Is anyone using Drupal to connect their neighbors? (Twin Cities)

netclift's picture

I am looking for Drupal folks interested in experimenting with Drupal to connect the neighbors on their own block. (or two)

Who's in?

At a minimum, can provide pizza and beer for those interested in a little hack event to put together some tools.

In addition to the latest social media, we are interested in ideas and tools about how to reach people on urgent matters via text as well as DrupalVOIP options to reaching elderly neighbors with voicemail calls.

The hack event would be a couple of months from now in St. Paul or Minneapolis.

Steven Clift


I am in!

leofishman's picture

from Buenos Aires, Argentina

I am In

bapi_22's picture

I am In

I'm in

matthewboh's picture

Would love to know more about this capability!

Impari Systems, Inc.

I would come (calendar

zzolo's picture

I would come (calendar willing).

Me Too

wylbur's picture

Also interested in helping out with an e-Democracy project!

I am interested. I've got a

bryan kennedy's picture

I am interested. I've got a little bit of experience with phone related stuff--linking VXML call recording with a Drupal site.

Sounds like a great project!

JBack's picture

I am willing to help out.
Would love do to something where we could get live, up to date, police reports for your area. Or have some list of events going on in your area (for instance events at your local library). Voting, picnics, events at parks.

Sounds like a great framework for making things like this a reality (virtually).

Great Idea

mkmagu's picture

I think it's a great idea I'm willing to help but just starting to learn PHP I would not be able to travel but could help remotely.

Mary M.

stpaultim's picture

Pleased to see all the interest. I'm already involved in AND have been spending a lot of my personal time learning about Drupal in recent months, so I'm definitely interested.

Tim Erickson

I'm interested!!

dude4linux's picture

Early this year I started working on a Drupal 7 appliance using Turnkey Linux. See
I made good progress and have a working beta, but then my schedule got busy and I've had no time to complete the project.

My initial plan was to develop the Drupal 7 appliance, then use it as a base for adding Drupal VoIP, Freeswitch, BlueBox, & Plivo. Planned customer base was churches who need to contact people by phone, sms, etc.; local politicians who need website plus integrated phone system with phonebank capability; and any similar organizations that need to manage communications with groups of users. I'm currently involved with one of the active campaigns and have some ideas about where the IT group is failing to deliver. Hopefully will have some good lessons learned when this is over, but too busy to work on the project now.

Will be following this thread with great interest.
John C.

Information is free, knowledge is acquired, but wisdom is earned.

You are making my day!

netclift's picture

It is great to see all of the positive interest.

What kind of location is super pizza and beer friendly? I am think a couple months out.

Let me share some more detail/links:

  1. Projects/tools to leverage (perhaps)

What's missing?

  1. Pilot Context

My non-profit has a grant to connect neighbors online in St. Paul - - We connect them across 15+ communities.

We are bringing people into our existing very very public Neighbors Forum model using a python-based GPL tool: All most all of our money is in field outreach not tech, but we have some tech resources.

Within our grant, we have the option to pilot private electronic block clubs on a few lower income, highly diverse blocks in St. Paul. We also want to see e-blocks get connected in more places building on civic volunteer interest - like your block. We have serious issues with some of the .com sites that are emerging in the neighbor connecting space as well as how Facebook Groups do not give block leaders/connectors the tools they need to reach non/infrequent Facebook users. Reaching older residents is really key and those rarely online.

We envision a test on a block with high concentration of Hmong speakers for example:

We host an online group for "block connectors" who could be the non-tech leaders who might use an e-block tool:

We are open to testing e-block groups using various technologies to see what works for people. However, we love open source and want to see what the Drupal community can help make happen.

  1. Telephone/SMS/Web/FB/E-mail connections

Our philosophy is that you need to reach local people where they are via a unified technology experience. If you force people to chose one technology at a local level you cut your effort off from huge chunks of people.

With e-block clubs we need an "urgent" channel option that allows say 50 nearest neighbors to connect and when they need to reach people via an instant text, voice call with recorded message, e-mail, etc. We also need typical online community options like the weekly digest or web-only when you want option for non-urgent stuff.

Here is a use scenario:

In short, a scenario like this may be possible - a block leader receives important message from police and thinks it should be
forwarded to people on his/her block. He/she quickly forwards it via e-mail to the 30% of households on his block who have e-mail and speak English.

Then he/she picks up the phone calls a special number and conveys the information by recording a voice message in English but also Hmong, Spanish, Somali, etc. if they speak that language. Then automatically in the coming minutes the system calls one by one the 30% of households on the block who speak X language who are not online but for who contact information was collected and permission to robo-call on important matters was gathered.

Finally, for online savvy folks who want it, they could chose to be sent a text message with a link to the audio file to play from the
web or have it sent to them via e-mail.

Also in theory you could have a system where the Police might make available pre-recorded messages in various languages that a block leader could decide to forward.

Finally, as our approach is two-way, responses can be gathered and in theory people on the block could use a mix of e-mail, web, texting, and voice via telephone to communicate with each other as a group.

  1. I want to use this on my block too, you might want to use on yours as well

I am very interested in how the block leader/connector who shows initiative (like a willingness to go door to door to sign people up in-person on paper or leave them a special link to self-register) can be supported with tools that help them record directory details about their neighbors, keep more private sharing selective among neighbors willing to share contact details with each other (virtual directory, easy print to PDF version), and automate some community life exchange sharing information (like willingness to share tools, collective purchase snow removal, etc.)

