neighborcasting

There’s a gaping hole in the internet. It’s an unfathomable network allowing communication between almost every person in the developed countries. But in our cities, where tens of thousands of people live within a half mile of each other, sense of community seems to be declining. Seems like the internet could bring back that lost sense of community somehow.

The internet has made several attempts at community relations. On one hand we have craigslist, connecting local strangers anonymously for housing, buying/selling stuff, finding soccer teams in new places, etc. On the other hand we have facebook connecting people who have already met to share photos, statuses, messages, and other fun info. But there’s still something missing. That something is called neighborcasting. Or so I just named it.

Imagine a service where you signed up for a profile and were presented with a map. On the map, you draw an area that represents where you live. This could be a circle around a building, a block, a neighborhood, or a whole city, depending on how comfortable you are with disclosing your whereabouts. Then, a bunch of other circles or squares show up on the map in your area. There is a list of filters that you can choose to sort through all the information — among them:

  • Events going on within x hours from now (with many sub-categories like music, hiking, volunteering, etc. )
  • Item share (sugar, USB cables, a special tool, a tent)
  • Restaurants and stores (with many sub-categories)
  • Random musings (what people are thinking about)
  • For sale
  • Looking for a date
  • Going to the park with dogs
  • Ride share to x location (you choose x on a second map)
  • Advice
  • many more

You see, other people would put out neighborcasts, specifying which category it fits in, where it is located, and how long of a range it has. For instance, if someone’s looking for some baking goods from someone in their close vicinity, they can set their cast so that only people within a few blocks can see it, thus eliminating clutter. In your filters, you can even ask to “show me neighborcasts in my area that have a range that is less than 10 blocks,”  so you don’t have to see advertisements or other spam (which will be banned out of the commercial filter).

Implications

This concept would bring opportunities to interact with the community back, especially to heavily populated areas. If you were feeling like meeting some people who are also interested in jogging, or also wanted to let their dog interact with some other dogs, all you’d have to do it to put out a neighborcast about it and interested neighbors could reply right then. You could get graphical maps of what’s going on around you right now in a way unlike anything humans have ever had access to. The internet makes it possible!

Neighbors aside, if companies casted about their happy hour or about a speaker who’s coming soon, or about some deal, people would have instant access to the information. Users could hold up their iPhones or Android phones and spin them around 360 while watching the list of things to do in that direction go flying by until they found one they liked. Then they’d just start walking in that direction! How awesome is that?!

Concerns

The biggest concern with this is obviously privacy. The embodiment of this concept would have to treat this issue very carefully. Since users would all have profiles (unlike on craigslist where anonymous posting is allowed), there would be a rating system, where if someone made someone else feel uncomfortable, they’d be able to let others know. Mechanisms would have to be in place to keep people with bad reviews from just getting a new account. If someone gets a black mark or whatever, there’d have to be a process for them to alleviate that somehow, so they wouldn’t be social outcasts for the rest of their lives as the world moves on around neighborcasating.

Since users aren’t supposed to say exactly where they live, just which general vicinity they live in, I’m not too worried about the location-based creepiness that much.

Hopefully you get the idea. I think this kind of thing would be revolutionary, and I’d LOVE to use it. If only I could get my roommate to develop it…

Here’s a very basic concept drawing on a google map:

-Nick Touran

February 2010

One thought on “neighborcasting”

  1. Lots of potential in here…I really like the ride share idea. I bet between grants available to work on sustainable living ideas and the advertising potential this could actually get funded for development (perhaps a little bit from a variety of sources?).

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