Nextdoor is introducing its first generative AI feature, an in-app “assistant” that can help users rewrite “potentially unkind” posts on the neighborhood social network. The new feature is rolling out “over the next several weeks.”
It’s far from the first time the company has experimented with ways to remind users to keep conversations “neighborly.” The company, which has at time struggled to fight the perception that its platform can be toxic, began using “kindness reminders” in 2019 and last year introduced pop-ups reminding users to be more “empathetic.” The app has also served up more targeted nudges to promote anti-racist language and less heated political discussions.
The new “assistant” takes the approach a step further. Instead of preemptive reminders, the assistant will prompt users to “rephrase potentially unkind comments” and suggest new wording for the post. “It's great to tell people, ‘hey, be a little bit more constructive,’ or ‘you don't always have to respond,’” Nextdoor CEO Sarah Friar says. “But now you're actually helping them reframe it in a way they might not have thought of.”
Friar notes that the assistant-written posts are optional and that users are free to make changes to the text it suggests. “It’s saying ‘when you word things this way,’ or when you maybe just add a few more sentences or add some context or an emoji, you can help someone hear you,” Friar says. “They may not agree with you, but at least they can begin to hear you.”
The assistant itself relies on the same OpenAI models used by ChatGPT, and has also been trained on “all of the data we've collected over our almost 10 years of life,” according to Friar. She says this allows the assistant to provide more tailored suggestions for other kinds of posts on the platform. In an example provided by the company, the assistant rewrites a post from a user looking for landscaping work with new phrasing the app says may “get a better response” than the original.
While the assistant is Nextdoor’s first use of generative AI, it likely won’t be the last. Friar says she’s particularly interested in how generative AI can be used for recommendations to help small businesses using the platform.