By Brandon Sanders
(a.k.a…This is why we can’t have nice things.)
Notice – This is a rant by what you will surely consider to be a disgruntled, ex-member of NextDoor. One of the fallen. We are legion. If you lack the ability to rationally analyze what others express, cannot verify information with your own research, and think that I will care if you like what I am writing here, you should probably stop reading now and move on to the next article or good deed you have planned for your neighborhood. Funny thing is that I know ND true believers cannot resist! They are the biggest drama freaks and the worst rubberneckers around. Good thing I need not apologize to the nice and good people of Vallejo or NextDoor, as they stopped reading a few lines ago.
Let’s get started.
When a neighbor of mine told me that my area had a neighborhood watch organized, he also told me about a website that the neighborhood watch was using to communicate with each other called www.NextDoor.com. I thought it seemed like a great idea. Oh, how wrong I was. NextDoor is being marketed as “The private social network for your neighborhood.” This is a gross misnomer! It is the unfortunate love child of MySpace, Game of Thrones, and The Fight Club. You know what the first rule of NextDoor is right? DON’T TALK ABOUT NEXTDOOR! (or your account will be suspended.)
You have been warned.
Don’t get me wrong, the concept is good. Too bad greed is the real driver and close minded people are involved. Having a place to interact with your actual neighbors, instead of any ol’ weirdo on an Internet forum would be freakin awesome!…..except weirdos are in your neighborhood too, me included. Yep, you have your very own apportionment of weirdos, grumpy ol’ folks, trolls, passive aggressive control freaks, etc. You have some nice folks, who make a difference in your area too, but they get drowned out all too often. All you need is an address and you’re in. (Oh yeah, and they want your credit card number for verification of identity……..more about this later.) How do you build neighborly relations with the above? Simple, you cannot. How do you promote safety with trolls? You don’t. This site not only replaces real in-person interaction with your neighbors, it controls and poisons those interactions with all the drama. It also makes neighbors feel like they accomplished something by posting something online, instead of crossing the street and meeting with, now get ready for this, REAL PEOPLE. They lose themselves in their online personas and forget that NextDoor was designed to make someone some real money, not make the world a better place.
Retail advertising is soon to appear. Did you think that this site would exist for free forever? Also, your personal information shared with NextDoor is already being shared with “3rd Parties.” They say it is doing so for verification purposes. (Remember the credit card info you gave them?) NextDoor will soon market products to you, yes you. It will be sweet! Sweet for the crook running the place and his investors! There is nothing like getting an ad for security deadbolts or pepper spray flash across your screen while trying to setup a yard sale or charity event! (MySpace) (https://nextdoor.com/privacy_policy/)
The real problem I, and many others around the country, have with NextDoor is how it is moderated and how it is managed/not managed by NextDoor staff when moderation fails, which unfortunately is endemic due to design. The moderators, called Leads, are initially chosen by city area and then by neighborhood to draw in more unsuspecting people, much like Amway. The more members you invite, the more you tow the party line, the more power you accumulate and the more your ego grows. Then, more Leads are added by the current Leads, to spread the workload of moderating and to build a power structure for control. (Game of Thrones)
Once a Lead, any Paul, Valery, or Marian can remove other member’s posts and replies, at will, for any reason. Yes, you, an American, can be silenced instantly by some of the weirdos, grumpy ol’ folks, and control freaks who live around you just because they are a member of the NextDoor Gestapo and they did not fancy what you wrote. Some of the most innocuous posts have mysteriously disappeared due to personal vendettas, pettiness, and to maintain control. One member can violate guidelines and their posts stay, while others who put just one toe over the line feel the full wrath of the delete button. Take a guess about who is friends with those in the Lead group and who is not. Don’t even try to express any dissent with opinions of your neighbors or the Leads for heaven’s sake. Keep that happy mask on, keep your mouth shut, and nod agreement, and drink the Kool-Aid, or else you are labelled a troublemaker. (The Fight Club) Don’t fight for those being cyber-bullied or members being told to stop participating on the NextDoor in their neighborhood. It is actually in the guidelines you cannot discuss problems with how NextDoor is being managed or criticize the Leads group for inaction or unjustified action in a public discussion. Reminds me of Tahrir and Tiananmen Square. Lead group rubber bullets will fly and then Nextdoor tanks will roll. You can chose to send your neighbors private messages, which are fully accessible by NextDoor staff. Would you feel safe using Saddam Hussein’s email server to complain about Saddam Hussein? I bet Leads can even read your private messages. They are given the ability to access your address, even if you chose to keep your address private. Yes, the previously mentioned weirdos DO HAVE ACCESS TO YOUR ADDRESS AGAINST YOUR WISHES. (https://nextdoor.com/privacy_policy/)
