It's amazing, this social networking. Total strangers drawn by common interest — or the burden of surplus junk, or the need for that...

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It’s amazing, this social networking.

Total strangers drawn by common interest — or the burden of surplus junk, or the need for that certain something — to vast bulletin boards brimming with information.

Vast bulletin boards like the one outside my neighborhood coffee shop.

If Facebook, Craigslist and MySpace are Web 2.0, this is Web 2.0 B.C. This is the old-school way to take the pulse of a community.

Unlike the vast disconnected bulletin boards of the digital age, this cork board tells the story of a physical place — a valley, a town, an independent coffee shop with free Wi-Fi.

This bulletin board offers the serendipity that Web sites promising connections can’t.

You might never have searched Google for the Humanist Community in Silicon Valley (providing “those of a humanist or agnostic orientation the benefits traditionally provided by church groups”), but there it is on a flier next to another promoting Jazzercise.

And that dog you saw nosing through the neighbors’ garbage this morning? Could it have been Pixie? She’s missing, you know, and her owners have offered a reward. It makes you wonder: Will Pixie end up like Rosie, “a cuddlebug who needs a home soon”? Rosie is at the Humane Society, and you don’t want to think about why the poster added the adjective “soon.”

I scan the bulletin board outside the Palo Alto Cafe regularly, looking for neighborhood news or absurdities worth pondering. The notes and ads provide a snapshot in time.

I’ve written about the bulletin board before. I’m weird that way. Ten years ago I picked through the tacked scraps of paper and tried to divine the state of the valley.

I suppose divining a region’s state by reading a bulletin board is like assessing your mental health by watching “Dr. Phil.” But it’s irresistible.

In retrospect, the notes beneath the pushpins of 1998 felt more urgent. It was a time when everyone was racing, anxious not to miss out on the next big thing.

A “reliable, optimistic” carpenter was looking for a room to rent. He didn’t want to commute to valley jobs. This was a boom town and he wanted to be where the action was.

A couple needed someone to watch their two boys “in our new Palo Alto home for 4 ½ days.” Now. It was a time when nannies were oversubscribed and make-do would do.

In 2008, the post from the mother of two isn’t about finding a baby-sitter. It’s about finding a baby-sitting job. She’s available from 6 a.m. to 7 p.m. Monday through Friday.

The 2008 board is heavier on self-improvement than Version 1998. Maybe we’ve had time to take stock.

“Get a Massage Today.” Consider a “turf tuneup.” Or “Reinvent Your Rooms,” or yourself. And when you have a minute, “Impeach the Terrorists.”

We’re stressed in 2008, but not abandoned.

“Depressed Participants Wanted.” See? Wanted. And this: “Are You Experiencing Depression?” I don’t have the energy to answer.

“Do People Make You Nervous?” Some do, actually, but at least there is a study looking into it.

The posts show there are people out there willing to help. Or at least pry.

“Are You At Least 65 and Not Getting Enough Sleep?” If you’re under 65 and not sleeping well, don’t despair. You’ll be sleepless and 65 soon enough.

“Moms & Dads: Do you have a daughter between the ages of 9 and 14? Have you ever had a panic attack?”

Wait a minute. Aren’t those both the same question?

I’m thinking what a good idea it would be to have a second bulletin board — one where neighbors post answers to the questions. And maybe other neighbors would comment on those answers. And we could put the whole thing on the World Wide Web.

Oh, wait. Never mind.

Mike Cassidy is a technology columnist at the San Jose Mercury News.