If you’ve been following Blockboard (or using it in San Francisco), you know that we’re all about using technology to connect neighbors and build stronger neighborhoods. Along the way we’ve learned a lot about how local communities work, including the fact that people often rely on influence to build relationships with those around them.
What’s influence? It’s the ability to drive action. Just like in the online world, our local communities are filled with influential people who know the answers to our questions, who have opinions that we value, and who give advice that we follow. The challenge often lies in finding and connecting with these people in the first place.
That’s where Klout comes in. They’ve built the leading platform for measuring and understanding influence on the Web, and now they want to expand that system into local communities, mobile devices, and other new contexts. The entire Blockboard team will be joining Klout to lead these efforts. Blockboard itself also plays into these plans and we will continue to develop it. We look forward to sharing what we’ve got cooking on both fronts!
Over the past few weeks we’ve gotten to know the team at Klout, and we’ve been really impressed with what we’ve seen. We’re excited to be joining them!
When you pay for something and it doesn’t quite turn out to be what you thought it would be, you call a customer service line and try to get the situation fixed, right?
Believe it or not (but you should, because it’s true), San Francisco has its own customer service center called 311. It’s the go-to resource to report things around the city that need fixing: graffiti, litter, potholes, ankle-breaking holes in the sidewalk. Basically anything you might come across in a public space and find yourself saying, “Hmm, someone should really take care of that.”
The Blockboard app for iPhone has a category called “Cityfix” which allows neighbors to directly alert the city’s 311 service about neighborhood problems that need fixing.
Back when Blockboard was only available in the Mission (in case it blipped by you, we’re now in every neighborhood in the city), we crunched some numbers from the Cityfix category and found that 65% of reported issues are resolved by the city within an average 3 days.
Impressive, right?! Since then, hundreds of new neighbors have joined Blockboard and are using it to clear the streets of graffiti, vandalism, trash, and more. Click on the image below to see some examples of what’s been fixed so far!
(Click image to expand…)
Help get your neighborhood in tip-top condition with just a few taps on your iPhone. If you see something the city should know about, tag it under the proper label in the Cityfix category, map it so city workers know where to respond, and take a photo so they can go in with the proper tools to get the job done. It only takes a few seconds to make a big difference for your neighborhood!
As you may have heard, the Mission is the first winner of Blockboard’s “Build A Better Block” contest. That means a $5,000 neighborhood improvement grant, to be spent as residents see fit!
After collecting project ideas from Mission residents for two weeks, we opened up voting on the finalists last weekend. All five finalists were worthy ideas that would make a difference for the Mission community:
- Create a new parklet
- Donate the money to support Mission Loc@l’s community journalism
- Pressure wash the sidewalks on Mission St
- Give the money to the family of the slain Hog & Rocks cook
- Create a community garden
We received hundreds of votes, and today it’s our pleasure to announce that the winning idea is… to create a community garden in the Mission!
So what’s next? We’re talking with several local organizations and researching what opportunities exist to create new green spaces in the Mission. (If there are chances to improve existing spaces, we’ll consider those, too!)
We could use your help. If you live in the Mission, have ideas or expertise to share, and want to get involved, please drop us a line at email@example.com. Or better yet, post your ideas directly on Blockboard!
Meanwhile, we’ll use this blog to keep you updated as the project progresses. Stay tuned, and thanks to everyone who suggested ideas or participated in the vote.
Photo credit: jeffc5000 on Flickr
This week, the party was at Blackthorn for the N-Judah + Blockboard Happy Hour. Blockboard was there to show neighbors how they can stay connected with each other and their ‘hood using the Blockboard app and Greg Dewar, Inner Sunset celebrity, helped host the night while celebrating the 6th anniversary of his blog.
Inner Sunset neighbors were excited about our “Pour One For Your Neighbor” rule which encouraged interaction (and full beers) and gave neighbors a reason to introduce themselves and strike up a conversation.
Neighbors wrote their cross streets on their name tags, which helped Greg find the proper people to sign a petition allowing Blackthorn to have an entertainment license. He collected a ton of signatures and even met a new neighbor who’d recently moved in to his building.
It was a successful night for Blockboard bringing Inner Sunset-ers together and a very happy anniversary for Greg.
