A new social network Nextdoor launches in the UK f you and yourighbrs

A new social network which aims to bring neighbours closer together has launched in the UK.

Nextdoor has been a huge success in the US and was launched in the Netherlands in February.

It aims to encourage social interaction between neighbours and make people aware of crime in their area.

The social network has already been trialled in 500 neighbourhoods across the UK.

Every neighbour, in every neighbourhood, would benefit from a platform that makes it easier to connect and communicate with the people who live right next door, says Nirav Tolia, Nextdoors CEO in an official statement.

He also revealed that Brexit also played a part in the decision to make the UK the next country in which to launch Nextdoor.

We feel like Nextdoor is something that will help weather the storm, he tells Fortune magazine.

After joining the site and uploading your address and postcode, you are connected with people living in your area – as you would be on Facebook, except these are people living near you.

You can see updates and public posts from these people.

If you dont want to hand over your phone number, you can choose to receive a postcard to get registered.

In the US, the site has caused controversy after coming under fire for users racial profiling in reporting supposed criminal incidents.

It was claimed members had reported black people being seen in certain areas, despite there being no criminal activity.

The site later introduced ethical questions users answered before being allowed to post. There has since been a reported a 75% drop in race-related posts.

Nirav Tolia says for now, this feature will not be part of the UK network but could be in the future.

He will be hoping that the story of Nextdoor is more Facebook than Friendster and doesnt end up on the social media scrap heap.

Heres a brief history of the social networks weve loved (briefly) and lost.

Apples first attempt to break into the social media market was with the short-lived Apple Ping in 2010.

It was intended to be a music recommendation service and to encourage interaction between friends, stars and fans.

Instead, it was reportedly flooded with spam and fake accounts.

The service was shut down in 2012 and Apple now runs its Connect service through iTunes.

US internet giant Yahoo worked on a social network in 2005 with social elements built onto its existing email and photos services.

It was trialled in several parts of the world, including the US and UK.

Users werent so keen, and it was shut down in 2008 before it was given an official launch across the rest of the world.

Friends Reunited was the first big social network to capture the imagination of British internet users when it was launched in 2000.

It was such a big deal, there were Friends Reunited CDs, TV programmes and books. You wouldnt get that from Twitter.

The husband and wife who invented the site sold it to ITV for 120 million in 2005. ITV sold it on in 2009 for 25m.

In 2011 it was valued at just 5.2m and closed its virtual doors in January 2016.

Friendster was a successful social network between 2002 and 2011.

It found even more success as a social gaming site after rebranding in 2011 due to direct competition from Facebook.

At one point it had 115 million registered users but its success was short lived and closed down in 2015 after the community lost interest in the sites services.

MySpace was the biggest social media site in the world between 2005 and 2009, before the rise of Facebook took its place.

MySpace mixed music with networking and remains online as a music and entertainment website to this day – but on a much smaller scale.

There are no longer any social media elements to its offering. Instead it covers celebrity news and a focus on introducing new artists to users.

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Nextdoor social network sees decline in racial profiling after new changes

CEO Nirav Tolia developed his private social network, Nextdoor, with a mission to use the online community to bring people together to improve neighborhoods. The site can be used to track down babysitters, find new homes for unwanted items and sharereports of crime in the neighborhood.

But he says hewas surprised and deeply saddened when the company tookheat for an issue that is completely counter to that mission. Last year, the sites crime and safety section was criticized for becoming a home for racial profiling.

The company has sinceimplemented changesto crack down on the issue, which it said has led to a 75 percent drop in posts containing racial profiling in certain test markets.

We first say,stop and think before you post. If a person were of a difference race, would you still feel like this needed to be information that you would share? Tolia explained on CBS This Morning Thursday. If you choose to go ahead and invoke race as a descriptor, we have a higher bar.

Nearly a third of Americans have no interaction with their neighbors, partly due to lower levels of trust, according to a report. The Nextdoor so…

Users who desire to proceed must now provide a fuller description of the person, including additional details such as hair color, shoes, age and build. Descriptions that are too short are also not accepted, and an algorithm also flags racially-charged items.

Tolia said some users initial reactions to the changes included those who claimed the site was blocking my right to post, but headded that the company has had overwhelmingly positive feedback from neighbors.

This isnt about censorship. This is about getting better descriptions that are better for the neighborhood, so its truly a win-win, Tolia said.

Other tech companies have also faced backlash for similar issues, includingAirbnb, where some homeowners refused to accept bookings from people of certain races. Tolia called it not a tech company issue, but a societal issue.

We need to create ways online for us to be our best selves, and thats what these changes are designed to do, Tolia said.

