There is a clear, clear need for a certain kind of community web application, but so far, it hasn't been well articulated. Because the communities that need it aren't investing in web technologies, for various reason, the commercial sphere isn't addressing this need at all.
The needs this group is trying to address are in no way specific to transition towns.
In Estonia Community Tools have been working for a year on a Drupal distribution for realworld communities. I believe this may be the best model we have so far. They are fortunate enough to be paid wages by forward thinking Estonian institutions.
My own effort, Community Forge is focused on community currencies, but I understand the need to be a part of a less esoteric agenda. We are investing a lot of effort in training and educating the local administrators so they can spread the knowledge and become more technically independent, or at least, not dependent on me. Some communities make donations, or support in other ways. Community Forge and Tools alike use Drupal and both are acquiring a respectable amount of users.
Then there is Nodilus, which seems to have stalled I guess because of funding, but which planned to use Drupal.
Another I just found One Blue Dot plans to offer paid and free models, but I think they are not using Drupal.
There must be countless other initiatives, and boundless goodwill to make it happen. This is not about giving tiresome pro bono time to charity, this is about investing in all our futures.
Since building and maintaining a Drupal distro is a lot of work, I would very much like the next thing that Community Forge offers to be part of a collaborative effort. It might be advisable to have a small core and a long list of different drupal features, which could be developed independently, by different actors. Most of the so-called community features are actually about online communities, and that's where our needs diverge. The tools we need are not for online avatars who share a geeky obsession and and then vanish. We need to support REAL WORLD communities, that's the novelty. Let me remind you. In REAL WORLD communities people live close by, they meet in the shops, they exchange physical goods, they socialise and work together, they care for each other, and many have been there all their lives. Some of them don't even use computers!
So here is a list of the kinds of 'features' that I have identified
- Classified ads, geopositioned, with privacy options and categories.
- Some kind of lending management/checkout system for common goods. LIke the merci module but maybe simpler
- A payment system which could be denominated in virtual national currency, and maybe hours, like a time bank. (That's my dept.)
- something to help with ridesharing, might have to hook into an outside network, if there is one with a usable API
- A reputation system which is considerate of the fact that everybody knows everybody
- A group buying organiser, equivalent to groupon but better because delivery is cheaper when everyone lives in the same area,
- A calendar with reminder
- newsletter and discussion groups
- A semi-sophisticated governance tool, perhaps giving extra credence according to the reputation system and/or to hours spent
Right now I'm working on the Communtiy currencies module for Drupal 7, and there is no shortage of work adding features to that and adapting it. I am passionate about that work. I am less passionate about building a whole community platform and migrating and supporting all the users I already support.