Monthly Archives: February 2009

Goodbye Molly and Thanks to Neighbors

Posted by a Front Porch Forum member just now on her neighborhood forum…

Hello neighbors… Some of you know me personally, some only as the woman who walked every morning with my two dogs, something which we did faithfully, rain or shine, just about every day for the last three plus years since moving to the new North End.  I lost my old Molly girl earlier this month. I like to think she’s chasing cars and cats in dog-heaven now. (She was a rascal in her younger days.) I’m posting this message simply to say thank-you to all of the wonderful people in my neighborhood for the comfort and sympathy so many of you offered me. I am deeply moved and very grateful and consider myself lucky to live among such good people. As does Rufus.

We’ll see you on the road.

Front Porch Forum Expands to Starksboro, VT

Thanks to the generousity of the Orton Family Foundation, Front Porch Forum is now available in Starksboro, VT!

Any and all Starksboro residents are encouraged to sign up for this free community-building service immediately.  I see that we have two dozens subscribers there already… I guess word got out before the “official” launch.

Finally, thanks to the warm welcome this evening from the Selectboard and Art and Soul folks.

UPDATE: Here’s Orton’s news release (April 13, 2009).  Already 20% of Starksboro subscribes to FPF!

Local businesses and online advertising

From Google disiple, Jeff Jarvis

The promise of local ad support for news will come only if a new population of very small businesses can be served in new and effective ways – before Google beats everybody else to it. That’s apparent in the results of Webvisible and Nielsen surveys reported by MediaPost (via Marketeting Pilgrim and Frank Thinking), which show that local marketers are leaving newspapers and the yellow pages but are still dissatisfied with – and don’t pay enough attention to – internet marketing. Factoids:

* 42 percent of small businesses say they use the local paper less and 23 percent use yellow pages less – while 43 percent use search engines more.
* “Though 63% of consumers and small business owners turn to the internet first for information about local companies and 82% use search engines to do so, only 44% of small businesses have a website and half spend less than 10% of their marketing budget online.”
* “Only 9% are satisfied with their online marketing efforts.”
* Mediapost found a disconnect in how small-business owners act as business people and marketers vs. how they act as consumers. That is, as consumers, they use and are satisfied with the internet and search to find other local businesses, but as marketers themselves, they use online less.

The more creative and forward-thinking local small businesses keep finding Front Porch Forum in our pilot area.  Most buy ads and report back remarkable results.

StrayCat, Valentine’s and Reaching People

News flash… Valentine’s during a recession can be an important event for retailers and restaurants.  Or maybe that’s obvious.  We’re seeing a rush this week of free postings and paid advertisements coming into Front Porch Forum.

In fact, I just called one of our advertisers, StrayCat Flower Farm, to place an order for my own sweetie (hope she’s not reading this blog!).  And the owner, Diana Doll, enthusiastically shared this quote with me…

“We’ve received more business from our Front Porch Forum ad than from any other media.”

Glad to hear it!  We love to help.  In fact, we’re getting more and more micro-businesses buying ads.  However, the small and medium-size businesses are more limited.  Those that do advertise with FPF also report remarkable results.  Still others are not yet interested in testing the waters… I guess changing old habits and understanding new opportunities aren’t easy.  Here’s a list of some of our advertisers.

What’s “local?” Define “neighborhood.”

U.K.’s Kevin Harris blogs

Over on the Local democracy blog Dave Briggs asks, how close is local?

I’d say most people regard ‘local’ as geographically within reach, and obviously that differs individually, which is fine. If terminology is fuzzy it doesn’t necessarily mean it’s invalid. We need definitions for administrative areas (wards, cantons, parishes) but not to explain individually-variable experiences of the socially-charged space nearest to the home.

00 graphic av miles travelled And maybe it helps to think about what local is not. For instance, it’s not the same as nearness, and that’s reinforced in this image (courtesy of Indy Johar, 00 architects), which reminds us how transport efficiencies influence our sense of distance.

So why after generations and centuries of people gathering together in villages, towns and cities, are we suddenly struggling with the fact that terms like neighbourhood and locality aren’t rigidly defined? What has happened for instance that causes Dave quite reasonably to suggest that

‘it will be increasingly important to research how people’s notions of their own ‘local’ will determine levels of interest’? …

Harkens back to a post about neighborhood scale based on early Front Porch Forum experience.

“Mice casued house fire”

One thing I like about my Front Porch Forum listserv is the regular updates from the Burlington Fire Marshal’s office whenever there’s a fire in my neighborhood. It’s rare to get detailed information directly from a public official about what happened at the scene of an accident — and despite the rubbernecking aspect, each update also drives home a particular point abut fire safety.

The most recent such update from Assistant Fire Marshal Thomas Middleton detailed how rodents were to blame for a bizarre Hill section blaze last weekend…

I understand that this is no laughing matter; lots of Vermont houses have mice living in the walls, and they can wreak havoc with property… But I have to admit that I giggled at the title of the “Mice Caused House Fire” update on my Front Porch Forum…

Nice post.  Although Meghan clearly didn’t get the “listserv” memo.

The neighbors’ “awesome collective wisdom”

Greg posted the following as part of a note to his neighbors yesterday via Front Porch Forum.  He’s searching for advice about new windows that are frosting over.

At this point none of experts we’ve consulted can seem to explain what could be happening, so I’m turning to the awesome collective wisdom of FPF.

You know… he’s right.  More than 90% of the households in his particular neighborhood subscribe to FPF and got his message.  There’s more wisdom in this group than in any one store clerk or telephone customer service person he may have consulted.  And more than a few of these neighbors share the same problem and may have already solved this problem.

I see one response already in the queue for the next issue of his neighborhood forum… and I’m sure he’ll hear from several people directly.

UPDATE:  Greg and family are relatively new to the state.  So, in addition to appreciating solutions for the window problem, the conversation with all of these clearly identified nearby neighbors is valuable in of itself.

Hyperlocal News History

Keith Hopper offers a history of “hyperlocal” news this week, and starts an interesting conversation in the comments. Worth a look.

Angie’s List: “We’re direct marketers at heart”

Among its many uses, people use Front Porch Forum to find and recommend plumbers and dentists and all sorts of services in between.  This leads others to ask… “oh, so FPF is like Angie’s List?”  Well, yes and no.  Yes, in that both FPF (in our one pilot city) and Angie’s List (in its 250 cities) will help you find a roofer.  And, no, in that we have different missions.

Front Porch Forum’s mission is to help neighbors connect and build community… and we do that by facilitating conversation among clearly identified nearby neighbors about all sorts of topics.

I don’t know Angie’s List’s mission, but here’s a quote from The Local Onliner today…

Angie Hicks, the co-founder and namesake of Angie’s List, said she thinks of her company as a direct marketing machine. Speaking at ClickZ’s Online Marketing Summit in San Diego this morning, Hicks noted that “we’re direct marketers at heart. If it doesn’t perform, it’s out.”