Free website allows city residents to ‘talk’ to neighbors

The city of Dayton has partnered with the social media company Nextdoor to disseminate information to residents relevant to the neighborhoods in which they live.

Using the free website, residents can chat with their neighbors and post messages about neighborhood crime concerns, block parties, events, lost animals or any other topic.

People must verify their addresses in order to join their online neighborhoods. Users can only communicate with their own neighbors.

The city wants to engage residents in the digital space because it needs to be accessible and responsive, and people increasingly spend their time online and get their news and information from digital sources, officials said.

“We’re not seeing this as a primary form of communication, but this will mostly be about reminders for resident-specific things like weed collection, street sweeping, snow removal,” said Tyler Hall, the city’s social media specialist.

Nextdoor.com is a free and private social network. The site allows neighbors to create private websites for their neighborhoods, and those sites allow residents to communicate, the company said.

People verify where they live by phone, the last four digits of their Social Security numbers, a credit or debit card that will not be charged or a postcard by regular mail.

Dayton has about 20 Nextdoor neighborhoods, with some still in the early phases of development.

In the downtown neighborhood, users recently posted a reminder about Urban Nights, a message about five kittens that need adopted, and a request for a recommendation of a good plumber.

“It helps you find out about local things going on, like the 3rd on Third” Open Air Market, said Eric Aielli, 32, who lives in the St. Anne’s Hill Historic District. “You can use Nextdoor, along with Facebook, to really get events promoted freely and to get the information into the hands of people who might care about it.”

Nextdoor provides residents with a way to buy, sell, trade and give away property, similar to Craigslist.com, but the authentication process involved in signing up means there are not issues with anonymity, Aielli said.

“I’d be more likely to post on there, just because of the authentication you have to go through,” he said. “If I had a piece of furniture I knew somebody would have to come into my house to remove, I’d be more likely to use Nextdoor over Craigslist.”

The city will share news about services, programs, public events and public safety issues, Hall said.

The city will not be able to view or access private messages or personal profiles, and it will not be able to view content on neighborhood websites, except for direct responses to its posts.

The city already has a significant social media presence on websites including Facebook, Twitter, Google Plus, LinkedIn, Pinterest and Instagram.

“We want folks to connect with one another, to collaborate with each other, to make their communities and neighborhoods better places to live and safer, stronger. We want to open up those communication channels,” Hall said. “(Nextdoor) is another way we can reach out, and it is another way people can reach out to us.”