About this project

This is a self-organized, unincorporated, 100% volunteer effort to strengthen the social fabric of our mini-neighborhood. Neighbor, this is for and by you however you can contribute!

Timeline so far:

  • March 13th: Registered northcrownhill.com after a couple weeks of thinking about it
  • March 14th-21st: Canvassed a third of the neighborhood
  • March 22nd: Wrote down privacy policy
  • March 23rd: Arrange to take a 7-week sabbatical from my tech job, starting next week, to work on this project.
  • March 28th: Started rebuilding the website
  • April 3rd-5th: Lots more canvassing
  • April 6th: Pushed new website (using Gatsby.js & modern tech) to production
  • April 10-18th: Implemented a phone hotline using code to wire together the Twilio and Slack APIs
  • April 19th: Finished off 8th and Alderbrook
  • April 22nd: Add to about page, add hotline page
  • April 23rd: Add a join page, with a Google Form embedded to streamline signing up
  • April 24th: Added first version of newsletter archive listing of past emails
  • April 26th: Canvassed last sections of Mary and 100th to finish neighborhood sweep
  • April 28th: Sent a newsletter announcing the community hotline
  • April 30th: Updated newsletter page with local copy of past emails
  • May 7th: Ordered door hangers
  • May 15th: Created the who and what pages, buried the about page
  • May 16th: Hung the door hangers on every house
  • May 22nd: Latest newsletter focused on test-trace-isolate
  • July 20th: New newsletter making sense of diverging case count and hospitalization numbers

Technical Architecture

Want to create your own neighborhood communications hub? Here are the architectural details of what I've made - hopefully readable by most anyone, though only implementable by someone who is comfortable coding.


The first version of this website was hand-rolled HTML, using the tiny Pure CSS library for styling. That lasted about two weeks and three pages until I was already making copy-paste replication errors: time to do it "the right way" with modern technology. The current site uses the Gatsby.js framework to build a React app that gets deployed/hosted using Netlify. Gatsby is a static site generator, so while I'm technically writing a Node.js application, the app is really a compiler that produces static output files consisting of HTML, CSS, and JavaScript. The site is open source and you can see all my code in the north-crown-hill code repository.


The community hotline is a VOIP phone number via Twilio, a software-based telephony platform. A number costs $1 per month, and their voice services pricing is quite small per-call. 5 cents for a transcription, which I find useful even though their transcription quality is much worse than Google's. The rest is about 1 penny for a short call, so I doubt the overall cost will break $2 per month.

Calling the phone number triggers an HTTP call to a URL of my choice. My code for that can be found here on Github, and returns a snippet of XML instructions that says "play this sound file, then record a message and send it to this other URL". My code also connects to the NCH Slack site through a minimal Slack app bot, so whenever Twilio calls my code I post a message in a Slack channel, passing through the information about the call/recording/transcription from Twilio.

That north-crown-hill-functions code repository is completely separate from the website, and I use Netlify to deploy that code for free. (While Netlify is known for its static website hosting, it also supports application code via the AWS Lambda service.)

I'll probably log some call details to Google Sheets soon as well, so we have a bit more durable record than the Slack messages.

About the organizer

Hi friends, my name is James. My family and I have lived in this neighborhood for six years, and... have met very few of you, as I think is typical of modern city life. We all find our community connections mostly in our work, our schools, our churches, and other interest-based circles. We have less in common with those who literally surround us physically... but we share our city streets and our humanity, and in a time like this we may be the only community that can be there to help each other out. I'm "very online" (as the kids say) myself, and am eager to see how this blended meatspace+cyberspace experiment goes.

Why should you trust me with your data?

Hopefully this privacy policy demonstrates the care I put into protecting any data you share. I've worked for a data visualization company for the last dozen years - I believe strongly in the power of data to help, and also in the dangers of poorly managed data. I've also had prior experience managing the personally-identifiable data of hundreds of coworkers while preserving their anonymity. You choose how much data you want to share with which audiences.

Why should you invest your energy in this project?

Ultimately, this network will last as long as participants want and need it to. I'll set it up so that it doesn't rely on me long-term, should we find that it's a valuable community resource even when we're not in crisis mode. In the short-term... I am a capable project manager, verteran software engineer, and the experienced founder and organizer of another all-volunteer organization.