We’re proud to announce the first winner of Blockboard’s “Build A Better Block” contest. The first winning neighborhood in San Francisco is… the Mission District!
(As a refresher, we’re giving away a total of $25,000 in prize money to the first five neighborhoods in San Francisco that sign up 500 Blockboard users. The money will be used for a neighborhood improvement project chosen by the residents themselves. Read more about the contest.)
The Mission now gets to chose how its $5,000 share of the prize money gets used. If you live in the Mission and are a Blockboard user, you have a voice in this decision.
How it works:
1. Go to the Blockboard app and post your idea on how to use the money. Remember, the goal is to come up with a single project or cause that makes the neighborhood better for everyone.
If there is a particular local group or non-profit you think would be perfect to run (or benefit from) your project idea, be sure to mention them!
2. Check back frequently and vote on the ideas you like! You can do that by tapping on a user’s suggestion and hitting the “Like” button. It’s that simple.
3. On 10/21 (two weeks from today), Blockboard will tally the votes and announce the winning idea!
Don’t have an iPhone?
No worries, just visit our Facebook page and post your ideas there!
Live somewhere else in San Francisco? You can help your neighborhood win!
There are still four more prizes to be awarded. The best way to help your neighborhood win is to spread the word about Blockboard to your neighbors and ask them to sign up! We’ve provided Twitter and Facebook buttons below to make it easy for you!
When it comes to finding out what’s going on right in your own backyard, most often your best resource is your neighbors. Blockboard’s Neighborhood News category takes the stories being generated from people living right in the middle of the action, pinpoints their location and organizes them by neighborhood so you can stay connected simply by scrolling through your phone.
In a city as micro-locally focused as SF, we have an extensive community of bloggers and people about town who keep us in the loop because they’re interested in what’s going on in their neighborhoods and want to share it with others. As larger news media has less money to devote to local coverage, these neighborhood reporters are more important than ever. If you live in an area that’s a little lacking in coverage, Blockboard allows any smart phone-wielding resident to contribute to what’s going on in the area, and in return have all the neighborhood’s news right in their pocket.
Take a look at who’s writing about your backyard:
MissionMission – Everything Mission from a team of intrepid reporters, led by Allan Hough. Stolen bikes, street food and epic car wrecks with audio from an eye witness neighbor; if it happens in the Mission, they’re on it.
Uptown Almanac – Mission news from the King of Snark, Mr. Kevin Montgomery. Coverage may include, but is not limited to: graffiti snapshots, taco tragedies, Dolores Park shutdowns and the occasional gun slinger and knife wielder.
Bernalwood – Broadcasting live from Bernal Heights, Todd Lapin of Telstar Logistics and his neighborly crew cover the ‘hood from Cesar Chavez to the freeway with informative photos and graphics and well-researched copy.
TheTender – Brought to you by T.L. residents Miquel and Elia, The Tender covers the neighborhood with the city’s densest population. This duo set out to turn the T.L.’s reputation around and prove it deserves its title of “heart of the city.”
Alamo Square Online – You may recognize this area from the popular late 80’s/early 90’s sitcom Full House, but there’s more to this ‘hood than majestic views. This is the Neighborhood Association’s guide to the living in the Square.
Ocean Beach Bulletin – Bringing up the western outskirts of our 7x7, it’s the beach dwellers go-to for neighborhood news. Nothing OB-related gets past editor-in-chief, Tom Prete and associate editor, Mark Lukach.
RichmondSFBlog – Covering everything from events at Golden Gate Park to the Richmond District mayoral debate, Sarah B. keeps a pulse on everything in her neighborhood. And as any true Inner Richmond resident knows, “in fog we trust.”
Cole Valley News – Although they love living in Cole Valley, this blog’s contributors promise to be unbiased in their reporting. This blog is a guide to what the neighborhood has to offer, mixed with a heavy does of current events.
Noe Valley SF – There may be a lot of “dogs, kids, and nail salons” in this area, but that’s not all Noe has to offer. This hyper-local guide to the ‘hood covers what every neighbor should know.
Friends Of Noe Valley – From the Neighborhood Association comes a curation of the resources any neighbor needs to call this spot home.
