Am I too fast?

I responded to an email today from one of the property manager’s that we work with. His response:

“Chris you are freakishly fast with your responses. Thank you.”

I laughed out loud (LOL) when I read it. Maybe I should slow down.

What to look for in a neighborhood website

Evaluating the best solution for your neighborhood website can be difficult. There are a lot of things to consider like site features, hosting options, domain name registration, and of course, price. For the most part you don’t want to get caught up in the technical stuff. Instead, focus on how the site will provide real value to your neighborhood.

First, let’s cover the basics. What is your goal? Why do you want a neighborhood website? This is the very first question that you should ask yourself. The answer to this question can lead you down very different paths. More often than not, though, neighborhoods primarily want a website to improve communication amongst their residents. And when you think about it, improving neighborhood communication solves a myriad of other neighborhood challenges, such as social event participation, architectural compliance, and safety. (Download a full list of common neighborhood challenges and solutions.)

Assuming that your goal is also to improve communication, here’s what you should look for when considering a website for your neighborhood.

Registration – Does the solution you’re considering have a registration engine? If it doesn’t, remove it from your list of considerations. A registration engine allows residents to fill out an electronic form online with information such as their first name, last name and email address. Through this process you can capture resident’s email address and establish an electronic communication channel. Registration also allows you to track your success because you’ll know who’s online and who’s not by looking at who has registered. eNeighbors takes this a step further and helps you to send out website welcome letters in the mail that encourage residents to register on your site. See how it works.

Privacy – Does the solution you’re considering protect resident’s privacy? You must be able to protect people’s information online and guarantee their privacy if you expect them to turnover their email address and join your neighborhood website. You want to make sure that your website provider never displays email addresses on the website, gives residents complete control over their personal information, and implements extensive moderation controls that ensure no inappropriate content is published. See eNeighbors Privacy Policy for an example of what to look for.

Security – Is the solution you’re considering secure? Before you can ensure privacy, you have to be able to secure private information through encryption technology. Make sure that what you’re looking at offers 256-bit SSL encryption.

Communication – Does the solution you’re considering improve communication? After all, that is the goal. Look for things like automatic eNewsletters, news postings, social event listings, social groups, an online resident directory, and classified postings.

Sustainability – This isn’t usually high on the list of considerations, but it should be near the top of yours. Why? Because you want the solution you implement to work for a long time. Unfortunately, most neighborhood websites fade away in a very short period of time because they’re not sustainable. To ensure that you’re website will run for a long time, absolutely nothing can be dependent upon you or the board. It must run on it’s own without you. And let’s face it, you don’t have the time to maintain a website anyway. A website that runs on its own comes with technical support for every resident, automatic processes that don’t rely on you, and allows everyone in the neighborhood to contribute so you’re not the only one posting information on the website.

Ease-of-Use – Finally, is it easy to use? If it’s easy to use, residents will use it. If it’s not easy to use, residents won’t use it. For this reason, I’m generally opposed to custom designs. While they can look nice and be tailored to the look and feel of your neighborhood, custom neighborhood websites often sacrifice the most important feature of design – usability.

If you have a specific question, please post it in the comments so I can answer for everyone to see.


iPhone coverage from Yahoo, The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, and apparently the circus is in town in Manhattan. Rob Scoble is blogging while waiting in line, and TechCrunch is streaming live coverage of people in line in Palo Alto.

Having worked for Sprint for almost 8 years, I’m curious to see if the iPhone lives up to the hype since I’ve seen so many phones march to their death when the expectations were so unreasonable.

Come on people, it’s just a phone, right…?

Getting Communities Online

Ran across a video interview on Robert Scoble’s Pod Tech site today. Michael Wood-Lewis is interviewed about his community enabling web service called Front Porch Forum.

I think it’s great to see that people are genuinely interested in a neighborhood-type service that helps people get to know each other in their actual community. This bodes well for eNeighbors since we are interested in connecting communities just like Front Porch Forum is doing.

Now, if only I can get in touch with Mr. Scoble and tell him that he can set up eNeighbors in his neighborhood…

Learn more about getting your neighborhood online

Dove: The Social Ad (r)Evolution

Dove’s “Evolution” video wins the top prize at Cannes Lions Ad Festival this year. This viral video was created as part of Dove’s “Campaign for Real Beauty” and promotes Dove’s self-esteem charity efforts.

Why is this important?

The social movement on the internet (i.e. web 2.0) has allowed this ad to be viewed and dicussed at unprecedented levels. This ad campaign was fueled by the masses. Five (heck, even three) years ago, this type of awareness and communication simply did not exist.

Pete Blackshaw of Nielsen Buzz Metrics has a great post that details out the specifics of Dove’s marketing success.

This just proves that the social web matters in the “real world” and can be used for more things than the MySpace crowd’s party shout outs and obsessive niche markets like twitter and Google Earth. When companies start talking to us about stuff that matters, we get engaged and become part of the community.

Welcome to the (r)evolution.

Supernova 2007

Guys like Mike Arrington, Reid Hoffman, and Max Levchin are all hanging out at Supernova 2007 this week in San Francisco.

