2012-11-23 / Front Page

Plan promotes ‘real world’ connections

Pleasant Hill resident hopes to bring online world to neighborhoods
By Michael Kelley Staff Writer

Gone are the days when people would borrow a cup of sugar from the neighbor or stop by a house in the neighborhood to congratulation its residents on a new baby or high school or college graduation.

With the hectic pace of today’s world, such connections between neighbors have been all but lost.

Roger Doiron, a resident of Powderhorn Drive, said a new website group he created could change that and bring the neighborhood in the Pleasant Hill section of town together.

Late last month, Doiron created a chapter for the Pleasant Hill neighborhood on NextDoor, a social networking site that was launched in 2011. Residents of the neighborhood can join the site by visiting http://pleasanthill.nextdoor.com.

Doiron said there is a strong tendency in the suburban culture not to “go out, knock on our neighbors’ doors and get to know them.”

Unlike other social networking websiteswhich can suck people in, Doiron said NextDoor is something that “everybody can fit into their schedule.”

His hope, he said, was that some of the connections made online would translate to a connection in the real world.

“The motivation was a desire to see the Internet be used to bring people together at a local level,” Doiron said. “A lot of us use the Internet to reconnect with people from our past or connect with people from our present who may live far away.”

Doiron acknowledges the fact that there are a number of ways people can connect with each other, whether it’s through their jobs, the local schools or social organizations. NextDoor, he said, is just another way to make connections between neighbors.

“The hope is, this will include a good cross section of people who thus far haven’t found a way to connect with each other because they may be in different places in their lives, but in doing so, can realize they share common interests.”

Doiron said there are safety features built into the website that keep people from outside the Pleasant Hill neighborhood from joining the group, assuring the group is only for people who live in that area of town.

“I’ve found that the Internet has not lived up to its potential connecting people in a local geographic area,” Doiron said.

Doiron said the idea to start the Pleasant Hill chapter came to him after seeing the destruction of neighborhoods in New York and New Jersey caused by Hurricane Sandy.

“The founding of the Pleasant Hill NextDoor network happened around the same time as Hurricane Sandy,” Doiron said. “It struck me that we really do need to pull together as a local community in time like that.”

Sam Kelley, who has lived in the Pleasant Hill neighborhood for the last 35 years, said Doiron is the perfect person to spearhead such an effort.

“Roger is the type of person who builds connections in a community,” Kelley said. “He’s done a pretty good job with connecting people all around the world.”

There’s countless ways the site could be used, Doiron said. Such ways could include sharing the name of a trusted plumber or a reliable babysitter or to share information about a lost cat or dog.

Kelley agreed, saying the site could be useful for business recommendations or reviews for service professionals or to find local high school or college kids to do odd jobs like raking or shoveling. The site could also be helpful in keeping the neighborhood aware of news or crime happening in the area.

Doiron, who also operates Kitchen Gardeners International, a website devoted to home gardening and local food systems, said he sees the network as a way to reach out to his neighbors who garden or those who are looking to start, but don’t know the best way to do so.

“What excites me is, it’s really enabled me to reach out to people in a way I haven’t been able to yet,” he said.

Doiron said the Kitchen Gardeners International website, which has 25,000 users from 100 countries, has been able to accomplish a lot through social networking, including collecting more than 100,000 signatures urging a kitchen garden at the White House in 2009.

Doiron said he hopes the NextDoor Pleasant Hill chapter also makes a lasting impact.

“This is all about building a more connected and resilient community,” Doiron said.

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