What started out as a neighborly gesture may have become a neighborhood career. When Ted Pinkowitz, president of Denver-based ECentral Inc., an Internet media company, heard residents complain about a proposed liquor license in the area, he thought he was helping his community by posting the gripes on his Web server. Little did he realize that, a year later, he would be creating what could yet turn out to be the Yahoo of community Web sites.
After getting involved with the community and learning about the frustrations neighbors had communicating with the local politicos, Ted got a bright idea: Why not create a portal that deals with issues residents face on a neighborhood-by-neighborhood basis? Thus, Neighborhood Link was launched, first in Denver and then in 10 other metropolitan areas, including San Diego, Portland, Minneapolis and Phoenix ... even in Government Technology's own Sacramento.
What's interesting about Neighborhood Link's approach is that after it targets a region (1 million to 2.5 million in population), it puts the infrastructure in place and creates community partnerships before getting sponsorship, which ultimately, of course, pays the bills. Representatives contact neighborhood associations, visit city leaders and, when they have what appears to be a fairly solid Web site customized to the city, they go out after the bucks. They look for six corporate sponsors that pay $30,000 per year, and no two companies can be in the same business. Thus, the advertisers are ensured that they will be the exclusive telecommunications provider or baby-furniture provider, whatever their field is, listed for the entire year.
The Web site offers neighbors a way to communicate with each other, to vent and even to lobby. Although offering only threaded discussions initially, online chat was recently added. Visitors can add their own personal home pages to the site or link to ones they already have (no commercial pages, please), and, if they want to lobby for a stop sign on the corner, the site lets them create a fax form that can be filled out by other neighbors and automatically faxed from the site to the local government official responsible for such things.
City officials should really love this, because, while they may get more gripes than they want, they can also get more votes. Neighborhood Link can make them very visible. They are encouraged to put their picture and message online. This idea has enormous potential. If the Web is tying the world together, why shouldn't it tie neighborhoods together?
Strategic partnerships are being created to roll Neighborhood Link out to smaller communities, so that the small town, which needs this like everybody else, is not left out Neighborhood Link: a neighborly gesture that may become the most neighborly Web site on the Internet. For more information, call 888/241-0123.
Alan Freedman is the most noted computer lexicographer in the country. His award-winning The Computer Glossary and Computer Desktop Encyclopedia in print and on CD-ROM is the reference of choice for novices and experts alike. For information, visit them online. Email