Tolia also hopes his companyschanges would also help reduce unconscious racism.

This is about unconscious bias. This is about invoking race without a fuller description and not realizing that when you do that, an entire class of people can be held subject to that discrimination, he said.

Tolia said the racial profiling only accounted for less than one percent of the posts on Nextdoor, and alsoemphasized the benefits the social network can bring to communities, such ashelping familiesfindbabysitters or plumbers, uniting neighbors in times of natural disasters, and fighting crime.

The people around you can help. You just need an easy way to connect with them, Tolia said.

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Social Network Nextdoor Moves To Block Racial Profiling Online

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Social Network Nextdoor Moves To Block Racial Profiling Online : All Tech Considered

Social networks let users share without being impeded. But Nextdoor, a platform for neighborhoods, is moving to block posts for the first time when they appear to be racial profiling.

Social Network Nextdoor Moves To Block Racial Profiling Online

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Social Network Nextdoor Moves To Block Racial Profiling Online

Social Network Nextdoor Moves To Block Racial Profiling Online

Social Network Nextdoor Moves To Block Racial Profiling Online

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Through a series of forms and an algorithm, Nextdoor is working to automate the process of blocking racial profiling online.Nextdoor/Screenshot by NPRhide caption

Through a series of forms and an algorithm, Nextdoor is working to automate the process of blocking racial profiling online.

Thats not the message you typically get from Internet companies. The ethos on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram is to (over) share. But Nextdoor, a social network, has decided to block users from publishing certain posts, specifically when they appear to be racial profiling.

Talking about race and racial profiling does not come naturally to Nirav Tolia, the CEO ofNextdoor. And yet, hes doing it anyway.

What someone considers to be racist is something that is, unfortunately in many cases, in the eye of the beholder, he says. Why do some people like Trump and some people think that hes Satan?

Tolia is a tech entrepreneur, not a politician. Nextdoor is a popular social network for neighborhoods. You use your real name and address to join an online group with your real neighbors.

The company is confronting a tough problem: How do you stop an activity when people cant even agree on how to define it? Jaywalking and speeding are easy. Racial profiling does not have a universally accepted definition, as criminology expertsnote.

In the face of public criticism by users who felt the site was permitting racism and fear mongering, Nextdoor decided to createa working definitionthat is relatively broad:anythingthat allows a person to stereotype an entire race. And throughout this summer, in a move thats highly unusual for a tech company, Tolia and his engineers have been testing ways to put a stop to it online.

Nextdoor CEO Nirav Tolia says a pilot project using algorithms to check for racially charged terms has helped cut racial profiling posts by roughly 50 percent.Drew Angerer/Getty Imageshide caption

Nextdoor CEO Nirav Tolia says a pilot project using algorithms to check for racially charged terms has helped cut racial profiling posts by roughly 50 percent.

People engage in racial profiling often not on purpose, Tolia says. Its implicit bias. For example, he says, a user might think: If I look out my window, and I see someone breaking into a car, and the only thing I see is that theyre dark-skinned, why cant I post [it]? Thats all I see.

The problem with that post a dark-skinned man is breaking into a car is that, while the activity sounds like a crime, the description of the alleged perpetrator lacks any useful detail, like what he was wearing, his sneakers, his hairstyle or height.

Because that message goes out to the entire neighborhood, where presumably many of the neighbors reading the post are dark-skinned, that would be considered racial profiling, Tolia explains.

Nextdoor wasno stranger to such posts. The end effect, he says, was more hurtful than helpful, generating animosity among neighbors, rather than useful tips for law enforcement.

In a pilot project running in select neighborhoods across the U.S., the company has altered the rules for posting. When a user goes to post about a crime or suspicious activity, in the Crime & Safety section, a new form requires two physical descriptors e.g. Nike sneakers, blue jeans, crew cut, brunette if the user chooses to include the race of the person.

An algorithm under development spot checks the summary of the suspicious activity for racially charged terms, as well as for length. If the description is too short, it is presumed to lack meaningful detail and is unacceptable.

If a draft post violates the algorithms rules or the forms mandatory fields, the user has to revise. Otherwise, its not possible to post.

This is a very, very, very difficult problem in society, Tolia says. Do I believe that a series of forms can stop people from being racist? Of course I dont. That would be a ridiculous statement.

The move to block posts sparked heated internal debate, Tolia admits. Its highly unusual for a social network to say: If you dont do this, you cannot post. Highly unusual. I mean, think about Twitter or Facebook or Snapchat. Theres no friction at all in the process of posting.

In tech, friction is a dirty word. Engineers rack their brains over how to shave seconds off the time it takes to broadcast you to the world.