What’s more is that when you piss off enough Leads in your area, they get together in a private Lead group to gossip about you, decide your fate, then drop an email to NextDoor for enforcement. Then some low paid millennial information worker, too busy thinking about where to get the best Wasabi Burrito in San Francisco to investigate any claims or come up with some rational reason to curtail free use of a public forum, suspends your right to free speech with a lazy click of a button. They don’t bother even telling you why, after all, you are endangering the bottom line, why would they? When you ask why, you are sent a form letter that tells you that you were wrong in some non-specific way and that if you crawl back in 2 – 12 weeks and beg for reinstatement you may be allowed to communicate with your neighbors again. You were charged, court was held, the corrupt jury of Leads was polled, and you were convicted and sentenced. Just be happy they keep you around on the list of users. They did it out of mercy…..or did they do it to inflate their member count for the next round of funding from investor capitalists or to raise the price they can demand for ads in the future? Hmmmmmmmm…if you were sooooo bad, why keep you around to do it again? They didn’t tell you what your crime was and how to not do it again? Do they care? Are they just kicking the can down the road for more $$?
My advice to anyone investing in or paying NextDoor for advertising would be to check the active user count against total user count to ferret out the actual market you are paying for, not just the one NextDoor is trying to sell you.
I have discussed my concerns with other neighbors on NextDoor recently. Some think that it is just a generational conflict issue. Baby-boomers vs. Generation X’ers. Other neighbors think that NextDoor only draws a membership of talker/typers, not doers. I recently attended a school council meeting and neighborhood watch meeting. I and only one other parent was at the school council meeting and only 10-12 people were at the neighborhood watch meeting. On NextDoor there was a flurry of posts about “See you there!” and “Awesome for our community!” but no real participation.
Some have told me it is not an age thing, as they are of an advanced age but they think NextDoor, and the Lead group especially, is just full of folks with sticks inserted deeply and permanently in their hind ends. I would agree with this take, if only to allow me to imagine them with these sticks inserted uncomfortably, while walking down Georgia Street in Vallejo, noses in the air, thinking they are doing any real good for the neighborhood. Some Leads have complained that life is soooo terribly hard as a Lead and that they are at their wits end. Also, that they are not being paid for their duties. Okay, sounds fair, BUT WHO IS IN A POSITION TO AFFECT CHANGE IF THEY ARE NOT! The system is broken, those in charge don’t give a crap about anything but their evil little empire, and it doesn’t matter at all in the real world, except to make a scumbag convicted hit-n-run driver CEO richer. http://www.businessinsider.com/nextdoor-ceo-pleads-guilty-to-hit-and-run-charge-2014-6
NextDoor might have been a good or even great site and benefit to neighborhoods across the nation, if there was transparency, fairness, and maybe elections to determine who ends up being a Lead. This is America right? Don’t we vote for those in charge of us in this country?
Please don’t take my opinion as the truth. Go out and read the posts on NextDoor …..oh, wait, those posts are permanently deleted by rogue Leads. Read 3rd party, freely expressed reviews about NextDoor. Links below.
If you like to be controlled or sit silently while others are unfairly silenced, discouraged from participating, and in general controlled by nobody Leads, stay on NextDoor and roam blindly with the herd. Go ahead, have some of the Kool-Aid ol’ Jim has for you. If you are a free thinker and support freedom and free speech above manufactured, vanilla flavored neighborliness, delete your NextDoor account, start your own forum, organize with your real neighbors. Don’t make these greedy bastards stronger, and richer.
P.S. I just wanted to make a very special shout out to NextDoor Lead Paul Reinhertz for suggesting that unhappy NextDoor members take advantage of other venues to express their opinions. Without you, I would never have considered writing this article!
Note: All opinions expressed in this article are those of the writer and not necessarily those of the Vallejo Independent Bulletin