2011 Update: A group I’m working with got a $10,000 CDBG grant from Cumberland County to study the feasibility of creating a Homeshare Matching program here much like HomeshareNow in Vermont. The group started meeting in August 2011 and hopes to have a pilot up and running in fall of 2012.
On using online technology to help groups form residential communities, community projects. Like SecondLife, but for real.
One part of the website would be advanced social media technology that allows users to make complex groups. Users could create quizzes like on okcupid.com to find out what traits are intolerable in neighbors, or what trade-offs they’d be willing to make. Users could propose and rate ideas to see what variation would be most popular.
You’d need to allow users to narrow a search for an immediate neighborhood, but also participate in designing a city-wide amenitity, and also learn from the international efforts that are happening. If we were to start in specific places, like Craigslist did, you can have people on the ground creating the face to face community that jumpstarts the online one. But, who knows? If you made it national or larger, many communities might start to use it and quickly generate the examples that could accomplish goals more quickly than expected.
This type of site could be funded by developers who would want to purchase the contact information for users to build actual communities. You could also sell ads that would match user information since it would be the most personalized real estate information on the market!
Last, I envisioned another piece that would allow people to actually build their home & neighborhood virtually online with other users, so they could experiment with the amount of square footage they could afford and decide on location/transportation and private/common amenity tradeoffs. A basic level would just have sliders that allows peple to adjust private vs public square footage, price, size, finish quality, and neighborhood. A more sophisticated version might include a visual piece, fitting into a Sims or SecondLife platform.
Ideally, it would feel like a game where people return over and over and get to develop their vision online, and might actually find other “players” who perhaps they might eventually live with. Radical!