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The friend next door
by Heidi Kyser | posted March 14, 2014
Stop whining about people in Las Vegas being isolated behind their cinderblock walls and cast-iron gates, and start getting to know the folks on your own street! Such is the mandate of Nextdoor.com, a private, online social network for discrete clusters of homes throughout the country.
I signed up my downtown neighborhood, Crestview Estates, and am anxiously awaiting someone else to join, so we can start sharing dentist and restaurant recommendations, worrying over each other’s safety and gossiping about whose dog barks too much. The process is pretty easy — all that’s required beyond the usual profile information is some knowledge of your neighborhood’s boundaries and an ability to use a basic mapping tool.
I did stumble at first, though, believing my home to be in Marycrest. When I logged on, however, I gave my address and was invited to create a new neighborhood. My address, it seems, is two streets outside the “official” border of Marycrest, which someone else had already created.
This led me to wonder: Who determines the neighborhoods? If mine’s up for grabs, can I name it Heidiland? Or what if I disagree with whoever created Marycrest and want to redraw his boundary to include me?
I called up Frank DeFrancesco, a Nextdoor field organizer, who cleared things up. When someone creates a new neighborhood, he and other Nextdoor worker bees contact them to make sure they’re doing what works for best for everyone involved.
“We use city maps, historical data and talk to users,” DeFrancesco said. “In the downtown area, we try to make sure we get the neighborhoods exactly correct. I just met with someone yesterday from Huntridge Park. They’re set up, John S. Park is set up, Marycrest is set up ...”
He’s the one who told me I’m actually in Crestview Estates, not Marycrest, and suggested I use some street-specific information at VeryVintageVegas.com to delineate my new domain. Indeed, as soon as I was done, I got a friendly confirmation e-mail from DeFrancesco’s team. (He also suggested using the “help” button for other problems like those I had.)
Another thing set off some alarm bells during the setup process: numerous prompts to give up e-mail addresses of friends and neighbors, bringing others into the fold. DeFrancesco assured me this is only to increase participation (not having members defeats the purpose of a social network), and that the company does not share private information with third parties.
“We don’t want to sell lists to outside parties, have pop-up ads or anything annoying,” he said. “We want it to keep it private. When you sign up, you can’t even see what people in other neighborhoods are talking about, only in your own.”
So ... how will the company make money? DeFrancesco says it’s venture-capital funded to start, but eventually may include a business directory in which neighborhood shops and markets would pay to be listed.
The service recently launched in the top 40 cities in the U.S., and DeFrancesco says Las Vegas has been a little slow on the uptake. Some 100 local neighborhoods are registered out of a possible 400; Summerlin, Desert Shores and Scotch 80s are among the most active users.
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