About 5 years ago, I heard about a new “private social network” called “Nextdoor.” It seemed to solve a lot of the problems that I had seen with neighborhood email lists:
- Each “Nextdoor Neighborhood” was only open to people who lived within the boundaries of a physical neighborhood.
- Members had to use their real names.
- Discourse was meant to be civil. It was a national network, so people outside of a core group would eventually hear about it.
- People did not have to follow every discussion (a lot of complaints about email lists was often that peoples’ inboxes were being spammed by vocal advocates of one position or another)
- There were light moderation tools, but it was still meant to be a forum that was open to pretty much everyone who lived in a particular place.
I was sold, and became the founding member of the Northwoods Nextdoor group. I’ve actively promoted the tool since, because I think it’s valuable for neighbors to connect with each other and to know what’s happening in their area. I’m proud that the Northwoods is the largest Nextdoor neighborhood in Doraville with over 530 members (about 19% of Northwoods households are represented there).
As the founding member of the Northwoods network, I’ve also been the primary lead (moderator) for Northwoods for the past 5 years (I just received a “badge” from the site for doing this). I’ve tried to use a light touch with moderating – opting to close conversations that were just people arguing the same points back and forth only after they had gone on for a while, gone off topic or if there were other threads that were commenting on the same thing; only voting to delete comments that were truly insulting to others, and trying not to let my personal feelings about comments someone made affect how I chose to moderate.
Since being elected to city council, I’ve been concerned about how effective I can be as a Nextdoor lead. I feel like I cannot fairly moderate discussions that are commenting on issues that I will vote on or have voted on in my capacity as a Councilman. At the same time, the moderating on Nextdoor function is necessary – especially to close conversations that have gone on too long, or to delete particularly insulting comments aimed at individuals. After considering this for a while, I decided last week to nominate several people as Nextdoor leads and to retire my “Nextdoor lead” status.
The people I nominated into these lead positions are community leaders in Northwoods, or else have been active on Nextdoor for a long time, and do not have a history of getting involved in a lot of back-and forth arguments with others. I nominated several of them so that no individual has the burden of having to make the call on every single post. It’s going to take them a while to learn how the site works – I’m sure they’ll all do a great job. It’s not always an easy job, so please be patient with them while they get their bearings.
I appreciate all the people who have joined Northwoods’ Nextdoor site over the last 5 years, as well as the new leads who are filling in for me now that I’m stepping down.