Category Archives: Clay Shirky
“Vermont is awesome! We have this thing called Front Porch Forum – like a neighborhood Craigslist. I posted seeking to borrow a GPS unit with UK maps, and, low and behold, someone came through! Saved $150 on renting one with the car. Being able to trust a small subset of local strangers is great. Front Porch Forum has restored some of my faith in the good of humanity. Seriously.”
I couldn’t agree more with former Vermonter, Dan Gillmor’s recent piece…
Dan focuses on Facebook’s growing dominance as a news distributor…
How should we respond? From my perspective, two primary schools of thought have emerged. One is to embrace that dominance, albeit with some unease, and fully participate in Facebook’s ecosystem. Another is to persuade Facebook to take seriously its growing responsibility to help get quality journalism in front of as many people as possible.
Both of those approaches assume that Facebook is too big, too powerful to resist—that we have no alternative but to capitulate to its dominance. But if that is true, the consequences will be disastrous. We will be living in the ecosystem of a company that has repeatedly demonstrated its untrustworthiness, an enterprise that would become the primary newsstand for journalism and would be free to pick the winners via special deals with media people and tweaks of its opaque algorithms. If this is the future, we are truly screwed.
I say: no. Let’s not give up so easily. Instead, let’s resist—and find a way out of this trap… (click to read the full article)
And… to add to Dan’s call… let’s go beyond journalism. Let’s click local for retail, for discussion, for classifieds, for reviews, for sports, for entertainment, for networking and more. Many communities have local efforts underway, and they struggle to capture people’s attention as so many of us habitually scroll through our Facebook feeds, go to Amazon, Yelp, etc. Why not try local efforts? While the internet and mobile devices still hold the promise of decentralization of power, we now know that the digital juggernaut is also acting as a giant concentrator of wealth into a small number of pockets. Thousands of local taxi companies replaced by Uber and Lyft. Thousands of local bookstores replaced by Amazon.
To quote Dan one more time…
I say: no. Let’s not give up so easily. Instead, let’s resist—and find a way out of this trap.
The Rutland Herald reported recently that…
A proposed social media policy that would cover both town employees and elected officials was met with pushback last week in Rockingham, with Select Board members saying they felt the proposed policy was a threat to their First Amendment rights…
Abby Friedman, director of the municipal assistance center for the [Vermont League of Cities and Towns], said Friday that many larger towns and cities in Vermont have social media policies, but she said she didn’t know whether they had adopted the one drafted by the league.
She said Barre City, Williston and Colchester were among the larger communities that had policies.
“The policy was written back in 2010. It was before Front Porch (Forum) existed. We need to look at our policy too to see if it needs any updating,” she said, noting that a lot of towns were concerned about the social media issue.
Chris Winters, deputy director of the Vermont Secretary of State’s office, said his office so far had not given towns and town officials any official guidance on the issue.
“Eventually, this summer, we were thinking of putting together some guidance,” he said. “And give the towns some help on online and social media behavior.”
In many Vermont communities, more than half of the households participate on their local FPF. So many more residents of these Towns read comments on FPF than would ever attend selectboard meetings. If we want healthy local democracy, we should update state and local policies to encourage participation… not the opposite.
One correction… FPF has been serving Vermont Towns since 2006, and we’ve had public officials participating during each of the past ten years.
It’s Town Meeting season. We get plenty of questions about how to use Front Porch Forum to address local issues this time of year, so we thought we’d share the following.
Postings about local Town Meeting topics, elections and ballot measures are welcome on each FPF. We ask that people who submit postings keep their tone civil… one person’s witty remark is another’s cutting insult. Also, please focus on the topic rather than on specific neighbors. If you think someone is abusing this opportunity for open community dialogue, feel free to contact us with details.
Every single town in Vermont now has Front Porch Forum, and many of them become more lively this time of year as neighbors ask questions and share facts and opinions leading up to Town Meeting Day. We’re grateful to be able to make this contribution to Vermont’s centuries-long tradition of local and democratic decision making. We’ve heard repeatedly that people feel more informed and better able to participate and vote on Town Meeting Day thanks to their neighbors’ postings on their local FPFs. Please feel welcome to join in.
Of course the best way to participate is by showing up at Town Meeting and/or the ballot box!
P.S. From Susan in Montpelier today… “Thanks for being a digital Town Meeting prep station (ugh)… but you know what I mean, right?”
