Monthly Archives: May 2007

Favorite Posting of the Week!

Here’s a wonderful Front Porch Forum posting from a senior citizen on the ONE East Neighborhood Forum.  She was stunned by the quickness and number of responses to her call for lawn help.  She’s full of gratitude for those around her who beautify the neighborhood.  She issues a safety reminder.  And, she offers a $100 reward for return of her lost hearing aids!  Read on to see what she was doing when she lost them!  -Michael

Wow. What a response to my mowing plea. The 1st one came in at about 1 AM. I am not a regular computer person yet so didn’t check my email until late in the day by which time someone had called me on the phone and then actually mowed my lawn. Thank you so much to the other 5 or 6 people who offered.

Thanks also to the people who plant flowers in the greenbelt and the ones who pick up trash, which I hope someday will be all of us all the time. My grandmother used to stoop over and pick up trash when I was a child and I would be mortified. Now I do it too.

I’m also grateful to the bikers who ride responsibly who mostly seem to be children. It must be hard to remember how quickly a bike can appear out of nowhere and how relatively slowly a car can respond.

I have another topic. Last night I lost one of my hearing aids. I was getting a ride home up North St.on the back of a motorcycle and it was in my left hand pocket. We rode from parking space in front of the brick houses on Elm St. on UU Church property to North St. and then up North St. to 447. There is a $100 reward. Thanks.

Google’s Vint Cerf calls for e-Respect

A friend just shared this bit from NPR by Google Vice President Vint Cerf (thanks Nancy).

Once, I was being driven by limo to a hotel in Palm Springs to give a speech. The driver appeared to be in his 60s, and I remember thinking, “How sad that he has to keep working at this menial job.” It turned out, though, that he was the retired CFO of a major Chicago-based corporation who had gotten bored with golf. He took a part-time job driving the hotel’s limo, so he could meet people and stay in touch with the world. He even ended up giving some good advice to me, a financially naive engineer.

I believe that every person deserves respect, and that I can learn something new from everyone. Now, I make a point of asking people about their stories…

He goes on to call for civility on online mediums too. Amen… that’s one of planks of the platform on which Front Porch Forum is built.

Neighborhood Mapping

An increasing number of mapping services are incorporating neighborhood data. Google appears to be the latest…

Recently Google Maps introduced the ability to perform searches by neighborhoods. Neighborhoods tend to be somewhat informally defined but well recognized in certain cities. Neighborhood search is now available in fifty US cities, with more to follow.

You can now do searches such as bagels upper east side new york and restaurants, over the rhine, cincinnati on Google Maps. Additionally, this capability allows you to do city-level searches where the city is uniquely named, regardless of size, such as bakery corpus christi, or movie theater albuquerque.

Others include Maponics, Yahoo!, Yelp and others, according to Screenwerk and Unhandled Perception, among others.

Good Web Host Recommended

Some folks have taken the time to share their appreciation of Front Porch Forum with me today. That’s a wonderful thing. As one of them wrote about people’s tendencies to criticize…

Although positive feedback may not make it through as much as negative in general, it’s usually there. So many of us need a gentle reminder to share our positive thoughts and feelings in an effort to build a healthy community (and to give some context for our more constructively critical thoughts).

So this spurs me to share the great experience I’ve had for past nine months with JP Peach and Associates, the web host for this blog and Front Porch Forum. Peach, the man behind the company, knows his stuff and does a great job meeting specific needs. We started at one of the big daddy web hosting companies (although not THE Big Daddy), and they simply could NOT meet our specific needs. With Peach it’s been no problem. And his prices are reasonable.

If you’re looking for a web host along these lines, check out Peach. From the site…

The flexible organization of J.P.Peach & Associates allows us to offer a wide range of services at a significant cost savings compared to other software companies. We are a collection of independent contractors and keep our overhead cost low by not maintaining a bricks-and-mortar location.

Our company and web hosting are built on flexibility. Over the years we have used a large number of web hosting services, from the cheap to the expensive, and have never been really happy with any of them. They forced us into a “hosting package” that never really fit our client’s needs. So, we decided to set up our own server so that we can have full control over it. If you want to host your site with us we will customize the services and software to fit your needs. We have “hosting packages” but they are only a starting point, we will customize the hosting services to meet your specific needs.

[I’m not getting any compensation for this plug… it’s just good karma to acknowledge a job well done.]

Amazing Event in NYC

The Personal Democracy Forum was intense! Amazing that Front Porch Forum landed me on the agenda alongside the CEO of Google, the founder of Craigslist, best selling authors, a thrice Pulitzer Prize winner, several web advisers to presidential campaigns, A-list political bloggers, top academics, other VIPs, and lots of up-and-comers. I was and am honored and thankful to Micah Sifry for the invitation.

