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FPF in the news!

Front Porch Forum is gaining some remarkable national attention these days.  It’s an honor to be featured and recognized for our community building work, local focus and approach to digital tech.  Check out some of the cool things that have been happening with FPF in the media below:

“To Thrive, Our Democracy Needs Digital Public Infrastructure”

Jan. 5, 2021
By: Eli Pariser and Danielle Allen of Politico

“…what we need are not just information services with a mission-driven agenda, but spaces where people can talk, share and relate without those relationships being distorted and shaped by profit-seeking incentive structures. We are just beginning to see glimpses of what these spaces might look like. One model is Vermont’s Front Porch Forum…two-thirds of Vermont households are on the Forum, and many Vermonters find it a valuable place for thoughtful public discussions…

…Built into the premise of this work is the notion that what’s needed is not one publicly owned Facebook clone, but an armada of localized, community-specific, public-serving institutions that can serve the functions in digital space that community institutions have served for centuries in physical places. Vermont’s Front Porch Forum and other examples show this is possible, even in the digital age.”

Read the full article here.


“Imagining Our Social Media Future”

Jan. 15, 2021
Hosted by: Brooke Gladstone of WNYC Studios and featured on NPR

Brooke Gladstone and Eli Pariser explore the limitations mainstream social media places on real communities. Welcoming and thought-provoking digital spaces make community building more possible. How the spaces are designed will decide how we participate in them.

“I’m inspired by examples like Front Porch Forum in Vermont, which is kind of like a slow social network…it’s very heavily moderated local email list that you can post to [daily]. If you post something and it’s against the rules and norms it gets sent back to you with a nice little note saying like “hey can you try saying this a different way.” The once-a-dayness is really important because you have to have a lot of stamina and energy to sustain an argument across 14 days of back-and-forth. What’s interesting about Front Porch Forum is it’s used by a huge portion of households in Vermont. Local representatives in Vermont are on Front Porch Forum because they know that’s where the issues of the day are being discussed and addressed.”

Listen to the full, 15-minute discussion here.

 

“Replacing Facebooktwittergooglamazonsoft”

Highlights from the New Public Festival, held Jan. 12-14, by Micah Sifry

“Given all the problems with civic engagement today—widespread misinformation, heightened polarization, online mobs (and their offline manifestations), fears of censorship by over-empowered tech bros, social isolation, increased mood disorders from online addiction, the list goes on and on–should we fix the tech platforms, or should we start over?”

Front Porch Forum co-founder, Michael Wood-Lewis, presented alongside dozens of other tech innovators and project leaders working to shape the future of tech spaces. For more information on who participated in this year’s New Public Festival or to sign up for more information, visit here.


Wood for Good

Front Porch Forum gives members across Vermont and parts of upstate New York and Massachusetts, a space to connect with their neighbors and communities. We see all kinds of postings, but some of our favorites are postings were people come together to help meet a need in the community.

Eric Axlerod, and FPF member from Jericho, uses his neighborhood forum to help provide firewood to neighbors in need. It started with a simple surplus of wood and has evolved into an effort to source, cut, stack, and donate cords of firewood.

Check out this excerpt from Seven Days:

“Thus far, they’ve given away 12 cords of wood. The crew is hoping to collect 20 cords to have on hand ahead of this fall. While they started collecting at their own house, they’ve also cut wood on neighbors’ properties.

The trio has dubbed the undertaking “Wood for Good,” and its mission is similar to that of organizations such as the Monkton Wood Bank in Addison County. Axelrod said he eventually wants to form a nonprofit and hopes to sign up more volunteers to help the cause. He’d consider expanding beyond Chittenden County if it takes off.”

Burlington Free Press also covered the story, sharing that many community business have pitched in to provide trees, wood-splitting and stacking equipment, and volunteers to help get firewood ready for this winter:

“Last month North Star Leasing Company in Burlington announced it was donating a portable wood conveyor to Wood for Good…

…Employees of North Star Leasing are arriving earlier to help split wood. People from the Rotary Club of Burlington and Axelrod’s men’s group have also come to help. Barrett’s Tree Services in South Burlington dropped off seven loads of trees that gave Axelrod a huge boost for 2021. Teachers Tree Service in Shelburne also donated trees.”

When people come together and give back to their community, amazing things can happen. This is a wonderful testament to how challenging times have inspired many amazing neighbors and small businesses to help support those in need of food, warmth, and support.

Read and post on FPF to brainstorm ideas for community outreach, connect with resources that may help you and your family, or organize an effort in your town!


Looking Back to 14 Years Ago

The staff at FPF was touched to rediscover this 2006 Seven Days article titled “Front Porch Forum Encourages Neighborliness — Online and Off.” It’s heartening to see how far Front Porch Forum has come over 14 years.

The article explains how FPF got started. At the time it was written, co-founder Michael Wood-Lewis compiled e-newsletters alone.

“Though Wood-Lewis is currently working on FPF as a volunteer, he sees his time as an investment. He’s hoping that as the service expands, he’ll be able to find local businesses to sponsor it.”

