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The Anonymity Debate

Mar122014

EveryBlock LogoThe ongoing debate over whether users should be allowed to remain anonymous on social websites isn’t black and white. While public profiles allow for greater transparency and open dialogue, the risk of harassment, both online and in real life, is of major concern.

On the flipside, anonymous posting allows users to feel more comfortable sharing their opinions, but also encourages improper behavior for some, due to the lack of serious consequence (aside from being banned on the site).

We believe there is no right or wrong answer to this debate. However, many users have brought into question whether or not we should adopt more stringent authentication policies for users to sign-in and use EveryBlock.

Currently, users can sign up for EveryBlock in three ways: directly on the site, via Facebook, and via Twitter. Those who sign up via Facebook and Twitter are directly linked to those profiles. Those who sign up directly on the site create their profile at the same time. They can choose whether or not to use their real name and information.

Part of the debate is whether or not people have been educated enough to act smartly online. There are guidelines on EveryBlock (and other sites) that always encourage users to refrain from posting personal data on public forums, whether that be a photo, phone number, address, or place of work. This also includes information like your schedule (ex: I go to Starbucks on Michigan Ave. every morning at 7). Often times, those who run in to trouble online could avoid it by simply acting smartly and not oversharing.

We know that some situations are inevitable. There will always be people online who seek to do harm and invade the privacy of others. Obviously, we work hard to make sure those types of people are banned from using the site. But we also look to you as the EveryBlock Community to help us maintain levels of decency and security (ex: the unneighborly button, the feedback form).

We’d like your feedback on how we can make EveryBlock a balance between open, constructive dialogue, while still protecting the privacy of those who wish to maintain it. Please feel free to reply in the comments, our Feedback Form, or let us know on our Facebook or Twitter pages.


Advertising vs. New Business Posts

Mar112014

We are always excited and happy to see local businesses as part of the EveryBlock community. In fact, information about businesses is one of the most commonly discussed topics on EveryBlock; be it openings, closings, community promotions, or fundraisers.

However, one criteria for removing business-related posts–according to our guidelines –is if it is an advertisement.

An advertisement contains a call to action to spur consumer behavior, such as “shop at my store”, “buy my products”, or “pay for my service”.

When it comes to posting on EveryBlock, a post found to be an advertisement differs from a basic local business post for the reason stated above – a call to action. Local business posts should be used to alert neighbors that there is a new business, promote a community event that the business supports or to ask for or respond to recommendations. There should be no solicitation to buy or sell anything.

If a call to action from a business or service appears in a post, it will be treated as an advertisement and removed.  If you have any questions on the removal policy you can read more here or send the question directly to us here.

We continue to think of how to best support local business and would love your ideas and suggestions.  If you have ANY ideas you would like to share, please let us know in the comments below or send us a note.


How to Publish on EveryBlock

Mar052014

If your organization or site is a publisher on EveryBlock, there are some simple steps you can take to ensure that your blog post or article will be seen as a media mention, and to get users to respond and comment on it.

1. Make sure you include an specific address, intersection, street block or neighborhood in the post. This allows EveryBlock’s geotagging capabilities to determine which locations on the site the article should be shown. Please note: posts that do not have any location information do not show up on EveryBlock.

2. Make sure your content is relevant to the area (street, neighborhood, Ward) to which your post is referring. EveryBlock users care about their neighborhoods; the people, places, and happenings. Also remember that good headlines, opening lines, and thoughtful content are important.

3. Use the site to engage residents and citizens. This will make them more likely to notice your content and to interact with you.

And, as always, in media mentions, EveryBlock only publishes the first paragraph, and always links back to the original article.

If you’d like to suggest a publisher show up as an EveryBlock media mention, please let us know via our Feedback Form, or message us on Facebook or Twitter.


Reasons For Removal On EveryBlock

Mar032014

On EveryBlock, there are many reasons that might warrant the removal of a message or comment:

Harmful Material – including profanity, indecency, and things that create unnecessary panic

Inappropriate Content – racism, discrimination

Personal Attack – name-calling or disparaging another user in a public post

Spam – off topic posts, multiple posts of the same content

Repeatedly Flagged - multiple unneighborly votes

Advertisements – either for new businesses, existing businesses, or for-profit events

Libel – defamation by written or printed words

Privacy Violation – revealing another user’s personal information without their consent

Copyright Violation – reproducing or displaying a copyrighted work without permission

Please remember to abide by our Community Guidelines when posting. Violations of the Community Guidelines could result in suspension of your EveryBlock account.

If you see a message or comment that violates the Guidelines, including any of the above, please flag it using the Unneighborly button. At any time, you can let our staff know about any violations or further questions on our feedback page.

