eBay Neighborhoods

The recent release of “Neighborhoods” from eBay sort of confused me at first. Initially, I thought it was geo-specific way of finding eBay items for sale in your area (or neighborhood). This is the sort of thing that eNeighbors has been doing on a limited scale with our current online neighborhood classifieds.

However, the eBay neighborhoods are in reality nothing more than groups that share a common interest. Here’s one for the Nintendo Wii. I’m not sure why they called it “neighborhoods,” but once you get past the label, the concept is a very interesting way to connect like-minded individuals who are buying and selling a specific set of products. The local commerce space has recently been making great strides online, and I’m glad to see eBay contributing to the cause.

You can keep up on the latest at the eBay Neighborhood blog.

Graphing Social Patterns

Next week in San Jose, there’s a great social networking conference going on. Graphing Social Patterns: The Business & Technology of Facebook is an event for both business and marketing folks as well as techies.

There is an all-star cast lined up to present too. The likes of Tim O’Reilly, Reid Hoffman, and Michael Arrington will all be there. Additionally, Charlene Li from Forrester will be presenting. Charlene’s white papers on social networking have been some of the best material on the subject this year.

So Much For Pleasing the People

One of my favorite magazines of all time, Business 2.0 is shutting down. I’ve been a subscriber since the beginning, and it’s one of two magazines that I honestly look forward to getting in the mail each month (the other being Wired) and actually read from cover to cover (there’s 4 of them sitting on my desk right now).

I did everything a single person can do to make a difference — I joined the Facebook group to save the magazine, I renewed my subscription for two years, I wrote the editor… but alas, I guess it just wasn’t meant to be.

Details of the downward spiral and ultimate demise are covered in a great article by Mark Glaser, and TechCrunch has a shot of the final cover design.

R.I.P.

Local Search: The Future of eCommerce

How much do you buy online? Depending on your social situation (single, married, kids, etc.), the amount of actual online purchasing can vary greatly. But how often do you research a purchase online regardless of whether you are planning to purchase online or offline?

When it comes to local search, Greg Sterling has some great comments on SEL today. Greg’s comment in his opening statement are of particular interest to me as it relates to eNeighbors. Since our target audience is homeowners in a managed community, the home services are a perfect fit for us to be able to recommend and advertise to our users, but Greg’s comment about products (which I assume to mean pretty much anything) tell me that every transaction whether on or offline starts at the local level since that’s where we all live.

In other words, we all live in a local community no matter where we are. This local community which houses our friends and family is the largest influence on our buying habits. Our local habitat dictates our entertainment options, our habits, hobbies, etc. You get the idea.

I think the real insight here is this — to sell a product (any product) how much more effective would that sales process be if it were approached from a local level? Obviously, it would be exponetially more effective. It would be like a door-to-door salesman for the entire world. In the past, this approach has not been very cost-effective for obvious reasons, but with the recent adoption of the web’s social networking features, this type of sales approach is now possible.

So, once again I’m advocating the use of a bottom-up approach to local search. In this case, as it directly relates to local commerce. Ironically, the internet may be the vehicle to bring back the feeling of community and localness.

Behind the Curtain

Just wanted to drop a quick note to everyone. We are still here.

Sorry, the blog’s been a little inactive lately. We are working hard on some internal stuff right now here at eNeighbors that will hopefully bring all of our customers some great new stuff, and ultimately will provide an even better product for neighborhood communities.

Can’t say much more than that right now, but we should be back next week with more of the ususal insightful posts on the ever-changing online world of technology.

In the meantime, go pick up a new iPod Touch this weekend, yet another great product from one of my favorite companies.

Sidenote: I’m so glad I didn’t buy an iPhone yet — see $200 price drop. ouch!

Friends List: Face-to-Face or Virtual?

Information Week has an interesting article up titled “5 Keys To Social Networking Success” by Andrew Conry-Murray.

One of the five keys is that successful social networks should facilitate interaction among a close-knit, pre-existing circle of companions who have existing relationships. In other words, I should be able to find my friends on the site.

But there’s an exception to this rule…

“The exception to the friends characteristic are groups that coalesce around profound experiences, such as pregnancy and childbirth or a cancer diagnosis. These groups form expressly to connect with strangers who are sharing the same experience. However, other characteristics certainly apply.”

What I like about this is that eNeighbors is the perfect example for the exception rule. You probably don’t know every person that lives in your neighborhood, but you still share common interests, goals, and concerns.

The other great thing I like about Andrew’s explanation of the exception is that this common experience connects these previously disparate people. eNeighbors takes it a step further — you can literally connect with these people right outside your front door, face to face.

I know, it’s shocking to think of real, physical interaction with people in this ever-increasing online world. Maybe that’s the defining point of a “highly” successful social network. After all, that’s what MySpace started doing with band concerts.

Freedom Of (Online) Speech

Whenever we talk to a property management company or a neighborhood board of directors about eNeighbors, there is always a concern that comes up:

How do you keep negative comments off the site?

First of all, the eNeighbors application has the ability to screen, moderate and ultimately deny someone from posting unwanted information. But I’m going to challenge this line of thinking and potential course of action.

The neighborhood leaders are always concerned about what people might think of the community if there is nothing more than negative commentary from the residents. Guess what, everyone already knows about it — after all, they live there too.

Here’s the deal, if people are pissed off about their neighbors, neighborhood policies, management, etc., deleting their online posts isn’t going to fix the problem. If anything, I would encourage community leaders to act on the negativity and thus effect some positive change. You’d be amazed at the turnaround in attitude of your neighbors if you show that you actually care enough about them to listen and do something about it.

And another thing… social responsibility.

Most online social networks do an excellent job of policing themselves, and if a rogue user is trying to pick a fight, the community at large usually shuts them down pretty fast (if not, then the admin can always revoke their account privileges). In addition to that, if you have a personal dispute with a neighbor, the online neighborhood website is NOT the appropriate place to resolve that conflict — walk across the street.

Ultimately, only good can come of promoting a healthy discussion between neighborhood residents. If it ends up being a flame war and constant insult trading, then I’d argue there are bigger problems at stake, and at least you can address the specific problems since you now know about them.

With all that said, the majority of our current online communities behave themselves. They post relevant news information and keep an ongoing friendly dialog about current issues and concerns. Giving people the power to act does not always mean they will. It just shows that you trust them, and in turn they respect you for giving them the opportunity and the means.

The freedom of speech is a dangerous and wonderful thing.

eNeighbors & The Knight News Challenge

eNeighbors has applied to the Knight News Challenge in the “New Business Ventures” category. Our goal is to align with a funding resource that shares our vision and focus for neighborhood-level communication in actual geographical communities.

Additionally, we strive to achieve social responsibility in our business model as it directly affects communities and their residents. The Knight Foundation shares much of these same principles and beliefs. We believe in what the Knight Foundation is trying to achieve through this program and would love to be a part of it.

Last year, the Knight Foundation awarded funding to a diverse collection of 25 individuals, private and public entities, ranging from MIT to MTV. The Foundation plans to invest at least $25 million over five years in the search for bold community news experiments.

Visit the Knight Foundation to learn more.

Visit eNeighbors to learn how to get your neighborhood online.

Local News and Content Innovations

Yahoo Local redesigns their interface adding all sorts of cool content controls and useful features for discovering local news and events.

By partnering with MenuPages, CitySearch has added extensive menu content to their restaurant profile pages. Awesome! Now I can find out ahead of time if there is a kid’s menu.

Google is now allowing users to comment on stories (that they appear in) on Google News. Still wondering how Google will verify that people are who they say they are…