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Monthly Archives: November 2008

Community More Powerful Than Locks!

On the eve of the Thanksgiving holiday, Hilary just posted the following to Front Porch Forum in Burlington’s Old North End…

Community More Powerful Than Locks!

Hi folks – With all this talk about bike theft, thought it would be a good time to share with you that my bike, which I reported stolen about a month ago, was spotted by a friend and successfully returned to me!  I’d also like to share how super supportive this community was in response–I received over 10 offers to borrow or keep spare bikes.  I feel very, very, fortunate to live here, and appreciate the ways we work together.  Thanks to everyone!

Another great example of how many of us are surrounded by inherrent goodwill. Regrettably, it mostly goes unnoticed and untapped.  Front Porch Forum is in a privileged position… to be able to help people help their previously anonymous and unknown neighbors… it’s hard to describe the impact of these small gestures as they accumulate.


Citizen Engagement and Economic Growth

From a Knight Foundation blog today…

Soul of the Community (SOTC) is a three-year study conducted by Gallup of the 26 Knight Foundation communities across the United States focusing on the emotional side of the connection between residents and their communities.

In its first year, the study compared residents’ engagement level to the GDP growth in the 26 communities over the past five years. The findings (overall report, reports by community) show a significant correlation between community-citizen engagement and the economic growth.


AOL webmail can’t send email to some addresses

AOL made some changes in the second half of 2008 to the way its customers’ outgoing email is sent when using AOL’s webmail option.  One result of these otherwise invisible changes is that messages sent by an AOL-using Front Porch Forum subscriber to any FrontPorchForum.com address do not arrive successfully.  So, regrettably, FPF will not receive neighborhood forum postings or requests for help made by email in this manner.  We’ve notified AOL many times and have received no response.  Here are solutions for AOL-using FPF members…

Post to your FPF neighborhood forum…

  1. Via our website. Go to http://frontporchforum.com and click Log In.  Once logged in successfully, click on “Using the Web” under “Post Your Message.”  Enter your message and headline and check your neighborhood forum.  Hit the “Post Message” button.
  2. Via email using an email client. AOL’s broken software appears to be tied to its webmail, so if you use an email client (e.g., Mozilla Thunderbird or Apple Mail) you should be able to post fine.
  3. Using a different email provider If you have a non-AOL email address, add it to your FPF account (go to http://frontporchforum.com, click Log In, then Account).  Then post using that email address.  Free Gmail is one option.

Contact FPF…

  1. Using our website… http://frontporchforum.com/about Again, you won’t be able to contact FPF using AOL’s webmail.

We’re sorry about this inconvenience.  It appears to be yet one more problem with AOL.  If you run into this problem, please complain to AOL and ask them to fix it.  Yahoo Mail has serious problems too.  We respectfully recommend not using either service if you have other viable options available to you.  Thanks for your participation.


A Beautiful Gesture… Happy Thanksgiving

Jess posted the following today to her 400-household neighborhood via Front Porch Forum

ROOM AT OUR TABLE
Hi Neighbors – Did you forget to make plans for Thanksgiving? Plans fall through? Looking at a boring/lonely turkey sandwich? Have a friend in such a situation? Please consider joining us. We have a few (1-3) extra seats at our cozy table, a big turkey, lots of other yummy dishes, and a lot of friendship to share. Kids welcome.

Please join us in celebrating this season of blessings and renewal…give me a call or email…

We see so many wonderful postings flow through FPF that I get inurred… but this one gave me pause… what a beautiful gesture.  Happy Thanksgiving Jessica and family.

And the posting from her neighbor that came through at the same time made me smile…

QUAIL EGGS FOR SALE
My hens are laying more than I can eat! The cost is $3 for 9 eggs. The eggs are organic and local and they make a great addition to any dish… especially for Thanksgiving!


Mega Local Sites in the News

CitySquares in Boston and beyond says business is good with advertisers’ coupons being hot.

Citysearch rebuilt its site. “Elements of the revamp include a more intuitive interface, an embrace of social media, a major focus on video, some new twists in mobile, and the development of a full-fledged local ad and content network that offers an alternative to Google’s dominant position.” -Local Onliner

Service Magic is doing very well, despite the general economic conditions.  Co-founder Rodney Rice’s “6 Keys to Success in Local Services” via Andrew Shotland:

  1. Build supply before demand
  2. Choose the right vertical focus/right branding
  3. Execute as a service business, not a dot com (too true)
  4. Control customer acquisition costs – apply real business metrics
  5. Utilize technologies that make sense now – not in 3, 5 or 10 years
  6. Focus on yourself, not the competition (the best advice ever)

Angie’s List took in more VC money recently, bringing it’s total raised to about $66 million.  And Shotland reports Angie Hicks saying “The biggest competitor in the space is ‘your next door neighbor.’”  Interesting.  In this light, Angie’s List offers another way to buy your way out of something you just can’t find the time to do… get to know the neighbors and have conversations with them.  Front Porch Forum, on the other hand, is free and uses things like plumber recommendations among clearly identified nearby neighbors as a way to help connect neighbors and lead toward more vital communities.

