You can click with your neighbors here
by Raymond Rendleman, The Oregonian
Thursday November 06, 2008
A Portland Web site that went live this week hopes to build a new level of online connection. Like Craigslist, Portland Bright Neighbor
lists events, goods and services. But additional features enable users to connect for rides, trades and more.
Users can click on an event, for example, and find a list of people offering or looking for rides to the event, too. And instead of selling or hunting for goods and services one at a time, users can keep a wish list or inventory of offerings in a "Swap & Share" section.
Founder Randy White, who's made a name for himself as part of Portland's peak oil movement to lessen dependence on fossil fuels, also notes a function enables users to enter personal data so those they add to their "trusted" list can verify their identities. He calls it "a citywide cup-of-sugar network."
"Craigslist offers a faceless market," he says. "Bright Neighbor provides the networking skills that people will need in the coming (peak oil) crisis." He hopes the for-profit venture eventually makes money through ad sales and licensing deals.
Reactions among others range from enthusiastic to skeptical. Bright Neighbor is "an example of a kind of tool we're familiar with, but it's meant to serve a particular place so it can do things that have never been seen before," says Howard Silverman, a senior writer for nonprofit Ecotrust who has used the site's beta version.
"There's a lot of buzz online about social tools that allow us to connect with far-flung people, but the groups and events we really care about are close to our own communities."
Laurel Butman, chief analyst for the city's Office of Management & Finance, says she hasn't seen proof that Bright Neighbor will lead people to goods and services they wouldn't have found otherwise. She's currently taking down a North Portland site that aimed to link residents and city government.
When & where: 5 p.m. next Thursday at Ohm Night Club, 31 N.W. First Ave.
"We thought we had a pretty good system for giving free online space to neighborhood groups, but funding being what it is, we're having to take it down," she says. "I'm not sure if the gap from taking down the North Portland site will be filled by something the community creates."
Silverman hopes the ethics behind the site carry it through.
"There are so many Web sites that are launched and so few that find success, but Bright Neighbor has the values that will cause me and many other Portlanders to root for it."