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Monthly Archives: May 2007

Poisonous spider on Caroline St?

A near-tragic tale played out on the other side of the window just beyond the monitor that hogs so much of my attention every day. As reported on the Five Sisters Neighborhood Forum

One of the movers unloading the North American truck next door apparently was bit in the neck by a spider yesterday evening (5/30/07). He had a terrible reaction and ended up in the emergency room and in the hospital overnight. His wife came and drove him home to Rhodes Island this morning. It reportedly was not an allergic reaction. The mover is a big, young, otherwise healthy guy.

The spider seemed to be hanging out in a stack of moving pads, so no telling where s/he came from…

I sincerely hope the mover makes a full recovery. I’m also concerned that the spider might have survived the encounter and is hanging around the Five Sisters. If anyone has any more or better information or insights, I’d love to hear them. -Michael

P.S. The moving truck’s battery now is dead (a light was left on in the confusion), the healthy mover gone back to Rhodes Island (he wasn’t qualified to drive) and I’m not sure how or when the truck will depart. Alas. One little spider wields some power in this world evidently.

Posted mid-day, this stirred up a lot of our neighbors… almost all of them it felt like as I heard it all from passersby as I sat on the front steps watching our tots. Here’s the follow-up…

Lori Myers, private detective, called the moving company in Rhodes Island and was told that the mover that was bitten smooshed the spider. Also, the company said that the spider was definitely poisonous… the mover’s heart stopped. They believe that he will be fine, but obviously he’s been through a terrible time. As far as the spider’s origins, no one knows. Escaped pet? The truck hasn’t left New England. But who knows about recent cargo, moving pads, etc. Lori wondered about eggs and suggested spraying the van to the moving company.

The truck remains planted outside our front door. The company plans to have it towed this afternoon. I feel a little like Jim reporting from the front lines on Wild Kingdom.

Good news… the truck was finally towed away.  The tow-truck guy looked a bit pale when told the story… but he provided a great “big trucks!” show for the little ones.  Finally, neighbor, school commissioner, author, and Daily Show guest, Fred Lane shared a post script…

Hi neighbors — Michael’s posting on the power of spiders reminded me of the story of the Scottish King Robert the Bruce, who according to legend was hiding in a cave following a particularly nasty defeat by the British in the winter of 1305-06. While there, he saw a spider trying unsuccessfully to spin a web. But after each failure, the undaunted spider would try again. Bruce was inspired by the spider’s perseverance and eventually secured Scotland’s independence eight years later.

The story is almost certainly apocryphal (Bruce’s cave has as many claimant’s as Washington’s bed), but it still has a hold in Scotland. In Dunfermline Abbey, where his body is buried, there is a stained glass window of King Robert the Bruce, and in the lower corner is depicted a tiny spider. And according to one children’s book, there are still many people in Scotland (especially those named Bruce) who will not kill a spider out of deference to the old story.


Placeblogger and H2Otown Founder Says…

Mark Glaser’s interview with Lisa Williams of H2otown and Placeblogger is worth reading in its entirety.  Here’s a clip…

If you ask why people read the newspaper they might say, ‘to be informed.’ But to be informed for what? I think the answer is to be informed to connect with other people. But those places to connect have shrunk. No one joins the Elks Club, they don’t have time to go to meetings. My neighborhood in the wintertime, I saw people going to work in the dark and coming home in the dark. It’s not that they didn’t want to have those conversations anymore, it’s just that they didn’t have [a way to] fit those into their lives. H2otown is low impact and it allows people to have those conversations at the times that they can do it. That’s why this kind of community could be important to newspapers. It provides the civic conversations.

This reminds me of one aspect of Front Porch Forum… people say that it replaces the neighborhood grapevine that use to exist when neighborhoods were full of people during the day (“housewives,” toddlers, milkmen, etc.).

What about the franchise idea like Backfence, taking one model and replicating it for other communities? Do you think that’s possible or that each community needs its own independent way of looking at it?

Williams: There’s a bigger problem here. It’s very hard to make sites with user-contributed content work. And by work I mean have enough fresh content on a daily basis to attract more participants. Even if you have the content of a newspaper, and you combine that plus volunteer content, and you try to get that down to a local level, it’s still not cooking. Whether it’s Backfence or whether it’s a newspaper or some other thing, being interested in aggregation is really important. Because there are already so many people writing about places online, so it’s not that wise to expect people to find your site and volunteer their time to write for it.

You have to have a three-legged stool if you’re a newspaper: content from the newspaper, content contributed to the site, and content that other people are writing about that topic already online that you have an automated way of finding and presenting to people.

Many Front Porch Forum neighborhoods have plenty of content… generated from only several dozen households.  It takes a specific design and facilitation in our case.

