social network site to launch from H’burg

Brent Finnegan -- June 21st, 2008

In 2002, before MySpace and Facebook were household names, Ronnie Rodes had an idea for a social networking site in Houston that was geared more toward families and homeowners than high school or college students. But he didn’t have the resources to execute a social networking site at the time.

Six years later, with the help of Google and a local PR/communications company, NeighborhoodFriends.com is ready to launch from Harrisonburg

Full disclosure: I have close ties to two people involved in the promotion of the site.

Ronnie’s cousin, Mike Rodes, lives in Harrisonburg. Mike enlisted EEM, a local communications firm to create the site. If you take the preview tour, you can tell from the Google Maps screenshots that it’s local. Mike says the site wasn’t possible until Google opened up their mapping aps.

The general idea behind the site is similar to Facebook or MySpace, but the primary purpose is to connect users with people that live near them. From the Maryland-based Gazette.net:

[Rodes] sensed an unfilled niche in major social networking — a Web site where parents could see Amber Alerts for their area, sign up for local book clubs or search for neighbors with common interests […]
The site would be a virtual companion to block parties or National Night Out events where neighbors mingle with one another […]
Rodes faces a challenge in competing with youth-populated sites such as Facebook.com and MySpace.com.

NeighborhoodFriends.com will need half a million unique visitors to succeed, Rodes said. His goal for the first month, July, is to sign up 100,000 new users.

The site is set to launch July 1. Rodes is hoping to get a head start in several North American cities, including Houston, Bethesda, and Harrisonburg.

16 Responses to “social network site to launch from H’burg”

  1. Emmy says:

    This site was listed up on the screen at my church on Sunday, so the word is getting out there. Looking forward to it!

  2. Mason says:

    Wow! That’s fantastic! Does he have a press release we could put up on Harrisonburg blogs? I would love to help something like that take off any way I could. It’s like Facebook, Meetup, and Craigslist all at once.

  3. Mason says:

    Ronnie got in touch with me not long after I posted that comment. His press release can be found here: The Press Room

  4. Sarah says:

    this looks fantastic! what an amazing concept – i haven’t gotten into social networking until now, because it never seemed worth it to me, but this is brilliant.

  5. Tina says:

    I like this idea! I’m a little iffy, though, about putting my address on a website. I guess I shouldn’t be – almost any personal information can be found by just a click or two on-line. Yeah, it helps to hook up with real neighbors, but it also can leave one feeling a little vulnerable.

    Anyone else have reservations about that?

  6. I’m curious to see how it will work out. From the press release….

    Ronnie Rodes says, “One of the main causes for not knowing our neighbors is the invention of the garage door opener. We drive off to work and then come home without ever having to get out of the car so we never see or get to know who’s around us.”

    I think this is a chicken/egg situation, though perhaps NeighborhoodFriends will help us figure out which came first! :) Do people incidentally not socialize with their neighbors because of the garage door opener, or did the garage door opener become popular because people didn’t want to socialize with their neighbors??

  7. Mike Rodes says:

    Tina brings up a valid point. That I addressed in the interview. Your address is not displayed unless you choose for that to be public. An icon is put in your general area on the map but only you name and photo(if you put on) will be displayed. The site has tiering. So lets say I want may address and phone number to be public you choose for that to be displayed. You also have options that your contacts can only see some info about you but your friends can see it all. You set what you want to be seen by the tiering your friends, contacts and what you want public for everyone to see.

    One other thing we forget is the white pages have been around a long time and your address has been displayed in there if you have a land line. But at least with neighborhoodfriends.com you can choose who sees your address.

    Thanks for asking!!

    Scott also brings up a good point. But typically people when they move into an area always ask what are the neighbors like. Or at least what is the neighborhood like. By knowing your neighbors brings safety and security to the neighborhood plus a feeling like you belong to neighborhood and the community.

  8. finnegan says:

    The DNR ran this story today, and got the name of the website wrong (myneighborhoodfriends.com instead of neighborhoodfriends.com).

    Sort of defeats the purpose.

  9. Emmy says:

    D’oh

  10. Brad Jenkins says:

    I find the whole social-networking trend fascinating. People seem to really crave community, but they want it in an anonymous way — being able to interact with people from behind the computer screen. And in the case of networking with your neighbors, it seems a bit odd that I would want to connect simply through the computer. Why not just head over to their house and say hi, invite them over for a meal, etc. And I say that while admitting I don’t know many of my neighbors; but if I did want to engage them in community, it would seem to be more effective if I developed a real relationship with them.

  11. Mike Rodes says:

    I have contacted the DNR to run a correction tomorrow. However, it may get stuck on the back page. Would someone from here contact them as well and let them know of the correct name? This is not good!!! Anyway I will be on Daybreak tomorrow morning.

  12. Frank J Witt says:

    Hey Brent, didn’t the original post include the name that is wrong as well? Not trying to be picky, just making sure I get it right.

    Thanks

  13. Josh says:

    I think social networking sites can be way cool, but when I read about this one, I felt a sense of dread: here’s yet-another website I have to log in to and maintain. In a sense, it’s work. Friendster, Facebook, MySpace, LinkedIn, Flickr and now this.

    That being said, it sounds like a great concept and I wish them the best. I’ve already signed up for more information.

    I’m all for easier communication with my neighbors. I’d settle for something a little more low-tech to begin with, like say a mailing list for my street/neighborhood. Some sort of opt-in program orchestrated by the city would be fantastic.

  14. Emmy says:

    Site is working and people are joining! Great job!

  15. It looks like there are still some bugs to be worked out on the site. (To be expected, since it’s only Day 1)…
    – How does someone add another user as their “Friend”? I see “Add to Contacts” but that doesn’t seem to do much.
    Some pages seem to be missing their formatting
    – the site seems very slow (is it just me?)

    It will be interesting to see how the functionality develops over time.

    Good work Ronnie & Mike!

  16. Josh says:

    FYI I’ve started a group for hburgnews readers:

    http://neighborhoodfriends.com/groups/index/id/33

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