Say you need a plumber. Or a roofer. Or a babysitter. Or maybe you’re missing your young black lab, last seen headed out for a walk on his own, without his collar.
Try Nextdoor.com, the neighborhood app that is literally sweeping the nation, one zip code at a time.
It started in 2011 in Silicon Valley, naturally, co-founded by “a group of entrepreneurs who had spent their entire career in building online communities, what we call user-generated content,” said Kelsey Grady, head of communications for Nextdoor.
Now it’s in more than 118,000 U.S. localities – including Sonoma and 16 “nearby neighborhoods” – and is beginning to show up in Europe as well.
The binding factor in Nextdoor is location, location, location: it’s not what job you have or income level or education or even interest, it’s where you live, period. You join by going to Nextdoor.com and entering your address and email; if you’re located in an existing Nextdoor neighborhood you are joined to that one, or if there is no Nextdoor where you live you can start one with a minimum of 10 neighbors.
“In 2010 when the idea came about, social networks had already become mainstream,” said Grady. “We had Facebook to connect with friends and family, we had LinkedIn for our business identity, we had Twitter to follow people and our interests. But technology wasn’t really doing a good job helping people in our local communities.
“So they saw the opportunities to take the best practices of social networking and apply it to the neighborhood,” said Grady.
The other logical analogy is Craigslist, with its bare-bones design and multiplicity of categories for everything from garage sales to roommates to real estate. But even though Craigslist postings can be tagged with a town, Next-door offers micro-community contact on a wide variety of topics, not just what’s for sale.
Consider the case of Bode, the black lab. At 5:46 p.m. on Wednesday, Nov. 23, someone posted they had found a young lab near the walking path off West MacArthur. About 15 minutes later another user posted that they lost their 7-month-old black lab, named Bode, in the same neighborhood.
In a little over an hour the dog was returned to its rightful owner – reported “found” even before he was reported “lost.” Said a thankful R.P. of Sonoma, “We found Bode, and will never, ever take his collar off again! Happy Thanksgiving, much to be grateful for tonight!”
A Nextdoor neighborhood is by design relatively small: At present, the Sonoma neighborhood has only 384 households, in an area that’s roughly the City of Sonoma from Broadway to the west. The East Side neighborhood encompasses most of the rest of the city limits, and then some, extending to Eighth Street East and beyond. There’s also smaller West Side Sonoma and The Plaza communities, in addition to a dozen more Nextdoor neighborhoods in the greater Sonoma area.
“We try keep them on average between 500 and 2,000 households,” said Grady. “When we started Nextdoor, we didn’t want to have the Nextdoor conversations to be too broad. We wanted to keep the conversation very intimate, to have what we call micro-communities.”
Micro-community contact is the best feature of Nextdoor, according to the many members who responded to an Index-Tribune post for comments on the service. “I like Nextdoor!” wrote T.C. from El Verano. “It give me a great feel for the grassroots stuff of our town, and makes it all seem a bit more small town and human.”