An interesting new community site launched this morning. And by community, I mean real community: the street you live on. StreetAdvisor is a place to rate your block and meet your neighbors.
The rating system lets you review your street on five main scales (vibe, wired, health, value, essentials), each of which has subscores (for example, the wired scale includes a cellular coverage score). That's a lot of ratings to give, but you can, if you want, just give the main overview scores.
You can also upload video tours of your street, which could be a great resource for people looking to move on to a particular street. It's usefulness, however, depends on people reviewing and rating their streets honestly. It also assumes that real estate pros don't try to game the system by artificially inflating streets on which they have houses for sale (or dragging down scores on streets where they don't). The co-founders told me that have measures in place are in place to help prevent that.
For residents of a particular street, the system's "StreetBoard" also serves as a local resource. It's a social network with an open message board ("StreetShout") for street-related discussion with your neighbors. It also has a wiki-like element: You can find the numbers of local services (police, doctors, post offices) or enter them yourself for others to see.
When I heard about StreetAdvisor, I was eager to try it out, since I need to coordinate some fence repairs with neighbors. However, I can already see a problem with the service: The linear, street-based nature of it means will offer a lot of information about my street, which runs through several neighborhoods in San Francisco, but I won't see the information from people around the corner from me who have addresses on a different street. That's a real drag because my backyard shares a fence with some of these houses, and I consider them my neighbors more than the residents who live in houses a block down. The founders say they plan to address this issue soon.
Also, this service won't be of value to anyone unless several people per street join the online community. It's going to be lonely for StreetAdvisor pioneers. The company plans to market its site to streets and neighborhoods by using direct mail and local papers.
There are other things I can't let go by without a mention. I like that you can rate cellular coverage. Unfortunately, however, you can't rate it by carrier, a system that might work in Australia (where the service was created), where all service is GSM, but here in the states, carrier ratings are key to the data.
Obviously, I'm critical of this service, but that's not because I think it's a bad idea. To the contrary: the service is nicely designed and could offer a lot of utility. It needs refinement, but I want it to succeed because, personally, I need it. Meantime, I recommend Yelp as a resource to talk about neighborhood services.
Mashable also has a useful write-up on the StreetAdvisor service.