I learned much from the various sessions and hallway conversations. Here’s a photo from Steve Garfield of one panel’s audience (with me typing away on the floor in the foreground),

and another by Caviar

Front Porch Forum was very well received by a several folks I met there, but not all. Our approach is different enough that it requires a ready and open mind to understand it, and in a “30-second elevator pitch” environment that can be a challenge. That’s fine… many there were eager to know more.

Part of my pitch…

Imagine much of today’s social media occurring among clearly identified nearby neighbors, instead of anonymous distant strangers.  It’s happening with Front Porch Forum where 20% of our pilot city has subscribed in our first half-year.  Every plumber recommendation, restaurant review, piece of citizen journalism, classified ad, etc. posted not only gets a direct result, but all those messages add up to neighbors getting to know each other and build real community in their neighborhood.  People LOVE it!

The speakers’ cocktail party the night before the event was hosted by Google at their NYC digs… definitely not your usual cubicle farm. Here’s the view (thanks to Steve Garfield again)…

Ermine, Fisher Cat, Moose visit City Cousins

Front Porch Forum members have a way of surprising me. Every time I think the postings are getting predictable, someone writes to their neighbors with something a bit different.

This past week it was an innocent enough question in the King Maple Neighborhood Forum in an urban section of Burlington, VT…

What’s the weirdest animal you’ve seen in your yard?

Some of the answers…

•We’ve had zillions of squirrels, skunks, mice, raccoons and bats. I’d have to say an opossum is the oddest visitor. A couple friends of mine swear they saw a fisher cat run through the yard once, but I think it was some kind of weasel.
•I’ve definitely had possum, used to have a family of badgers till my neighbor ‘eradicated’ them, but the most unusual was a pure white ermine that hung around one winter.
•We have seen possum in our back yard. We also have a family of skunks living under our house, though our neighbors are convinced the family is under their own house. Hard to tell. And raccoons are everywhere, living who knows where, probably in trees at night in the warmer months.
•My beau just reminded me today that we once saw a porcupine passing through here. Some friends said they saw foxes on Main Street. Another friend told me a story about seeing a moose near the Burlington Square Mall around 3 a.m. a few years back. Kooky!

Sponsorship Status for Front Porch Forum

Front Porch Forum has enjoyed a surprising level of success facilitating neighbor-to-neighbor connection. In our first half-year, 20% of the City of Burlington has subscribed and put our free service to great use. Thanks and congratulations to the thousands of people who are making it all happen.

Now, we’re focused on developing a local-business-to-neighbor component… our new sponsorship program. We intend to provide snippets about local businesses largely not available elsewhere, AND, in the process, we aim to generate enough income to cover the expenses associated with hosting 130 neighborhood forums across Chittenden County.

We’ve been working on this (and posting updates on the various neighborhood forums) for the past few months. Now, this week, we tested our first sponsor message from Seven Days, the local free weekly newspaper (Cathy Resmer blogged about it)…

By Seven Days, http://sevendaysvt.com, web@sevendaysvt.com
Wed, 16 May 2007

Should Zoe Christiansen be allowed to play her clarinet on Church Street? Find out why this young busker was banned from the Marketplace. Listen to her music and tell us what you think at http://sevendaysvt.com.

We’re sensitive about balancing this new program with the desire to keep each neighborhood forum focused on the neighbor-to-neighbor conversation, so your feedback will be much appreciated. We’re excited about the sponsorship program because it will support (hopefully!) Front Porch Forum as we move forward AND it will give local businesses and nonprofits a chance to connect with various neighborhoods.

We’re still in an early testing phase, so we’re only working with a few sponsors. If your business, nonprofit, agency, special event, etc. is interested in sponsoring a few to all of the neighborhood forums in and around Burlington, please add your information to our sponsor wait list. If you already have joined that wait list and would like to join Seven Days and others in our initial test, please contact me directly. Cheers! -Michael

Husband Rentals get Press

Paula Routly has a good piece about a local hardware store’s “Rent-A-Husband” service in today’s Seven Days. The dust on this was first kicked up by John Grimm when he joined Front Porch Forum and posted his thoughts… past postings here and here.

First FPF Sponsorship Deal Struck

Seven Days is now Front Porch Forum‘s first sponsor! Thanks to Paula, Pamela, Cathy, Bob and the whole crew there. Here’s one of the FPF ads that will run in Seven Days…

Seniors Connect with Neighbors via FPF

Great article about how seniors are making use of Front Porch Forum in this month’s Vermont Maturity Magazine.  Writer Barbara Leitenberg did wonderful job.