Threshold of nosiness media blogger Mark Glaser, who is based in San Francisco, writes in his MediaShift blog about a service called Front Porch which signs up residents in specific neighborhoods as “hyper-local” blogger/reporters.

You can only sign up for the neighborhood you live in, and then you start getting email newsletters with news tidbits, items for sale, business openings, and more — submitted by people in the neighborhood. They are closed lists that aren’t accessible to the public, and each posting includes the person’s name, mailing address and email address to verify who they are.

Hmm. Does this strike anyone else as being on the intrusive side?

The fact is, I am a bit of a nosy neighbor — about whatever is happening in front of my house. If I hear screaming, fighting or, as last night, a lost tractor-trailer driver looking for the SF Produce Market two miles away, I go outside to see what’s the matter. But I mind my own business. I don’t complain about anyone else’s noisy party because I might have a noisy party some day; I don’t peer into the windows across the street.

So I’m a little bit mystified as to the utility of Front Porch. What kind of information am I going to get from somebody who lives up the block, much less three blocks away, that I need to know? Am I alone in feeling it’s more about people snooping on each other than being little neighborhood journalists? And even if it is about citizen journalism, what of the thriving neighborhood newspapers in San Francisco, including the Noe Valley Voice, the New Bernal Journal and, in Glaser’s own neighborhood, the Potrero View? Does Front Porch have the potential to replace these local institutions?

As for “items for sale,” that’s what we have Craigslist for.

5 Comments so far

  1. art (unregistered) on July 31st, 2007 @ 10:21 pm

    This reads like an argument in search of an issue.

  2. Mark Glaser (unregistered) on August 1st, 2007 @ 4:50 pm

    I think these email lists are great ways for neighbors to find out what’s going on in their small part of the world. If you don’t care about that, then you don’t have to subscribe. But in San Francisco and in many other neighborhoods, the close sense of community is being lost to technology and busy lives. It’s nice to get some of that back and find out what’s going on around us — hopefully without being too nosy. Most of the stuff that’s on these lists are lost cats, break-ins and muggings, and people selling stuff. Nothing really earth-shattering, but much more updated and interactive than neighborhood papers. Those papers should be the ones running these lists really…

  3. cd (unregistered) on August 2nd, 2007 @ 9:28 am

    Thank god for the lists. Otherwise people might have to actually go out on their REAL front porches and TALK to their neighbors [shivers]. The very thought of such things . . . nah, I’ll take my information sent to me through a tube to my own desktop, thanks. ;)

  4. Joe (unregistered) on August 2nd, 2007 @ 9:58 am

    I generally find that what passes as “community” in san francisco really is just a bunch of nosy people more interested in controlling things than forging any real connections to people.
    This is just an extension of that. We’re a TINY city – there is no reason for such hyper intense coverage.

  5. Pete (unregistered) on August 5th, 2007 @ 11:30 pm

    Gosh, it’s just so awful when people are -forced- to sign up for email lists that are meaningful and useful to them. We must put a stop to this!

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