One of the key things a block leader does is gather contact info. After a murder on the street two doors down (among two people from outside the area who agree to meet here for some odd reason to settle a debt), I started work on a contact information sign-up form. I went a little hog wild with the check box options and need to revise them big time, but this gives you a sense of what one might add in addition to a multi-tech neighbor to neighbor communications system. See:

OK, anyone who read all this deserves a cold one and a slice. :-)

Have a great weekend everyone and say hello to your neighbors!!! (I wonder what they might think about this idea.)


One clarification

netclift's picture

By testing e-block groups we mean doing it on different platforms. I am particularly interested in what we can do on Drupal.

We might we do one on Facebook Groups, another on WordPress/BuddyPress, some of the .com platforms, and we of course can use our current platform. A little tech smack down.

However, the option for a tel/sms/e-mail/web combo on Drupal makes it really compelling and potentially far more inclusive than any of the other options. (As long as it is deployed on a block or two where we go door to door and get 70%+ of the households signed up with delivery preferences set.)


Me, too!

michaels23's picture

I'm definitely interested, with the usual caveats about schedules, availability, other emergencies, etc. :-)

Mike Steigerwald

Now that is not an "Occupy" site ...

lorlarz2's picture

Now that is not an "Occupy" site , it should make an excellent adjunct set of tools when PEOPLE want to talk to the larger "neigborhood" of the country (the U.S.) at large. I welcome all of you to -- now NOT of Occupy, but OF THE 99 PERCENT.

I'm also interested in this.

mbrakken's picture

I'm also interested in this. I think there's quite a bit of potential overlap with timebanking and other community accounting schemes, particularly after looking at the interests list in that form. I know at least the Dane County TimeBank here experimented some with block coordinators or an equivalent, although I'm not sure of the current status.

Also, a project I'm working focused on what I've started to call open-notebook communities (or documentation and communication of community projects) has overlap, although less with the emergency communication part of the suggestion (, currently in alpha 0.4 or something but usable). FWIW, the longer-term of that project includes community asset mapping and qualitative accounting mixed with timebanking and more normative acounting.

Also, I agree that this idea is probably more of a communication strategy consideration than a platform one (incorporating tel/sms/fb/twitter/etc), and in addition to what's already been suggested I wonder what a digital kiosk setup could offer (listing block events, announcements, etc). Here in Madison there's been some experimentation with real-time bus kiosks (one in a cafe, one in a makerspace, maybe more elsewhere), and it'd be interesting to extend the idea towards other neighborhood concerns. Some info on the existing kiosk over at I can see a framework where kiosks would tilt towards strong localized content, but with the ability to have some content communicated more broadly if a project was pulling people together across a broader range.

Anyways, again, interested. A lot depends on time, though (I'm a grad student in an unrelated field).

netclift's picture

... I do have some notes on paper on how to segment it into thematics sections of questions. The form is in the long post above with the Google doc link.

This advanced neighbor connecting stuff would probably be hackathon #3. :-)

But the general concept is this - people are highly motivated to connect with their nearest neighbors based on safety. Organizing often spikes after a crime wave (be it burgalry, robbery, or greater violence). I am personally more motivated by community building and think gathering key information that helps people collaborate - be it sharing tools or helping a senior stay in her house an extra year by coordinating assistance like shoveling her walk or check in on her frequently.


Speaking of time banking, the guy behind this - - is active in the Locals Online community that we run:

I think the most strategic thing that would make this exciting in St.
Paul is a feature that would assist households in coordinating efforts to select and pay for alley snow removal and garbage removal in "bulk." Trust building and simple open communication needs to come first before this economic stuff however.

My prejudice is for super simple approaches or at least user experiences. All we really do right now is assign an e-mail address to a neighborhood - - and then use tech to make it accessible in other interfaces.

With this Drupal e-blocks idea, I think the core is a more private mutual directory with more detail with a second urgent communication channel that adds sms/tele/voice options for mass inclusivity. Getting that to work for people is the key. If people don't use it first, why add features. :-)

. Pail

Community Forge

matslats's picture

I'm the aforementioned guy of mutual_credit fame.
My org, Community Forge is interested in this, when its done!

I'd be interested in coming

acouch's picture

I'd be interested in coming up from Madison, depending on the date.

Big interest all around, need "spec" lead volunteer

netclift's picture

Wow, the more I talk about this around town and around the country the more excited people are about the idea.

The emerging plan is to gather a small group (in-person/Google Hangout) to first outline the specification. If we have a day and a half long hack, we need to really get focused on the core requirements and embrace a modular outline so people can also distribute the work and id the existing modules that can be integrated/adapted, etc.

So, who can step up to lead the spec drafting?

Who can help with this first stage?

Timeline - starting later next week, I'll work with the spec leaders/co-leaders on gathering existing outlines (for example an outline shared with MIT vojo people). Then we will schedule the spec meeting. Based on this crucial first step we will select a couple fri even/sat weekend options for the big hack(s).


More spec stuff

netclift's picture

This is very rough, but this is the future drafting zone:

Remember to let me know if you can help with the first spec meeting/call. Add your name to the Google Doc linked here.

Are you ready to get coding on this idea?

netclift's picture

We've stuck it into the Hack for MN idea box for June 1 and 2:

Based on feedback from the Drupal user group meeting, we've identified a simple starting point:

Join us!!

So glad there is a local

ivanstegic's picture

So glad there is a local chapter doing this! I'm lucky enough to have been invited to The White House to attend in person, so I'm proud to be representing Minnesota there! The github repo that we're using to track the things that we come up with is located here: -- and so glad to be able to give additional visibility there to Drupal. Woo!

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