Neighborlands unite! A social network gives power to the people

If your neighborhood needs improvement, which it does, this new social network can unite your neighbors to help make it happen.

When was the last time you knocked on your neighbors door, pastries in hand, and asked, "Do you want to talk about how to improve the neighborhood?"


Yeah, me neither. But I can imagine taking a minute or two to post my thoughts on the recently launched site Neighborland. More importantly, the social network aggregates local ideas and opinions. Suddenly, I'm not the only one talking about more bike racks downtown.

Now backed by The Obvious Corporation, a think tank of sorts started by the co-founders of Twitter, the once local neighborhood project by co-founder Candy Chang is opening up to cities across the United States.

SmartPlanet covered Chang's work at the Civic Center a few months back . Based in New Orleans, the artist connects residents to the spaces they inhabit in innovative and action-based ways. By sticking name-tag inspired stickers saying "I WISH THIS WAS ___" on abandoned structures across the city, Chang invited residents to fill in the blank.

Neighborland takes this idea and harnesses social media in a way that makes the hours collectively wasted on Facebook seem a little less dismal. This is social media at its best.

Ariel Schwartz of Co.Exist describes the project as "acting kind of like a Digg or Reddit for neighborhood ideas." Users can sign in to their neighborhoods, post ideas, like their neighbors' ideas by clicking "me too", and browse the content by most popular or new.

Neighborland then picks up on which ideas have the most momentum and alerts the appropriate   organizations. So far, New Orleans has seen the most action as the project incubated there.

One example: 61 residents wanted the New Orleans Regional Transit Authority to make its GPS data available to smart app developers. This lead to a Neighborland collaboration with local organization Transport for NOLA. A petition was circulated, 300 signatures obtained, and the open data policy became a priority on the RTA's do-to list. Now, transit date is openly available.

Add Neighborland to SmartPlanet's list of great working examples of ground-up smart city networks . Or do you think smart technology should be left to industry big wigs? Either way, whether the social network will blow up nationally is yet to be seen.

Images: Civic Center; Neighborland

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