i-Neighbors.org keeps rolling along apparently. While the website doesn’t provide much information about how the service is doing as a whole, news stories surface occasionally. Here’s one from Michigan today…
A lot of problems could be solved if neighbors got to know one another, according to Bob Gutchek.
Gutchek, who lives on North Monroe Street, can recall at least one time when he might have prevented a robbery. But he didn’t know what his neighbor looked like.
”People are afraid to get to know other people,” said Gutchek, who tells people to call him ”One-legged Bob.” ”Mom and dad told us ‘Don’t talk to strangers,’ but that doesn’t work anymore.”
That’s why you can find Gutchek on ”i-neighbors,” a free Web site that helps turn next-door strangers into neighbors.
Users on www.i-neighbors.org can log onto a page made specially for their ZIP code, where basic statistical data – including population, area code, average household income and average property value – are listed along with other neighborhood descriptions users post.
The site provides different tools for individuals to communicate, including personal profiles, a neighborhood calendar, local business ratings and reviews and e-mail addresses.
Bay City’s 48708 ZIP code lists ”Sector 20,” which has only about four users – including Gutchek. Bangor Township, ZIP code 48706, also has a profile on the Web site.
Users living in a zip code without a profile can create one.
The Web site might prove to be a good way to mobilize neighborhoods and prevent crime, said Bay City Police Officer Don Aldrich, who helped create the local Bay City profile on i-neighbors.org in November.
”We’re getting with the times,” he said. ”The thing was, people didn’t want to leave their house and go to another meeting to hear about crime and get to know their neighbors.”
The Web site provides a way for neighbors to communicate with each other about possible problems, or e-mail Aldrich, who has registered himself as a member of the Sector 20 community.
”We can share information – the neighbors can share tips with me,” he said. ”Things road patrol officers might know about.”
But www.i-neighbors.org should not be used instead of 911 in emergency situations, he said.
With online social networks, such as MySpace and Facebook, and virtual worlds becoming a popular place for people to communicate, i-neighbors allows places like Bay City to keep up with the current technology trends.
An obstacle, however, is that many people in Sector 20 might not have access to the Internet, Aldrich said.
Getting involved in the nationwide Web site was also inspired by the ICANN – I Can Create a Nice Neighborhood – program that has existed in some Bay City neighborhoods.
If the local response to i-neighbors.org is good, there might be a chance for a more locally made ICANN-type Web site, Aldrich said.
Since the Web site started more than three years ago, it has been well received by many communities across the country, according to founder and director Keith Hampton, communications professor at the University of Pennsylvania.
The Web site began as a way to study how the Internet can affect relations within a community.
”The big question was would the Internet isolate us or give us more options?,” he said. ”We found that those communities that adopt the technology and use it tend to know their neighbors more.”
The site takes most of the guess work out of meeting your neighbors – there are no fences or physical obstacles to get through, and neighbors can send each other an e-mail whenever it fits their schedules, Hampton said.
”It opens up a whole new range of communication,” he said.
Gutchek, once a member of the local ICANN group, has high hopes for neighbor camaraderie over the Internet.
”The biggest thing with this is to be able to communicate with neighbors,” Gutchek said. ”As long as people work together, it will work good.”