Monthly Archives: October 2007

Neighborhood Pumpkin Contest

This just in from a South Burlington neighborhood forum…

The [neighborhood] Pumpkin Contest will be held this Sunday, October 28 at 4pm.  The contest is held in Monkey Park.  Bring a pumpkin ready to show (already carved), a candle and flashlight to get home safely.  There will be light refreshments (cider and doughnuts) and prizes for best jack-o-lanterns (several categories).  It’s a fun event and nice way to chat up your neighbors. See you soon!

Great idea!  That sounds fun.  Another wonderful use of Front Porch Forum.  I hope someone tries something similar in our neighborhood.

Judy’s Book RIP

I just learned from TechCrunch that Judy’s Book is dead

We just got word from Judy’s Book founder and CEO Andy Sacks that the Seattle startup will be shutting down operations, and most of the staff of twelve was let go today. The company had raised a total of $10.5 million over two rounds of financing. Judy’s Book started off as a community driven review site for local businesses, but changed it’s focus in 2006 when the original model looked to be failing. The company de-focused on local reviews, and went more towards the shopping angle and local deals.

Other players in the local review space have fallen in the last year, too. Intuit shut down Zipingo last summer, and Insider Pages sold for little more than the capital it originally raised to CitySearch. Yelp is still standing and reportedly doing well, although fierce competition from Yahoo and Google as well as younger startups is looming.

Front Porch Forum does a booming business in our pilot community with local reviews… but with a very different take.

NY Times covers LifeAt and others

Bob Tedeschi wrote in the New York Times today about LifeAt, meettheneighbors.org and i-neighbors.org… three services taking aim at online social networking for neighbors.  About LifeAt (see my recent post)…

Matthew Goldstein, LifeAt’s chief operating officer, said the company is only now completing its advertising strategy. For now, the company, based in Brooklyn, is surviving on the roughly $6,000 it receives from each building that signs up for the service. It does not charge the buildings yearly fees.

More than 335 buildings have joined since LifeAt began in March. About 600 more buildings are scheduled to introduce LifeAt Web sites by year’s end. The company does not currently share ad revenues with the buildings, but Mr. Goldstein said that could change.

Among buildings with LifeAt Web sites, Mr. Goldstein said, residents of 64 percent of the units have created personal pages. Property managers, who give residents login and password information, also use the sites to post news about maintenance work and vacancies.

And about meettheneighbors.org…

Since late 2004, MeetTheNeighbors.org, a for-profit company based in Manhattan, has operated a social networking service for apartment dwellers.

That site, which is free, has about 15,000 users, and last year began serving residents of Boston, London and Dublin. Jared Nissim, the company’s founder, runs the site as a sidelight.

Mr. Nissim said some buildings have considerably more active Web sites than others, thanks mostly to the efforts of volunteers in the building who are responsible for managing the content of the site. “It may be one of the flaws of our system that it relies on one primary contact to get the ball rolling,” he said.

The meettheneighbors site reports 2,204 buildings set up with 11,621 members… about five people per building.

And i-neighbors.org…

I-Neighbors continues to grow, with 45,000 people now using the free service.

I seem to recall that this service hosts about 5,000 neighborhood groups across North America.  That’s a lot of people… although averaging 9 people per group.

About 25% of Front Porch Forum‘s pilot city has subscribed via word of mouth.  Our average neighborhood forum has about 50 households.

Marchex Marching through Local Online

An interesting article in the Business 2.0 finale this month about Marchex.

Marchex CEO Russell Horowitz is launching websites for thousands of cities, big and small. The play? To beat Microsoft, Google, and Yahoo to the punch in connecting businesses to nearby customers.

With smart people, powerful tools, and hundreds of millions of dollars behind it, I’m sure that this effort will produce something of value… in fact it already has.  But I wonder about “soul”…

Marchex is having a hard time selling its vision. Since so many of its sites sat idle for so long, packed with nothing but ads, Marchex looked like a giant domain play except with much higher overhead. But the company has been developing new technologies. And in June, Marchex lit up 100,000 of its sites – with another 150,000 or so to go – changing them into destinations with a smattering of content and reviews. The goal is to create sites that, as Horowitz puts it, “have a soul.”

In May 2006, for example, Marchex bought a review site called OpenList, a local guide that pulls together reviews for restaurants, hotels, and local attractions. The company then developed software that crawls the Web, sorts out duplicate content, and then generates a review. Look up San Francisco’s Hotel Triton on BayAreaHotels.com, for instance, and the software-generated write-up reads like a Zagat guide: “What travelers said they loved: ‘The location,’ ‘the staff,’ and ‘the room.’ Guests can enjoy yoga and other local activities.” Users add their own reviews too.