Some Nextdoor engineers argued that the company should just politely suggest, not require, a better description. They pointed out that when people complain about bullying, hate speech, revenge porn on other social networks, those companies dont change their product.

They may write a blog post, they may make a donation to charity, something like that, Tolia says.

Thus far, the company says theres been roughly a 50 percent reduction in racial profiling posts. Tolias goal, he says, is to drive the number of instances down to zero.

Theres an interesting backstory here. Ultimately, it was a sustainedgrass-roots campaign in Oakland, Calif., that compelled the tech company to act.

A group called Neighbors for Racial Justice met with Nextdoor and handed over a blueprint for how to change the platform. Then, they got city officials to weigh in aggressively. For example, at a hearing last December, City Council member Desley Brooks said that if the company doesnt take steps to stop racial profiling, we as a city ought to say that we will not allow our employees to continue to post on Nextdoor and validate this poor behavior.

Nextdoor recruits police and city agencies into the network. Theyre an added feature, a kind of Community Policing 2.0 that many users want. In the wake of the Dallas shootings, thepolice departmentthere turned to Nextdoor to communicate safety updates to residents, and later to recruit for the police force. The network says its partnering with more than 1,600 public agencies in the U.S.

Oakland Council member Annie Campbell Washington says at first Nextdoor employees involved in the discussion werent willing to fundamentally alter the product. That changed when the CEO stepped in.

She says its a rare win in Silicon Valley, to get a company to ask users sitting behind their screens to think about the person on the other side of the screen whos of a different race, a different ethnicity, and think about how that post may affect their lives.

Some residents worried the grass-roots campaign was just the PC police. Campbell Washington recalls people writing in with questions: Why would you engage in anything that limits peoples expression? And especially people who are trying to keep their neighborhoods safe.

Then, the regular police weighed in. Oakland Lt. Chris Bolton says he would much rather have a detailed description about a factor that is very unique the man who robbed me was wearing tennis shoes with red laces than a vague description of just the sex and race of a person. He says the changes make Nextdoor more, not less, helpful for real police work.

Nextdoor plans to roll out changes to its entire U.S. network in the coming weeks.

All Tech Consideredwas an NPR blog that ran from 2009 to 2018.

All Tech Consideredexplores how technology is changing culture and connection.

Nextdoor the social network that

Would You Join a Social Network That Introduced You To Your Neighbors?

Would You Join a Social Network That Introduced You To Your Neighbors?

Nextdoor, the social network that promises to introduce you to the people on your block.

According tosome recent survey results, Americans have become rather unneighborly. A mere 30 percent of us socialize with our neighbors more than once a month (down from 44 percent in the mid-1970s). And a shocking 28 percent of us knownoneof our neighbors by name. We may keep in touch with faraway friends on Facebook, but when it comes to hanging out in our own communities we are bowling alone.

Seth Stevensonis a frequent contributor to Slate. He is the author ofGrounded: A Down to Earth Journey Around the World.

Tech entrepreneur Nirav Tolia noticed that we increasingly seem to prefer rubbing elbows onlineinstead of in real places where real elbows might really ruband saw a business opportunity. In late 2010, he created a service called Nextdoor. Its a social network that attempts to webify the original social network: the neighborhood. There are now Nextdoor sites in more than 6,500 communities in 49 states (not clear whats up with those anti-communitarian South Dakotans). All of them were launched by regular folks who sought a way to connect with their neighbors, but didnt want to ring doorbells or make small talk in the elevator.

To start a Nextdoor site for your own hood, you first define the physical boundaries of neighbordom. Who do you consider your fellow villagers? They could be spread out over a vast open realm if you live in a rural area where the houses are far apart; or might mingle around a few leafy blocks if you inhabit an inner-ring suburb; or could be smooshed together within a single high-rise building if youre a city dweller. Nextdoor prefers that each of its neighborhoods contain at least 75 households. So far the median number hovers somewhere around 200 to 300.

Once youve targeted your territory, you recruit your neighbors to sign up. Nextdoor provides postcards to put in mailboxes and flyers to post on telephone poles or in apartment building lobbies. No one is required to join, of course. If neighbors do hop on board, they must register using their real names and physical addresses (which Nextdoor then verifies before admitting them). Any posts on the site will be made under those real namesnot made-up screen nameswith real addresses visible for all other neighbors to see.

What happens on a Nextdoor neighborhood site once its up and running? I spoke with Nextdoor users in San Francisco; Lafayette, Col.; and Hamilton, N.Y., and poked around on a couple of sites. Turns out there are lots of requests for recommendations: Anybody know a good nanny/auto mechanic/plumber? Also some spirited discussions regarding the relative merits of local restaurants and grocery stores. Much selling of or giving away of old patio furniture, outgrown baby strollers, and unwanted sporting equipment. Announcements about upcoming block parties and holiday gatherings. The occasional safety alert, when someones car gets broken into while its sitting in a driveway.

