Some folks say that technology is ruining our face-to-face interactions. I think, “Why not develop more tools that encourage local communities to build and meet in person?” So I decided to design a digital experience, an app called Neighbors, that people can use build offline relationships with their neighbors.
What qualities make a good neighborhood?
Strong sense of community and belonging
Diversity (race, age, income, gender)
Access to resources within the community
Emotional connection with environment
Who are this app’s users?
What are the user goals?
Get on a first-name basis with others in the neighborhood (Say hi!)
Gain knowledge (activities, tips, and history)
Learn about local events
Be comfortable enough to ask for help from other community members if needed
Generally know where others in the neighborhood live
Design an app that encourages users to meet their neighbors in person
Create a product that encourages “evergreen” content (requests for help, news about events, event invitations, selling or giving something away)
Provide users incentives, something to show, for their app usage (Users earn cups of sugar for their participation; the more cups of sugar, the more trusted/respected users are in the neighborhood)
Instead of allowing city planners from outside dictate how our neighborhoods should be, we should create our own and the sense of community that accompanies that participation. As individuals, we perceive the borders of our neighborhoods uniquely. Neighbors provides each user the ability to define her own neighborhood and to meet other people who view themselves as part of that neighborhood. It also gives users the tools to get to know others in their communities through exclusive local sharing that feels more personal than Facebook and more secure than Craigslist.
Neighbors is a reflection on past times when people felt comfortable asking their next-door neighbor for a cup of sugar—so much so that I made it the app’s primary gamification metric! A user’s “cups of sugar” visually represents her credibility and participation levels for others to view before interacting with her.