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Web Summit 2020 Talk: Neighborhoods have never been so important



One of the most interesting talks on day two of the Web Summit had to be with Maryam Banikarim, CMO of Nextdoor, an increasingly popular app that gives people the power to create the community they want by getting involved in the very place where they can make a difference: their neighborhoods. 


Neighborhoods have never been so important, and subsequently neither has Nextdoor. As we all weather this pandemic, Maryam Banikarim says she’s come to realize that our first level of defense is through proximity; neighbors dropping off groceries for the elderly and immunocompromised.


Nextdoor was developed before the pandemic, but has specifically responded to the needs of today. Banikarim said “humanity kicked in,” people began to ask for help, and offer to help on the app. Since March there was a 262% increase in conversations between people looking to chip in. 


After the personal and local success through the app, Banikarim realized it wasn’t just a tool for neighbors specifically, but for helping local businesses and feeding the community ecosystem. 


There is something to be said about the trust that comes with proximity. An example mentioned in the talk was about hiring a local babysitter from down the street. You might not know this high-schooler all too well but the fact that you know where they live brings some sense of comfort. 


This sentiment is ensured with a feature in Nextdoor. To join or create a community group you must go through an authentication process that verifies your identity and where you live in order to maintain a safe, trustworthy online environment.


In that same vein, Banikarim specified that Nextdoor is a community platform, not a free speech app. Early on they developed a set of guidelines that each user had to agree to before joining. This set up a basic standard of how users should behave and interact with one another. An interesting caveat to this feature is that moderation happens on a community basis, meaning for example a community in Arizona could decide that profanity was against guidelines, while a community in New York could allow it.


The issue of free speech on apps has been a topic of discussion since the beginning of apps, but with the events of 2020 these discussions have increased and intensified. According to Banikarim, the murder of George Floyd caused them to take a closer look at their guidelines. She stated frankly that on this app “there is no place for racism.”


A general guideline for all Nextdoor users was that they can discuss local politics, but not national ones. When George Floyd was murdered, some users interpreted this as a local issue as well, and began discussing it amongst their respective groups. Some posts were taken down, but Banikarim said this was a moment when the company had to reevaluate their guidelines because it was national news, but something that impacted local communities and warranted discussion. “That was the beginning moment for us to look inward, and look at how we can be better. It is an ongoing conversation,” she said. 


Unfortunately, it’s all too common for conversations to become heated and uncivil, especially on social media. Nextdoor offers a softer outlet, because you’re less likely to say hateful things to someone during a disagreement if you know you’re going to pass them on a morning walk the next day. 


“The path is forward, not around,” Maryam Banikarim remarked. Hopefully through in person discussion we can all reach a common ground and move past hateful rhetoric and uncivil exchanges.



 Adrienne Lucas / Senior Editor

A passionate writer with experience in editing, content creation, and social media marketing. A lover of animals, helping others improve their writing, and 2000's pop culture.

Web Summit 2020 Talk: Neighborhoods have never been so important Reviewed by Adrienne Lucas on Thursday, December 03, 2020 Rating: 5

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