Blockboard puts the whole neighborhood in your hands


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Blockboard is the latest start-up building a location-based mobile application that aims to give you a hyperlocal view into everything happening in your neighborhood. The iPhone app is currently available in ‘alpha' for San Francisco's Mission District residents (request an invite) and will expand into other neighborhoods in the coming months.

The company is led by tech veterans Stephen Hood (del.icio.us), Dave Baggeroer (Stanford Institute of Design), Josh Whiting (Craigslist) and Ian Kallen (Technorati) and backed by well-known angel and venture capital investors, including Battery Ventures, Mitch Kapor, Founder Collective, Harrison Metal, Joshua Schachter, Josh Stylman and Tom McInerney.

Co-founder Stephen Hood shares insights into the new venture and its plans for the future:

Give us the elevator pitch

Blockboard is the app for your neighborhood. It's a mobile bulletin board that uses your iPhone (and soon, your Android phone) to connect you with your neighbors. If it's about your neighborhood, you can find it or post it on Blockboard.

For example, you can:

  • Ask a question of your neighbors (we'll notify you when someone answers)
  • See and post interesting photos from around the neighborhood
  • Read the latest neighborhood news as reported both by the best local blogs and by your own neighbors
  • Report graffiti, litter, or other problems to the city (we'll automatically submit it to San Francisco's 311 system and follow-up on the status)
  • Use our neighborhood directory to get those impossible-to-find city phone numbers, find the nearest police station, or connect directly with your elected representatives.

We just launched a small pilot project a couple of weeks ago for the Mission District here in San Francisco, and will be adding more neighborhoods soon.

Why does this matter?

In this age of social networking, we now spend so much time talking to people who are far away that we've forgotten how to talk to the person next door. Many of us simply don't know our neighbors any more. We are living together, and yet alone.

While we may not always want to be friends with our neighbors, we have a lot to gain in having a connection. We all face real issues everyday in the communities where we live. Some are big, like safety, government, and sustainability. Some are smaller, like figuring out what's going on in my neighborhood tonight or trying to get a streetlight fixed. How are we going to solve these problems on our own?

At Blockboard we believe that technology – and smartphones in particular – can help reconnect neighbors and empower them to improve their neighborhoods, and that's our goal in a nutshell.

What's your strategy for expanding to different neighborhoods and cities?

We've purposely started with a single neighborhood (the Mission) so that we can build something that is very relevant and useful to the people who live there. Our next step will be to expand to a wider variety of neighborhoods in San Francisco. We expect that Blockboard will evolve a little differently for every neighborhood and city it services, and we've built our technology to allow for that. Once we've reached a certain level of usage in San Francisco we will begin to look at other cities… but first things first!

What are your plans for revenue?

Our only focus right now is making sure that Blockboard is useful to people and makes a positive impact in San Francisco. If we build the product we're envisioning we're confident that we can monetize it in a way that also benefits the communities it serves.
Twelve months from now, what does Blockboard look like? How are we using it?

In twelve months we expect that Blockboard will be active in every neighborhood of San Francisco and will be used in ways we probably can't even imagine right now. It's our hope that each neighborhood will make Blockboard “their own” and will use it to address their own unique needs and challenges.

Connect with Blockboard on Twitter.

See the original post on GovFresh including screenshots of Blockboard.

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1 Comment

quaid's picture
Open Minded

While I agree that this is a great looking application and service, and I'd love to have it tonight for my neighborhood, I'm looking for more in the connection between this story and the open source way.

It is certainly a good application for the social aspects of practicing the open source way, but so can many other worthy tools - email to sidewalks. People working in the open source way are fundamentally a community of practice:

https://www.theopensourceway.org/wiki/Communities_of_practice

So what is it about this application, or it's development, or it's interaction with the physical community that draws from these principles of the open source way? I'd like to hear more about how Blockboard really can help communities in the practice of becoming better neighborhoods.

I saw a hint of this in the answer about "empower(ing communities) ... to improve their neighborhoods." I'd like to hear more about their plans there. Do they have community outreach people who are coordinating feedback or even finding ways for people in the Mission to maybe more actively participate in the development of the application? It's those loops between the makers/vendors and the users/potential-makers, how are the loops being created, and so forth - that is the really interesting stuff beyond the business model.

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