From the site:
At Supernova, we attempt to answer “what’s next” after everything is connected. Supernova is the only event that assembles the most compelling people and companies from the converging worlds of computing, telecom, and digital media to put decentralization issues into meaningful social and business contexts.

In addition, Google, Yahoo!, AOL, Comcast, Verizon, Cisco, Sun, and IBM are all represented as well.

Some interesting topics of discussion include virtual worlds, user-generated content, online identity, social commerce and media, net neutrality, advertising, and copyright.

Check their blog for updates.

Tell A Friend About eNeighbors

Want to tell a friend about eNeighbors? Just complete this form and we’ll email the details to whoever you’d like.

This can be useful if you want eNeighbors in your neighborhood and want to share the idea with your HOA board or other residents. If you don’t know where to find your board’s contact information, try your paper directory. Their information is usually listed in the front of the directory.

If you have a property management company, you might also call them and ask who your board president is so you can email him/her about eNeighbors.

And finally, if you like things on paper, you can print out our PDF brochure to share with others.

Can Online Advertising Be Useful?

The Future of Online Advertising (FOOA) conference wrapped a couple weeks back, and I’ve been reading a lot of summaries and commentary about the different sessions and the overall direction of online advertising.

Not surprisingly, the topic of video was very hot. YouTube and Google made sure of that. And of course, the traditional TV networks are in full support of a medium that they are at least somewhat familiar with, but the trend that I thought was more relevant to us here at eNeighbors was the demand that online direct marketing be even more measured and tracked than it already is, and secondly, that the media and channels provide accountability.

With so many different online channels (e.g., blogs, videos, social networks, etc.) to use for your ad campaign, picking the right ones are going to be determined by how measureable and accountable a particular channel is willing to be.

Additionally, the content aggregators that are stripping content from their source only complicates the measurability situation. So, I think the question for how to determine effectiveness will ultimately end up with figuring out where and how people want to receive their content. And if (and that’s a big “if”) when they do receive that content in their personalized fashion, they are willing to put up with advertising.

The key is relevance. If I’m looking for a new grass treatment company for my lawn, then I’ll welcome all the ads I can get for lawn companies. But the icing on the cake will be whether I can quantify those ads in regards to value.

So, what we need is useful aggregator of content that is personal and relevant. And when I need it, provides me with a useful way to find and assess a service provider for whatever my need might be.

Good luck.

TechStars: My Take

Update: David Cohen’s perspective is here. Jeff Rohrer, another entrepreneur, has a good synopsis too.

I attended a TechStars event tonight that was open to the public. We didn’t apply to be apart of TechStars but I kind of wish I had.

The panel discussion was excellent, but more than anything it was great to be in a room full of other entrepreneurs going through the exact same thing that I am.

The topic of the night was “How to fund your startup”. I walked away with the following:

  1. Bootstrap it – The panel was full of people who fund entrepreneurs and make a lot of money doing it. Ironic though that their advice was to NOT take money from them, or at the very least, to put it off as long as possible. I also found it interesting that most of the people on the panel started their first company with “10 bucks” (Brad Feld) or “100 bucks” (David Cohen) or “-10 million” (Gary Held).
  2. Be creative – There were a couple of really colorful and interesting business stories that the panel shared as examples of how to be creative. Basically, there’s no one right way to raise money. Do what makes sense. That may seem obvious, but so many times I see others (myself included) looking for a road map. While there are some general guidelines, ultimatley, you just have to figure it out.
  3. Real entrepreneurs eat ramen noodles – Lifestyle choices are a big part of starting a company. You have to be willing to eat ramen noodles for a while to get things off the ground. Lisa Rutherford likes you to “max out your credit cards” too because it shows passion, committement and belief in who you are and what you’re doing.
  4. Keep costs low, but focus on growing revenue – Part of funding your startup is keeping the money that you have, so you want to keep your costs as low as possible. At the same time, you have to grow, which usually means spending money. Balance is the key here. You don’t want to tighten up to the point that you stop growth. This can be scary sometimes as it may mean having to spend your last few dollars.
  5. The right advisors are invaluable – You have to find the right advisors with experience in your industry. Ideally, someone who can help you with a big probelm that you’re facing. The best advisors will never ask you for compensation, but let’s be fair, if they’re providing real value, you should invite them to participate in the upside by way of a small equity position. Be careful not to populate the back of your business plan with a list of big names that hardly know you. This may look good on paper, but you’re missing the point of an advisory board. You must develop personal relationships with each one so they have a vested interest in you and what you’re doing.

David Cohen also did an excellent job moderating the panel and keeping the discussion focused. I wanted to say thanks to him and the panel for putting this together. I really appreciate what you guys do.

The only bummer was that the MyBlogLog guys (acquired by Yahoo!) weren’t there for the panel discussion. Apparently they’ve been hanging around TechStars. I really wanted to meet them. (Update: Eric Marcoullier posted in the comments. Looks like he may be back in Boulder sometime.)

Keep an eye on the TechStars Blog for a video of the event.