able to allow local people to voice their opinion about local issues. There’s no monetary or revenue goal or any such thing like that.
Shari DaCosta can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.