Monthly Archives: February 2008

Auto Repair Shop’s No. 1 Source of New Customers?

Our car needed some work today and our neighborhood mechanic had time and fit us right into his schedule… much appreciated.  He even helped us swap vehicles around to save us time and hassle (a very complex operation involving multiple pre-schoolers, snowsuits and carseats).

I was pleasantly surprised when he asked me how “that internet thing” was going.  Gary is an excellent mechanic, but he has little interest in the online universe.  I thought he was just being friendly and I was impressed that he remembered my work with Front Porch Forum.

He went on to volunteer that he had just had a business meeting yesterday and declined various advertising options because “we get our new customers through Front Porch Forum.”  Oh!

He ran one small ad months ago on FPF and occasionally is recommended by a neighbor on an individual FPF neighborhood forum… not a lot of activity from my perspective.  But he went on to say that he gets at least one customer/week who mentions Front Porch Forum!  And Gary’s shop is the kind of place that earns repeat customers for years and years.

Sledding Advice from Nearby Neighbors

I haven’t kept up with all the great stories and tidbits flowing from the FPF neighborhood forums lately.  I like this one from Carol in Burlington that she titled Front Porch Forum Rocks!

I want to thank people in the Old North End about the advice on where to go sledding.  The hill where the bike path starts behind Oak Street is the best.  I flew down it twice and about to take some kids out to do it again.  I’ve never felt so free 🙂  I’m flying!!!!!!!!!!!!!!  Thanks everyone

All types join in on neighborhood conversation

I’m thrilled by the fact that Front Porch Forum reaches well beyond the typical Web 2.0 demographic. We get folks of all stripes putting FPF to good use. Here’s a posting today from a subscriber in a South Burlington neighborhood forum.

I just joined this neighborhood forum today after meaning to do it for a long time. I hope to meet more of my neighbors. I’ve lived [in the neighborhood] for about 30 years, but people come and go on my street. I think there are only 4 of us who have lived here this long. Now that my kids are grown and moved away it’s not so easy to get to know the neighbors!

It is interesting that when I signed up I saw a person listed as an FPF Neighborhood Volunteer is my daughter’s best friend!

Connecting with Neighbors while Overseas

Front Porch Forum sees plenty of “seeking babysitter” and “lost cat” postings among nearby neighbors, but we also see something new and different everyday.  Here’s today’s entry, posted by Marisha on The Quarry Neighborhood Forum in Burlington’s South End…

Posting this from Puerto Plata, Dominican Republic where the Burlington-based non-profit Vermont Institute on the Caribbean (VIC) is working to connect Vermont and Puerto Plata communities through educational and cultural programs and exchange. The VIC/BALL Vermont/Dominican Republic Baseball Cultural Exchange last summer was a great success; and last month  teachers from Barnes and Champlain schools spent a week working with teachers here to introduce the Healthy Neighborhoods Healthy Kids curriculum in sustainable education…

On behalf of VIC I’m entering this raffle with hope that if we win the prize from KidsSurplus we’ll be able to send $50 worth of kids stuff to the schools we’re working with here in Puerto Plata.

Many thanks to FPF for this opportunity and for your great community connections. It’s great to stay in touch with folks back home!

Social Networking’s Great Contribution?

Steven Clift made an interesting proposal on MediaShift Idea Lab at PBS.org the other day…

Why not declare a night once a year in late January as “National Night On”? (“On” as in “online.”)

Go for it Steven! And he went on to write…

What bugs me about the Internet, even the rise of social networking, most of the investment tends to reinforce existing ties – friends and family – and the tools that build new ties are more about professional networking (LinkedIn) or dating. There is a huge difference between publicizing private life online and creating open and accessible online spaces for local public life. There are a few projects like E-Democracy.Org’s neighborhood forums in Minnesota and England, the Front Porch Forum in Vermont, and the Annenberg School’s i-neighbors, and many independent efforts trying to create larger neighborhood-wide exchange, but nothing that I know of designed to be peer-to-peer two-way is essentially block-level based.

A growing number of “social networking + local online” efforts are in that first group mentioned above… making it easier to keep up with old contacts. This can further exacerbate the very problem that Front Porch Forum and others are designed to address… isolation from the people you live next to. FPF is all about helping neighbors get to know each other and build community within the neighborhood.