Ghost of Midnight

… about neighbors, community and Front Porch Forum

Shirky’s “Here Comes Everybody”

Posted on Sunday, March 9, 2008 by 3 comments

I look forward to reading Clay Shirky’s new book, Here Comes Everybody: The Power of Organizing Without Organizations. Until then, this video of his lecture at Harvard’s Berkman Center provided me a thought-provoking overview.

The nut… the internet allows for “ridiculously easy group forming,” which improves…

  1. Sharing
  2. Conversation
  3. Collaboration
  4. Collective action

But this doesn’t do his ideas justice. I’m especially interested in how much of Front Porch Forum‘s experience maps onto Shirky’s conceptual framework. Many of our online neighborhood forums, upon reflection, have followed the four steps above.

UPDATE:  See comments below.

Posted in: Clay Shirky, Front Porch Forum, Local Online, MacArthur Fellows, Social Media


  1. Dan says:


    I don’t suppose you could post up any examples of a FPF community going through those four steps…?

    I’m really interested in the notion of the internet being used as a kind of garden framework or scaffold, on which networks of activity can grow like climbers. Twould be great to hear any good examples of this happening.

  2. Michael says:

    Hi Dan… let me try…

    Front Porch Forum hosts 130 online neighborhood forums covering all of Chittenden County, Vermont. More than 8,000 households have subscribed already, including 30% of Burlington. Only clearly identified nearby neighbors may join, access and post messages to a given neighborhood forum.

    As one of our neighborhood forums matures, it seems to add each of Shirky’s four types of engagement. That is, initially a neighborhood forum will typically not have any message traffic.

    Then a few bold souls will begin SHARING… car for sale, self introduction, school fundraiser announcement, etc.

    As the number of members grows and the message traffic, people will start to respond to postings…. CONVERSATION… “Sure I can recommend a plumber,” “interesting point about town budget vote, but I think… ,” “did anyone else see the owl that was hanging out on Maple Street yesterday?”

    Few neighborhoods push on to COLLABORATION… organizing a block party or group yard sale, rallying to help a neighbor in need.

    And some make it all the way to COLLECTIVE ACTION… fighting a proposed landfill or WalMart (two sides of the same coin), leaning on gov’t or utilities for better service, preparing a meal as a group for the local homeless shelter.

    We’ve seen all these examples happen many times in the past year… not all in the progression outlined. Sometimes the need for collective action, e.g., jump starts the entire neighborhood forum.

    Lastly, in our more active neighborhood forums, there may be a dozen current issues being tossed around at any given time… each one may be in one or more of the four phases Shirky outlines.

  3. […] Author and thinker Clay Shirky nails it today with a brilliant posting about… about… […]

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