We are going hyperlocal

Hardly anyone knows who their neighbours are any more. But imagine if every road had a google email list, a street blog or a twitter feed. An email list removes the need for someone to design a leaflet, print it, deliver it, and respond to the tear off slips. That means that it’s a lot harder to write a joint letter to the council about litter and double parking.

I’ve long believed that these new tools of communication and self organisation do not just lend themselves to projects at a massive scale but also at a hyperlocal level.

As Benjamin Ellis says “we are going hyperlocal and it may just be the most disruptive stage of the Internet yet”


#1 Joseph on 11.30.08 at 3:16 am

Hi Tom,
Us TiB Fast Streamers were especially looking forward to meeting with you on the 25th this past week, but fully understand that No.10 came before us! We are planning further meet-ups soon and would very much appreciate it if you can attend and offer us some expert technological and political advice!

P.S. – My vote for the “50 people who should tweet” would go to Anne Widdecombe and then Boris Johnson…

#2 dreamingspire on 11.30.08 at 8:13 pm

Here we already have a local residents’ group web site and are actively pursuing our incompetent Council. What is central govt going to do about evening up the quality of LAs? The LG Ombudsman is having a very hard time digesting our material. (To be fair to the Council here, they have started on spring cleaning from the top down, but it is taking far too long.)

#3 Guy Fawkes on 11.30.08 at 8:20 pm

Marvellous idea. Then you can put it on a database with little crosses against dissenters and ticks for comrade Snitches.

#4 martyn on 11.30.08 at 11:48 pm

There is only me and 1 other residence in my street (the rest are shops), and that is a pub so they know me pretty well already!

Great idea though, but you’d have to rely on all neighbours being computer literate and having available access, in my Mums street for instance half the neighbours are elderly, immobile and do not own computers.

#5 Matt Collins on 12.01.08 at 3:06 am

Hi Tom,

Couldn’t agree more.

Enough households are online these days that this has become a great, easy way to connect neighbours.

IMHO, one big barrier remaining is that someone still has to take the initiative to go round to all the neighbours to get them to sign up (and start using it) in the first place.

If we could somehow help/encourage more people to do that… then we’d really be rocking.

#6 Martin on 12.01.08 at 11:09 am

Hardly anyone knows who their neighbours are any more.

Speak for yourself. There again I have been a Street Rep for my resident’s association and knocked on every door in the street, plus leafleted much of North Watford with the Green Party.

#7 Richard Pope on 12.01.08 at 12:40 pm

This is worth reading as an example of the impact of such groups: http://www.chass.toronto.edu/~wellman/publications/neighboring/neighboring_netville.pdf

A site I built for mySociety called groupsenaryou.com is trying to map existing groups. And I’m currently working on streetwire.org which is doing something simular.

#8 Primly Stable on 12.01.08 at 2:54 pm

You’d want to sort out digital exclusion issues first – there’s lots of great stuff you can do with the internet but it shouldn’t be at the expense of people who don’t have (or don’t want) access to it.

It’s like putting the car tax system online and then closing all the Post Offices.

#9 Breezy on 12.02.08 at 9:32 am

It is amazing how meaningful community web sites become to people. Forums / discussions boards are the fifth dimension in my area with everything from noise complaints to restaurant review and local services. It’s all good until it becomes the target for abuse. The other side of the argument is that we should probably be discouraging an over dependence on the solitary virtual life. It reminds me of psychology experiments where rats had one part of their brain stimulated and the pleasure sensation overrode their every other instinct or impulse including hunger and thirst. Eventually they just died. Is that becoming a human dilemma? Our bodies are becoming over cumbersome now that we have huge hard drives and artificial processors and virtual worlds.

#10 An evening with Tom Watson, Peter Mandleson and the Digital Pioneers | Mobile Industry Review on 12.02.08 at 10:07 am

[…] his recent post on the possibility of having a Google Email List for every street in the UK, or a Twitterfeed for every street in the UK. That would be genius. Can you imagine the possibilities that would […]

#11 Kalvir Sandhu on 12.02.08 at 12:42 pm


This is a very interesting area. We at hopHive started working on this topic by building a platform to start

I too believe these technologies could bring communities together again in a self organising way, provide a voice to people.

Yes one of the challenges as outlined earlier by Matt is getting users on a website but if there was a reason for people to go a website then the goodness will begin.