LiveSOMA – South of Market is vast, but this blog covers every nook and cranny and packages it in to an easy-to-navigate interface that builds “a stronger neighborhood, one click at a time.”
The Potrero View – From a hill this high, the view of the neighborhood is unobstructed. That allows for in-depth reporting on neighborhood history, redevelopment projects, day to day news and much more.
Potrero Boosters – This site brings together those neighbors working to make their home better, and encourages other residents to join the discussion!
The New Fillmore – Covering everything along the Fillmore corridor, this blog (and print version) highlights the people and businesses that make up this historical jazz district.
SF Civic Center – Civic Center isn’t just where politicians come to debate. It’s home to a tight-knit group determined to re-energize this promising area. This blog highlights the people making it happen.
D10 Watch – Covering Bayview, Hunter’s Point, Silver Terrace and Visitacion Valley, this blog highlights the news, events and community that keep this neighborhood thriving.
Hayes Valley Voice – Brought to you by the Neighborhood Association, this blog reports on the development, politics and events that make this area a thriving spot for local businesses and neighbors who share the space.
Rincon Hill SF – Whether it’s a new dog park, ships docking too close to home, or the announcement of a community meeting, Rincon Hill, the micro-hood bounded by Mission St, 2nd St, Bryant St and the ocean, is a quickly-emerging area.
FACE – Friends of Crocker-Amazon & The Excelsior – A community booster group making sure one of SF’s farthest neighborhood’s voices is heard.
Neighborhood Empowerment Network – This coalition of residents and community organizations seeks to “empower residents, and their communities, with the capacity and resources to build strong resilient communities.” Come here to check out stories about the people making it happen.
SF Appeal – Without Eve Batey, the Appeal, and probably most of San Francisco, would come to a screeching halt. The online newspaper’s original reporting and curation of city-wide news keeps readers informed throughout the day.
SFWeekly – Just because it’s called a weekly doesn’t mean the staff here doesn’t keep readers in the know on the latest current events with an emphasis on alternative. And if you’re looking for the “Best Of” anything, they’ve got your winners right here.
SF Bay Guardian – This publication has “been raising hell since 1966” and shows no signs of slowing down. This alt weekly covers news, arts and culture, local guides, and events always with progressivism in mind.
SF Citizen – Citizen, denizen, resident, this “for the people” publication takes an opinionated look at the city’s goings on.
7x7 Magazine – The dimensions of our city, and also the name of one of the most essential reading materials for San Franciscans. From fitness and tech to love and sex, this mag’s your provider of essential SF knowledge.
The Bay Area Reporter – Centered in the colorful Castro district, the Reporter serves the gay, lesbian and transgender communities that make up an important part of our city.
MUNI Diaries – If you’re one of the many SF folks that take advantage of public transportation on a daily basis, Muni Diaries is your aggregation of anything involving The Bus.
Streetsblog – In a city as walkable as this, sustainable transportation and livable communities are high on the agenda. Streetsblog shines a light on the success and opportunities in making streets safer.
Wigg Party – With head Wigg master Morgan Fitzgibbons leading the way, this blog is dedicated to sustainability and resilience using the much-used bike route, The Wiggle, that carves through the Western Addition as a platform.
Curbed SF – Want to know what’s up with that empty building at the end of the street? How much did you neighbor’s house sell for? Curbed is your all-city answer to your real estate quandaries.
theFrontSteps – Guided by licensed real estate agent Alexander Clark, this blog navigates the San Francisco real estate scene and answers all your questions about the business of buying and selling homes in our city.
SocketSite – It’s the local scoop on real estate tips and trends through heavily researched, cited articles and illustrative photos.
San Francisco Grub Street – A Grub Street a day keep hunger at bay. Your guide to the city’s hottest restaurants and who’s dishing up what.
SPUR – SF’s Planning and Urban Research Association is all about ideas and action for a better city. Their goal is “uniting citizens to jointly craft solutions to our common problems.”
SF Parks Council – This group is revitalizing communities using our green spaces as a starting point. A neighborhood with a well-maintained park is a happy neighborhood.
Golden Gate Park Blog – As one of our city’s shining glories, she’s also a hub of activity. This blog introduces you to all she has to offer.
