Re: Neighborhood List [Was: Security policies and security infrastructure for parking lots or entire sites]
From: Sharon Villines (
Date: Sat, 15 Jan 2011 09:28:13 -0800 (PST)
On 15 Jan 2011, at 11:03 AM, Douglas G. Larson wrote:

>> "What has made the biggest difference, is the neighborhood list. "
> Could you give more detail about the list you speak of?
> Is this a listserv list similar to this Cohousing-L list or is it something 
> different all together? You mention software that is/could/must be purchased. 
> Please give more detail about that.

In the 1990s, free email discussion lists were unavailable so a computer 
consultant purchased a software that provided the "post office" function. I 
forget the name of the software, but it was supplanted by e-Groups, then 
YahooGroups. The list functions just like this group in the sense that anyone 
could join and send messages. The technology was all that changed, along with 
more moderation as the list grew. 

In addition to be being asked, I provide more information because I think 
understanding how lists work also facilitates the formation of cohousing groups 
and of integration of cohousing groups into the neighborhood. They are a means 
of communication that is available to everyone with a computer (now almost 
everyone) immediately, as long as they have a telephone line, which almost 
everyone does. While face-to-face may have some advantages in some situations, 
it is hardly available as quickly or 24/7. The few who do not have access can 
buddy-up with a neighbor who does and be warned or informed by them. People do 
post for others.

Some are predicting a societal move to social networks like FaceBook, Meet-up, 
etc. but I haven't found any of these services to have the immediacy and focus 
of a well-moderated list. By "moderated" I mean "facilitated" like a meeting. 
Someone has to over see the process of determining and enforcing the purposes 
of the list. What is the focus of discussion? What is off-topic? Exclude 
troublemakers. Monitor spam.

The chief advantage of the list, like this one, is information sharing, but it 
is also a way of getting to know people. I know who many people are from email 
list discussions that I will never meet in person. When our cohousing group was 
forming, I knew everyone from email because I was in Florida — several states 
away — until 3 months before move-in. I had to then learn to put faces together 
with people but I did that feeling that I was already part of the group. 
Without a list, many of us would have been excluded from those first two years 
of development.

The neighborhood list allows us to organize picnics, reform local business 
behavior, alert each other about traffic issues — anything related to living in 
a place. Gunshots at 3 am. Recipes for okra was a hot topic this summer. 
Refuting city claims that all the streets were plowed. That a local school 
official had been killed and when the funeral was. It builds community. Stop 
another pawn shop from opening. The list helped us organize residents so a 
local bar had to hire security guards anytime they had hip-hop bands playing 
because people were getting killed across the street from us. No security 
guards, no liquor license.

I moderate our list and trade off with a neighbor when it gets to hot for me — 
like when one person insists on posting material that has been declared 
off-topic and I'm about commit hari-kari. He gives it back when things get too 
hot for him — like when people start attacking his wife, a local neighborhood 

I believe that Cohousing-L, thanks to Fred, is also the best tool we have for 
forming cohousing communities. The Coho-USA website has grown and improved 
dramatically in the last few years, but for will over a decade, this list was 
the best information out there and continues to be the most responsive format. 
Websites are good places to organize and store information but they don't 
provide immediate responses.

For those who think email is a slow and unresponsive medium, my favorite 
rebuttal includes two stories. 

1. A cohousing neighbor had a teenager who was off the rails for a time. One 
day his sitter was unable to control the teen and locked himself and the other 
children in room and called me for help. I immediately put out an email to our 
internal list. I was only 10 ft from my door, when I turned a corner to see two 
people already at the unit door to help. 

2. My handyman drilled into a sprinkler pipe in my unit. First we tried to turn 
off all the water, then realized it was a sprinkler pipe. I had no idea what to 
do about a sprinkler so I put out an email. Then I started out my door to see 
if I could find anyone at home faster. By the time I got the door open a person 
was coming in. In a few minutes not only had the sprinkler system been shut 
down, but a crew of people were cleaning up the flood so fast, there was 
minimal damage to my wood floors.

The same thing happens on our neighborhood list. People post answers 
immediately, whether it is a government agency phone number and contact name or 
spotting a lost dog. I once asked why it was quieter when it snowed and someone 
who works at the Dept of the Environment responded about its acoustical 

When we no longer have a stay-at-home mom in every house, or even 25% of the 
houses and have so many neighbors that it takes a squad of 15 several days to 
get paper newsletters delivered at most once a  month, our list really makes us 
a neighborhood.

Sharon Villines
Takoma Village Cohousing, Washington DC

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