If you are looking for ideas for your story or your novel, or characters to populate them, you need to join Nextdoor. Nextdoor is an online social network (isn’t everything, in some way?) which is organized around neighborhoods which are close to you. You just go to, sign up, and you find yourself with access to all sorts of things, such as reports of suspicious activity, questions about what is permitted locally (and what isn’t), recommendations for everything from home power washing specialists and auto mechanics to tree trimmers and appliance repairmen, and lost and found (I’ll talk a little more about that last one in a minute). Once you’re a member of Nextdoor you get emails when someone posts about a topic such as an injured deer in their yard or a street closure, and you can answer back or post on a topic thread. You can also just read the threads that are posted, watching the occasional disagreement get contentious and then settle down a bit. It’s a bit like Facebook (Nextdoor’s less civil cousin) with its “like” button, except that Nextdoor has a “thank” button instead and for the most part forbids political discussions. After a bit of reading, you can dope out the personalities of your neighbors, whether close by or several streets away, and quickly determine what gets whose undies in a bunch fairly quickly. It is entertaining at the least and occasionally functions as a real-time and constantly evolving cozy mystery setting or, yes, a domestic thriller.  You really should check out the page for your area if you haven’t already.

About that lost and found topic that I mentioned earlier…folks in my area use that primarily for locating or reuniting lost dogs or cats who slip the tether and make a jailbreak for what they consider to be the greener pastures of next door or the next street. Such happened in my own immediate neighborhood last week. My backdoor neighbors have two small children and a dachshund. The dog, named Heika, is blind, but gets around quite well, doing that happy, bouncy doidy-doidy-doidy walking rhythm that dachshunds do. Heika occasionally wanders over to my back door, having learned that the sucker who lives there is always ready with a dog treat. The family’s grandmother is often there watching the two children, who are as polite and well-behaved as any two kids I’ve encountered recently, and I occasionally sit and watch them interact, wondering how the grandmother somehow manages to keep them all corralled.

So. Last Thursday night I was at a local coffeehouse waiting for my AA meeting to start and happened to see that I had gotten a Nextdoor email with the heading “Found weiner type dog.” I opened it and found a photo of Heika doing a Nextdoor star turn courtesy of my next door neighbor, who had found her wandering on our street. Heika had done a Papillon from her loving family one street over in the mistaken belief that the world beyond her marked territory was as nice and friendly as the world within. Dachshunds are the second cousins to beagles but they share that “clever but not smart” inclination to wander that gets them in trouble. I got on the phone, contacted my next door neighbor, contacted Heika’s mommy, and doggy and family were reunited within three minutes of Heika’s photo being posted. My meeting started and all was well with the world, or at least a little corner of it. The ability to do that justifies Nextdoor’s existence all by itself, to my mind.

Do yourself a favor and check Nextdoor out. Even if you don’t contribute you can get a really good idea of what your community is like, not to mention populating your works of fiction with myriad characters or a reasonable facsimile thereof. Maybe you’re already familiar with it. If so, do you have a story to share?


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About Joe Hartlaub

Joe Hartlaub is an attorney, author, actor and book and music reviewer. Joe is a Fox News contributor on book publishing industry and publishing law and has participated on several panels dealing with book, film, and music business law. He lives with his family in Westerville, Ohio.

24 thoughts on “Nextdoor

  1. Thanks for sharing, Angie. What Stein describes certainly isn’t what I’ve experienced locally. I guess it just depends on where you live. If one were thinking of relocating to a different locale checking the local Nextdoor site could certainly either confirm the wisdom of your choice or cause you to reconsider it!

  2. Because of Nextdoor in my part of Atlanta, I was made aware of coyote and bear sightings in my old neighborhood. Those sightings fit nicely into my WIP. I was used to seeing and hearing coyotes in AZ, but was surprised about GA.

    • Thank you, Laurie. The same thing happens here in Westerville, though we haven’t seen any bears yet. Coyotes, foxes, and deer, deer, deer…and all are duly reported.

  3. Joe, “that happy, bouncy doidy-doidy-doidy walking rhythm that dachshunds do” made me laugh out loud b/c it’s such a spot-on description. Why am I not surprised that you keep dog treats on hand for canine visitors?

    We’ve often joked that wandering dogs must put a mark on our door as soft touches, the same way Depression-era hobos would mark houses where they could get a free meal or a hand-out. Just stopping by to say hi and, oh, thank you, I will take a milk bone or six.

    In the past, I’ve run newspaper or radio ads or done door-to-door detective work. Nextdoor sounds like a more effective option to reunite lost pets with their families.

    On the grim side, the sheriff’s department posts an online map with addresses of convicted violent/sexual offenders. Scary and sad to see how many there are in a small town.

    Always look forward to your posts b/c they make me (1) laugh, (2) cry, (3) learn something new. Thanks, Joe.