Now the organization has a growing staff of 22. It’s been put to use in communities all over the state, and now serves parts of New York and Williamstown, Massachusetts. The look and feel of the Email Forum has been redesigned and members can now also read their Forum via mobile app and the website.

Check out the full piece for an awesome throwback (complete with a MySpace reference!)


“Local Logic: It’s Not Always a Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood”

Technology and the way people use it has the power to unite people or pull them apart. Ethan Zuckerman and Chand Rajendra-Nicolucci of Knight First Amendment Institute at Columbia University took a closer look at platforms that bring communities together on a local level, only to find that some designs work better than others.

Platforms that operate more like social media, where individuals can post whatever they want instantaneously, can lead to heated, attacking commentary, false accusations, or misinformation. This kind of content may cause civil discourse to devolve and it may disrupt the establishment of ties within a community.

On the other hand, Front Porch Forum is an example of a local platform that has systems in place to help keep conversations civil and community-minded, fulfilling its mission of helping neighbors build community. From Rajendra-Nicolucci and Zuckerman’s piece:

“That organic growth was key to maintaining one of the key differences between FPF and Nextdoor: proactive moderation. FPF uses a team of moderators that review each post to make sure it adheres to the site’s code of conduct (which bars personal attacks and behavior “counter to its community-building mission”) before it’s posted. That helps to keep the discussion friendly and constructive… We believe a platform that takes governance seriously, is designed for a specific purpose, and has ties to the communities it serves can be successful anywhere.”

The authors also share the criteria by which they evaluate various platforms. These platforms operate on a local level broken into neighborhoods, towns, or city blocks.

“Getting local social media right is important. Local platforms present an opportunity to strengthen social capital and civic life. At their best, they can keep residents informed about local issues, encourage civic organizing and action, and facilitate new connections and greater understanding.”

Read the full article on Knight First Amendment Institute at Columbia University’s blog here.


Giving Thanks This Year

Even though this year has been full of challenges the likes of which we’ve never seen before, many folks on Front Porch Forum are finding a plethora of things to be grateful for. Indeed, an attitude of gratitude can make the darker times seem much brighter. Check out what some of our neighbors have had to say during this time of thanks:

“Hey you. Yeah YOU!!! 2020 gave you every reason to not be thankful. It threw everything at you yet here you are reading this. Thank you to all the essential workers from doctors and nurses, to farmers, to the kid bagging your groceries, you putting yourself at risk so we can have some semblance of normalcy is greatly appreciated and does not go unnoticed. Thank you to this community who stick together and help each other despite adversity. All storms end eventually and we will come out of all this stronger. Happy Thanksgiving” – R. in Stowe

FPF has been a faithful and trusted organization for us all and especially important during this challenging time.”  – L. in So. Burlington

“I am beyond grateful for this beautiful Valley in which I can enjoy the clean air outdoors, walk on hillsides that take my breath away with my dog and husband and enjoy delicious, local foods.” -L. in Mad River Valley

“It would be an even more disconnected world than it already is without FPF to tie our neighborhoods together.”  – J. in Charlotte

“Been living in this home since 1960. Have enjoyed the neighborhood, but recently have come to appreciate the neighbors as never before. With the Pandemic, neighbors have offered, and delivered food and help. One neighbor has taken over my hobby of picking up the trash along the roadside, beer cans, etc., that I decided not to do anymore. I think I saw her/him on the road Sat. afternoon, and checked it out Sunday, trash is gone! Yes, We like it here. Happy Thanksgiving everyone.” – A. in East Hardwick

Share what you are grateful for this year with your neighbors on FPF.


Sharing Hope and Gratitude

It’s easier to remember we’re all in this together when we experience acts of kindness that inspire hope. Check out these Front Porch Forum postings for a reminder that we have some pretty great neighbors out there! We’re all in this together.

“Thank you to the kind stranger who returned my wallet to my home address today, everything fully intact. I lost it during a particularly discouraging week, and it was incredibly uplifting to find it in my mailbox today. Beyond the relief of not having to replace all of my IDs and cards, it is wonderful to be reminded that there are good people in this community doing the right thing. There wasn’t a note, so if you who returned it happens upon this post, please reach out and let me know– I would love the opportunity to thank you directly and return your kindness.” • Olivia in Burlington

“We are now 8 months into this pandemic, and it has been a very strange and stressful time. Are you OK? Are your neighbors OK? Many folks are struggling with things like loneliness and depression. Many have disabilities making routine tasks difficult. Some of us are facing food insecurity or struggling with addiction. Please remember to check in with your neighbors who may need help, and if you need help yourself, please reach out and feel the love this community has for you. Let me know if I can help or put you in touch with someone who can.” • Mark in Castleton

“About 2 weeks ago there was a posting for a man’s wedding ring that was found at Waterbury Reservoir. I’m happy to report that ring is now back on my nephew’s finger. To truly appreciate this story I have to share that the ring was lost at Waterbury Reservoir 2 YEARS AGO! We will never know what adventures that ring went on swimming around in that huge body of water. Thank you to the people who found it and posted it. Thank you to FPF for providing the most amazing service to our community. Never give up hope.” • Lorraine in Cambridge

“Thank you to everyone who emailed me in support of my post about the signs the other day. You are all so kind to take the time to extend your warm words.