Reported in the Manchester Journal yesterday…
In other business, [the chairman of the Sunderland Selectboard] said there has been discussion lately on Front Porch Forum, the social media site… about town government and… how to get more people involved in local government. He said Sunderland has been having trouble filling open positions, some of which include compensation…
“These positions are open routinely. The lister hasn’t been filled for years,” he said. “We just can’t get people to come in. The lister is a paid position. The auditor is a paid position; it’s 20 bucks an hour … it actually pays something. No one wants to do it.” Hyde said if these positions stay open, contractors would have to be hired…
The board decided to post meeting agendas to Front Porch Forum, to help disseminate the information.
Wise decision by town leadership! A new survey recently found that FPF subscribers are twice as likely to be “very informed” about local government services than those not using FPF. And the number of people who attend municipal meetings at least once a month increases 38% when joining FPF.
Before and after FPF… does it make a difference? We just concluded a survey of 964 Front Porch Forum (FPF) members (out of 6,500 invited). We asked FPF members to answer two-part questions about their experiences since joining FPF vs. before FPF.
Front Porch Forum helps neighbors connect. In the survey, 18% more members reported knowing most of their neighbors since joining FPF (vs. before joining FPF).
FPF also helps Vermonters get informed about local issues. Nearly four times more FPF members reported feeling “very informed” about local community issues since joining FPF.
And FPF helps people get involved and build community. About one-third more members work to make change in their local communities monthly since joining FPF.
See more results below.
Thanks to all who participated. And congratulations to Allison in Greensboro for winning our iPod prize drawing.
FPF helps people connect with neighbors. Since joining FPF…
- 3% more members say “hi” to neighbors monthly (vs. before joining FPF)
- 10% more members find it very/somewhat easy to make friends among neighbors
- 18% more members know most neighbors
- 24% more members have neighbors over to their home monthly
- 37% more members share goods or favors with neighbors monthly
FPF helps people get informed about local issues. Since joining FPF…
- 29% more members share news with neighbors monthly
- 68% more members feel “very informed” about local shops
- Two times more members feel “very informed” about local government services
- Nearly three times more members feel “very informed” about local clubs/organizations
- Three times more members feel “very informed” about local contractors
- Nearly four times more members feel “very informed” about community issues
- Four times more members feel “very informed” about opportunities to get involved locally
- Ten times more members feel “very informed” about neighbors’ views on local issues
FPF helps people get involved locally and build community. Since joining FPF…
- 10% more members intentionally “buy local” monthly (now 73% of members)
- 15% more members perform local volunteer work monthly
- 33% more members contact local public officials monthly
- 33% more members work to make change in their local community monthly
- 38% more members attend local public meetings monthly
- 43% more members attend local events monthly
- 89% of members have recommended FPF to someone
- 98% of members say that FPF helps their local economy (businesses find customers and new employees, neighbors save money, etc.)
From the Sunday New York Times yesterday, by Sherry Turkle, author of “Alone Together: Why We Expect More From Technology and Less From Each Other”…
We live in a technological universe in which we are always communicating. And yet we have sacrificed conversation for mere connection.
At home, families sit together, texting and reading e-mail. At work executives text during board meetings. We text (and shop and go on Facebook) during classes and when we’re on dates. My students tell me about an important new skill: it involves maintaining eye contact with someone while you text someone else; it’s hard, but it can be done.
Over the past 15 years, I’ve studied technologies of mobile connection and talked to hundreds of people of all ages and circumstances about their plugged-in lives. I’ve learned that the little devices most of us carry around are so powerful that they change not only what we do, but also who we are…
Which reminds me of a favorite quote…
Sow an act, and you reap a habit.
Sow a habit, and you reap a character.
Sow a character, and you reap a destiny.
– Charles Reade, 19th century writer
What acts and habits are we developing now with all this mobile technology? And does it add up to changes in our individual characters and destinies?
From a comment writer on the Times op-ed…
A few weeks ago, while having breakfast in a crowded restaurant, I was pleasantly surprised to note that a family of 4 across the room was saying Grace before starting their meal. Until my daughters pointed out that Dad, Mom, Sis and Junior were bowing their heads in front of their untouched meals because each one of them was furiously tapping the phones on their laps.