And again from Shotland

The thing I love the most about both Angie’s and Rodney’s talks is that they are both very much outside the local search/Silicon Valley community in some ways (well Angie did raise a bunch of $ from VCs and Rodney did sell out to IAC, but besides that), but they are both incredibly successful.


Easy communication among neighbors a right?

John Wonderlich at Sunlight Foundation quotes Steven Clift today…

When I was a child and my father had cancer, I remember neighbors coming to our assistance in our time of need. Today, with modern life keeping neighbors as strangers, we must use these new tools to break down barriers to community. You deserve the right to easily e-mail your immediate neighbors the morning after you’ve been burglarized without having to go door-to-door to collect e-mail addresses. We can balance safety and privacy with selective public disclosure of such personal contact information with an intelligent “unlisted to most” directory option that is not the all or nothing of today.

This is big “C” community and small “d” democracy. A collection of better-connected blocks, tied to broader neighborhood and community-wide online efforts will serve as the vibrant foundation we need for accountable and effective representative democracy right up to the Congress and president. You cannot force everyone to be neighborly, but the bonds of community can be restored and nurtured despite dual income families and the assault on time for community involvement.

Right on.  We’re honored that they both mention Front Porch Forum.  And thanks to The Pulse from the Knight Foundation for pointing me to this post.


Online tools to help local communities

Matt, on the LocalMouth blog, writes recently

Personally, I think there’s great potential for simple online tools to bring local communities more closely together. It may be a struggle at the start to get together a critical mass of neighbours, and it may need a liberal dash of coaxing, but once you’ve got the ball rolling, people’s natural desire to communicate with others should take care of the rest. Good stuff will happen. ‘Good’ won’t always mean that people get along well or that arguments won’t take place. Far from it. When people are talking about stuff that matters, conversations are bound to get heated at times, and that’s where the delicate job of moderation comes in. But generally, I think, more communication between local people can be a very positive thing.

Right on!  He goes on to list several UK websites that each focus in a different way on their local community… and Front Porch Forum.

I look forward to checking out the local sites he mentions.  Thanks Matt!


Options for online neighborhood tools

I’m frequently approached by folks interested in Front Porch Forum for their neighborhood.  If they live in our pilot service area (Chittenden County, VT), they are welcome to join.  If not, then they can add their community to our waiting list.

But often people ask what steps they can take now and I offer some simple alternatives.  Well, I just found a succinct post that I’ll direct these inquiries to in the future from Matt on the UK LocalMouth blog.  He offers just enough detail to help the curious get started about a neighborhood…

  1. Blog
  2. Social network
  3. Bulletin board
  4. Group
  5. Content management system

And Front Porch Forum would be yet another type of option, where available.


Orphaned Posting Seeking Parent

Our software hiccuped today and left a single tiny posting sitting on our doorstep with no identifying label.  Do you recognize this little baby?  Yours?

ANOTHER NEIGHBOR JOINS FORUM – I am excited to be a member of Front Porch Forum, and I’ve heard nothing but great things about this network!

Well, welcome mystery member!  And you’ll have to post again if you want to directly reach your nearby neighbors… sorry about that.


Election season swamping FPF…

I, for one, am looking forward to November 5… that’s right, the day AFTER the big election.  Front Porch Forum has been swamped with postings from citizens and elected officials alike… advocating for and against candidates and ballot measures.  The State Rep. race in Chittenden 3-04, the police station building site in South Burlington and on and on.

And I know I’m not alone.  Many of our subscribers love the political back and forth, while others are clearly fed up and ready to move on.  I got a lovely note today from an FPF member in South Burlington that was a pleasant surprise…

The other day, I decided to resist posting my emotional response to [a City Councilor’s] posting re. a police station on the Calkins Natural Area.  I was very angry, feeling that [he] misused a position of power to promote something that is very politically controversial.  I had considered using the FPF in the same way and decided that my neighborhood forum is a “place” for me to share and gather information on topics or issues that relate to our neighborhood and it isn’t a “place” for me to lobby my neighbors for one position or another. (Even though, our neighborhood probably has the most to lose on this specific topic.)  And… since [his] posting is out there, I may very well post my position, too.

Anyway, I want to say thank you for your commitment to FPF and what it provides all of us.  It is almost impossible in this era, to build a sense of “neighborliness”.  I’ve lived in my neighborhood for over 14 years and the FPF has introduced me to neighbors I would otherwise never know.

Sometimes, when we have responsibility for providing or “facilitating” a service and we have negative reactions to the facilitation, we wonder if it’s appreciated.  I want to tell you, it is.

Thank you for facilitating our ability to being good neighbors.

Don’t forget to vote on November 4!