You might wonder whether you could achieve similar ends simply by creating a Facebook group and asking neighbors to join. But Tolia points out that many have made the same argument about LinkedInthat its useless because you could do the same stuff on Facebookand yet lots of people find that site more useful than Facebook for professional networking. Nextdoor has dedicated tabs built in for things like events, recommendations, and safety. It eventually plans to make money by selling targeted ads of some sort to local dentists and window washers and such.

Perhaps more important, Nextdoor is private: Only verified neighbors can see each others posts, and Nextdoor neighborhoods pages are not indexed on any search engines. Some other community sites allow anonymity, which has encouraged incidents of nasty small-town gossip. (SeethisNew York Timesstoryabout a site called Topix, on which rural users anonymously slag each othere.g. Has anyone noticed she is shaped like a penguin.) Tolia says that using real names and addresses has kept Nextdoor free of vicious name-calling and rumor-spreading. The Nextdoor users I spoke to agreed that this is the case.

To me, the more relevant question is whether we need, or want, to have any connection at all with the random grab-bag of strangers who happen to live nearby. We can sell stuff on Craigslist, give it away on Freecycle, find recommendations on Yelp. Is there something special about doing this stuff within a tightly knit, exclusive circle of neighborsestablishing a bond based on proximity?

I live in a 75-unit apartment building. I know only two of my neighbors by name. The woman across the hall (who once invited me over for a delicious Rosh Hashanah dinner) seems like a lovely person, and she returned my folding chairs promptly after she borrowed them. But then theres this other dude.

This guylets call him Larrymanaged to invite himself into my apartment shortly after I moved in, when I was surrounded by open boxes and crumpled packing tape. Within minutes, hed begun bragging to me about how he cheats on his wife. Since then, he has knocked on my door and 1) asked if I wanted to buy some e, 2) insisted that he wanted to hire a prostitute for mehis treat, and 3) suggested we film some porn in my apartment, with him behind the camera and me as the star. I declined these offers.

Yes, I should have drawn firmer boundaries with Larry. Maybe right after that first visit. But Im a nice guy, I didnt want to offend him, and it seemed much easier to nod and smile until he went away. Besides, and this is the key: He knew where I lived, and I had no choice but to see him all the time. Telling him off might result in a lot of very awkward moments in the elevator or the mailroom. Didnt seem worth it. I just waited for him to move out. Which he finally did, to my tremendous relief.

Its people like Larry that make us crave anonymity within our neighborhoods. Once even a shred of a relationship has been established, a neighbor might pound on your door at any moment, sidle up to you while youre jogging, or maneuver next to you in line at the corner store. We cant block them, as we can with annoying people on Facebook. The real life equivalent of blocking is a restraining order. That seems a bit messy and is likely overkill in a situation like this.

But while we may not want to be friends with our neighbors, there are still reasons to be neighborly. Moments of sudden need, a la the aforementioned folding chair borrowing. (Nextdoor wants to establish lending libraries so neighbors can arrange to share leafblowers and extension ladders and such.) Safety concerns. (Theressome evidencethat Neighborhood Watch is an effective program, and Tolia gets excited when he discusses the potential for Nextdoor to reduce crime rates.) Raising awareness around community issues. (There have been attempts to integrate local governments into Nextdoor siteswith posting but not viewing privileges, so they can broadcast information and alerts without spying on their citizens.)

All in all, it seems like Nextdoor may offer most of the benefits of neighborliness with few of the icky downsides. You can establish online ties with your neighbors, thereby eliminating the need to ever interact with them in person. Orin a best-case scenariothe online connection might manage to surface some cool nearby folks you actuallydowant to have a beer with. Im thinking I might go ahead and start a Nextdoor site for my building. Once Im completely certain that Larrys gone.

QA Nextdoor CEO explains how the social network is cracking down on racial profilg

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QA: Nextdoor CEO explains how the social network is cracking down on racial profiling

byMonica NickelsburgonAugust 24, 2016 at 3:51 pmAugust 24, 2016 at 3:51 pm

Nextdoor, a social network for neighborhoods, has exploded in popularity in recent years, igniting controversy along the way. Critics say the site encourages fear of outsiders and racism among neighbors and Nextdoor is responding to them in a big way.

