Neighborhood Watch and Social Networking

From TechNewsWorld: Neighborhood Watch 2.0:

City budgets are straining police forces in many cities, and in some cases citizens have seized upon social networking technologies to help guard against crime in their own neighborhoods. It’s unclear whether neighborhood watch efforts actually make people safer, but statistics indicate that neighborhoods with high levels of resident cohesion typically have less crime.

This is another example of how better communication (or cohesion) in a neighborhood can help make it safer.

Can You Make Money With Local News?

MediaShift Idea Lab posted a great article by David Sasaki last week titled: Can the Knight Legacy Lead to Sustainability? David’s final thought/question in the piece was this:

But is it Sustainable?

The Knight Foundation is single-handedly making citizen media both more serious and more respected by giving financial support to some of the field’s most innovative thinkers.

But is this a sustainable model for the transformation of media? What happens when the News Challenge’s five-year funding period concludes?

All of the News Challenge grantee projects are impressive, innovative, and important, but not a single one is turning a profit, nor do they seem poised to any time soon.

There is a fundamental truth that we are fast approaching — all media should be free. This includes, news, entertainment, public records, etc. Just look at what’s happening in the music industry. The signs are all over the wall…

Subsequently, this belief in freeing the information is driving the traditional news industry into the ground. Controlling the information has always been the key (I think of the classic Redford movie, Sneakers). But the old ways of controlling and distributing the news are falling apart.

The info on the web is so disseminated, that I can get news from pretty much anywhere… so what drives me to get it from any place in particular? At risk of sounding like the corporate-driven, cube-infested, dilbertesque workplace that spawned me — it’s the value-adds.

If I can get news any time, any way, and from any location I want AND (and, folks, that’s a big “and”) also access services (from local businesses) that make my day-to-day life easier, why would I go anywhere else?

The key here is relevance and location. News that matters to me, services that help me around the house, and an online network that makes my life easier right where I live in the real world — these are the exact things that just recently were so explicitly illustrated by Newspaper Next’s news report from the American Press Institute. It was best stated as such:

“The place I go to be part of the fabric of life here [where I live].”

eNeighbors wants to help us get there. The icing on the cake is, yes, we are profitable, and our plan is to continue to be so in greater proportions. That is exactly why we have applied to the Knight News Challenge. We believe our goals and community-oriented nature are in perfect alignment with the Knight Foundation’s vision.

So, to answer David’s question, eNeighbors hopes to break that non-profitablility mold and help lead the way for the next level of online journalism and real-world community.

EveryBlock Launches

EveryBlock launched today. A good overview of the site is available at TechCrunch.

Here in the Loop (Chicago) it works really well. It has good content and useful information and it’s laid out in a very hierarchical manner, which makes it easy to navigate and find information. There is virtually no learning curve to get used to the site.

As I played with the site, I found myself having fun reading about the missed connections in the area and seeing photos that people had taken in my zip code. At the same time, I was alarmed to find out about the aggravated battery with a knife incident that occurred a few blocks away. When I read about this crime and others like it, I found myself wanting to comment on it to provide or get more information.

Bottom-line: The site does a great job of aggregating information from other sites, but will it become the source of information as well by allowing users to directly contribute? I hope so. Congratulations to the team.

EveryBlock was one of the big winners of the Knight News Challenge in 2007. eNeighbors has applied for funding for 2008.

eNeighbors Stats: 12/16 – 01/15

eNeighbors closed out the year with some great progress. We signed up 6 new neighborhoods in the last couple months of 2007. Subsequently, our traffic has increased and is continuing to climb every month. So, here’s to a great year in 2008. Happy New Year everyone!

Traffic data:

94,806 page views
10,469 visits
5 minutes average visit duration

32 neighborhoods online. We have neighborhoods in Kansas, Missouri, Florida, Virginia, California, Texas and Arizona.

3,935 registered users at 3,705 unique addresses.

With 11,137 potential addresses in the neighborhoods that have signed up so far, we are at 33% adoption rate for our entire resident base.

The newsletter adoption rate is at 99% of our registered user base with only 40 residents (out of 3,935) opting out of receiving the email newsletter.

Total user-generated content since launch (about 9 months):

News posts: 869
Events: 379
Groups: 108
Classifieds: 618

Also, here’s the support stats for 2007. We received and replied to a total of 1,427 support requests from 3/1/2007 to 1/16/2008.

Support Requests Breakdown:
929 PIN requests
129 new resident requests (add a new neighbor)
369 general support requests

Help us continue to grow. Tell your friends about eNeighbors. And get your neighborhood signed up too.

Big Brother Is Bigger Than Ever

With the growth of online social networks, electronic data, and increasing broadband adoption across the globe, there has been a parallel increase in the risk of your personal information being exposed to whoever wants to take a look.

The websites you visit, what you buy online, the communities and discussions you contribute to — all of these pieces of information are part of the ever-growing mountain of data that advertisers and corporations are dying to get their hands on.

Recently, Facebook has come under a lot of criticism for its feature called “Beacon” that tracks what you buy online outside of Facebook, and then tells your friends about it. Now, I do understand the concept Facebook is trying to accomplish — if I like a product enough to pay for it, then that’s the ultimate recommendation. Adding Radiohead as a “friend” on my profile is one thing, but shelling out $80 for a box set of their latest music speaks volumes.

The catch here is that we don’t like the feeling of being watched. If I want to tell my friends about the products and services that I like, I want to do it in my own way. Not have an automated feed of my buying habits revealed to my family and co-workers on a daily basis.

Privacy is important to everyone. Feeling safe when you are online and feeling like your personal information is secure is crucial for anyone to engage in online social networks.

We found this to be the primary concern for the neighborhoods that we began to set up over three years ago. Privacy was number one. Residents of a community wanted to be sure that their information was secure. It’s one thing to create a profile on MySpace or Facebook where the majority of your interaction is virtual, but users of eNeighbors interact with the people that literally live right across the street.

That’s why we take privacy and security very seriously at eNeighbors. You can be sure that we don’t expose your information to anyone, and you are in complete control of how you choose to participate online. Our ability to grow and promote local community revolves directly around the level of trust the members of that community have with us. We want people to open up and interact with their neighbors. In the end, everyone wins if we all feel safe — especially in our own homes.

Fatdoor Funding

Some good progress being made over at Fatdoor today. Sounds like they got a new CEO as well as some investment funding. It’s great to see social networking initiatives in the local neighborhood space getting recognition and traction.

This just further proves that the space is viable and relevant. With the never-ending supply of social networking options these days, it’s getting really tough to focus on the right networks and web apps that give a postive return to the user both online and offline.

Greg Sterling and TechCrunch both comment as well.