Monthly Archives: April 2007

Grape Vine Advice

Today’s grape vine advice on Front Porch Forum drew a smile…

Hi all – We have some grape vines and since we’ve moved in we’ve commiserated with many neighbors that we have no idea how to prune them. I found a good resource for this and thought I’d pass it along. The gist of it seems to be that you can prune the crap out of ’em without much risk. That’s my kinda plant. Happy Grapes! –Joanna, The Addition Neighborhood Forum

And that’s my kind of advice! 😉

Neighborhood Lullaby

Isaac is our youngest and, at ten months, not much on sleeping… up with a wail every 30 minutes all night long.

This evening, after awakening number one, I carried him to the front porch for some pacing. What a gorgeous night! Warm, breezy, bugs chirping away… did I mention that we had a snow storm last week? We’ve endured a painfully long winter. Welcome sweet spring!

Isaac and I moved our barefoot back-and-forth to the sidewalk and picked up something new… the faint strain of a fiddle. The sirens’ song set to work immediately and we trundled across the street, through a couple of dark backyards strewn with toys, over an old rock wall, brushed past some brambles… the music getting closer.

Finally, we came upon a couple of neighborhood dads. Bill (violin) and Andy (guitar), barely visible still at ten paces, were playing a string of Appalachian tunes. They stopped the music to say hello and Isaac burst into tears. As soon as they revved it back up, he calmed… eventually snuggling in against my chest and falling asleep as we swayed in time.

I could have stayed there all night… an unexpected treasure of a moment. A bit later the smell of skunk wafted over the fence and broke the spell. I bid our musical neighbors a good night and ambled back to tuck my baby boy in his crib. May everyone live in such wonderful and real community with those around them.

Awards and Recognition for FPF Members

After several requests, I just posted the following list of recognition and awards aimed at Front Porch Forum and it’s thousands of local members.

Blog Name Change

New name for this blog (formerly known as Front Porch)… Ghost of Midnight. This online journal is all about fostering community within neighborhoods, with a special focus on the progress of Front Porch Forum.

As a kid growing up in Indiana, yea these many decades ago, a call would go out sometime after dinner as the sun was fading from the Indian summer sky… “Ghost of Midnight.” This name brings back a wonderful sense of community within the neighborhood that nurtured me and my siblings… just came back to me now apropos of nothing. So now it’s the name of this blog.

A couple dozen kids would trickle into our backyard. Some dressed in dark clothing. A game of Smear the Queer (evidence that the good ol’ days weren’t in fact all good), where one person would run wildly about while everyone else would try to tackle him, would invariably start among the early arrivals. Once a few more people joined, the game would morph to the inverse, British Bulldog… where a couple kids in the middle of the yard would try to tackle whoever they could as the pack streaked across the grass… picture a couple of young lions thinning a herd of passing gazelles.

Once enough bodies arrived, the main attraction was underway. Everyone would cling to the rusty jungle gym in our backyard and then a couple of the older kids who were “it” would start counting… “one o’clock, two o’clock,… 12 o’clock… GHOST OF MIDNIGHT!”

By “Midnight” the other 20 friends had scattered across three yards, each hiding wherever they could. You had to stay within the property lines, and outdoors. The guys who were it would typically round up the littlest kids first. Once tagged, they had to return to base, the jungle gym, to await their fate in the fading light. Oh… and all outdoor lights had been extinguished.

The fun came as the prisoner count mounted. The first “big kid” tagged set the tone for the game… who was going to win? The guys who were “it” would win once they had tagged everyone and sent them all to base at the same time. However, if a free kid ran by and tagged the base and yelled “GHOST OF MIDNIGHT” before getting tagged himself, then all were free.

As a younger kid, I became very familiar with base strategy. Once caught, the prisoners would form a human chain with one end hanging onto a rope tied to a cross bar on the base and the other end someone’s kid sister flailing around in the dark yelling “free us, free us!”

And then, out of the blackness… footfalls approaching… yes! And then a second set… oh no!! “Get ready, get ready!” Some kids were known for self-preservation (they’d streak by and not tag the base if it was too risky to their own status), while a few others were heroes… diving to tag kid sister’s outstretched hand and hollering “GHOST OF MIDNIGHT” seconds before getting the wind knocked out of him as he was sandwiched between the hardpacked ground and the piling on pursuer… who inevitably took the opportunity to get in a few cheap shots.

The base was empty, save the lone hero, grass-stained, sore and smiling, waiting to be rescued (often times, in fact, by the same kid sister who’d circle around in the confusion to liberate her hero).

And the game continued. We’d play as late as our kid-relieved parents would allow. The later, the darker, the better. I could tell stories all day… the sidewalk feint, the concealing power of shadows, the perfect hiding spot conundrum, and then there was one…

This was neighborhood. So much is different today.

