Are you following your neighbourhood?

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Are you following your neighbourhood?

May 15, 2017
Mikko Rönneberg
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Twitter makes it easy for us to follow other people and organizations. You just press follow and you will stay up to date on what’s going on. But what if you would like to follow what’s happening in your neighbourhood or some other small area you are interested? How would you do that?

There are many interesting things happening near us, but we sometimes miss them because there really isn’t an easy and efficient way to keep up with what’s going on around us. We miss the small local things like the blueberry pie tasting at the local bakery, the event night at the local library or the little league match on the local sports field – the types of things we can just walk to.

This kind of information, referred to as hyperlocal information, is usually shared through channels that reach people that are near the information or somehow connected to it. There are two ways to come across hyperlocal information: being there or hearing about it.

You could come by hyperlocal information for example by going to take a look at the local bulletin board or you could walk by a bulletin attached to a lamp post. Obviously you might get lucky and walk right into something interesting that’s happening. These require you to physically be at a specific location and also at a specific time. Being at the right place at the right time isn’t something that happens without effort. This way of getting hyperlocal information is relevant to you regarding its location, but you might not necessarily be interested in it. So, even if you are at the right place at the right time, you still might not be interested in what’s going on.

Another way to get hyperlocal information is to hear about it. You could for example be talking to your neighbour and they mention something about a local event. This is great, but your neighbour might not be aware of your interests or aware of all the things going on around you. Actually, most of our neighbours aren’t walking bulletin boards so we tend to rely on social networks. Seeing something posted to a group on a social network site usually means that it’s interesting to us, but then the location aspect could be a little vague. Facebook for example thinks “near” is in the city you live in. In most cities this “near” might mean hours of transportation. Currently social networks tend to do a poor job at linking their information to a specific location. Established places such as cafés, restaurants and museums can post their information to their social media outlets, but then you do have to be part of that group to receive the information.

Let’s say there’s an open picnic at the local park. The organizer of this event doesn’t own the park nor does the park have any kind of social media presence. How would the organizer reach out to people interested? This kind of grassroot information is usually missed also due to the sheer amount of information posted to social media sites. Unless you scroll all the way down to your new notifications list of all your social networks, you might be missing out on fun stuff.

On one hand if you are there, you might not be interested. On the other hand you might be interested, but you are not there. Due to the nature of hyperlocal information it stays hidden and is usually only available to the people already spending time in near the particular area it happens. Furthermore, even spending time in the area is sometimes not enough since you have to be at the right place at the right time to receive the information. You might walk by the poster on the lamp post and not notice it. You might even be part of the social network group that shares the hyperlocal information of your area, but you might miss the update. Often the social network group you are in is spread out over such a large area that most of posts aren’t that relevant to you. Thus, hyperlocal information is usually presented in a way that is difficult to reach.

What if there was a way to stay in touch with what’s happening near you without having to worry about privacy or missing things you are interested in? That’s what we are trying to do with #hylo. Check out more about #hylo at http://hylo.mygeotrust.org

– Mikko Rönneberg

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