4thepanhandle (Panhandle Park Stewards) – Neighbors working together to promote and maintain their local park, the Pandhandle.
Presidio of SF – What happens in the Presidio… will absolutely make it on to the National Park Services’ site dedicated to one of the city’s most beautiful offerings. From events, to new laws to planning a visit, find your answer here.
Hayes Valley Farm – A space once used for a freeway taken over by a community farm, Hayes Valley Farm is a 2.2-acre non-profit community-run farm that serves as a learning center and food provider.
Noe Valley Town Square – A blog dedicated to the installation and progress of a European-esque town square in the parking lot on 24th street, between Vicksburg and Sanchez.
McKinley Square (Potrero) – A frequently updated diary about the goings on in Potrero Hill’s McKinley Square.
The Bold Italic – A beautifully written and illustrated daily storybook of the “intel, backstories and adventures that define San Francisco.”
The Bay Bridged – Run by co-founders Christian Cunningham and Ben Van Houten, The Bay Bridged is the leading source for Bay Area independent music. Weekly podcats, daily blogs, live studio sessions, photos and local events keep you connected with our thriving music scene.
The Deli Magazine – You’re not going to find any sandwiches up in here, but you will find a healthy helping of Bay Area musicians. And a handy dandy chart that rates their popularity and lets you get a listen.
SF Station – We’ve got your arts, culture and entertainment right here. Stay in the loop on the scenes to be seen in.
Up From The Deep – An historical exploration of city’s central area: Sixth Street, Mid-Market, and the Tenderloin. It’s a well-researched reminder of where we’ve come from.
Burrito Justice – More about SF’s history, less about burritos, it’s like a digital history book that you actually want to read. When a district like the Mission starts segmenting in to distinct neighborhoods, Burrito Justice has just the name for these micro hoods.
FunCheapSF – Looking for something to do but your wallet’s a little light? Johnny FunCheap is your frugal guide to what to do tonight without blowing your rent money.
Here at Blockboard, we’re all about helping you know your neighborhood. So it made sense to partner up with Phil Jaber, of Philz Coffee, and three of his well-loved locations across the city (and another on the way!) to introduce new neighbors to the app.
We’ve hit up Philz’ other two locations in the Mission and Castro and experienced a range of reactions from still half-asleep nods to full on hugs while giving out free coffee and introducing ourselves to neighbors dropping in for a one-cup-at-a-time pick me up.
Today, it was time to hit up SoMa. Along with a free cup of coffee, caffeine seekers were treated to a personal introduction to Blockboard, and couldn’t wait to start connecting with their neighbors by downloading the app and getting other neighbors on board to win the Build A Better Block Contest.
There’s really no better way to start off a Friday than a hot cup of Philz and your ticket to knowing your neighborhood right in your pocket. Huge thank you to Phil, Jacob, Sarah, Polo and Jaedon for helping make Free Philz Friday happen all across the city. We’re lucky to be your neighbor.
If you stumbled in to Mad Dog in the Fog on Wednesday, you might have assumed you happened upon some sort of reunion. For some, it was a reunion, for others it was an opportunity to meet their neighbors. It was all part of the the Haighteration + Blockboard Happy Hour, which brought together people who’d lived in the ‘hood since the mid-80’s and others who’d only been calling the Lower Haight home for three weeks. Regardless of how long the Lower Haight had been your neighborhood, everyone was welcome, and joining the party was simple. All you had to do was have the Blockboard app downloaded on your iPhone, and you were ushered in to the fun like an old friend, or neighbor.
Nothing brings people together like a drink, so the one rule for the night was that you couldn’t pour your own beer. There’s no better time to make a new friend than when you need a refill!
Non-iPhone users came up with some creative ways to get in to the party:
But iPhone-less neighbors were warmly greeted as long as they promised to spread the word about Blockboard through the Build A Better Block Contest
Neighbors wrote their cross streets down on their nametags, which made it easy to point out their block:
Our host for the night, Andrew Dudley, of the ever popular Lower Haight blog, Haighteration, worked the room like a champ, proving his local celebrity:
Many new neighbors were met, and many beers enjoyed:
Blockboard and Haighteration are all about bringing neighborhoods together, which, with beers in hand, is exactly what happened last night in the Lower Haight.
