NeighborGoods. The brainchild of L.A. Derby Dolls player and former Revver director Micki Krimmel, NeighborGoods builds on the Craigslist and Freecycle models, using a hyper-local bent and the idea of borrowing or renting what you need, rather than selling or trading for keeps.Borrowing a rake or cup of sugar used to be a matter of just stopping by your neighbor's apartment. Now even that's gone online, thanks to a new service launching in Los Angeles called
"I was really inspired by Freecycle, Craigslist, and of course eBay. They are really good at getting rid of things you don't want anymore, but I wanted to tackle the problem from the other side: how do you keep things from being produced. Does every house on the block need a lawnmower?," Krimmel told ReadWriteWeb.
NeighborGoods is currently in alpha testing and accepting users by invitation until October 7th, when it launches publicly. But it is already gaining traction on Twitter (where Krimmel has over 12,000 followers) with people who have early access to the website, like @typefiend, who shared this note:
"Set up my first #Neighborgoods transaction. Someone's borrowing the Bissell Carpet Cleaner for some pet cleanup. http://bit.ly/lh6gR"
Krimmel said she's reaching out to church groups, school groups, green organizations, and mommy groups to get them active on the site and to help identify what goods and services NeighborGoods should target. The site will also launch a Facebook Connect feature.
"We think people will share with people they know at first," says Krimmel. "We want to get people over that hurdle and start telling the story of things: power tools, ladders, camping gear, bicycles. Those are the things we all have in the garage that don't get used very often. I'm hoping that the groups feature will have people sharing all kinds of crazy stuff."
NeighborGoods is fairly intuitive to use, but its success will depend on the quality and usefulness of items offered by the community. A quick look this morning found items ranging from an old analog TV to a wireless router to someone's dog (condition "beat up"). The policing of what's made available and whether the site monitors users will be key to its development. Users are rated, similar to how sellers are ranked on eBay, but what's not clear is what recourse someone has if they don't get a favorite book back or a neighbor breaks their lawnmower.
The service is one of several new barter-type platforms to emerge in the past few months. Where Couchsurfing left off with the post-college hostel crowd, Caravan is picking up, providing access to house-swap listings and rentals for creative professionals. And hungry Angelenos are using Fallen Fruit to find in-season treats from trees around L.A.
All of these projects seem to have a two-fold purpose: getting resources that you need or want, and making new friends in the process. Is using NeighborGoods easier or more productive than just ringing the doorbell? That remains to be seen.
Guest author: Laura Hertzfeld is a freelance journalist based in Los Angeles. In addition to writing for ReadWriteWeb, she is managing editor of EconomyStory.org, a Public Radio Exchange (PRX) project aggregating public media coverage of the economy.