    • You are always way too kind to me, Debbie. Thank you so much. I also have a box of dog treats that I keep in my car. Don’t tell anyone, but I like dogs much better than people as a group.

      I am very familiar with that sheriff’s department database. I regularly check my daughters’ and grandaughter’s neighborhood on it. The ability to check whether such individuals are working in the area is particularly useful. Thanks for the reminder.

  4. Love Nextdoor! Am a member down in Tallahassee, where I have used it get find a new home for a giant Gauguin print I had no room for and to unload a ton of sturdy moving boxes! Also read many happy-ending pet reunion stories, find out about unscrupulous lawn guys AND found a home for a pet rabbit I found in drainage ditch.

    plus their sign-up and contact system keeps the Craigslist Creeps from your doorstep.

    • Just for fun, I just looked up today’s lead item in my Nextdoor. Someone is searching for “Mr. Stumpy.” No, it’s not another dachshound. It’s some guy who apparently does a “fabulous job of moving tree stumps.”

    • Thanks, Kristy. I totally agree. I was howling about the “unscrupulous lawn guys,” since we have those here as well, not to mention the unscrupulous tree guys, the unscrupulous pest control guys, and the like. All were duly reported on our local Nexdoor. The general description of the lawn guys was an unmarked red truck with rakes hanging off the side, surly attitudes, and Florida plates!

      • LOLOL! This is soooo familiar. We have this guy who resurfaces every couple months who’s just known as Ed the Potty Mouth. He has a tree trimming service and berates you with purple language if you refuse him. I haven’t had a run-in with him….thanks to Nextdoor!

        And we have at least four entries of people trying to find alternatives to Comcast.

  5. Good afternoon, Joe. Yes, Debbie is correct. Your posts are always informative, emotional, and entertaining.

    I had never heard of Nextdoor until now. I’ll check it out. As you described it, I was reminded of the old telephones with the party lines – another good source of information regarding what was going on in town. They could have named Nextdoor, “Partyline.”

    You mentioned Nextdoor as a source for story ideas. Just before reading your post, I cleaned out my junk mail. One item caught my eye – one of those letters – “We represent your long lost uncle, who died and had no children, and you may have inherited a million dollars…” I always enjoy the creative lengths that the author uses to convince the addressee to contact him. And this morning, after a particularly amusing tale of a string of events, resulting in me possibly inheriting 30 million from a bank in Africa, I realized that there was fodder for a story idea mixed in with the bait.

    So maybe we need another website – “” – where writers can share the more creative phishing scams that they encounter.

    Thanks for the interesting post.

    • Good afternoon, Steve. You, like Debbie are always too good to me as well. Thank you.

      Scams are also reported on Nextdoor. The most popular ones seem to be 1) the “IRS” calls, threatens prosecution for back taxes, and intimidates the victim into buying Visa gift cards and mailing them to an address and 2) the caller impersonates a relative of the victim and alleges that they need money for ransom, bail, etc. wired to a certain number or address. We seem to get one or two of those a week in our little community and it is sad. My understanding is that someone — Frank Abagnale Jr. perhaps? — has a new book that will be published in a few months which will deal with new scams, particularly those targeting seniors, and how to avoid them. I’m looking forward to it. Thanks for that reminder, Steve. Hope you and Cindy are having a good weekend.

    • Thanks, Don! If you’re a dachshund owner then…you’re the best. No doubt about it.

  6. I had never heard of this app. Went ahead and signed up. The only time we ever see our neighbors is when we all lose power during a hurricane.

    Come to find out about half our neighbors are on it. Nice to have names to go with faces.

    • I hope you get some good use out of it, Cynthia. I’ve actually gotten to know some really good people in the area through it.

  7. Just checked it out. My neighborhood is so small that most of what I see comes from the entire county. Our HOA has a Facebook Group, as does the nearest “city”
    I signed up just to see what gives.

  8. I hope you like it, Terry. Our HOA has a Facebook page as well, but I find Nextdoor a little better suited for me as it’s easy to start and contribute to separate topics. Hope you enjoy!

    • You’re welcome, Sue. Thanks for stopping by. And you’re not late to the party because the party never stops at TKZ!

  9. Today, I read there were multiple police cars at the corner, and the police had their guns drawn on someone. I live in a “good” area.

  10. Lynne, I’m sorry to hear that. Bad things can happen even in a good area. I had a horrible thing happen in mine that I wrote about a few weeks back. It’s when they start becoming a regular occurrence that one has to take stock and see what has changed, then hopefully eliminate the problem.

    Quick story…when I go to New Orleans I stay at a boutique hotel outside of the Quarter. There was a 24 daiquiri bar about a block away that was ground zero for problems, radiating out a few blocks in each direction. A couple of years ago the bar was gone and a small art gallery put in its place. No more problems.

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