Occasionally friends of our service will describe Front Porch Forum as a “listserv.” Ack! Happened again yesterday at a great community and communication meeting hosted by CCTV. Here’s my response as to why Front Porch Forum is not a “listserv”…
PERCEPTION: People generally have a bad impression of mailing lists, in my experience, so, from a marketing perspective, I don’t brand FPF as being anything like a “listserv,” mail list, Yahoo Group, etc. Also, “Listserv” is so ’90s!
A NEW PLATFORM: FPF shares things in common with many communication tools… mail lists, blogs, newsletters, bulletin boards, block parties, town meetings, letters to the editor, ballot box, etc. But it’s its own thing… a new platform. Front Porch Forum hosts networks of online neighborhood forums that blanket a region. In our pilot, we cover all of Chittenden County, VT with 130 forums and already 12,000 households subscribe, including one-third of Burlington. As we grow, we’ll add networks, e.g., one new network of 40 neighborhood forums would cover all of adjacent Washington County. We also have several specific details that are not common in mailing lists.
DISTRIBUTION TECHNOLOGIES: FPF uses email and its website (online archive) to distribute its content now. In 2009, we’ll be looking to add other options (e.g., RSS)… and who knows what lies ahead. FPF has a very specific mission (helping neighbors connect and build community) and strategies for fulfilling that mission. We build and revise our own software to help us meet that mission… a different approach than picking a popular software tool off the shelf and trying to make it work. That is, FPF is very much mission driven, not technology driven.