Ghost of Midnight

… about neighbors, community and Front Porch Forum

Small Town Website Featured

Posted on Monday, August 27, 2007 by 1 comment

Phyl Newbeck wrote an interesting piece for the Burlington Free Press on August 21, 2007 about a local online effort within Front Porch Forum‘s initial pilot area.

Jericho and Underhill collaborate in ways that few Vermont towns do.

They share a library district, a park district and a land trust. The two towns go even further in their collaboration by having a communal Web page and listserv known as “Two Towns Online.”

Although each town has a formal, municipal Web site, Two Towns Online provides additional interactive applications like collaborative document creation and a message board. Front Porch Forum offers three neighborhood-based listservs for Jericho and Underhill, but Two Towns Online founder Toby Brown feels that Two Towns Online is not redundant because it serves a larger audience and is the result of a group effort.

Two Towns On-Line wasn’t always a collaborative project. For almost a decade, Brown, a Web production manager and native of Jericho, was the sole force behind the page. That changed in 2005 when Jan DeVries, a retired businessman from Holland and newcomer to the town of Underhill, offered to provide additional applications such as Mediawiki.

Franco Gatti and Kelly King joined the duo, and the group formed a nonprofit organization and opened a dedicated bank account for the page. Gatti was born in Italy and moved to Jericho in 1994.

He retired from IBM with a desire to devote his time and energy to local projects and is responsible for the page’s virtual gallery for local artists and artisans. King is a home-schooling mother who is a lifetime resident of Jericho.

The Two Towns Online board is somewhat frustrated by the limited use that residents give the listserv. One hundred and thirty people are signed up, but conversation is limited. Still Brown is pleased with his efforts.

“It’s not a wild success, but it has become a community asset,” he said.

Brown sees the limited use as “reflective of our society where people aren’t tuned in to participating in the civil realm.”

The page may not be fully utilized as of yet but it is, as DeVries notes, most definitely designed in the Vermont tradition as it has no billboards and accepts no advertising.

Toby, Jan, Franco and Kelly deserve praise for all the work they’ve done… lots of good stuff on their site.

For the record, Front Porch Forum hosts four neighborhood forums covering 100% of Jericho and Underhill towns.  To date, about 140 households have joined.  None of these neighborhood forums are among our top tier in terms of member count or message traffic… but they are all getting there.

Posted in: Front Porch Forum, Local Online, Vermont

One comment

  1. For those residents of Underhill especially those residing off of and on Pleasant Valley Rd.
    The town recently mailed out letters indicating what we should do in the event anyof us are interested in obtaining broad band interent, cable or Comcast phone service.
    For many of us the desire to obatin real high speed internet at our homes is great.
    From a real estate perspective, one of the first questions I hear from a potential buyer is ” Is there high speed internet available?)
    So, the idea is to fill out the letter from comcast and indicated that you are interested in some level of comcast service. It is not a cmmittment, it just allows comcast to put forth an order if we show a strong desire for the service.

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