What do you think about Outside.in?

Williams: I think it’s very interesting. I like the technology and like what they’ve done. I wonder what would happen if you could add Outside.in to a newspaper site. I think there are a lot of good individual pieces but no one has put them all together yet. They’re a lot better together.

One of the things we’re still working out is, ‘What is the logical footprint of a local site and what does it contain?’ If you don’t have everything it’s like having a car without all the wheels. It doesn’t work too well. I don’t think anyone, including me, knows what will work. We’re trying to work out what’s effective for readers and what’s economic for advertisers.

Read the whole piece here.


Marathon Run Backwards

Ahh… for the simple pleasures of childhood. When I was a boy – before PCs, before DVDs, before VCRs, before even cable – our seven-member family used to gather on occasion in the living room to watch home movies from the old clickety clack 8mm projector. My dad had a few reels of ancient cartoons (think Steam Boat Willie… silent, of course).

After every can of film had been turned inside out, invariably, one of us would shout out… “let’s see ‘em backwards!” And Dad would oblige, sending every kid in the house to the worn green carpet, rolling in laughter as Uncle George walked backwards up the hill, and brother Jim un-wiped out on Cypress Garden water skis.

So nostalgia got the better of me today when I saw twin postings by the Hungry Vermont guys, Michael J. Nedell and Steve McIntyre, each in their own neighborhoods on Front Porch Forum

Hi folks. I shot the beginning of the marathon from Pearl Street as the runners made the first quick turn. A solid stream of them, which you can see by Clicking Here . I also ran it backwards because – I don’t know where this started – but I have an affinity for shooting videos that I feel will look interesting backwards, and Clicking Here will take you there.

My question… are there any 8-year-olds doubled over laughing at this kind of thing anymore? There must be some pithy youTube insight here, but I’ll leave that to the faithful reader.


More from Where 2.0

The Local Onliner reports today from the Where 2.0 conference about online mapping. A couple points of interest…

MapQuest Gm James Greiner brought everything back to Earth with a survey showing that just 42 percent of Internet users use mapping sites, and relatively light penetration of advanced mapping services… just 22 percent want to post a map publicly (i.e. on a blog or Website). The survey found that while advanced imagery (i.e. 3D maps) is considered interesting, with 47 percent planning to use it, just 18 percent currently do. The demand for personalized features may be hotter than advanced imagery, with interest jumping from 49 percent to 68 percent when examples of usage were provided. The survey also found that 75 percent want to save addresses; 55 percent want to share with family and friends; 59 percent want Points of Interest on maps’ 50 percent want to increase the presence of storefronts on maps; and 50 percent want the ability to search select vendors and/or services.

I think this jibes with a larger trend of dot.coms putting out loads of great new technology and getting too far in front of demand. Or in some cases, going far astray… heading off to where the general public is unlikely to ever venture in big numbers. Front Porch Forum uses Googgle Maps API in a simple way and our members seem to appreciate it, but it’s not the main event. Peter goes on to report…

Outside.in co-founder Steven Johnson reminded the audience that “It is not always about the map. We don’t need maps all the time to show us what’s going on.” For Outside.in, a placeblogging site, he said, “we decided to make the map as small as possible” in order to focus on the thoughts of the community.

Hey… that’s what I just said! Excellent point. ;-)


Fun Headlines of the Day

Always interesting at Front Porch Forum world headquarters.  Here are a few member headlines from today…

1.  Stuffed dog-model wanted (cat and toddler too) – from The Addition Neighborhood Forum.  The local Humane Society want lifelike stuff creatures to use in evaluating and training their animals and new pet-owners.

2.  Free bags of dog fur – from the Centennial Neighborhood Forum.  Tempting, I know.  The person posting thought some gardeners might find it helpful in warding off pests.  It would keep me away. ;-)

3.  Metal detector needed! – from the Crescent Woods Neighborhood Forum.  Only the title came through, followed eight minutes later by a retraction. Metal detected?  Emergency passed?  Now I’m curious!


Where 2.0 Conference Launch Pad

Mashable reports today…

O’Reilly is holding the Where 2.0 Conference in San Jose next week on May 29-30, and its Launch Pad portion of the conference will give a handful of search and mapping companies an opportunity to debut their products, which have all been deemed powerful, innovative and promising. Here is a quick rundown of the companies that will be launching at the Where 2.0 conference, most of which are currently in private beta.

Many of these efforts may well impact local online efforts.

Dopplr is a social network formed around your locations.

Fatdoor is looking to be the wikipedia of people, with a reported 130+ million people and business profiles at launch, to be used for search purposes.

GeoCommons is a service to provide people with a way to tell their stories with maps.

Swivel offers graphs and charts on a number of topics, such as extra-marital affairs by country.

