Today I offer two disparate links, and the opportunity that connects them. Link one is to a new start-up called Front Porch Forum, a hyper-local social networking site that focus less on snappy, Ajax-y cell phone twitters than it does getting the guy across the cul-de-sac to pick up his dog poop. The service is designed to help busy neighbors connect without having to juggle time commitments–it’s really a continuous, asynchronous town meeting for people who want to be plugged in to their neighborhood but lack the time, connections or perhaps the wherewithal to do it in person.
Here’s some more (check out the map… a big motivator behind FPF’s creation)…
Why is this service so popular, nay, necessary? The aforementioned lack of time is one reason, but another is the way that neighborhoods have changed over the past few decades. As the real front porches disappear from modern residential architecture, fewer and fewer of us actually know our neighbors beyond those immediately adjacent to our houses (and sometimes, not even them). Because people know less and less about their neighbors, they are more and more nervous about letting their kids run around the streets like many of us probably did when we were children, because people no longer have the sense that “the neighborhood” is looking out for them.
For evidence, look no further than link number two for the day, this article in The Daily Mail that illustrates the ever-shrinking world that most children of urban areas are allowed to access. Especially revealing is this map of the areas that children have been allowed to roam and play in four generations of a specific family in Sheffield, England:
I love this map as an illustration, and I hate this map as a father. You know this instinctively to be true, however–we don’t know who is out there, and we no longer trust in our social networks to look after our kids because they just don’t extend as far as they used to. Sure, we have 10,000 “contacts” on LinkedIn, or hundreds of “friends” on Twitter, but we know less and less about our neighbors.
People are flocking to this new pilot of Front Porch Forum because they feel the same way, and are looking for modern ways to cure an ill of modern life.