this piece was written by Jim Carlton (great guy) of The Wall Street Journal and is cut and paste. They may ask me to remove it but here you go, for now.
By JIM CARLTON
San Francisco’s Potrero Hill district is buzzing with online chatter, with residents promoting block parties and school fundraisers, issuing crime warnings and engaging in general neighborhood banter.
Social-networking site Nextdoor ranks the neighborhood, known for its sweeping downtown views, as the most connected in all of the Bay Area for the 30 days ended March 26, the latest period measured.
“When we started this, I thought, ‘My word, this is the best invention ever,’ ” says Stacey Bartlett, a 41-year-old Potrero Hill resident and organizer of the neighborhood site, who recently used the service to reunite a lost Jack Russell terrier, Rusty, with its owner.
Jason Henry for The Wall Street Journal — Stacey Bartlett, Mike Walsh, center, and Mike Lin are organizers of the Nextdoor social-networking site for the San Francisco neighborhood of Potrero Hill.
Like other Nextdoor organizers, Ms. Bartlett doesn’t work for the network but does serve as a “lead,” or moderator who has special privileges such as the ability to verify that new members really are from the neighborhood.
Launched in October 2011, San Francisco-based Nextdoor bills itself as a private social network for neighborhoods and has grown to more than 10,000 sites nationwide. The Bay Area, with between 500 and 1,000 Nextdoor sites, is among the most active in the country because of its ties to Silicon Valley, says Nirav Tolia, co-founder and chief executive officer.
Mr. Tolia adds that sites in San Francisco are the busiest in the Bay Area as measured by membership and message volume. Besides Potrero Hill, top sites in the city are in the neighborhoods of Miraloma Park, Sunnyside, Dogpatch and Noe Valley. Outside of San Francisco, a neighborhood site in Woodside, a haven for venture capitalists, is ranked second-busiest, and a site in Mill Valley third, Nextdoor officials said.
“People in San Francisco understand the role technology can play in their lives,” Mr. Tolia said. “I mean, we live in the future here in the Bay Area.”
The growth hasn’t come without some challenges. In 2012, Nextdoor introduced to some neighborhoods on a trial basis a new feature, “Nearby Neighborhoods,” that let surrounding neighborhoods post on each other’s websites. Although the feature can be turned off, many users in Potrero and other neighborhoods complained that it wasn’t easy to do so and that they felt their privacy was compromised.
“Nextdoor is marketed as a private website for verified residents of your neighborhood only, so every time there is a watering down of that principle, members feel their sense of privacy has been violated,” says Hugh Bartlett, an organizer of an active Nextdoor network in Oakland’s Upper Dimond/Oakmore neighborhood.
Mr. Tolia says that feature was designed, in part, to provide better service to people who may live on the edge of a neighborhood, but that “we could have done a better job communicating its benefits.”
The startup received $40.2 million in total financing from investors, Mr. Tolia said, and hopes to eventually make money through methods such as local advertising, but he declined to predict when that would happen. “We are still very early in our life cycle,” he says.
San Francisco’s Potrero Hill joined Nextdoor in October 2011, when Mike Walsh, a local resident who became the founder of the Potrero Hill site, says he decided to see if it would work better than some other online-chat groups he had organized. One of the shortcomings of other services, he says, was an inability to archive searchable information, such as recommendations on a plumber, which Nextdoor allows.
Unlike many other online chat groups, Nextdoor maintains services including archiving of messages and maps showing where members live, said Kelsey Grady, spokeswoman for the company. Nextdoor is one of the first neighbor-to-neighbor networks, and faces competition from rivals including Home Elephant.
“It’s made us closer with our neighbors,” said Mr. Walsh, 41.
Since then, Potrero Hill has grown to about 1,900 members out of 7,356 households, says Mr. Walsh, although early users were skeptical. “I thought, ‘Is this a fad? Is it going to die?,’ ” recalls Mike Lin, 41, a visual designer at a social-gaming firm who helps oversee the network in Potrero Hill. “But more and more people migrated to Nextdoor.”
One of Nextdoor’s uses nationally has been to rally neighbors around a cause. In Potrero Hill, residents used Nextdoor to help organize opposition in January of last year to a city plan to install parking meters in the neighborhood. The city subsequently put that plan on hold.
Another function is commerce. Some restaurants in Potrero Hill, for example, have joined the network and offer specials one weeknight just for local Nextdoor members, said Timothy Sigle, 50, a Potrero Hill resident who runs a vacation-rental business.
The site is used for giveaways, too. Mr. Walsh on Dec. 23 posted that he was donating his son’s old bicycle, preferably to a needy family. On Christmas Day, a Nextdoor member connected him to a family in nearby public housing, and he gave it to a boy there.
Nextdoor has also emerged as a neighborhood-warning system for criminal activity. In early January, a Nextdoor member in Potrero Hill alerted residents to a police search for a criminal suspect in the neighborhood. Another alert went out recently that bicycles were being stolen from backyards.
Less-pressing emergencies also get attention. On Jan. 24, LeeAndrea Morton, 23, posted on Nextdoor that the key to her car was stuck in its ignition and that she was willing to pay $20 a night to rent someone’s garage for two nights before she could take it into a repair shop.
Mr. Walsh came to her rescue, offering his garage for no charge. “Buy me a beer one day,” he said. “Ah,” Ms Morton responded, “the world is indeed a good place (or at least in Potrero Hill it is!)”