Published on September 20th, 2013 | by Tom Wake0
How to get insider knowledge about what’s happening in your local area online (from people who actually live there)
Here’s a great way to get to know your neighbours online, discuss local issues and even offer trades and services.
It’s a social network for your local area.
Whether you want to find out if anyone nearby wants your old chest of drawers… discuss the local farmers’ market, or organise an all-night rave – Streetlife is a clever (and free) tool that helps connect locals with one another.
You can create an account with Streetlife using your email address or sign in using your Facebook account (the latter is a bit easier because it pre-fills your information for you and you don’t have to remember yet another password). Currently it serves the UK only but hopefully if word spreads they’ll expand to other countries.
As soon as you login a page comes up showing you posts and topics from your neighbours, members of the local community and even some local small businesses. It’s very easy to navigate and the layout is intuitive.
What’s the difference between this and other social networks?
Social networks like Facebook or Google + or Linkedin are great but they can be quite clicky.
That might sound like a strange thing to say when you consider that a network like Facebook has over 250 million members… but on the whole we use it to link up with friends and family and maybe that random bloke from primary school who used to fart a lot during assembly – but few others outside of that.
Google + does something similar but also tries to connect people with shared interests and of course LinkedIn is solely geared towards business networking.
What’s different about Streetlife is that it has been developed specifically to connect local people online. It’s a bit like a user run version of Time Out, The Citizen’s Advice Bureau, Freecycle and Exchange and Mart all rolled into one.
There are a number of settings you can tweak when you set up your account but the most useful one is ticking which areas you want to be included in your local network.
In my case I’ve chosen 3 or 4 areas close by (all within about 2 miles radius). I could include more but then I think it would dilute its greatest asset – connecting the ‘local’ community.
5 great uses for tools like Streetlife
1. Connect with other locals in your area
It’s fairly common for people in big cities not to know all their neighbours. I’m from London where apparently we’re all cold-hearted automatons that never say hello or help one another. That’s nonsense of course (I said ‘hello’ to someone only the other year in fact) but it is tricky when you have 7 million people living in a small area – you have to create a bit of a protective bubble.
Streetlife is useful (whether you’re in a big city or not) because it breaks down some of those barriers. You can go online and connect with your neighbours over local issues that concern you and then arrange for things to happen off line.
What do people think of the application for a new betting shop to be set up on the high street? Does anyone have a lawn mower you can borrow? It can be serious or trivial. I’ve even seen local traders offering goods and services.
2. Find out about events and activities happening near you
I’ve found Streetlife a great resource for finding out about events that are happening locally that I might not have otherwise come across. For instance you can get information about local fetes, gigs, pop up events… even protests.
On the whole the people I’ve encountered have been a friendly, thoughtful bunch. There seems to be a community spirit to band together and help out one another which I like.
3. Get help and advice from people near you
The best advice often comes from people who’ve already been there and done that and that’s where this site can really help out. If you’re having an ongoing battle with the council… if you’re struggling to find a trustworthy plumber… or if you simply want to borrow a lawnmower for a couple of hours – you might find someone who can help who lives just down the road.
4. Get the low down on a place before you move in
If you’re moving to a new area you can scope out and get a real feel for the place using a website like Streetlife to communicate with locals. They can give you recommendations for the best local pubs and restaurants, tell you which areas are a bit dodgy after dark and generally give you a bit of a heads up on the dos and don’ts of your some to be home.
5. Support and promote local business (including your own)
No one likes shameless self promotion and people who go on the site copying and pasting sales junk are frowned upon and won’t last long… however a big part of any community is local business. Local tradespeople and businesses who contribute to debates and respond to specific requests on the site with thoughtful, helpful posts can benefit too.
You might be thinking “HANG ON! Isn’t all this just the same as using a local forum?” I don’t think it is actually.
Forums can often attract a small, but loud, group of anonymous bottom feeders who talk rubbish, spread hate or otherwise try and disrupt. More transparent and open social networks like this tend to be more self-policed. Also because Streetlife is acting as central hub the hope is that it will attract more members over time.
It’s still early days but Streetlife is a great concept and I hope it continues to thrive. In an increasingly ‘global’ community it’s important to stay connected with our local tribe so that we can help and support one another.