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Lynn Spruill: Nextdoor


Lynn Spruill



As I have mentioned before, I am not a huge Facebook user. I have a page, but I always thought the best use for Facebook is getting "Happy Birthday" wishes from long-lost friends and being able to say thank you for them en masse. 


I discovered Twitter over a year ago while trying to analyze how social media could connect residents with Starkville's city government. We were looking at such things as being able to stream the board meetings and other tools to foster the public's engagement with city government. 


I came to actually prefer Twitter. There is something to be said for the discipline in having to say it in 140 characters. It's a quick read with less clutter. It can be funny, witty and sarcastic, informative and immediate. The immediacy of it has proven to be powerful and effective. 


Not too long ago I wrote about the controversy regarding social media in the Starkville board meetings. Fortunately that was resolved quickly and with no damage to the public's ability to provide inside-the-board room perspectives to the Twitter public. The episode highlighted the growing relevance and dependence on social media. 


There is now another social media out there that is worth recommending. It's called Nexdoor. An Internet media publication describes it as "an odd outlier among today's social networks. Signing up is an onerous process, requiring substantial proof of both your identification and address. People post messages, but they are seen only by others in the immediate area, and there is no share or retweet button to proliferate messages across the network. It feels more like a modern update on a message board or web forum than a social network. But it has struck a chord across the country." 


It has struck a chord here in Starkville as well and merits the consideration any identifiable neighborhood. It was endorsed by our new police chief Frank Nichols who apparently found out about it at a seminar one of his officers attended. This is an example of informal community policing that enhances both security and a sense of place. It is also an example of embracing cutting edge opportunities for building good police relations in a technological world. 


It's been an excellent resource for my Greenbriar neighborhood. Several other neighborhoods have developed over the past few months. A recent spate of rumors about criminal activity in a nearby neighborhood spurred the initial involvement with Greenbriar Nextdoor. But since creating the social network we have shared everything from a fake animal control vehicle in the neighborhood, lost pets and city water line breaks to finding a good appliance repair person.  


It is a private social network for a defined geographical location such as a subdivision. Opportunities exist to share access to information with other Nextdoor neighborhoods created in the vicinity, but until that choice is made, it is strictly limited to the neighborhood set-up through the social network feature. 


According to the LA Times, Nextdoor is in 50 states and 36,000 neighborhood sites around the country and growing. I know in Starkville it started in Greenbriar and has expanded to at least three other neighborhoods nearby.  


I expect it will grow to include many other neighborhoods throughout Starkville as the benefits become apparent. The social contact is one benefit, but the ability to have your neighbors help act as the "guardians" of your neighborhood are the primary reason for its proliferation. 


It is frequently said we don't know our neighbors like we used to. Nextdoor is changing all that. We used to get most of our news from the newspaper and the 6 o'clock news, but now the sources are global, constant and immediate. With community involvement there will be fewer surprises and we can be ready to respond quicker to whatever comes our way.  


Chief Nichols has just launched a Twitter account for the Starkville Police Department. All you have to do is choose to follow @Starkville_PD and you will have access to the latest in tips about the community such as traffic alerts or suspicious activity. 


With the help of the Internet, being an engaged citizen and neighbor is becoming easier than it has ever been. I encourage you to look into these groundbreaking programs. 




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