Unlike many online providers, Front Porch Forum does not want to keep its members transfixed to their screens for eight, 12 or 18 hours per day. Rather, we aim for five minutes of daily news and conversation from and with nearby neighbors. We aim to help people better connect with their actual neighbors and take up conversations… not online, but on the sidewalk, grocery check-out, and school playground.
From Turkle again…
When people are alone, even for a few moments, they fidget and reach for a device. Here connection works like a symptom, not a cure, and our constant, reflexive impulse to connect shapes a new way of being.
Think of it as “I share, therefore I am.” We use technology to define ourselves by sharing our thoughts and feelings as we’re having them. We used to think, “I have a feeling; I want to make a call.” Now our impulse is, “I want to have a feeling; I need to send a text.”
So, in order to feel more, and to feel more like ourselves, we connect. But in our rush to connect, we flee from solitude, our ability to be separate and gather ourselves. Lacking the capacity for solitude, we turn to other people but don’t experience them as they are. It is as though we use them, need them as spare parts to support our increasingly fragile selves.
We think constant connection will make us feel less lonely. The opposite is true. If we are unable to be alone, we are far more likely to be lonely. If we don’t teach our children to be alone, they will know only how to be lonely.
#VT – I thought it was pretty neat that at 15 minutes into the Starksboro Town Meeting, Front Porch Forum had been mentioned 3 times by town officials (Town Clerk, Selectboard Chair, and I think also by the Moderator), with things like, “Watch for updates on Front Porch Forum.”
And the thing that struck me, was that it was always said like everyone would know what they were talking about. Here we are three years after start up there, and it’s a fully integrated part of the way the community interacts (and has been for some time). Pretty cool…
That note arrived today from an observer of Starksboro’s March 3rd Town Meeting… and we’re hearing the same from other towns who met prior to Tuesday’s official Town Meeting Day in Vermont.
Ghost of Midnight is an online journal about fostering community within neighborhoods, with a special focus on Front Porch Forum (FPF). My wife, Valerie, and I founded FPF in 2006... read more
- August 2016
- July 2016
- June 2016
- May 2016
- April 2016
- March 2016
- February 2016
- January 2016
- December 2015
- November 2015
- October 2015
- September 2015
- August 2015
- July 2015
- June 2015
- May 2015
- April 2015
- March 2015
- February 2015
- January 2015
- December 2014
- November 2014
- October 2014
- September 2014
- August 2014
- July 2014
- June 2014
- May 2014
- April 2014
- March 2014
- February 2014
- January 2014
- December 2013
- November 2013
- October 2013
- September 2013
- August 2013
- July 2013
- June 2013
- May 2013
- April 2013
- March 2013
- February 2013
- January 2013
- December 2012
- November 2012
- October 2012
- September 2012
- August 2012
- July 2012
- June 2012
- May 2012
- April 2012
- March 2012
- February 2012
- January 2012
- December 2011
- November 2011
- October 2011
- September 2011
- August 2011
- July 2011
- June 2011
- May 2011
- April 2011
- March 2011
- February 2011
- January 2011
- December 2010
- November 2010
- October 2010
- September 2010
- August 2010
- July 2010
- June 2010
- May 2010
- April 2010
- March 2010
- February 2010
- January 2010
- December 2009
- November 2009
- October 2009
- September 2009
- August 2009
- July 2009
- June 2009
- May 2009
- April 2009
- March 2009
- February 2009
- January 2009
- December 2008
- November 2008
- October 2008
- September 2008
- August 2008
- July 2008
- June 2008
- May 2008
- April 2008
- March 2008
- February 2008
- January 2008
- December 2007
- November 2007
- October 2007
- September 2007
- August 2007
- July 2007
- June 2007
- May 2007
- April 2007
- March 2007
- February 2007
- January 2007
- December 2006
- November 2006
- October 2006
- Peer Rental
- Web Traffic
- Google AdSense
- Viral Marketing
- College Students
- Online Civility
- Real Estate
- Social Responsibility
- Make It Your Own Awards
- Orton Family Foundation
- Start ups
- Clay Shirky
- Online Classified Ads
- Peer Reviews
- Community Management
- Local Reviews
- Economic Development
- Neighborhood Watch
- Borrow and Lend
- Case Foundation
- Good Government
- Small Business Advertising
- Citizen Journalism
- Local Search
- Knight Foundation
- MacArthur Fellows
- Civic Engagement
- Social Media
- social capital
- Social Networking
- Community Building
- Local Online
- Front Porch Forum