Yearly Archives: 2007

i-Neighbors strikes a chord in Michigan town

Posted on Wednesday, December 19, 2007 by No comments yet 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 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 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 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 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.”

Marchex and get Rolling

Posted on Tuesday, December 18, 2007 by 3 comments

Resource-rich Marchex writes about its trial of, a network of paid local bloggers.

Here is a selection of recent posts from the MyZip neighborhood sites:

  • A look inside the Beverly Hills public library from
  • Where to find one-of-a-kind gifts in Plymouth from
  • How the Portland’s Parkrose Heights post office is holding up during the holiday rush from
  • A celebration of West Reno’s Wells Avenue from
  • How to give back to the West Seattle community from

Hmm… Our zip code, until it’s recent split into two zip codes, covered about 40,000 people in about 40 identifiable neighborhoods. So a blog written by one paid person about little items within our zip code doesn’t sound very compelling… like the 3rd or 4th page of the local section of the newspaper, without the newspaper behind it. I’m not intimately familiar with any of Machex’s early demo areas though, and I don’t understand much of their model… perhaps it will be great.

Jim Willis – Pulling his Neighborhood Together

Posted on Monday, December 17, 2007 by 1 comment

Congratulations to Jim Willis for pulling his Red Bank, NJ neighborhood together with a Front Porch Forum-like effort. From RedBankGreen

Jim Willis rolled into town three months ago eager to do some community building… It’s what he did in his job as director of eGovernment services in the Rhode Island secretary of state’s office, where he went on a four-year tear putting previously hard-to-access information at the public’s fingertips via the web.

On the personal side, Willis is equally passionate about what he calls “social capital”… Willis subscribes to the belief that traditional social life in America has been frayed by a number of forces —€” the rise of television, the emergence of two-earner household, and technologies that make it easier to interact electronically rather than in person.

Willis grew up in Colts Neck and moved back to the area after 14 years in Washington, DC, Cincinatti and Providence… But leaving Providence meant giving up a neighborhood with “astounding social and economic diversity,” Willis says —€” not to mention great block parties. And he and his wife decided, “if we didn’t find it here, we were going to make it,” he says.

Soon after arriving, Willis began planning an email newsletter for his new neighborhood, an electronic venue for people to share information and insights about everything from the availability of babysitting services to updates on the water-line replacement work now underway in the area to notices of free stuff about to be put out on the curb.

Willis said he encountered some suspicion when he first went door-to-door to pitch the idea and collect email addresses. Some people wanted to know what he was getting out of it, and others worried that their inboxes might soon be hit with more spam.

But it wasn’t all resistance out there. In fact, he says, of the first 40 responses he got, “20 were just full of enthusiasm.”

One inspiration for what he’s doing is Front Porch Forum, a community-building organization that claims to have brought 25 percent of the population of its home city — €” Burlington, Vt. — into online discussions in its first year.

Willis has adopted several of the Front Porch Forums suggestions. One is to keep the newsletters fluff-free, or people won’t value them. Another is to build the readership to an optimal size, which turns out to be about 150 active members. And, perhaps most important, no one can post anything anonymously, which obviates the “flame wars” that occur in forums where anything goes.

He’s also sharing the workload that goes into providing content for the emails. “I don’t want to write it,” Willis says. “I want neighbors to want to do it, and I’ve got people stepping up.”

“This is for neighbors by neighbors,” he says.

Already, one parent has suggested organizing a play group for kids of a certain age. One neighbor volunteered to get in touch with Parks & Rec to get the lowdown on what improvements are planned for East Side Park, and another has said he’ll reach out to Police Chief Mark Fitzgerald about organizing a neighborhood crime watch.

The East Side Park Neighbors Newsletter, Willis wants it known, is not meant to isolate the neighborhood from the rest of Red Bank. In fact, he says he’s willing to share the software and know-how behind the newsletter to anyone in town who wants to adopt it for similar efforts.

He thinks that offer might be of particular interest to residents of the West Side, whom he’s seen coming together anew in the wake of the Best Liquors controversy and concerns about crime and housing conditions.

Whether his idealism proves infectious remains to be determined. Calling the police chief and writing up a short report can be a burden for people with full-time jobs and kids.

“I’m going to try to help him if I can,” says John Gosden, a Harrison Avenue resident for nine years who has a particular interest in the upkeep of the park.

“It kinds of brings people together as a community,” he says. “It’s actually a very busy park.”

Willis thinks it will take some time to work the bugs out and get the newsletter established. Already, he’s sent out two issues, but problems with spam-bocking software in the email programs of many intended recipients kept the first one from getting though.

But that’s a fixable problem, says Willis. The bigger challenge is fostering a sense of community.

“If we accomplish one thing, I’m hoping we diminish that cynicism that keeps people from talking to one another,” he says. Update

Posted on Monday, December 17, 2007 by No comments yet

Congratulations to… it launched its seventh small town website today.  Some lessons

Smalltown, San Carlos went live today. This is our seventh Smalltown site; we continue to make our way down the Peninsula from Millbrae to Palo Alto as planned. The most interesting detail regarding San Carlos is that we built the new site and pre-loaded it with content in only two weeks. Our very first town, Burlingame, which is about the same size as San Carlos, took four times as many person-hours to prepare. We’re figuring out how to launch new towns in much less time for much less money.

