We’re connected online to EVERYONE we ever knew, but our neighbors.

#oldcity #neighborhood #downtown #philadelphia #philly #igers #igerphiladelphia #igersphilly #statigram #insta_america #instam #instapic #instagood #instagram #instaaddict #instagramhub #instagramerscba #iphone #iphone5 #iphonesia #iphoneonly #iphonephoto

Here’s a link to a fantastic Fast Company article by Christina Chaey, called “Can Nextdoor Turn Your Neighbors Into A Billion-Dollar Social Network?“. I hadn’t heard of Nextdoor (things get to the UK a bit later than I’d like, so I have to really be reading my Twitter Feed and checking it out.

In my last post, “Time for reconnection”, I mentioned that I feel that we’re reaching a new phase in terms of our attitude towards our “digital life” and the gadgets and screens that are impacting our lives.

Of the many great points that she makes about this level of “localised” marketing, was the fact that one of the keys to fuelling Facebook’s success was the fact that it began on a college campus. It delivered impact for a group of people that were forming a sort of “neighborhood” at Harvard University, mostly because it offered the very useful service of making it easier to get to know who you were going to school with (regardless of what you may have been intending to do with that information).

An excerpt from the post itself that should make you want to go and read the whole thing is the description of the “aha! moment” from the Nextdoor CEO, Nirav Tolia:

Listening to Tolia describe Nextdoor, it’s surprising the platform didn’t exist two years ago. We have Facebook to keep up with friends, LinkedIn to network with professional contacts, andTwitter to discuss our interests. But Tolia wondered, Why isn’t there a place online for people to connect with their next-door neighbors?

I recently joined Streetlife.com, which is a local network that covers my part of London. Can’t say I’ve used it much, but I am beginning to want more from my Social Networking experience than people’s personal moments, political rants, all of which can become a major distraction to getting anything done. (See the reference to research on Facebook Fatigue in the Fast Company article – link above).

Recent post (which are sent to me in my email) topics include:

  • Could you or anyone you know help this poor woman
  • NHS dentist recommendation
  • Jam jars urgently wanted
  • Wandsworth Preparatory School Open night
  • Free wooden desk and desk chair
  • Sourcing Spanish food: flour and peppers
  • Best estate agent for renting (one I will be checking out soon)

I can see a real use for this, and the idea that services like Nextdoor and Streetlife have deliberately separated themselves from Facebook, etc is probably a smart one. Some people would like to differentiate very clearly between friends, professional contacts and neighbors and although you can always create groups (on Facebook) or circles (on Google+), it’s sometimes nice to know that it’s a completely separate identity (which for some people it most definitely is).

Time for reconnection

Lately I’ve been full of little digital ideas. Some of them are apps, others are services which would probably have an app as an interface (among other interfaces). The vast majority of my ideas come from everyday life. I do the things that I do and from time to time, I go looking for a way to simplify a process that keeps repeating in my life. This usually sends me to Google, to find out if “there’s an app for that” and at least half the time, I am disappointed that the leading app that provides the service I’m looking for just doesn’t live up to my expectations.

Thankfully, in that poetic way that life works, most of the time I end up finding a way to do what I need to do without the “killer app” I was looking for. It makes me realize that even though we live in this great big beautiful digital world with all of these cool gadgets, social networks, and open access to just about everything in the world (books, music, photographs, art, knowledge, jokes…), which we are all completely infatuated with, things aren’t getting “simpler”.

We’re more connected than we’ve ever been, and yet we couldn’t seem to be more disconnected.

So with this backdrop, I’ve been thinking a lot lately about what happens next. I’ve seen the “digital world” go through a few different stages over the course of my career.

Then, we heard the news that HMV was closing a bunch of stores in the UK. It sparked a conversation in the office about the “end of the high street”. We talked about the financial difficulties that the world is facing and how the “high street” in the UK wasn’t ever going to be the same. I argued that it was actually about to go back to what it used to be. The place where people in a community connect with one another. And yes, we might not have a big store to buy CDs, DVDs and video games from anymore. Or a place that has 500 copies of the latest film to come out on DVD. But that’s not because high streets aren’t relevant anymore, it’s just that the current set of retail shops are outdated and irrelevant.

The high street’s not dead, it’s about to be reborn. All that has changed is that we already have the music and the news in our pockets. And all of the goods and services we need have been ordered online and delivered.

What we need are places to go and connect with people. To switch off from all of the things on our to-do list and just be.

And to be a successful business or service in this kind of world, means that the focus has to shift away from the “next big thing” and focus more on reconnecting people with what’s important. Each other.

I’m not prepared to openly share my ideas on how we do this, but perhaps here’s a reason to follow my thoughts because I’m sure that soon I’ll be prepared to share. For now, I’ll say that I think that to be really smart… our smartphones and the apps that we use on them have to get better at not needing too much of our attention to enhance our lives. They are great, but they demand too much of our time.

I set out to blog about this today and literally the first search result I found was this TED video by Sherry Turkle. I thought this was a great start. She said alot of what I wanted to say. So, thank you Sherry! I think that this is a great foundation to build on… and inspiring enough to blog about for the first time in over a year! Drop me a line/comment if you like it and maybe we can have a bit of a dialogue.