What if you could make litter, graffiti, and other problems in your neighborhood go away just by using your phone?
As crazy as it sounds, it’s actually possible. One of the most popular uses of Blockboard is our “Cityfix” category, which lets neighbors use their iPhone to report issues that require the city’s attention. This includes everything from graffiti and litter to potholes and sewer problems. Blockboard users can report these issues in under a minute: you just snap a photo, indicate your location on a map, and choose a category.
Blockboard packages up that information and automatically sends it to San Francisco’s 311 Customer Service Center (using their implementation of the Open311 standard). This puts the issue into the city’s tracking system, and that means a human being is likely to do something about it.
To get a clearer sense of how well the city’s process is actually working, we did an analysis of issues reported during our recent beta test in the Mission District.
Our findings paint an encouraging picture. Even in this era of limited budgets and manpower, the city manages to address most citizen-reported issues in a timely manner. There is just one notable hole, and the story behind it is an interesting one. But overall we think the city deserves credit for delivering on its commitments.
Out of a sample of 100 city issues reported in the Mission over a 2 month period using the Blockboard app, we found that 65 were resolved by the city, within an average of 3.6 days. As of this writing, 35 issues remained unresolved. On the surface a 65% resolution rate doesn’t sound great, but let’s dig a little deeper.
The following chart breaks down reported issues by category. While these categories do not precisely match those used by the city, we use them in Blockboard because we believe they are easier for citizens to understand and navigate.
As you can see, issues related to litter and trash are by far the most common, and the city resolves the vast majority of them (over 96%).
On the opposite end of the spectrum lies graffiti and vandalism. While these constitute the second most common set of issues reported by Blockboard users, they have a very poor resolution rate — just 12%. (Street issues — such as potholes — turn in a similarly poor showing, but there are far fewer of them in comparison.)
Time to resolution
The picture is also interesting when sliced by time. Here is the average time-to-resolution for each category:
Most categories of issues are resolved within 1-3 days — a fairly impressive track record in our opinion. But here again we find that graffiti and vandalism really stands out. With an average time-to-resolution of over 23 days, even the few issues that are lucky enough to be resolved take a while to get there.
So why is graffiti so problematic for the city?
A little research reveals that while the city can take immediate action by painting over graffiti on public or city property (for example, parking meters or city buildings) things get complicated when it comes to graffiti on private property. In such cases, the city’s graffiti abatement law (Article 23 of the San Francisco Public Works Code) determines what happens next.
Enacted in 2004 as part of a renewed campaign to discourage graffiti across the city, the law says that it is the owner’s responsibility to clean up graffiti on their property. Once the city has been notified, it sends out an inspector to confirm the report. The city then notifies the owner, who then has 30 days to “abate” the graffiti (i.e. paint over it). If the owner does not comply, additional warnings and then fines may apply. If the owner prefers, they can grant the city permission to take care of the problem on their behalf, but without this permission the city can’t take action until much later on.
This entire process can take a great deal of time and appears to be the cause of the low (and slow) resolution rates we’ve observed. We plan to track these issues over a longer time period in order to better understand the true rate of resolution.
If we set aside graffiti-related issues, the city’s resolution rate is 83%. Our analysis shows that the city is generally responsive to citizen complaints, within the scope of its legal abilities.
Finally, we’ll leave you with one more juicy piece of data. Below is a heatmap (created with OpenHeatMap) showing geographic clustering of issues reported in the Mission. You’ll notice some “hotspots” along Valencia between roughly 18th and 21st, as well as 22nd and Shotwell, and the area around 16th and Mission. It would be interesting to correlate this with other sources such as crime or demographics. If you’re reading this and have ideas, please free free to reach out!
It’s been a week since we announced our “Build A Better Block” contest. In case you missed it, the first five neighborhoods to reach 500 members will each win $5,000 to spend on a neighborhood improvement project!
The response to this contest has been really exciting. So far, the Mission is in the lead, with the Castro and SOMA not far behind. But it’s close enough that the contest is still wide-open…
To place a vote for your neighborhood, all you need to do is install Blockboard and sign up. Blockboard is available for free in the App Store. Sign-up today and spread the word to your neighbors!