We appreciate your help in sharing the responsibility to make discussions on EveryBlock productive and beneficial to all who participate.


Staying Civil on EveryBlock

Feb262014

Along with going off-topic and trolling, another issue that arises on EveryBlock is that even if the content of a comment is on-topic, a negative tone is just as alienating. Someone could post a logical answer to a query, or give sound information, but if that person comes off as rude or brusque, then readers might not even notice that they, in fact, answered the question. Good “netiquette” is an evolving process, but the main point is that, as with any dialogue, pay attention to not only what you say, but how you say it.

There’s an old, yet relevant New York Times op-ed on the power of internet comments. Check it out here: http://www.nytimes.com/2013/03/03/opinion/sunday/this-story-stinks.html?_r=1&

We hope that conversations on EveryBlock will continue to help improve neighborhoods through the spread and discussion of local information. But remember to stay on-topic and stay civil. For more information on how to post, please visit our Comment Policy.


The Negative Effects of Trolling

Feb252014

No matter what type of thread, some EveryBlock (and indeed, internet) users will deliberately try to stir up conflict by writing something off-topic or offensive. These types of users are commonly referred to as “trolls”.

Recently, Slate published an article on Internet Trolling. Trolling not only throws threads off-topic, but diminishes the value of the discussion and antagonizes those who want to make meaningful contributions. We try our best to stay out discussions, and only intervene in the event that posts contain personal attacks or have nothing of value to add.

Along with our own moderation, we look to dedicated EveryBlock users to help us flag those types of users either by using the Unneighborly button, or sending us Feedback.


Off-topic Posts on EveryBlock

Feb242014

One of the quickest ways to derail a thread on EveryBlock is to post something off-topic. Your neighbors are having a discussion on how a new grocery store will impact the community, and someone posts about their groceries, but also their heating bill, which causes the discussion to morph away from the original topic and on to the subject of heating, weather, and whatever else might arise.

Just like in-person conversations, it’s easy for people to get sidetracked. Sometimes it’s because someone made a joke, or says something that doesn’t quite fit in with the rest of the dialogue, or attacks a user rather than address the topic of discussion. We encourage conversations that are relevant to your neighborhoods, and hope that those conversations help you build meaningful local connections within the community.

When posting on EveryBlock, please try to keep the discussions on-topic, and, as always, let us know if you have any feedback on ways to help moderate the site.


Communicating in EveryBlock

Feb062014

Knowing what to share and not share in an EveryBlock post can be tricky sometimes, especially for new users. When communicating with other users via EveryBlock, it’s important to follow some basic guidelines.

Know what you are posting

It is important to specify the category when posting a neighbor message. This creates a more organized experience for all other EveryBlock users to view content based on their interests.

EB_Categories

For an in-depth look at the different types of neighbor message categories, read our previous blog post.

Events

If you post an event on behalf of a nonprofit or community organization, please be sure to list the organization at the top of your post, and include a link to the organization’s website if available. This allows staff to determine what posts are considered self-promotional advertisements. (We’ll explain more about advertisements in a future blog post).

Avoid Posting Personal Information

Do not post your personal information in a neighbor message or comment. This includes phone numbers, addresses, and emails. Any information posted in a neighbor message or comment will be public for all users to see. If you wish to provide personal information to another user, please do so “offline” via private message. However, giving contact info for a local business, if a user asks for recommendations in a specific area, is alright.

Feedback and Help pages

The EveryBlock Feedback Form and Help pages are good to review, even for seasoned users. You can find guidelines, sample posts, and further ways to interact with the EveryBlock community. (Try to get the Blockstar badge!)


EveryBlock Posting Basics

Jan282014

Through EveryBlock, we are excited to support open, but informative, respectful and civil conversations. Posting inappropriate content, personal attacks or advertisements, as well as revealing private information about others should be avoided and will be removed. (For a full list of  content not to post, see our Community Guidelines.)

We’re asking for your help!

If you see a post that does any of the above, or is offensive in any way, please click the “UNNEIGHBORLY” button, which appears under a comment or post. Clicking the Unneighborly button flags the post for review by our moderation team.

However, while it is important for us all to help grow a civil community by reporting the problem posts or comments, it is just as important to thank those who are providing a great addition to the site, by using the THANKS button!

Are you bothered by the posts of a particular user or entire conversation? You can “mute” any person and hide their posts or comments from your experience on EveryBlock. By clicking the “X” in the upper right corner of a post, it won’t appear on your homepage or email digest.

For more information on THANKS, UNNEIGHBORLY, and MUTE, visit our Glossary.

We truly value your opinions, so please let us know if you have any thoughts or comments through our Feedback form.


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