Our ability to launch a new town efficiently will be very important when we start to expand to hundreds of towns. We’re speeding up the process in three ways.

1. We’re learning that “Halo Towns” are easier to launch than “Virgin Towns”. Burlingame was a virgin town because it was first. There weren’t any adjacent Smalltown Sites. On the other hand, San Carlos borders several towns that already have Smalltown sites.

2. We’re happy if 85% of the content is updated and accurate. The last 15% is just too time consuming to track down and correct… Unlike most directory information databases, the longer a Smalltown site is around, the more accurate its data becomes.

3. Our processes are getting better. We’ve had time to try out several variations of walking down streets with a camera and a clipboard, and the current process is much faster and more accurate.

Perspective during Holiday Season

Posted on Sunday, December 16, 2007 by No comments yet

Thanks to neighbor and musician James O’Halloran for the holiday message that he posted to his nearby neighbors on Front Porch Forum

Hello friends – Just a brief note to all the folks back home to say ‘Happy Holidays’ and offer some perspective on the season of giving. For my third time this year, I’m in southern Arizona on the Tohono O’odham Indian Reservation teaching song writing and music. The ‘rez’ is right on the Mexican border where the wall is being built and the other night I answered the door to find two hungry and worn out border crossers begging for water and food.

I’m sure you all can imagine how dire the situation is for the tribe as well. There is a lack of hope for their children’s futures due to the dominance of gangs, alcohol, drugs, violence, the border, unemployment, abject poverty and the list goes on and on. Life expectancy is 48 years and diabetes hovers around 50%. It was only a few decades ago when there was active US government policy of de-culturalization forbidding the tribe to wear their traditional clothing, forced to cut long hair, not allowed to speak their language, made to change their family names and children kidnapped and sent to boarding schools. But the Tohono O’odham (formerly the Papago) survived and are still here numbering roughly 28,000 people.

I know it is a long way from our wonderfully peaceful Five Sisters neighborhood, but what ever you can do for those who are in need will make a difference.

With every good wish, James

Front Porch Forum at

Posted on Saturday, December 15, 2007 by No comments yet

Mark Glaser has an interesting piece about hyper-local newsites at his blog.  He includes mention of Front Porch Forum, which is appreciated, but I would characterize FPF differently… FPF is not an email list.

Front Porch Forum is collection of online neighborhood forums that cover 100% of a metro area.  While FPF uses email as its primary distribution channel now, it’s also available over the web and we’ll be adding other channels over time.  FPF is not about the technology, it’s about convening and maintaining neighborhood conversations in every part of a metro area.

Hindsight for Judy’s Book

Posted on Saturday, December 15, 2007 by No comments yet

Greg Sterling got more lessons learned by Andy Sack around Judy’s Book demise…

Sack added that if he had to do it over he’d:

  • Launch in a single market and gain critical mass before going national
  • Launch with a narrow content focus: one category or just a few rather than trying to be comprehensive immediately
  • Try to get into the “deal flow” of local (think travel or OpenTable) and local ad spending
  • Have a long time horizon and tempered expectations accordingly

Angie’s List Prospering

Posted on Thursday, December 13, 2007 by 1 comment

Angie Hicks of Angie’s List (homeowner reviews of tradespeople) had this to say to Greg Sterling…

We’re currently experiencing higher renewal rates than ever before.
• We’ve had 100 percent member growth in the past year.
• We’ve expanded our service area from 33 cities in 2006 to 124 today.
• We plan to expand to London and Toronto next year, as well as blanketing the U.S. in 2008.
• We also are planning significant additions to our member services next year.

Best bet for distributing neighborhood news?

Posted on Thursday, December 13, 2007 by No comments yet

Thanks to eNeighbors for pointing to this new study by eMarketer about eMail… color me eGrateful.

U.S. spending on e-mail advertising will grow to $2 billion by 2012 from $1.2 billion in 2007.

JupiterResearch estimated that about one-quarter of e-mail delivered to users’ main inboxes is now opt-in.

Average Number of E-Mails Received by US Internet Users per Week, 2007

JupiterResearch asked why recipients stopped subscribing to opt-in e-mails. More than one-half said the content was no longer relevant, and 40% said they were getting too many offers.

It is also getting harder for marketers to figure out which e-mail address to use. Nearly two-thirds of US Internet users have three or more active e-mail addresses, according to a November 2006 Bluestreak-commissioned study conducted by ROI Research.

Number of Active E-Mail Addresses that US Internet Users Have, September 2006 (% of respondents)

“E-mail, compared with other forms of interactive communication tools, is not only ubiquitous but also addictive,” Mr. Hallerman said. According to a November 2006 ROI Research report commissioned by Bluestreak, 90% of US Internet users used e-mail several times a day. No other communication tool comes close.

Frequency with which US Internet Users Use Select Emerging Communication Tools, September 2006 (% of respondents)

Maponics to provide neighborhood maps to

Posted on Tuesday, December 11, 2007 by No comments yet

Congratulations to Maponics, Front Porch Forum’s Vermont neighbors. From Greg Sterling today


There are two providers of neighborhood databases: Maponics (which bought the capability from HomeGain) and Urban Mapping. has selected Maponics to provide more accurate neighborhood information for its hyperlocal news site.

Urban Mapping works with all the major search engines (I believe) and is now being integrated on the ad-targeting side of the house.