How would you like to work for free? And while youre working for free, lets say that your boss deliberately orchestrates a state of mind of anger, distraction, idle chatter and gossip (see ourpost on). Now lets say that boss is someone youll never meet, never see face to face and who dines in all the finest San Francisco restaurants, drives a sports car and assumes no personal risk for the business he or she operates.
This is exactly what happens when we use social media. We work for free while our Silicon Valley overlords harvest data to sell to marketers. I need not mention Facebook or the even more vile Yik Yak. We all know their pitfalls and, Ill acknowledge, their benefits: staying in touch with family and friends and creating opportunities for small businesses to market themselves. But Im really beginning to question whether those benefits outweigh their flaws.
Im particularly angry this morning about a social media application called Nextdoor. When it began I thought it was a good idea. My neighbors even used it to organize some parties that got us all acquainted. But the Nextdoor folks started dictating to us what the physical boundaries would be of our neighborhood. Those boundaries got too big. Then heated and tedious discussion threads started up. Racist comments appeared. Recently Nextdoor asked Kelly to moderate questionable comments, framing this as a privilege rather than a scheme to get her to do their work for them. This disturbed her, because she couldnt tell if racist comments would remain posted if she didnt step in and do something about it. Yet she didnt want to accept that unasked for responsibility, either. She unsubscribed from Nextdoor today. I stopped subscribing to comments some time ago.
Right now Nextdoor is burning through venture capital money in the hopes of someday being an alternative to Craigslist.
And by the by: in 2014, theCEO of Nextdoor was charged with hit and run driving(and later convicted on a lesser charge).
Thankfully it should be easy to create an alternative to Nextdoor using tools provided (ironically) by other questionable Silicon Valley companies like Google. Id like to create a Google group for our neighborhood with a set of, admittedly, draconian rules:
No discussions that would not take place face to face, i.e. nothing that would be offensive to anyone in the group.
Offering a few things for sale is o.k. but running an online business through the group is unacceptable.
Political discussions relevant to the neighborhood can be facilitated through the online group but they must take place face to face. That is, if we need to get together to support or oppose something we need to have those discussions in person.
The kinds of things Id like to see handled by the group are straightforward and factual: Invitations to neighborhood events. Questions about utilities (Why wasnt the garbage picked up? Is there a power outage?). Referrals for professional services. Security concerns, like suspicious cars or vandalism. Lost and found pets. Giveaways of furniture, plants, excess fruit, etc. Everything else is just noise and distraction.
Wed all agree to the rules before signing up and there would be a small committee of three that would moderate comments.
My question for you, our dear readers, is have you been a part of a neighborhood email group? How has it gone? What benefits and pitfalls have you experienced?
Ironically, my neighborhood in NC is looking into Nextdoor after many years of using an email listserv for communicating, with pretty much the same rules you listed. Its a lovely neighborhood, and a lovely listservalmost never does something hateful get posted, and should something make it on thats unkind, people are generally good about pointing out the unkindness kindly. There are plenty of neighborhoods in my city which have more cantankerous list-members, and being on those lists is a bit more difficult. But overall, Id say its been a very positive, helpful experience. Its nice to be able to send a quick email around to see if everyones lost power in a storm, or to make folks aware of loose dogs, etc. A point that one of my neighbors likes to remind us of is that any virtual contact space, whether on Nextdoor or a listserv, tends to be dominated by people who have reliable access to email, Internet, and English, so thats a consideration too.
Well put! This is exactly why I deleted my Nextdoor account last year.
I manage a Mailman mailing list for a community group, and its been awesome for us. We use a fantastic webhosting company to host the list and some websites. Pretty cheap, and the list is fast and reliable. When I want to send a note to the group, I write to the groups mailing address, and everybody gets a copy within a minute or two. We have it set up so that only subscribers can send email to the list. Email sent from a non-subscriber address doesnt get distributed, so that eliminates spam. So thats one inexpensive option for you. Itd be totally under your control, and ad-free.
Another option to consider is a WordPress blog. I run a lot of these, and theyre awesome. If you have your own WordPress blog, you can make it public or private. You can make it so that most posts are visible to everybody, but some are password-protected. Or you can make it so the whole site is password protected that way only your approved subscribers can get in. I prefer the latter option.
Ive just looked at your blogs source code and see that youre already using WordPress for Root Simple. Yay! So it should be really easy for you to set up a WordPress site for your neighbours to use.
I dont use any Google services because I dont want them to have my data. They are a huge privacy-invading beast, so I think it makes sense to use alternative services that are under your control.
If I were in your neighbourhood I would not join your Google group, because Google is awful. I would be hoping that you would go for a privacy-friendly alternative, like the ones Ive mentioned here.
