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The Nextdoor app shows neighborhood issues are pretty universal

SemiNative

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Unless you live on a large plot of land with no other houses in sight, you have probably experienced the joy ­— and the pain — of neighbors.

Whether you’re the one who’s moved or you see that For Sale sign pop up in front of a house on your block, you know neighbors can be a crapshoot. Sometimes you win the neighbor lottery, other times you wonder how you crossed the universe to deserve this torture.

Like so much in our lives, the internet and apps have changed the way we know our neighbors. Playing a big role in that is Nextdoor.

One friend describes it as the site where you learn about nearby sex offenders, but the company describes itself as a private social network for neighborhoods. While Nextdoor doesn’t discuss membership numbers, TechCrunch reported last June that they’re in 160,000 neighborhoods. On its website, Nextdoor does report that the average neighborhood consists of about 700 homes, which equates to many millions of users.

I first jumped in when I moved to the Old North End two years ago. As with most of the internet, you’ll find trolls on Nextdoor, but here they don’t have the same anonymity — they’re your neighbors.

In addition to the postings of your immediate neighbors, you’ll see info from neighboring ’hoods. This hyperlocal approach to networking makes it a much better option for crowd-sourcing questions than Facebook, where you’re likely connected with friends and family nationwide and beyond. On Nextdoor, posters regularly look for people to work on their homes. Kids offer baby-sitting, dog-walking or snow-removal services (slow year for the shovelers, I’m afraid).

Some posts are truly scary: More than one has had me double-checking my locked doors at night. One neighbor found a homeless man sleeping in their backyard playhouse, another actually in their living room. Someone else shared that someone rang their doorbell before dawn; when they looked out there was a naked woman standing at the door. (The Columbos of the ’hood shared theories from meth abuse to human trafficking.) 
In addition to the anecdotal crime reports, the police have started using Nextdoor to communicate directly with citizens, sharing info on crimes and arrests. Colorado Springs Police Department’s Public Information Officer Howard Black says the department has only been using the platform for about a month. In the past, crime-prevention officers would post information specific to neighborhoods, but now the department uses Nextdoor to directly reach as many citizens as possible, and to hear back from them too.

Black says he’s happy with the immediate reach: By the fourth week their posts were being seen by more than 70,000 people. “It’s up there with Twitter, Facebook and Instagram,” Black says. “I’m excited to see what the next 90 days brings.”

Detective work aside, following your neighborhood often proves entertaining. Among the many posts about lost pets, last week someone in Pleasant Valley Mesa reported that they found four chickens on the loose in their yard.

I giggled at one gentleman who posted that he found a painted rock that someone put a lot of work into. He wanted to return it to the owner only if they could identify the images on the side of the rock that wasn’t shown in the photograph. His neighbors explained the painted rock craze.

No need to look to Craigslist for missed connections either: Scrolling through I saw someone selling fresh eggs for $2.50 a dozen (a bargain for fresh eggs!). A few posts later, someone else was looking for fresh eggs. I do hope they found each other.

While the conversations don’t often turn to politics and religion, they still get heated. A recent post about removing skunks raised a stink. What followed was more than 60 replies, some staunchly defending the skunks’ right to stay.

I asked around to friends who live in far-off neighborhoods and while we might feel like we live worlds apart, truth is, neighborhood issues are pretty universal. Pets get lost. People need help. Residents worry about crime. No- longer-useful furniture needs to go. One friend even said that her recent posts to sell furniture were far more successful than when she used Craigslist.

Sure, I cringe when people insult one another. Why is it that our fingers on a keyboard leave us emboldened to say things we might never utter to someone’s face? But as I spend time looking through the posts I’m more often reminded that there are plenty of good people in my neighborhood, and likely yours too.

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