Mike Isaac

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Social Movement Site Neighborland Gets a New Look

neighborlandsign

The community bulletin board is not a new idea. As long as communities have existed, we’ve congregated around shared spots, trading ideas and figuring out ways to make locals work together for the betterment of all.

At least, that’s the ideal. Obviously, communities are much larger than they were when they first existed. And as groups grew into villages, towns and eventually cities, we’ve needed to cope with size by creating different, better ways to communicate.

That’s the intent of Neighborland, a socially-focused site with a fairly simple goal: Helping community residents make their city better. It launched its latest iteration this week, giving its design an overall visual refresh along with a new “actions” feature.

The site isn’t complicated, essentially a rethink of the local message board. Users sign up and specify where they live, and they’re thrust into small vertical forums based on their location. You’re asked a simple question: “What do you want in your neighborhood?” From there, in theory, you’ll be able to foster discussion between other locals with the aim of making something happen.

“We’re trying to find the signal through all of the noise,” Neighborland CEO and founder Dan Parham told me. While websites like bulletin board services and email chains have been around since the early days of the Internet, Parham thinks there’s a better way to foster communication between citizens outside of the cluttered interfaces that already exist.

Parham also encourages old-school offline tactics of community development; part of Neighborland’s quirky pitch is the distribution of “I want” stickers, spray-chalking messages on the sidewalk, and big green signs, all meant to express the community’s hopes. Sticking your wish for a new coffee shop on a dilapidated building, for instance, could inspire others far more than, say, a mess of graffiti.

Neighborland came about a couple years ago, after Parham read a profile of Biz Stone and Evan Williams in the New York Times. In that piece, the Twitter co-founders announced their new company, Obvious Corp., along with former Twitter VP of product Jason Goldman, with an aim to help entrepreneurs who have larger, more altruistic aspirations than creating the hottest new dating app. Parham got in touch with Obvious shortly thereafter, and the group has worked together ever since.

“When neighbors can collectively discuss issues, propose ideas, and unite to have their voices heard, there is virtually nothing they cannot achieve to improve their communities,” said Biz Stone in a statement.

Working with Obvious helped Parham gain traction with other VC firms, and Neighborland also took investments from others, including True Ventures, Lerer Ventures, SV Angel and CrunchFund.

Something to note here; Right now, local is a crowded space. Neighborland has some similarities with Nextdoor, another local social network that aims to better connect users who live next to one another, in tight, cordoned-off communities.

Parham said he’s impressed with what Nextdoor is doing, though he thinks that its focus is more on privacy and safety issues, while Neighborland is about broader themes among disparate communities. Also, Nextdoor has a very strict policy around identity and sharing, only allowing people to communicate with one another if they live in the same immediate area. That’s not the case with Neighborland.

Neighborland’s new look is up and running, available to new and existing users on the website.


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