I run a mailman list for our neighborhood too. It works well most folks know how to use email so the entry barrier is low. I am looking to move it to another host though @Marie, what host do you recommend.
I have never heard of Next Door. I do know the only time in three years that my only neighbor has ever talked to me was to say Hi and to rush past me to inform the men in my yard they should not cut down one of my trees because it shaded her yard.
The rest of the neighborhood contacts me when they need my body at City Hall to help them voice an opinion to sway the vote of the City Council.
Your rules would never fly in my neighborhood. Snark would abound.
I too have never heard of this. Why do we now need social media to communicate with our neighbors? If we are having a block party or have a dog running loose in our yard, we can call them up or go next door and ask. If we need IMMEDIATE answers we have text messaging and email. Seems redundant to now have another thing to have to check and worry about. OK, blast away and call me a Luddite. But we have always made an effort to know our neighbors, what they look like, how they sound when they talk and if there are problems that we need to be aware of. And we are not small town people, having spent most of our lives in LA county.
I should add that the we in my comment meant me and my family and was not meant to be a judgement of anyone else! HummMaybe there are reasons not to want to know your neighbors in such a way as we do.
Our neighborhood has both a yahoo group and a nextdoor group. Nextdoor has been a great improvement over yahoo because it allows you to filter what kinds of alerts you want. The interface is also far better than yahoos. Regardless of who is underwriting the group, Id much rather have a neighbor moderating than some corporate lackey (or, more likely, a computer that cant even judge context). I agree that no one should say anything to their neighbors online that they wouldnt say to them face to face, but you cant force people to behave in their own best interests.
I know that Nextdoor (and Google, and yahoo) are likely using the content of our neighborhoods discussion to target marketing. Nextdoor more so than the others because they know where we live. Cest la vie moderne, perhaps. But the biggest problem Ive seen with it is all the people posting stuff to the group that they ought to just call the police for.
Never heard of next door, but I do live in a small neighborhood with defined boundaries of approximately 1/2 x 1/4mile . part of the neighborhoods has CCRs, part doe s not. We have had to fight certain issues together, and we have had things draw us together, so an email group has tried to exist several times. Unfortunately, it always disinte rgrates into name calling, personal agendas etc. We have settled back to being just neighbors who rally when we have a common problem, otherwise we all just go about our own lives, acknowledging each other with politeness.
I have not even heard of the social network that is going to take over creagslist
Nextdoor seems pretty innocuous in my neighborhood. Its also not particularly busy, but conversations on it hue pretty closely to the rules youve laid out.
I do believe that people should be more circumspect about trading their lives for Silicon Valley doo-dads, but thats harder said than done.
Some people have been developing a decentralized network that you can run your own hub:
Works great, all hubs can talk to other hubs, or you can run it as a stand-alone network for friends and family.
It has events, groups, a directory..totally ran and owned by you alone.
I run a hub for personal use on regular web-hosting, and use it rather than Facebook. I connect with other people who have hubs. Kind of fun, but it could be more practical for groups.
This idea had never occurred to me but I can see how useful it would be, especially if kept to a list like the one you suggest. Not sure if Nextdoor even exists for here in Argentina but given the high FB usage and the convenience of piggybacking a platform everyone is already using anyway, Im thinking of following your lead and starting a private FB group for sharing this kind of info (i.e. starting with friends and neighbors I know and then spiralling out from there). I totally agree that FB is basically vile for real social purposes, but as a way of sourcing and sharing this sort of intelligence, it IS useful. For example, I interact much more on gardening pages (i.e. posting a photo of a sick plant and asking others on the page to identify the bug/disease, that sort of thing) than with my actual real-life friends, who I just, you know, talk to Thanks for sharing this idea.
Our Nextdoor site has become Grandmas Facebook page. Anything constructive will devolve into political ranting and raving in short order. I quit the first week. Too many people with no one to talk to spoil a tool that held some promise.
My apartment complex has a Google Group. I have an inbox full of retired old men fretting and fuming about speed limits, road paving and water tanks.
Not to mention the one time someone got drunk and peed on someone elses car porch.. There were pictures
Our neighborhood has an email listserv and it generally works very well. Its nice to have a forum to post local issues (coyote activity has been a hot topic lately!) and post items for sale/for free before we have to cast a larger net into the Craigslist community. Nextdoor just didnt seem to take off in our little village, though they did try a couple of years ago. I think people saw a good thing in our listserv and werent interested in yet another service with a much larger area than our immediate community.
If Nextdoor proves anything, it is that good walls make good neighbors. I live in a predominantly African American neighborhood and have seen my share of racism and crazies on the site.