Since May, the San Francisco-based company has been testing features intended to ban racial profiling in regions around the country. Today it is rolling out the changes nationwide. As of Wednesday morning, users in Nextdoors 110,000 neighborhoods throughout the US face new guidelines when posting under the Suspicious Activity and Crime and Safety categories. The changes include a series of reminders about racial profiling and a two-step description when reporting suspicious persons.

Nextdoor changed the form that users fill out when reporting suspicious activity. Now, theyre prompted to provide distinguishing characteristics other than race (like hair and clothing) first. After submitting that information, theyre then asked to submit other basics, like race, sex, and age.

If the post doesnt include enough identifying information, beyond race, the user cant publish it. The changes, which could alienate some existing users, are highly unusual for a social media site. But Nextdoor CEO and co-founder Nirav Tolia says the update isnt about business. Its personal.

To some extent, youre either part of the solution or not, Tolia said in an interview with GeekWire today. We want to be part of the solution. We feel like we have a moral obligation to do that, not just as employees of Nextdoor but as people.

External pressure also played a role. Nextdoor began discussing these changes when its own neighbors came knocking. Two Oakland-based activist groups,Neighbors for Racial Justiceand100 Black Men, approached the company with concerns over racially charged posts. Nextdoor worked with the organizations and other experts to develop the new features.

GeekWire caught up with Tolia to discuss the unorthodox decision to ban racial profiling. Continue reading for the edited Q&A.

GeekWire:Why did Nextdoor decide to ban racial profiling?

Tolia:Racial profiling is completely counter to the mission of why we created the company. Our goal is to use technology to bring neighbors together and assist them in building stronger and safer neighborhoods and racial profiling is divisive, discriminatory, and can create great harm in neighborhoods. So its just about the opposite of everything we want to accomplish.

GW:How effective has the change been since you started the pilot program?

Tolia:Weve made a series of changes over the last eight months but, more recently, weve been testing an entirely new posting process for when our members create crime and safety messages and that series of improvements, were really proud to say, reduced racial profiling incidents by 75 percent.

GW:How are you able to measure that?

Tolia:Its a statistically significant analysis that weve done and, at a high-level, over some period of time, we analyzed every single post in the crime and safety category for almost 70 percent of our 110,000 neighborhoods. In all of those posts, if there was any mention of race, we read them manually. As we read them manually we did a double blind and redundant process, where we had different people, inside and outside the company, of different genders and races, reading through these and grading them separately, without knowing where the post came from, which form created them, etc. And then, finally, we brought all that information together and did statistical regression that showed us, by a rank, which set of forms performed the best. The winning variation reduced racial profiling by 75 percent.

It was a pretty rigorous analysis. We ran it for a series of months and manually examined thousands and thousands of posts.

Has there been any negative reaction to the changes?

Tolia:We are sometimes accused of stifling free speech and blocking people from posting things but I think those folks dont understand exactly what weve done. We havent actually blocked anything. If youre posting anything on Nextdoor, crime and safety-related, and you dont mention race, theres no change at all. If you do mention race, then we require more information but we dont block you from posting. You just cant post something where the only descriptor you have is race. So you cant say, a dark-skinned man broke into this car, because that is definitely racial profiling. You can say, a dark-skinned man, whos about six-four, who looks to be in his mid-twenties, who has a yellow shirt and red pants broke into a car. So I think theres a misperception that these changes have somehow blocked people from posting but we have not heard that feedback from anyone whos actually encountered the changes. Thats more of an emotional reaction.

GW:I know that Nextdoor has been discussing these issues with organizations in the Bay Area. Are you in touch with any groups like that in Seattle?

Tolia:No, we havent been contacted. The Seattle PD is an existing partner of ours and so weve solicited their feedback.

The way this happened is, a little over a year ago, we received word from some Oakland community groups who really like Nextdoor. They saw posts on Nextdoor where they felt that, while they might be well-meaning, they actually ended up being somewhat destructive because they profiled entire races of people.

All of these improvements were made possible through working sessions with community groups. Theyre called The Neighbors for Racial Justice and 100 Black Men as well as the Oakland PD, as well as the city of Oakland, including the Vice Mayor and one of the councilmembers, as well as a number of different consultants that we hired some from the ACLU and some from the DOJ.

We did not consider ourselves to be experts in racial equity. It was something that we needed to become educated on and we have needed to reach out for assistance to experts and weve jointly created these changes.

GW:Banning racial profiling is a pretty radical move for a platform like Nextdoor. What makes it different than other social networks?

Tolia:The biggest difference is Nextdoor is about the real world community. Its about the community in which you live, whereas Facebook is some of your friends that you see every day but a large number of your friends on Facebook arent folks you run into physically; whereas Twitter, you can follow and have discourse with people that youve never even met and the same goes with Instagram.

