Tuesday, April 29, 2014

Resident Interest in Old North Neighborhood Matters as Measured On the Nextdoor Website & Implications for a Democratic ON Citizen Group (240)

In this post I try (I) to guage the level of Old North resident interest in the area in which they
live and (II) to relate this level to the possibility of there ever being a democratic group that validly expresses neighborhood views.



Browsing through the list of what Nextdoor labels “Neighbors” on its Old North application of the Nextdoor scheme, questions regarding some of the entries come to mind:

1. A person no longer living in the ON is listed. How many of these errors are there?
2. A person is registered twice. Is there more than one?
3. A person gives a last name composed of four repetitions of a single alphabet letter (and no street address). Obviously a false registration, is there more than one?
4. Despite the Nextdoor “residents only” rule, a non-resident is on the list. Are there more?
5. A person provides a street of residence, but no house number. How many people do this?
6. Violating Nextdoor rules, I see an organization on the list. Is it the only one?

My curiosity about these six incidents prompted me to print out the information sheets on each of the 54 registrations and pull out all that exhibited at least one of the above six problems.

The results are shown in graphic 1. Overall, 15 of the 54 registrations are questionable in one or more of the above six ways. This is 29% of the total, meaning that almost a third of the list is problematic, to say the least.


The largest number of questionable entries involves having moved out of ON but still being listed (4 or 8%) and not providing a street number (4 or 8 %). (The “moved but still listed” number is a function of me personally knowing a person has moved. I do not know everyone listed, so there might be additional persons no longer in ON whom I have not identified.)

The registration of an organization rather than a person is the next largest category--three cases or 6%.

There are two non-residents registered, one double registration, and one registration in which the person uses a nonsense last name.


Thirty-nine of the 54 do not exhibit a problem. They do, though, vary considerably among themselves.

That variation is in terms of the completeness with which a registrant filled out the information form supplied by Nextdoor.

A blank version of that form is reproduced in graphic 2, which shows the four main categories of “contact information,” “about,” “family,” and “home.” The first three have several subcategories. In addition, registrants are encouraged to provide a photograph.

1. 14 of the 39 (36%) were what we might term “minimalists” in that they said little or or nothing about any of the four matters--except providing a street number and street name under “home.”

2. Another 14 of the 39 (36%) were “middle-ists” in tending to provide at least some “contact information” and spotty and brief reports on aspects of “about” and “family.” However, a few are rather chatty, but classified as middle-ist if they failed to provide a photograph of themselves. (Full disclosure: I classified my own registration as middle-ist. I reported on all categories but did not provide a photograph.)

3. Only 11 of the 39 (28%) truly “played the game,” so to speak, and filled out the form completely and also provided a photograph. I call these registrants “maximalists.”



To me, the above numbers raise yet again the classic question of: Are these big numbers or little numbers? Put differently, numbers have no meaning outside of a comparative context.

In this case, I think the most relevant context is the population of the ON area.

The U. S. Census of 2010 reports that the ON area had a population of 413 people, a fact reported and discussed here: http://www.oldnorthdavischat.org/2012/05/540-members-of-ondna-counting-old-north.html

When we remove the 15 problematic registrations from the Nextdoor list, we find that 39 is 9% of 413.

If we draw a line at what we might call “real interest in the ON” as expressed by filling out a middle-ist or maximalist Nextdoor profile, we have 25 people. They are 6% of the total ON population.


All numbers have many implications, interpretations, and meanings. Let me offer a few.

l. The level of interest in the ON qua ON is (and always has been) very, very low. In percentage terms, it is well below ten percent of residents and amounts to perhaps as few as 40 people or so in an extraordinarily generous assessment.

In my personal experience, I would place the number of residents with a serious ON interest in the range of a quarter of that--at about ten people or perhaps a few more.  

2. This mass lack of interest opens the way for a tiny clique of residents (numbering a mere four or so) to seize a fragile and ill-supported community organization that staggered into existence in 2002 and to run it in an autocratic fashion for years. Phrased more favorably to clique government: The extremely low level of resident interest creates the need for undemocratic government in order for there to be any functioning group at all. Either way you frame it, it is not a pretty picture.

3. The above two facts bode ill for there ever being a flourishing, democratic community organization in ON.

If this situation were not so tragic, it would be wonderfully comic--which I think it is when all is said and done.

The phenomenon of an encysted clique fashioning itself as “the voice” of an ON population that pays little or no attention to it is also oddly pathetic. It is a rather like orating to an empty theater but nonetheless believing there is an audience out there.

And it hard to see how there can be a happy outcome to any of this.

Table from ON Chat Post # 142, URL in the Text Above