Boris Mann

Open Source. Community. Decentralized Web. Building dev tools at Fission. Cooks & eats.


Overview of i-neighbors

While the idea behind i-neighbors is interesting (connect people online using their local, physical neighbourhoods), ultimately the platform is broken. I think it probably doesn't help that my neighbourhood (based on my postal code, V6H 1J4), is mis-spelled as "West Farivew" (should be "Fairview").

I've listed some initial issues I had with the system, as well as an overview of the different functions available from within the system.

No profile privacy

There is no way to limit viewing of the information you enter โ€“ anything you fill out is viewable to everyone, from birthdate to street address. Of course, you could just leave lots of things blank, but that defeats the purpose.

Can't share links: no access unless you are logged in and registered

Being logged into "my" neighbourhood, there are not unique URLS โ€“ I can't even send a link to it, because you have to be logged in and join the neighbourhood to see it. Why is this important? If you're invisible to search engines, your potential growth is limited, and you don't participate in the wider web -- i.e. linking.

Uses email for communication

This is like an invitation for spam. The basis for all communication in the neighbourhood is a mailing list, and you are by default on the mailing list and must opt-out after you've registered. There is also no clear opt-out link in the email -- you have to login and change the settings on your email tab.

The best community communication systems combine email, a (search engine indexed) web forum, and RSS feeds. Being automatically signed up to a mailing list basically just ticked me off.

Changes to the community information can only be done by the "founder"

I've already described how the name of my neighbourhood is wrong. We've been hearing a lot lately about Wikipedia and other collaborative sources of authority. The concept of a founder or site admins is still valid, but notice the "s" on admins: it would be best to have a group of people able to change neighbourhood-level items.

But check out i-neighbors for yourself โ€“ tieing physical proximity to a single online gathering area is neat. Browsing through the member directory, I found one person, "Sellars" (again, I can't link to the profile directly), who lives in my building (although he didn't list his apartment number).

The other features of each neighbourhood include:

  • Directory: listings of other members in the neighbourhood, and ability to send them email (through a form, your email is not displayed)
  • Matches: shows star ratings next to other members based on how well you match; works by comparing information you've entered into your profile
  • Events: local calendar to which you can add events
  • Photos: viewable by month, by member, and latest uploaded
  • Reviews: reviews about local businesses and services; maximum of 1000 characters, plus you can give a 1 to 5 star rating
  • Polls
  • Carpool: you need to enter in a work postal code for this to function

Although there isn't (currently) any physical location information on Urban Vancouver, sites like it that are open to the Internet as a whole will ultimately succeed better than any of these Internet ghettos, hidden behind registration walls.