Jan 19 2014
The "local" internet has been a tough nut to crack for publishers, community groups, towns, bloggers, etc.. Lots of local groups and institutions have created their own online presence, discussion forums, email mailing lists, but no great solution has emerged to allow neighbors to connect with neighbors (that assumes neighbors even want to talk to their neighbors in this era of "bowling alone").
Civic groups have long provided an online meeting place or hub for themselves and their agenda. My Cape Cod village of Cotuit is served by:
- the website of the Town of Barnstable (Cotuit is one of seven villages in the town)
- a Barnstable sponsored issue forum provided by a third-party vendor, called iForum
- the website of the Cotuit-Santuit Civic Association; a community organization
- the website of the Cotuit Fire District, the official governing body of the village's fire and water departments as well as its prudential committee which oversees budgets and infrastructure like the village meeting house -- Freedom Hall -- and other essentials like street lights.
- and a ton of other group pages for the Cotuit Library, the Cotuit Center for the Arts, the Historical Society, the Cotuit Athletic Association (sponsors of the Cotuit Kettleers baseball team), the Cahoon Museum, the Cotuit Mosquito Yacht Club .,... and on and on.
There's no umbrella site like a "Cotuit.com" -- no digital hub -- there may be a Cotuit Facebook page (I don't use Facebook). I know there is a Wikipedia page. Something may be missing. The online equivalent of the bulletin boards inside of the library and the post office and outside of the the Kettle Ho and the Coop -- a place where there's a master calendar of events, contact information, a place for neighbors to offer stuff for free or for sale, discuss crime issues in the neighborhood, etc. etc.
The Cape Cod Times doesn't really have a Cotuit specific area, and they have a subscription model. The weekly paper, the Barnstable Patriot, occasionally covers Cotuit. There is a Patch.com site for Barnstable-Hyannis.
I don't know, the digital needs of Cotuit may be very well served. But in my new job as editor in chief of an internet yellow pages company started in the UK called hibu, I'm looking very closely at the digital tools and services for local merchants and consumers.
One solution I am looking at is called Nextdoor, an online tool that allows neighbors -- not politicians or officials -- to define their neighborhood, invite in members, and create a shared space for documents, events, classifieds, etc. The various groups in a neighborhood can have their own Nextdoor group, and one neighbor can invite another via email into the perimeters of the neighborhood. I don't see this as a replacement for say the Historical Society's website, but a common place that the members of the society could promote their calendar of events, and drive traffic to their own online destination.
I started the Cotuit neighborhood on Nextdoor last week and spammed about 50 people in my Gmail address book with invites to join, 2o+ have accepted. The library has already posted a Valentine's Day event, so there are already early signs of life.
We'll see how it goes. I DO NOT want to be the administrator of the thing, and was pleased to see as members I invite accept, they in turn can invite others.
So far I see no advertising and so I don't understand Nextdoor's business model. They are a venture capital darling, have a lot of investment and high growth numbers.
If you want an invite, send me a mail to david AT churbuck DOT com. You need to have an address inside of Cotuit village (not Santuit, I left that alone for some Santuit resident to create a second neighborhood -- Nextdoor seems to allow adjacent neighborhoods to cross over).