Also, Im not sure why the neigborhood boundaries are such a big deal to people. There have been plenty of arguments about that as in our area as well. It seems to stem primarily from people afraid the arbitrary boundaries on the website will decrease their status in some way.
Finally, never before have I seen so many people delegate authority and responsibility as much as I have on the site. Ive noticed this problem, you all should do something about it
I moved into a neighborhood that had a google email group, and it was amazing. We traded stuff, sold stuff, made community announcements, organized progressive dinners and work parties. Then, the moderator of the group, decided she wanted to use the Nextdoor platform, so we all switched over to that.
Some people liked it, but I hated it, it seemed like an additional facebook. I deleted my account. Since then, Ive moved out of the neighborhood, but I felt like it was a downfall.
I am a happy member of Nextdoor. If anything, ours in underused. It has been helpful for lost pets and Anyone know a good handyman? type questions.
Our neighborhood list is mostly positive, and it has engendered everything from block parties to meetings with community leaders to discuss local issues.
It has also, however, become a place where my neighbors rant about people sleeping in their cars and along the railroad tracks near our neighborhood. While I admit that these are real problems, the vitriol my neighbors direct at these people scares me. It borders on vigilantism.
Here in one area of San Jose, we used to have a Yahoo group with a few dozen people on it, but it got very low use, and over the last couple of years, it has received zero use.
Nextdoor showed up a couple of years ago, and there are some good, some bad aspects to it. We get the small handful of individuals posting political stuff out of the blue, people ranting about the homeless encampment, and people even getting in each others virtual faces, which is really shameful (arent we neighbors, after all?!?).
But we also keep each other apprised of whats going on with the neighborhood shopping center thats been around since the early fifties, and has just changed ownership since then. Lots of lost and found dogs and cats and turtles, lots of stories about break-ins, how to secure your house, and plenty of requests for handyman and plumber recommendations.
Couple of summers ago, things went out of control about a thread about fireworks during 4th of July which cause some people to reportedly quit the site.
But Ive stuck with it. I find that if I post good, thoughtful content that makes sense and is relevant to the topic, I get lots of Thank Yous and decent responses. I try to lead by example. I see the value in a site like this, and I really want it to succeed.
Ive often wondered how a) the boundaries were drawn, and b) how the site owners will make money, but I dont see too much evil in it now. So Ill stick with it.
Interesting. I signed up for Next-door a year or so back. I get the emails but I dont remember my password and those emails tend to be mundane or awful snark or prissy rule reminders. Every now and again one will be about a missing pet, but Ive seen signs round the hood by then. I find it best to go outside and talk with my neighbors. We know neighbors within approximately half a mile or so, say twenty blocks. Of course, we know more within the surrounding four blocks or so. (That Flood event back ten years really helped.) I like that I can call or stop by a neighbors house who lives five blocks away. I wish everyone could have such wonderful people surrounding them as we do. Its worth saying howdy and stopping for a chat when ambling round. Try it; dont wait for a national disaster to do so.
I joined Nextdoor a few months ago hoping to connect to my neighbors. Just as several of you stated my neighbors dont communicate with each other regularly. Unfortunately my experience hasnt been good, there have been a few good post but also a few too many complaints. Additionally, a neighbor made a several negative comments about my husband and I. It was regarding donated furniture on our lawn and a 3 day garage repair that happened more than two years ago. It was also implied that my family and I bought down the property value. This of course wasnt true and to be honest had gone up after we moved in. However, I was flabbergasted. To make matters worse I only spoke to the neighbor one time in the 4 years I moved there. Just one time. As well none of these concerns were HOA related but were still personally adresssed by the HOA president who is also a lead of the site. This caused a bit of strife in our subdivision & unfortunately after my neighbor made 4 negative comments about me, I gave a rebuttal. It wasnt deeming to anyone but I was a bit emotional. I requested all comments be deleted. The president reluctantly apologized after she recieved compliants from other members and my husband and I. The neighbor hasnt apologized but I made formal compliant to Nextdoor Neighbor and removed myself from the group. Ive learned to be more careful about social media.
Spark Joy: An Illustrated Master Class on the Art of Organizing and Tidying Up by Marie Kondo
Microshelters: 59 Creative Cabins, Tiny Houses, Tree Houses, and Other Small Structures by Deek Diedricksen
Root Simpleis about back to basics, DIY living, encompassing homegrown vegetables, chickens, herbs, hooch, bicycles, cultural alchemy, and common sense. Were always learning, figuring stuff out, taking advantage of the enormous smarts of our friends and our on-line community, and trying to give some of that back in turn. Root Simple is a gathering place for everyone. Welcome.
Your Guide to Self-Sufficient Living in the Heart of the City
Radical Home Ec for a Post-Consumer World