Well, summer is coming to Vermont… maybe it’s time to put out the call… “Ghost of Midnight.”

New Neighborhood Assn. Software

From techrockies today…

A new online service that aims to provide local neighborhoods with relevant news and communication is now accepting registrations. The Web site, called eNeighbors.com, includes classifieds, current events calendars, resident directories and community news. According to the company, the service will eliminate the need for newsletters and paper directories while offering social-networking features unavailable to those mediums. However, the company stressed that its site is private and secure. Founded in 2005, eNeighbors is headquartered in Denver.

The site looks well designed and professional.  It appears to be an update on neighborhood association software (bookkeeping, minutes, bylaws, etc.), with a social networking add on.  It appears to want the associations to hire the service and then hand over the list of neighbors.

By contrast, Front Porch Forum is ALL about helping neighbors connect and foster community within the neighborhood.  Individual households join when they are ready.  The service is free.  It doesn’t include any of the other association management tools.

Front Porch Forum on Big Stage

Front Porch Forum just accepted an invitation from co-organizer Micah Sifry to speak at the Personal Democracy Forum on May 18 in New York City. Wow! What an honor and opportunity. Dare I say, I think we have something to add… what we’re doing is unique (from all that I’ve seen at least), off to a promising start, and potentially powerful.

This will be a great event. Speaking or in attendance…

I imagine that we’ll be tucked away in some corner… but we’ll be there! I better start combing the hayseed out of my hair.

Need Movie/Book Review? Ask Neighbors

Here’s a new use of Front Porch Forum’s service from a member in the Oakledge Neighborhood Forum…

I’ll bet some of the folks in this neighborhood are reading some good books and seeing films and plays regularly.  It would be really interesting if folks would write a few words for the neighborhood forum about a book or film they have really enjoyed and think others shouldn’t miss.  -N.A.

Our mission… helping neighbors connect and foster community within the neighborhood.  This message certainly fits the bill!  Now, I hope she gets some folks to give it a shot.

Social Network Traffic Numbers Inflated?

MediaVidea reported recently…

News Item #1: A detailed research from HP reveals that 43% of Facebook messages are spam. Marcus from Plentyoffish dating site puts it correctly that you would similar figures on any other social networking sites.

NewsItem #2: A recent Comscore study reports that 3 out of 10 U.S. Internet users delete cookies, which means that sites may be overestimating audiences by a factor as high as 2.5.

Both pieces of information have implications for advertisers who use cookie-based visitor counting and rates of social networking site usage.

I wonder how accurate this is?  If this ascertain is on target, how widely known is it?  It seems remarkable to me.  It might help explain in part the incredibly positive response to Front Porch Forum we’ve found in our initial service area (greater Burlington, Vermont).  Subscribe to your neighborhood’s forum and you get no spam… just your neighborhood forum in your inbox every few days.  And, our audience is very clear… we have contact information on each one… simple to get an accurate count.  This may also contribute to the initial high level of interest among small local business in sponsoring a variety of our neighborhood forums.

FatDoor on the right path?

The Local Onliner previewed FatDoor today… sounds interesting.

The startup crawls the Web for publicly available info (College, job, kids, church, clubs, blogs) and is being designed to provide neighbors with publicly available info about each other so they can establish commonalities from the getgo, rather than sitting in the isolated silos of today’s typical “Bowling Alone” neighborhood.

The site’s motto is “positive social change.” The company hopes that it will help the “neighborhood get stronger, help people develop friendships in their neighborhoods, and become more civic in their involvement in their communities.” It may also be used for more annoying things (telemarketing, real estate pitches etc.) But the site has taken pains to hire a privacy expert to minimize the inherent risks. If it works at all, one imagines it could be a nice complement to something like Zillow, and more dimensional.

FatDoor has some big names and resources behind it, so it’s going somewhere. I’m trying to picture a real-world (vs. virtual) equivalent… tacking everyone’s resume to their front door? Flipping through your neighbor’s mail to see who’s newsletter he’s getting? I like the motto and goals (similar to Front Porch Forum), but I’m not sure this approach will be warmly embraced. I haven’t seen it in action, so hopefully the sense of the site will match up with the promising intent.

Neighbors to the Rescue!

This afternoon a Jericho Corners member posted a call for help from her neighbors. Problem solved in a few hours! She just sent in this follow up message titled “We’re Saved!”

The neighbor’s have come to our rescue! Thank you Tina and John for the emergency load of firewood since our furnace broke down and another storm is due tonight. And thanks to the others of you who called with concern. – Can’t tell you how much it means to my daughter and me. That false (but scary) perception of “isolation” has been lifted. We feel a lot better… and a lot warmer! Thanks again. -P.M.

Another great use of Front Porch Forum.