Neighbors get organized to protect zoning

Neighbors have plenty of cause to get organized.  One Burlington neighborhood nearly had its zoning changed by a last minute political move to allow lots to be subdivided… potentially a big deal for residents.

One neighbor got wind of it and posted a message… “contact our city councilors ASAP!”  That message was published to about 100 households today at 1:00 PM.  Here’s the note from one of the councilors…

As of 2:30pm on Monday October 22 I have already received almost a dozen emails from you all about the protection of Van Patten Pkwy.  To me clearly this shows the effectiveness of Front Porch Forum.

And, this just in (the city council meeting just adjourned)…

Great news, our neighborhood was restored to Amendment 34!  Our neighborhood will retain it’s unique flavor, and lessens the risk of over development.

Voices for the Lake Brainstorming Forums

This is a compelling program and Front Porch Forum will participate…

Voices for the Lake Brainstorming Forums

-Tuesday, Oct. 30th – 9:30 to 2:30 @ ECHO
-Monday, Nov. 12th – 9:30 to 2:30 @ ECHO
-Saturday, Nov. 17th – 9:30 to 2:30 @ Champlain College’s Hauke Family Campus Center

600,000 people CAN make a difference!  How do you get thousands of people talking about and, more importantly, doing something for the health of Lake Champlain?  Participate in the Voices for the Lake Brainstorming Forums and help set the course for engaging the public through new Internet technologies.

-EXPLORE emergent technologies, including wikis, blogs, and serious eGames
-INTERACT with technology industry leaders from Champlain College Emergent Media Center, IBM and Google.
-VOTE ELECTRONICALLY on your forum’s strongest ideas
-COLLABORATE on stewardship-themed Internet media and ECHO exhibits, website content, and school programs
-FREE lunch and parking
-ARTICIPATE in as many forums as you can – and spread the word

Please RSVP: Steffen Parker, Voices for the Lake Facilitator: sparker@vpaonline.org / 802.864.1848×135 http://www.echovermont.org

Web Traffic Stats… who’s to say?

Interesting article in the New York Times by Louise Story today about how varied website traffic stats are… depends on who’s counting and how.

Online advertising is expected to generate more than $20 billion in revenue this year, more than double the $9.6 billion it represented as recently as 2004. Nobody doubts that the figure will grow — particularly as advertisers hone their techniques for aiming messages to particular consumers — but the question remains how much the clashing traffic figures will hold the market back.

Member Feedback :-)

Awards are great, but comments about Front Porch Forum from a member carry even more weight for me.  So when I asked one of our longest-running members, a stranger to me, for constructive feedback today after helping her with a tech question, I was left with a BIG smile on my face by her response…

I LOVE Front Porch Forum and am encouraging any neighbor who is not on it to get on it.

We advertised a plant swap at the beginning of summer – it was a great way to get rid of some stuff, get some new plants and meet great neighbors.  We’ll be doing it again in the spring.

I enjoy the school board updates, crime updates, free stuff, sponsor advertising, etc.  We meet new folks with each posting.  We’re encouraged to try Dino’s a pizza place on North Street from the recommendation of someone on the fourm.

Honestly, I have no complaints.

You’ve taken the conversations between immediate neighbors that occur across the fence and extended them blocks away.

I thank you for that and for all your (presumably thankless) work to maintain the forum.

CitySquares adds features for neighborhoods

Again from Greg Sterling about CitySquares…

The Boston-based local site has added many familiar “Web 2.0″ features and introduced a new design, which I like on first blush. It offers more participation, photos (with Flickr), profiles, events (Zvents), local news (Topix), Virtual Earth map integration and personalization… Nonetheless it’s a nice redesign, with clear navigation and lots of features built around neighborhoods, which is the kind of detail that locals want.

Ask your Community vs. Find it Yourself

Greg Sterling writes today about social networks as a way to cut through the tangle of information on the web…

Community is something of an antidote to these phenomena. Community has definite limitations and flaws but it also offers a way to navigate the sea of too many choices online.

We’ve been talking about this with Front Porch Forum for some time. Seems like there are two kinds of people in the world… those who think there are two kinds of people and those who don’t. 😉 Whoops…

Another two kinds… people who live and breathe online and those who use it as a tool when needed. Advanced users jump all over the growing mass of online services to find whatever, whenever. The rest of us would just as soon ask some real and familiar/trusted people… “does anybody know where I can get X?”

Reminds me of the old male-female stereotype about asking for driving directions.