Last fall, I read an article in the New York Times about an app called Nextdoor, which hosts social networks for neighborhoods. The writer said it had helped her feel more connected.
I live in what I considered a pretty connected place, with the kinds of people who will let out your dogs if you are delayed at a kid’s sports tournament and who hold weekly happy hours in summer. Still, I downloaded the app and joined the fairly new Nextdoor community in our neighborhood, which had 15 members. I glanced at the postings when the app forwarded them by email, but nothing really caught my attention.
Turns out, I had skipped the step that makes Nextdoor work: I hadn’t invited anyone to join the community.
One winter day, I saw a message in Nextdoor about someone who had lost a couple of dogs. Shortly thereafter, I received a message from our homeowners’ association saying that someone had found a dog. It was like a Venn diagram, and I appeared to be the only one in the overlap. I put the two parties in touch, and the dog was reunited with its owner (the other dog was found via another Nextdoor overlap, this one involving a book club). I belatedly realized how useful Nextdoor could be.
The HOA board sent an invitation to its 100-plus members, and they started inviting other neighbors, and so on. The list has grown to 83 members and counting, and is much more active. When you add in surrounding communities (Nextdoor offers an option to see posts from other neighborhoods), there are hundreds of people within a few miles who can post and see posts about public safety, items for sale, events, garage sales, service ratings, nonprofit collections and more. I found a method to stop robocalls that I’m eager to try. One of my new Nextdoor neighbors said she found a badly needed babysitter. A person with spare Kodak slide carousels even found someone who needed them.
One new member wondered if the app “would still be enjoyable once it’s fully monetized.” I put this excellent question to the company’s communications associate, Anne Dreshfield. She assured me that Nextdoor would always be free to its members and more than 1,300 “partner agencies” across the United States — such as police departments — that use the app to keep residents informed. (Note: While some users say this aspect of the app improves safety, others say it can contribute to racial profiling.)
All Dreshfield would reveal about monetizing was, “We anticipate creating a better way for members to discover the local businesses and service providers.” Sounds like ads could show up in our feeds one day.
Nextdoor is more beneficial than I first realized. Let’s hope it stays that way.
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OPERATING SYSTEM: iOS and Android
USER RATINGS: iTunes, (7,550 ratings); Google Play, (18,205 ratings)
REVIEW’S BOTTOM LINE: Excellent way to share news, questions and concerns with neighbors.