Sunday, March 30, 2008

Merry Oaks communications: a quick guide

Here's a quick guide on the various ways that Merry Oaks neighbors talk with each other online. It's for newcomers, old timers and anyone who wants more clarity and transparency on our current ways of communicating. It might be edited over time as I talk with others. Please feel free to share your ideas in comments.

The Google group:
The neighborhood association has had a Google group for awhile with a couple of moderators. The discussions are widely read by at least one city council representative and one county commission representative, as well as a law enforcement representative. It's moderated by a couple of different people. You can post pages and documents there as well, though we haven't gone that far with it yet. The Commonwealth Park Neighborhood Association has used their Google group for the posting of files (including police "mugshots" of people working the streets in their neighborhood). This is the most active and quick way to communicate with each other; just remember you're broadcasting to a large audience of elected officials, police and perhaps potential home buyers and real estate folks. I have not seen any ads there; if there were any, the revenue would go to Google.

Neighborhood Link:
This is a free long-standing website initially funded by a private company in partnership with Mecklenburg County or the city (I can't remember which, it's been so long). It's part of a network that provides the websites to neighborhood groups. It has excellent reference material about local government, schools and other neighborhood associations, as well as a discussion area and PDF documents of current and old newsletters. Those newsletters include contact information for all the current neighborhood association board members. The site requires a Neighborhood Link signon to participate in discussions. It has no ads. It has ads, and it's unclear where the revenue goes -- not the neighborhood association.

Under Oak blog:
That's where you are now. This is a personal blog, run by me, a board member of the neighborhood association. It is not an official vehicle of the neighborhood association. In that respect, it's similar to Under the Water Tower in Elizabeth. That neighborhood has an official website, and that blog is a personal endeavor by a resident of that neighborhood. Under Oak has no ads.

Facebook Neighborhoods application: This is the newest way I know of. Eight people are now members of the Facebook Merry Oaks neighborhood -- for the longest time, I knew of only three. This method seems to have potential for posting event information and meeting new people. It's free, but any ad revenue goes to Facebook.

All these methods might be a bit confusing. My point of view: It's good to have a variety of ways to talk with each other, though we all need to continue to work on being transparent so that people know how to use these ways to communicate well. In addition, I suspect that the folks running these various communication methods would love to have help.

To quote a co-worker recently: "Where there's no logic, there is history." In some cases, these methods evolved because neighbors didn't want to share their email addresses publicly, or wanted to be able to comment anonymously. As tech tools and the neighborhood evolve, I'm sure we can continue to improve.

And of course, there's always a chat along the sidewalk. Sometimes, that's the best way.

Thoughts? Let me (Andria) know at akrewson45c AT mac DOT com.

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