UpNext is a 3D virtual cityscape, providing users a way to explore cities.

WeoGeo is a mapping marketplace of sorts, providing tools for business mapping such as surveyors, engineers, cartographers, and scientists for storing, searching and sharing CAD and GIS mapping products.


Daughter sending Parents on Long-Delayed Honeymoon

Here’s a beautiful story that just came across the Airport Drive Neighborhood Forum…

Hi Everyone – This weekend (Sat & Sun, 9am-3pm) I will be holding a yard sale at 33 Forest Street [South Burlington]. The proceeds from this sale will go to send my parents on a much-deserved, very belated honeymoon. This June marks their 30th anniversary. They have never had the money or time to take a honeymoon, or even a vacation together, though they did find the money to provide me with a beautiful wedding last year. To thank them for that, my husband and I are putting on this yard sale to raise the money to send them off on a little honeymoon. How much we raise determines how far we can send them. Ideally, I would like to be able to send them to Maine or the Cape because my mom has never seen the ocean, but has always wanted to.

The yard sale is being held at my parents’ house. They are completely unaware that this is to benefit them. They think I am holding it to raise money for my grad. tuition. So if you can stop by to support this, keep the real purpose of it a secret!

There are ceramics you can paint yourself, yarn, crafty whatnots, books, clothes, dishes, kitchen things, games, toys, etc. Thanks for your support! -Rebekah

If you’re local… stop by a spend a couple bucks. If you’re a Front Porch Forum subscriber, post this message on your own neighborhood forum to help spread the word!


Online Ad Revenue Grows 35% in 2006

According to a new report, online ad revenue climbed to about $17B in 2006, a 35% gain over 2005.

Branded display ads and search placements helped the online ad industry post its best year ever in 2006, according to numbers released Wednesday by the Internet Advertising Bureau and PricewaterhouseCoopers. Overall, revenue increased 35% last year to $16.9 billion–due in large part to record fourth-quarter revenue of $4.8 billion.

Both search revenue and display revenue climbed 31% year-over-year, to $6.8 billion and $5.4 billion, respectively. Search accounted for 40% of last year’s revenues, slightly lower than the 41% it commanded in 2005. Display advertising, classifieds and referrals accounted for 32%, 18% and 8% of last year’s full revenues, respectively.

See more details here.

Front Porch Forum is just getting its sponsorship program rolling, and we’re going with a flat rate per ad approach.  This report states that 48% of online ads work that way, while 47% of the ad deals are based on ad performance.


Palore and EveryBlock Answer One Question

From today’s Local Onliner

We’re all guilty of feature creep. A lot of the stuff isn’t especially useful. Now comes Palore. When it comes to directory listings, Palore believes hardly any of the info is useful. In fact, consumers want to know just one thing.

“The interesting thing was that they all wanted just one thing and didn’t care much about the rest. It was all about users wanting to see something very specific and personalized to them when making a local search,” says [Palore co-founder Hanan] Lifshitz, an Israeli who had previously started a banner exchange network. “They didn’t want more reviews or better maps. They wanted to know things like:

* The size of a restaurant’s wine list
* Does the business have handicap access?
* Is the business sustainable / vegetarian / organic etc.
* Is there free wifi access?
* Did the restaurant win any award?

With such results in mind, Lifshitz launched Palore in Israel a year ago. The service quickly got 100,000 – quite a landmark in a small country – capped it there, and has been working on bringing it stateside since then. He’s raised $1 million from angels to do so, and has set up shop in the Bay Area.

Sounds compelling. In Burlington, lots of folks just post those questions to their neighborhood forum via Front Porch Forum. Not only do they get good results, but they foster relationships with their real-time in-the-flesh neighbors in the process. Next time, they’ll just call out over the backfence to ask about the wine list… offline. (horrors!)

Also… I was just reading more about EveryBlock, the pre-start-up about to get underway by Adrian Holovaty, late of washingtonpost.com and recent winner of a $1.1M grant from the Knight Foundation. His project… To create, test and release open-source software that links databases to allow citizens of a large city to learn (and act on) civic information about their neighborhood or block. His goal… To create an easy way to answer the question, “What’s happening around me?” Hey! That’s one question again.


Big Money for Local Online Projects

From the Local Onliner today…

The Knight Foundation has just issued a list of really big grants that should really jumpstart hyper-local media (and some more traditional media endeavors as well). As Knight itself says, its “News Challenge” was meant to combine “nerds, news and neighborhoods.”

This year’s recipients are getting more than $12 million. In my view, the money is coming at a great time, just as confidence in hyperlocal as both a movement and an “industry” has begun to wane.

Read the full post for details on some of the winners, such as Placeblogger and Villagesoup.