The Now Neighborhood / by Nate Westheimer

One of the biggest privileges of running the NY Tech Meetup and programming its events has been the visibility it gives me on macro and micro-trends in web and personal technology. Next month's event, which I'm calling "The Now Neighborhood," is an example of where seeing the flow of companies looking to demo at the NY Tech Meetup has helped me see that trend. First some background: At the first Meetup I ever hosted (January 2009), I themed the event "Built on Twitter" because I saw an awesome pipeline of real stand-alone companies being built on the platform. That month I had Klout and CoTweet unveil their ground-breaking products, and StockTwits demoed for the first time in NYC (I think my man Howard Lindzon also graced us with some of his vintage standup comedy).

It's pretty cool to think about that time and how much has been defined by companies like those since.

The following month, February of 2009, I themed the event "Mobile Meets Social." Yes, it wasn't until the next month that Foursquare unveiled itself on the NY Tech Meetup stage, but that February we also had Peek, OMGICU, Xtify, Mobile Commons -- all companies innovating in serious ways around the mobile/social revolution that took place in the following 18 months.

Next month's NY Tech Meetup is another one of these moments. Among the demos, we'll have SnapGoods, Zaarly, Taap.it (formerly known as Social Listing), SkillSlate, Spontaneously and CityPockets making up a new macro-trend I'm calling the "Now Neighborhood."

While The Now Web made information instant at at our fingertips -- immediate, personalized, on-demand, and on our devices -- The Now Neighborhood is doing the same thing, but in our real life. Now Neighborhood technology is what I call "School of Heiferman," or technology companies that "Use the Internet to get people off the Internet."

Now, we've seen other School of Heiferman companies demo at the NY Tech Meetup recently, including SkillShare last month and my own Ohours a few months before. But, what's different about Now Neighborhood products vs other School of Heiferman products is that they accelerate and set the pace at which you experience the real world around you... something we started to truly feel in the flash-mob-filled early days of mobile/social platforms like Twitter and Foursquare.

Now Neighborhood products are meant for this kind of activity though, and so as they scale, the experience will persist, and the way we live in our local communities will forever be changed.

CityPockets, for example, represents the entire industry of daily deals sites, which will have you explore local businesses on their terms, not yours. In the Now Neighborhood, "discovering" new places is less about word-of-mouth, and more about the immediacy of the deals around you.

Zaarly, Taap.it, and SkillSlate are all real-time, local marketplaces for goods and services. In the Now Neighborhood, you don't call "your" plumber or have "your" cleaning service clean your house, you go with the highest rated person who responds the fastest with the lowest price to your needs. Having the same person do the same job for you in the future is a "coincidence."

SnapGoods tells you who around you already has the "stuff" you want, or who wants the stuff you may already have. In the Now Neighborhood, you know which neighbor's door to knock on for that cup of sugar: the one who has it in stock.

And Spontaeously represents what's happening to our most social lives. While today we write emails to each other saying "let's hang out"... and then we never hang out, in The Now Neighborhood our friends know our schedules and will just drop by when they see we're down to socialize. Plans-be-damned, our social lives are now "Now."

Let me be clear: many of these changes, trends, and product concepts have been around before. CraigsList itself perhaps covers every one of them. Certainly ZipCar has had this effect. But, it's when I've seen groups of companies like these all vying for spots at the NY Tech Meetup around the same few months that I believe something is starting to congeal. It's what I saw with Twitter-based companies and mobile/social companies in early 2008, and it's something I'm predicting will change the way we live over the next few years starting now.

What are some examples you can think of for The Now Neighborhood? I'd be curious to hear what products are changing your life.

(PS: Hope you see you at the next NY Tech Meetup. More tickets will be available June 27 and July 1.)