Nextdoor is all about really acting as a mirror of whats happening in your true physical world where you spend a majority of your time. Its fundamentally different. Its fundamentally different because we require address verification. Its fundamentally different because its completely private. Its fundamentally different because, for us, ultimate success is a conversation on Nextdoor leading to an interaction in the real world. We dont want to keep you on Nextdoor. We want Nextdoor to serve as an icebreaker for you to get to know your neighbors and communicate with them in-person, which is completely different. We call ourselves a social network but, in reality, we are more of a community type forum.

To some extent youre either part of the solution or not. We want to be part of the solution. We feel like we have a moral obligation to do that, not just as employees of Nextdoor but as people.

GW:Is that why you were motivated to take these steps against racial profiling when other platforms wouldnt dream of it?

Tolia:Were so busy here I can only speak to the way we think about things but we believe racism is one of the most divisive issues facing society today. To some extent youre either part of the solution or not. We want to be part of the solution. We feel like we have a moral obligation to do that, not just as employees of Nextdoor but as people.

I know that all of my colleagues, our employee base, feels very strongly about this. Its a personal issue for us. Its not a business issue. At the same time, a very difficult issue and so we dont believe that some changes weve made to a website, some new forms, etc., are going to somehow end racism. Thats a ridiculous statement. However, we felt very, very accountable to ourselves to try to move the ball forward and hold it back.

is GeekWires Civic Innovation Editor, covering technology-driven solutions to urban challenges and the intersection of tech and politics. Before joining GeekWire, she worked for The Week, Forbes, and NBC. Monica holds a BA in journalism and history from New York University. Follow

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– Most-read stories of the week, delivered Sunday

– Afternoon roundup of top GeekWire stories, delivered each weekday

– The intersection of sports & technology, delivered weekly

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Weekly update with our latest audio episodes

Cloud and developer technology, delivered weekly

Most-read stories so far this week, delivered Wednesday

Special offers for Pacific Northwest area readers

Nextdoor broke the social network mold Could political ads makit just liFacebook?

Through verifying identities and enforcing a culture of civility, the neighborhood social network built trust. That could change if it enters the political ad game

Fri 5 May 201711.00 EDTLast modified on Mon 27 Nov 201719.44 EST

Nextdoor, the social network that helps neighbors talk to each other, has a billion-dollar valuation and a presence in streets from San Jose to Liverpool. But according to its CEO, none of the tech giants are interested in acquiring it.

Facebook, Google, those guys havent actually come and talked to us, said Nirav Tolia.

Its maybe hard, when youre the big Goliath, to take some of these little mice seriously, he added. And were OK being a mouse … Because the mouse is getting stronger every day.

Tolia, 45, is a fast-talking businessman with a string of startups and a penchant for hubristic mouse metaphors. He is the archetype of a California tech entrepreneur.

Nextdoor, in contrast, breaks theSilicon Valleymold.

The company an unapologetically utilitarian place to share recommendations about dentists, find out where to dump a used sofa or receive alerts about local police activity has been expanding across the US over the past seven years.

It has been a very different path from the shooting-star trajectory of viral, app-based startups. Were not Snapchat, were not Instagram, Tolia said. We dont have 50 million users in six months. One reason for the delayed growth has been Nextdoors reliance on a kind of crowd-sourced approach to defining neighborhoods, in which communities themselves draw the borders to their communities and name them.

But that slow and steady approach is starting to pay off, Tolia said, adding that the company now had tens of millions of users. (A company spokesperson later said the figure was usually described as millions.)

Still, the growth has been impressive. Five years ago, Nextdoor had just 7,000 neighborhood groups. Today, it claims to have more than 137,000 which it says amounts to roughly 70% of US neighborhoods. And now the company is making forays into Europe, via recent launches in the Netherlands and the UK.

That incremental approach to expansion is unusual for social media companies. So, too, is Nextdoors professed commitment to ensuring a cordial online community.

It has been called the anti-Facebook, but in ethos, at least, it might be better described as the version of Facebook that Mark Zuckerberg wishes he had created.

Nextdoor threads and posts are by no means immune to controversy, but there is nothing like the febrile, combative tone that has contaminated other social media in part because members are required to use real names and addresses.

But the startup does more than just verify identities; it rigorously enforces a culture of civility with rules that prohibit, for example, debate about non-local issues that are known to be highly controversial, even going so far as explicitly discouraging conversations about presidential politics.

Guidelines warn users they cannot berate, belittle, troll or swear and urge them to report any neighbors guilty of over-posting, campaigning, repeatedly posting, or ranting about controversial, non-local issues. (A rant is defined as: ALL CAPS, excessive punctuation, provocative language, judgmental accusations, or repetitive explanations.)

