Another Perspective on rBlock from a Resident
Here's another perspective on rBlock. It was written a few days ago by a resident named Barbara who has used rBlock for years.
I always knew I lived in a nice neighborhood. rBlock has helped me realize that I live in an awesome neighborhood. Using rBlock we exchange referrals, hold emergency preparedness meetings, share tools and good and bad news. In my neighborhood, we organize block events where we get to know each other. rBlock is like a modern version of the front porch, without the pressure to participate and with the ability to stay as private as one wants.
Your Platform on rBlock
rBlock now has a new platform and would like you to consider it "your platform". We are in no small measure indebted to every resident who has taken the time to enlighten us with respect to their needs and desires, but also their concerns and frustrations with how websites and platforms function today. So thanks to you, we may one day be as smart as we are grateful.
Your platform is unique in several respects. It offers you complete privacy, control and predictability, which depend upon each other. Second, it will save you time and money during login sessions that are as short as they are valuable. And third, we think it will delight you in so many ways that drive our passion on a daily basis. We are highly confident about this because we view you as not only a future user but also a future partner. You will decide how your platform evolves and is used, and who will benefit. We look forward to sharing more about this soon.
A Perspective on rBlock from the Federal Government
Aneesh offers some great insights into how rBlock might be of interest to Washington D.C., since...
- ... the federal government is looking for ways to hyperlocalize its vast amount of open data - rBlock might distribute selected data by block so that residents could more easily sustain conversations with their neighbors about national priorities;
- ... the federal government has launched a community health data initiative to promote best practices for good health - rBlock might work with organizations such as www.health2challenge.org to sponsor community challenges, both at the block level and within the wider community;
- ...the federal government is in the API business and is always looking for creative ways to improve its customer service - rBlock might make it easier for residents to identify a few important federal government services that are relevant in terms of geography and timing, and to avail of such services through rBlock's platform.
The Evolving Digital Divide
Remember when it was about the haves and the have nots, referring to who had an internet connection? Later, when we were close to full market online penetration, the divide was about performance, referring to the haves who had broadband and the have nots who were still in dial-up land. Much later, so just a few years ago, there was a lot of speculation around whether the internet would go the route of television and offer a tiered pricing model that would enhance the user experience for the haves who could afford it.
Today the web presents another digital divide, the effects of which are potentially more insidious than any other divide preceding it, largely because its implications are not yet fully understood. The new divide is between the haves who use technology primarily to serve their personal interests and the have nots who use it primarily to serve their geographic interests. We'll have a lot more to say about these geographic interests soon.
Our Perspective on Network Structure
As already mentioned, the residents who started their blocks on rBlock have taught us much of what we know. But they've also inspired us to build something more valuable than what's on the web today. In the most abstract terms, here's our perspective on network structure.
All networks thrive on density and uniformity. People networks in particular thrive on proximity and commonality. So rBlock designed its network structure to enable residents to create a network that's at least ten times more proximate and common than a social network. But that's just the clinical view of what we do. Far more exciting and valuable is what residents actually accomplish on rBlock. We'll post more details about this soon. For now, and again in the most abstract terms, here's what we're confident residents will accomplish.
When residents use rBlock to invite other residents on their block or in their city to join rBlock, they take the first step toward scaling privacy, relevance and trust across a new kind of network. Indeed, once residents are using rBlock citywide, we believe it will become perhaps thirty times more valuable than a social network.
rBlock looks forward to the many ways it will share this value with residents and local stakeholders who have made it what it is today, and will be tomorrow.
It's Now Simple to Stay Connected
Every block in the United States has 3 to 5 residents who reach out to their immediate neighbors to cajole, inspire and enlist their participation in matters relating to their block's
These residents have to be super-motivated since the rest of us are pre-occupied with our families, careers, friends and mortgages. These residents are also super-valuable since without them our blocks would be less safe, less prepared, less connected, less beautiful and less fortunate. Moreover, these residents exhibit an enlightened self-interest and recognize that however difficult it is to stay connected, for them alone, the effort is well worth it. Finally, given how much these residents have taught rBlock, it's now simple to stay connected.
If you're one of these 3 to 5 residents, you'll soon be able to start your block on rBlock and invite residents on your block and in your city to join. If you're not one of them, let one of them on your block know about rBlock. You'll be glad you did.
With Email Updates, Less is More
From the beginning, rBlock realized that our email inboxes were inundated with too much to handle, leave alone read and digest. And this trend has only further deteriorated.
So despite the tens of thousands of block postings and comments generated by residents over the last 3 years, we have continually fine-tuned rBlock's email update system under the principle that less is more. As a result, during the first two years residents on rBlock received an average of two scheduled updates per week, and only one per week during the third year.
Under our current default setting, residents receive a Daily Update email if there are new postings nearby within the last 24 hours. They can change the default to receive a Weekly Update (on Fridays) if they prefer to receive updates once per week. Most have kept the default setting and receive about two updates per week. Recently our block participation rates (views, postings and comments) improved significantly. This has increased the value of these updates, and is perhaps the reason for their slightly higher frequency compared to last year.
Discussions Are Even More Frequent
More frequent than alerts are the hundreds of discussions that happen each year on blocks that use rBlock. These now aggregate into the tens of thousands since our beginning.
From the ones that residents have told us about, we've come to appreciate that while discussions are wide-ranging in terms of their topics, they almost always exhibit the goodwill that exists among line-of-sight neighbors. Mostly they're about getting something important done, or involve exchanging useful information, quickly and efficiently. And they seem to almost always succeed in the eyes of their participants.
More importantly, by adding more communication where so much goodwill already exists, residents achieve something far more tangible and valuable than any alert or discussion could possibly provide. They create a norm of trust and reciprocity that any one resident can tap into at the push of a button, and feel really good about.
For this reason, we encourage residents who join rBlock to do "whatever it takes" to get half their block to join them, as we did when we first started rBlock. The other half will follow soon.
More About Sharing Alerts
When residents who are not yet on rBlock first hear about Alerts, they often say, "Those sorts of things hardly ever happen on our block".
But there are many types of alerts that residents on rBlock have told us about, and most of them are not about those sorts of things. They're about missing pets, unrecognized cars, imminent inconveniences (a contractor or delivery), unfriendly solicitors, strange noises (outside your door?), funny tastes (inside your water?), immediate dangers (a damaged tree?) and so on. And occasionally, those sorts of things.
Simply put, a lot more happens outside our front doors than we can possibly know about, and when it does, the residents on rBlock always appreciate being connected. Beyond helping to create more awareness, the most gratifying stories for us are when residents on rBlock tell us about pets that were found, mysteries that were solved and risks that were perceived to have been mitigated.
Block Captains and Neighborhood Watch
We started rBlock to make it easy for block captains to form and sustain effective neighborhood watch programs. The idea was simply that if a small enough number of residents could share immediate alerts with each other, there would not be too many of them, and each of them would be relevant.
We quickly realized that a single residential block was the perfect construct for enabling 30 residents, on average, to privately share a low volume of high-value alerts. Today, residents share alerts on their block relating to anything they've just observed that may be urgent, and that every resident is grateful to know about.
The sharing of alerts did more than achieve our goal of making it easy for block captains - it effectively made everyone a block captain. Today, block captains who have at least half their block on rBlock are always in the know and have almost nothing to do. This is because after years of keeping their blocks informed, their blocks are now returning the favor.
Perhaps rBlock's neighborhood functionality, which is just around the corner, will get them busy again!