Why I Use EveryBlock, Everyday

Mar142014

When EveryBlock came back online January 23, I jumped right in and have paid a visit most days since, for a simple reason: I find information there that’s not available anywhere else.

My wife and I were regulars before the 2013 hiatus, sitting together on the couch watching TV while browsing the feed for our Rogers Park neighborhood. There was always something interesting, maddening, hilarious or just plain newsworthy on EveryBlock. Sometimes we would contribute news items or comments, but often we just watched the flow and said “Did you see what so-and-so just posted?” or “Wow, that comment thread about this-or-that is really getting out of hand.”

We’re back and so are many of the old regulars, most recently posting (repeatedly) about Jewel-Osco taking over the vacant Dominick’s at Clark and Howard; about some clay pots and soil that a neighbor would like to give away; about a socialist running for alderman against Joe Moore (himself an EveryBlock regular); and about a new planning process for North Broadway in Edgewater. And yeah, about the potholes.

I follow Rogers Park, Edgewater and Uptown to track what’s going on in those areas. I often filter to show only building permits, to learn right away about any demolitions or new construction. I get excited when I find something in that open-data stream that would never make the newspapers, or is too difficult to track in other ways.

I also use EveryBlock for professional purposes, keeping tabs on neighborhoods served by LISC Chicago, where I lead the communications team. When LISC-supported websites like the Pilsen Portal post stories, they’re picked up automatically as a Media Mention, along with news from other sources like DNAinfo or LoganSquarist. Some of our neighborhood partners post their own news and events on EveryBlock, and I’ve put up some relevant links myself.

No question about it: EveryBlock helps neighborhoods share information, and that’s a healthy thing.

Unfortunately, not every community has an adequate user base to keep things interesting, so in those neighborhoods it is in our interests to help build a stronger community of users who post, comment or just follow the stream. As for the more active neighborhoods like Rogers Park, sometimes the rhetoric gets a bit heavy or absurd, and the trolls come out. So that has to be managed, too, either with the Mute button or by marking something Unneighborly.

What’s exciting to me, a news junkie for 30 years, is that in Chicago we have access to an innovative and powerful platform for sharing information. Let’s nurture this thing and make it even more valuable as an instrument of neighborhood vitality.

- Patrick Barry, Rogers Park

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