It is hard to imagine how Facebook, Reddit or Twitter would survive 24 hours under such strict rules. Tolia concedes these regulations run completely counter to Silicon Valleys prevailing free speech culture. But he believes theyre essential.

We have from the very beginning felt that community, and avoiding things that are divisive, are at the very core and foundation of what weve done, he said. Its not something that weve had to bolt on after some crisis.

Thats not entirely true. In late 2015, Nextdoor became known as a forum in which neighbors were using the popular crime and safety forums to flag racially biasedreports of suspicious activity in their communities. The company amended its technology to block users from reporting suspicious activity on the basis of race alone.

Tolia said the episode only galvanized the company in its mission to stamp out conflict between people. Nextdoors view is that you can disagree … without being disagreeable, he said.

The key to monetizing Nextdoor is its cache of verified personal data. Tolia claims the company is on the cusp of offering a level of targeting that is even more granular and reliable than that of Google and Facebook, which dominate the $60bn industry in digital ads.

Nextdoors data could be especially useful to the burgeoning and controversial market in political advertising, in which companies areoverlaying detailed data about voters to target the most persuasive ads.

But political ads will only work on Nextdoor if its users are discussing politics.

That may explain why Nextdoor, in a move that seemed to be contrary to its aversion to conflict, recently started hosting local forums about hot political topics.

We want to create a kind of area in the service where those conversations can happen, and people can passionately argue one way or another, Tolia said.

He played downa report in Politicothat the move was intended as an entry into the lucrative market of political influencing. But he conceded that he had been approached by a company that could take your address and put it through a voter database and see everyone youve voted for and then show you an ad that was personalized to your beliefs. He added: We felt that was not something that would sort of build our credibility as a company.

Asked if he could guarantee that Nextdoor would not micro-target political ads, Tolia got a few words in before his PR executive, who was also present, interrupted. Dont! she said. Dont guarantee all this.

He was reluctant to be drawn further. This is such a theoretical conversation, he said. Because we literally have never had any of these conversations.

But what about the example he had just given about the advertiser who wanted to target voters through Nextdoor?

Five years ago, he replied. We had one conversation.

Then Steve Wymer, a former Republican operative recently hired as a vice-president at Nextdoor, who was also sitting in on the interview, intervened. He reminded his boss they were in New York a couple of weeks ago and we talked to a political targeting ad group.

Tolia nodded but added a clarification. We just said were not interested, he said. And we havent followed up.

Knocking on Nextdoor the social network f neighbs

Knocking on Nextdoor, the social network for neighbors

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Knocking on Nextdoor, the social network for neighbors

Nextdoor does for neighbors what OkCupid has done for dating. It removes the high social stakes.

There was once a time when your social network would have been connected by landlines rather than fiber optics. When friendly games took place around a card table rather than through an app. A bygone era when the people you spoke with most often lived down the street rather than across the country.

Neighborhoods were the original social network, providing a sense of familiarity and common ground for conversation at the local playground, dog park, or bar. With the rise ofFacebook, however, its easier than ever to stay connected with the friends you already have instead of branching out and making new ones. As a result, youre more likely to know what your college roommate ate for lunch rather than the first names of the neighbors across the hall.

As technology allows us to connect with more people around the globe, surveys show we are becoming increasingly isolated from those around us. But that same technology may be the very thing that revives the local neighborhood.

I walked out my front door three years ago and realized I recognized just one other person on my block, Sarah Leary told me. Something wasnt right about that.

Leary is the cofounder ofNextdoor, a geographically based social network that takes the concepts of online interaction pioneered by Facebook,LinkedIn, and others and applies them to neighborhoods across the country.

In contrast to its more established contemporaries, Nextdoor isnt one giant network so much as a patchwork of networks. Users can only join their neighborhood by verifying their address, and they must use their real name. Their information is only available to other Nextdoor users in the area.

Leary and cofounders Nirav Tolia and Prakash Janakiraman see the site as a potential solution to a significant social problem: According to a Pew Research Center survey conducted a year before Nextdoors late-2011 launch, 28 percent of Americans did not know a single neighbor by name. And even though 65 percent of U.S. adults were on some form of social media in 2011, only 2 percent were Facebook friends with their actual neighbors. Those stark figures, combined with the creators own experiences, sparked the Nextdoor movement.

Though its initial debut was limited to the San Francisco Bay area, where Nextdoors headquartered, the network has quickly spread to some 24,000 neighborhoods in all 50 states, with plans to launch internationally in the near future.

