Ghost of Midnight

… about neighbors, community and Front Porch Forum

No Neighborhood is an Island

Posted on Monday, March 12, 2007 by No comments yet

Each week brings another neighborhood forum or two across the threshold of success… very exciting for Front Porch Forum.

Now we’re seeing a rise in demand for a secondary service across neighborhood forums. E.g., a woman lost her dog and posted the message on her neighborhood forum. An hour later, a different person posted a note in an adjacent neighborhood forum saying she had found a dog of the same description. Should we have formal way of making that connection?

In this case, informal took over. People talk about what they read on their forums… it’s interesting micro-local stuff. So folks talked over the water coolers or via email or whatever and within an hour or two the connection was made and dog and owner were reunited… a great happy ending.

We’ve also seen examples of an issue occurring at the intersection of multiple neighborhood forums. The topic is raised on all the relevant neighborhood forums, but it only really catches on in one. After a dozen postings, that one neighborhood has moved the issued forward… but what about all those people in the other neighborhood forums?

E.g., Burlington is looking at reworking the very steep block of Cliff Street between S. Willard and Summit Streets. An announcement was posted on the Summit, South Union and DeForest neighborhood forums… but only the DeForest members have really delved into the issue on their forum. Should we have some mechanism for connecting those neighborhoods around this issue?

There’s a technology fix for this kind of thing, but I’m afraid any increase in complexity will move Front Porch Forum from a widely adopted service to one that is only accessible to the tech elite. So, we have four solutions to offer now:

1. Informal… a member of one neighborhood forum asks a list of folks across other neighborhood forums to each post his message to his/her forum. This approach is being put to good use now. This carries the added benefit of the messages coming from a resident of each neighborhood instead of being broadcast by some likely unknown “outsider.”

2. As a participating local official to post the message across all forums in his/her district. This is also used, and, while easier to implement, is in turn a notch less effective.

3. Nearly every neighborhood forum has one or more Neighborhood Volunteers… essentially forum boosters. These folks are knit together across the county by an online forum too. So, a person could become a Neighborhood Volunteer and then share their message with the 200 or so NVs and ask them to pass it on on their forums.

4. We’re developing a message-for-a-fee feature, something like a classified ad, whereby members will be able to post in other neighborhood forums (in a very limited way) for a fee.

Posted in: Community Building, Front Porch Forum, Local Online

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