If local authorities could push campaigns or discussion through a micro-blogging/blog type platform we could start getting users online. Or perhaps housing authorities to use one technology and target a specific area, push information to them. We are looking at SMS and print outs to get users aware and engaging with content.

The other issue is the definition of the word community. People view local and community in different ways (it could be just wanting to know what’s going on at the pub and the train station or everything including school notices, GP notices, Council, etc).

We are attempting to tackle the issue by giving the users the ability to create the view of local that they want, the information streams of their choice, local your way.

With digital exclusion, most people have phones, setting up alerts and the ability to post information via SMS will open doors for more people to not have to go an internet cafe.

But I do understand that there will always be a percentage of users that don’t use any such technology, which is why I see this as not a solution to replace current systems but rather to enhance what is currently in place, allow others to start discussing their local issues and perhaps do something about it.

#12 tim f on 12.02.08 at 7:05 pm

“You’d want to sort out digital exclusion issues first – there’s lots of great stuff you can do with the internet but it shouldn’t be at the expense of people who don’t have (or don’t want) access to it.”


However I do like the idea of sending an rss note to everyone in my street that I’ve run out of eggs and the shop’s shut, so could anyone lend me a couple.

#13 An evening with Tom Watson, Peter Mandleson and the Digital Pioneers | Mobile News on 12.03.08 at 3:50 am

[…] his recent post on the possibility of having a Google Email List for every street in the UK, or a Twitterfeed for every street in the UK. That would be genius. Can you imagine the possibilities that would […]

#14 marcus on 12.03.08 at 10:28 pm


I totally agree with what you are saying. We are currently living in a “social networking boom” and to a lesser degree, Location Intelligence, which is growing experientially. Combining the two is starting to emerge in certain areas but is in its infancy. I work for a cutting edge LI company, and we are doing some truly amazing things with Google maps; far beyond simply putting pins on a map.

We can now take numerous and complex data sets and enable a genuine search and mapping functionality to it. However, the question is; how do you empower local people with local issues and information to properly utilise such capabilities?

I live in a small village in Northants, and I rarely know much about what is going on. Now I concede that this is my own fault to a certain extent as, like a lot of people, I spend most of my time either working, or spending precious moments with my little boy. I therefore, have no time (or feel I have no time) to actually meet and form relationships with my small community. I get the usual paper based things through the door such as local news letter run by the Rector, notice of a fund raising event, a few people promoting a manual service they can provide etc. So, when I can I leave a few bin bags of unwanted clothes, toys and the like. I feel, due to my so hectic lifestyle, that is enough. However, it really isn’t, and I feel it would be great if I could, in this day and age, be electronically informed of all the important things that are going on in my village.

So, how could a LI based information portal help me? Firstly, and this is just thinking off the top of my head, I could have an online calendar of all upcoming events. Secondly, I notice many cars who leave the village at about the same time as me, most of which go in the same direction, and in fact some of which I have noticed go to within 800 yards of where I work, could we share the ride?

To summarise, I think what I am saying is; we could enhance the current growth in “social networking”, to include Location Intelligence, this could include:

local news letters
particular local events ( my village recently had a “church tidy up” asking for volunteers to cut, mow, dust, Hoover and polish etc)
Walk or car share for school runs
Share cars to work (being a village, most people either go to one of two nearest towns or the train station for London)
Things for sale..or free…(I have things I give away to freecycle, would be good to give to someone in village)

etc etc,

anyway, just some thoughts.

#15 Robert Sharp » Blog Archive » Linklog for 25th November to 4th December on 12.04.08 at 5:04 pm

[…] Hyperlocal networks – Tom Watson MP: The most disruptive stage of the Internet? […]

#16 James Munro on 12.04.08 at 6:20 pm

I had some experience of a neightbourhood email group as chair of a communiy association a couple of years ago. It worked extremely well, supplementing our monthly meetings with a wider group of people who just wanted to stay in the loop.
It spawned a running group, and dance group and a gardening group and is still going strong.
A constant theme with such things is: how do you move from virtual to real world activities? And how can the real world be supported by the virtual?
We’re thinking about this again now in the context of Patient Opinion: how do you move from online feedback to better services in the real world? And how do you report those changes back onto the web?

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