Not all neighborhoods are the same, of course. Some take to it more quickly than others. Thats because Nextdoor cant spread the same way as traditional social networks. The people Nextdoor attempts to connect often dont know each other through other online channels, like email address books. Instead, users have to start the local network the way they would a neighborhood watch: through fliers, door-to-door greetings, or postcards to nearby addresses encouraging neighbors to join.

Usually it takes one determined person to get it going in a neighborhood, Leary said.

Tuscan Knox was the driving force behind the first Nextdoor neighborhood in Austin, Texas. The service provided by Nextdoor is something he said his neighborhood had been needing for a while.

There were efforts to try and get the neighborhood connected online, Knox said. Wed tried using a Google Groups, but it just sort of fell by the wayside.

Though Austin is knownfor being friendly, Nextdoor was welcomed as a way of breaking the ice in Knoxs neighborhood. As he put it, Nextdoor enabled soft introductions. When hes out and about in his neighborhood, Knox often connects with his neighbors offline by referencing a posting or comment from Nextdoor.

Essentially, Nextdoor does for neighbors whatOkCupidhas done for dating. It removes the high social stakes of approaching someone out of the blue in real life.

To call Nextdoor the Facebook of neighbors would be a slight misinterpretation. The site certainly borrows from some of the ideas pioneered byMark Zuckerbergand company, but the nature of interactions on Nextdoor are quite different.

Where Facebook interactions tend to be more purely social, communiques on Nextdoor usually revolve around solving problems. The majority of conversations26 percent, according to the siterelate to recommendations for local services and businesses. Twenty-two percent pertain to community issues (things like trash pick-up, local happenings), while another 20 percent of conversations relate to crime and public safety. Many neighborhood watches have been organized through the site, while only 11 percent of conversations relate to social events.

Veterinarian recommendations or warnings about suspicious vehicles may not seem particularly engaging from a social media standpoint. But these are exactly the kind of topics Leary and her partners want Nextdoor neighborhoods to be talking about.

Nextdoors philosophy is heavily rooted in sociological research, particularly the teachings ofRobert D. Putnam, as outlined in his bestselling book,Bowling Alone: The Collapse and Revival of American Community. In studying the decline of American civic engagement at the tail end of the 20th century, Putnam delves heavily into the notion of social capital. In simple terms, social capital is the currency used in a social network, generated by people providing things for one another. Recommending a good local mechanic or collecting a neighbors mail while theyre out of town, for example, creates social capitala sense of trustworthiness and reliability. And social capital, Putnam argues, is what underscores the social bonds that become the basis of community and friendship.

Trustworthiness lubricates social life, Putnam writes inBowling Alone. Frequent interaction among a diverse set of people tends to produce a norm of generalized reciprocity. Civic engagement and social capital entail mutual obligation and responsibility for actions.

In other words, Leary said, building social capital leads to stronger neighborhoods. And stronger neighborhoods are linked to less crime, better education, and improved public health.

Thats what Knox has observed in his own Austin neighborhood, where 225 people from 140 homes are now on the local site. Though much of the early conversations revolved around social events, the site has now become the go-to place for neighbors seeking favors.

When someone has an old piece of furniture to sell or something, they usually put it up on Nextdoor now before going to Craigslist, Knox said.

Nextdoor hasnt been the trendiest social media startup in recent memory, but its growth has been steady on the whole. Its gone from under 200 neighborhoods shortly after its launch to more than 24,000 today. The site also recently earned a$60 million investmentby two venture capital firms, bringing total fundraising over the last 19 months to more than $100 million.

But a closer look at the sites growth at a microlevel reveals a little more variance. Not all neighborhoods embrace the site the same way. Though Knoxs south Austin neighborhood took to the site quickly, others take more time to grow. My neighborhood, on Austins northside, has seen slower growth. At present, there are just 14 members. Only one new person joined since I started working on this story in late Octoberdespite living in an area with several large apartment complexes in addition to some private homes.

I asked Leary about the variation in Neighborhood growth and she pointed out some of the key factors that define more robust Nextdoor networks. For instance, the high number of apartment renters (and the associated residential turnover) in my neighborhood are likely responsible for inactivity on my own Nextdoor site. Leary said Nextdoor primarily appeals to long-term residents.

Though anyone over the age of 18 can sign up for the site, Leary said the networks prime demographic is between 25 and 40. Thats a little older than the generation traditionally associated hot new social media networks, but Leary says these are the folks who are settling down and want to invest in the community.

Thats the age where people want to start putting down roots, Leary said. Were trying to create the common ground for that to happen.

Photo byDavid Shankbone/Wikipedia (remixby Jason Reed)

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