It seems many people want to be part of a community – whether it’s their town, their school, their neighborhood. Communication’s evolution(devolution?) has made knowing one’s neighbors more challenging than ever.
Google groups, Facebook groups, list servs, blogs … neighbors talking to neighbors has long been a source of both neighborhood connectivity and cohesion as well as frustration as people become busy, spend less time at home, and move frequently.
What is Nextdoor? Nextdoor allows communities to easily create private websites to facilitate communication among neighbors and build stronger neighborhoods. Nextdoor was created based on the idea that the neighborhood is one of the most important and useful communities in a person’s life. Nextdoor’s mission is to use technology to help neighbors build stronger and safer neighborhoods.
Nextdoor intrigued me, in part because of their specialization in connecting neighborhoods and that they’re not Facebook.
I started a Nextdoor site in my neighborhood because I wanted to enable and facilitate communication in a non-Facebook forum. Years ago, I started a neighborhood blog, which itself was an evolution of the listserv. A google group attempted to bridge the communication gap, but failed for whatever reason. The blog was great, but people wanted to talk in private. Nextdoor has become a good source of communication amongst my neighbors. So far, we have about half of the neighborhood signed up, and many of those folks participate.
Convincing people to shift away from Facebook is a difficult challenge, but one at which I hope to be successful.
Suggestions for Nextdoor:
- Have an option to make some things public?
- Option to invite an HOA representative as a member. Our homeowners association (like many) has professional management; it would be helpful to have the option to allow a member of the HOA to read discussions.
- Encourage real photos of neighbors
- Photos of pets – I find that frequently folks know pets’ names but not their owners.
- Don’t let real estate agents ruin Nextdoor; not everything is a marketing opportunity.
- Partner with local coffee shops instead of Starbucks.
On another note …
Neighborhoods would do well to publicize some of the things they do. Every neighborhood is marketing itself to prospective buyers and renters. Put yourself in the shoes of a prospective buyer investigating neighborhoods trying to answer the question: “Will I and my family enjoy living here?”
I noted last year that the Forest Lakes neighborhood has an extensive newsletter that is accessible to the public, enabling interested/curious folks to learn more about their neighborhood … what are some of your favorite neighborhood sties?
Ironically as I was searching for a photo for this post, I came across the one above, courtesy of Charlottesville photographer Chris D Scott.
Update 18 December 2012: Slate has a nice post about Nextdoor that’s worth a read – Won’t You Be My Neighbor – I’ve been using Nextdoor in my neighborhood for about three months and it’s been quite useful.