Yahoo! has introduced a very interesting new feature on Local: Neighbors. A new tab will appear, “Neighbors,” that offers a community discussion area and organizing tool. Here’s an example of the new area from the Sacramento, CA site:
Yahoo! was testing the new feature/service in that market and in San Carlos, CA and has decided to roll it out more broadly. According to Local Product Manager Vince Maniago Neighbors came out of a hack he created for Yahoo! Hack day and has been modified somewhat. It mixes functionality from Yahoo!’s successful suggestion boards and Answers to create a unique community organizing tool (for a major site like this).
The idea is to appeal to and help organize groups and individuals in local areas who want to improve the community or organize around certain issues. Here’s an example entry:
Suggestions associated with local events (e.g., local cleanup day) are also entered into Yahoo!’s events database Upcoming.
Users can comment and vote on suggestions and organizers get tools to help collect volunteers. From a larger perspective what’s perhaps most interesting is that community leaders can monitor these suggestions to get a handle on local concerns or problems that they may not know about or see the popularity of particular issues. Anyone can configure email alerts associated with particular suggestions or more generically about issues.
I joked with Maniago that if this becomes really successful politicians in 2008, coming through local areas to campaign, could use this to see what the popular hyper-local concerns are and incorporate those issues into their stump speeches (“I know the lights in this park have been out for months and you feel your kids aren’t safe…”) :)
Maniago told me that Yahoo! is doing this because it makes the general product better and helps local communities potentially improve. And it adds something to a local site that I really haven’t seen before. (It’s also something that newspapers in the consortium should mimic or take advantage of.) Although there will of course be ads associated with these page views, it’s totally non commercial and has no monetization potential.
It’s just a valuable and cool thing to do. And hopefully as it rolls out people will make good use of this functionality.
Clarification: After I posted this I got the following note from Yahoo!
The testing is still happening in [San Carlos and Sacramento] and went live today to everyone in those markets. We hope to roll it out more broadly, but that will depend on the ongoing engagement in these markets.