Community Sharing: There's an App for That

by Kamal Patel


Thanks to a Facebook application called The Needle, sharing just became a whole lot easier. Working with the Knight Foundation, Jeff Reifman of created The Needle as an open-source application to help encourage young people to become more involved and connected to their local communities. The app allows users to do this by sharing both items and ideas with their local networks. Users can borrow items instead of buying them, find new homes for unwanted items instead of trashing them, and post and discuss issues that affect them and their local communities.

By connecting with other community members online, you can find out quickly who needs what, and who has stuff to share. But what differentiates The Needle from other free recycling sites like Freecycle or even Craigslist, is that you have the opton of privacy, because you can elect to share only with people who are part of your Facebook community or a specific Facebook group. Though it's not always necessary to restrict sharing to a certain population, the option lends a level of trust that could facilitate sharing of certain objects that users prefer to keep inside of a known community.

Here's how it works: The application itself is arranged into a series of topics. "Things," is where you can post items that you want to borrow, lend, or give away for free. (Another useful feature on "Things" is you can search for items by category or keyword). Users get a certain amount of points for adding items, ideas or links as well as for partaking in discussions. People with the most amount of points get placed on to a special leaders' board.

What really bridges community into this revolutionary concept are the topics, for "Ideas," "News" and "Talk" where members can share articles and talk about issues that matter to them regarding their local communities and groups. This participatory model could revolutionize the way people access their local news media. Reifman recently stated that he believes that "many newspaper organizations are not understanding the power and effectiveness of the concept of two way publishing as used on Facebook. Facebook leverages community and conversation; the Needle uses that leverage to engage local communities."

It seems the Needle could help our real world communities get a little closer through the help of our virtual world. It will be interesting to see if and how the gift of giving and sharing will help the world of Seattle and Facebook get a little smaller.

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