July 23, 2013 | by

Fostering Communities through Geolocation

STQ CoverNextdoor is a geolocation service based on networking within neighborhoods. What is appealing is Nextdoor’s attempt at making a self-sufficient neighborhood and promoting peaceful living. The app enables people to connect with nearby neighborhoods, includes focus on creating a virtual neighborhood watch to help fight crime in an area. Posts about a local break-in and other crime and safety issues are among the top two categories of things the app does. One great thing about the app is that neighborhoods are encouraged to create their own social networks. These are private and restricted to only those who live in the designated areas. There is a verification process for users. Nextdoor CEO, Nirav Tolia talks about emerging behaviors, ones that go beyond finding great deals. These range from finding people to carpool, setting up a neighborhood watch, borrowing something, finding babysitters, creating classified ads, and discussing community issues amongst those umpteen things one can do within a neighborhood. The app is now available in 8,000 neighborhoods in all 50 states of USA. The app goes on to prove the effectiveness of building a community of supporters and a clear benefit: the kind of relevance and support we seek when building or joining groups.

From this perspective what sounds cool and at the same time is realistic is a community of life-saving super heroes. Turning intent into action, PulsePoint app looks at creating a location based community of people trained in cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR) and are willing to assist in case of an emergency.People are notified if someone nearby in a public place is having a cardiac emergency and may require CPR. The most significant aspect of the app is encouraging more people to be trained in CPR and thereby be of assistance and aid in cases of medical emergencies. The free app also notifies about the exact location of the nearest Automated External Defibrillator (AED). The app was originally developed and tested by the San Ramon Valley Fire Protection District (CA). Reported cases and incidents go on to illustrate the usefulness of merging location and technologies. Mobile users have real-time access to emergency activity as it is occurring. By providing locations on an interactive map, the app also notifies whether the emergency has caused a traffic tie-up so that people can plan an alternate route. The app hosts other sets of features and reported cases illustrate how this app has been successful so far in its public outreach. The app certainly changes perceptions about location-based apps being all about adding value to shopping alone. A mix of content, skills and location ultimately builds better connections than shallow endorsement based check-ins.

What is required in the current scenario is the reinforcement of a belief that adding location into a social network is not only for enhance social connections but also to leverage the power of these connections to achieve greater goals. Engagement is the key word that drives social technologies. Building a community is perhaps the easier part. The real challenge is engaging the members of a community. More often people discuss problems in their areas and what better if an app can help people fix these problems.

Read the full article by Vandana U in Social Technology Quarterly.