It got me thinking though about how 2020 has been a dumpster fire of epic proportions A year that has left us with so many emotional jagged edges it’s no wonder we react without thinking, tear into friends and strangers and generally not being our best selves. We all know we can do better, we just seem to not have much bandwidth left for that.

So I would like to propose a community FPF challenge. It’s an easy one too. I would like everyone who reads this post to reply with a story of something great that happened to them today or this week. It doesn’t have to be big, or life changing or deep, in fact something simple and sweet is best. The idea is to fill up our hearts with all the ways we are a fantastic community, surrounded with great neighbors and friends and that we are truly lucky even when we forget that. Our “wealth” is all around us, we just need to remember that more often than not.

I hope you will take 60 seconds to join me and hit reply all with your own story of gratitude. Thanks, Beth

I will start.

I want to acknowledge and thank the man who I see walking around town with his garbage grabbing stick and orange bag picking up other people’s trash nearly everyday. You sir are AWESOME. Thank you so much for making our roads cleaner and more beautiful for everyone to enjoy. Hometown Hero in my book. Thank you so much.” • Elizabeth in Stowe

Spread your message or story of hope to your neighbors on FPF.



VT Farmers: Apply by Oct. 1 for State COVID-19 Relief Grants

It’s not too late! The Dairy Assistance Application and Agriculture and Working Lands Applications are now live. The deadline to apply for these funds, part of Vermont’s COVID-19 Agriculture Assistance Program (VCAAP), is Oct. 1, 2020. These grants are intended to stabilize agricultural businesses and organizations based on their lost revenues and expenses related to the COVID-19 public health emergency. Learn more here.

If you have neighbors in your community who could benefit from this information, or other helpful info to share, post it on your neighborhood FPF!


Front Porch Forum Expands Engineering Team

Front Porch Forum’s tech team is growing! Two more software engineers, Noah Harrison and Aaron Lipman, have joined FPF to continue upgrading and expanding our custom-built mobile, web and email platforms to better serve our social mission.

Since 2006, FPF has been helping neighbors connect and build community by hosting a statewide network of online local forums. Out of Vermont’s 260,000 households, FPF has more than 190,000 members.  As part of FPF’s 20 staff members, our software developers play a crucial role in providing high-quality service and developing relevant new features for members across all of Vermont and parts of surrounding states.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

New Hires:  Aaron Lipman and Noah Harrison

Noah and Aaron each work closely with Lead Engineer and Tech Team Manager, Matt Barry, and tech advisor, Jan Schultz. Together they maintain and improve FPF’s unique web and mobile applications, which are used by more than half of the households in Vermont on a daily basis. Stay posted for new features and updates!

Noah, who is working with email integration and web browser technologies, says “I really enjoy the direct appeal that FPF forums have to many of my friends and neighbors.”

Noah comes to Front Porch Forum after ten years as a software developer and project manager consultant for various companies, including projects for NBCUniversal and on a 3D globe projector.  He earned a degree from Dartmouth College, having studied Classics, Religion, and Computer Science.

On his new role, Aaron remarks “I consider myself privileged to work on a platform that helps Vermonters work together in weathering events from Hurricane Irene to the current COVID-19 pandemic.”

Aaron has a background in electoral data modeling and a passion for writing software that strengthens communities. Outside of Front Porch Forum, Aaron contributes to several open source projects. When not writing code, Aaron enjoys road biking.

Front Porch Forum is an award-winning Vermont Public Benefit Corporation.  Our mission is to help neighbors connect and build community, leading to more resilient communities.  FPF hosts regional networks of online local forums where neighbors, small businesses, nonprofits and municipal officials post about a wide variety of topics.  This daily neighborly exchange leads to people feeling more invested in their communities and getting more involved.


Scat Whisperers

Front Porch Forum is a way to connect with neighbors on community efforts, local issues, and…scat identification? One curious neighbor asked for help discovering what kind of animal had been in their backyard, and got a huge and helpful response on their neighborhood forum! Check out the story below.

“Well, if you want to gather a crowd, just show up with a little scat.

I received 17 unique offers of help analyzing the scat photo. Each was serious and wonderfully curious in their pursuit of an answer.

The identifications offered included: skunk, raccoon, feral cat, weasel, coyote, red fox, grey fox and bobcat, after our neighbor reminded me that we had a beautiful bobcat sitting in a maple across from our barn a year ago.. Catamount was ruled out.

Several folks forwarded the picture to several other more expert folks who responded with a more focused belief that it was either a skunk or a raccoon but most likely a raccoon.

My thanks to everyone who replied to my ask. It was great to touch base with so many old friends that, due to circumstances, have been out of touch.

FPF is a force for good and re-tightening community. Thank you.” • Phil in Craftsbury, Vt.

Have a question you could use some input on? Try asking neighbors on your local FPF.