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Monthly Archives: December 2008

Thou shall not call Front Porch Forum a “listserv”

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”…

  1. TRADEMARK:  Listserv is a trademarked brand name for the first email list software that is now a commercial product developed by L-Soft (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/LISTSERV).
  2. 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!
  3. 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.
  4. 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.

“Local social networking communities will thrive”

From Scott Heiferman

Forbes: “The Watch List: Meetup.com. The bartering economy will expand. Local social networking communities will continue to thrive and help people connect to information, resources, ideas and employees. Meetup.com groups will be at the center of the burgeoning part of the economy. Entrepreneurs will tap these groups for goods and services and to form new partnerships.” (Maureen Farrell via Greg)

We certainly see high volumes of business being done through Front Porch Forum… and it seems to be increasing as the national economy sours.


Online community management skills are essential

Matt Thompson posted on his blog today…

I’ve been parroting Kevin Kelly’s “1,000 true fans” model so much recently that I forget how many people still haven’t heard it…

BTW: This principle dovetails nicely with Caterina Fake’s philosophy that you build a real community by greeting each early user at the door. Among the most essential skills that I believe must be taught to tomorrow’s journalists is community management — a skill entirely lost in today’s discussions about newsroom training. Technical training will be obsolete in a year. But the best community managers on the Web today employ principles refined over a long history of community leadership.

The value of community management to Front Porch Forum‘s early success becomes more apparent every day.


Community comes to aid of fire victims

News of a house fire spread through Richmond, VT recently via Front Porch Forum and other means, and the neighbors there rallied.  The victims, a retired couple, responded on FPF…

Thank You!

After the devastating fire on November 30 that destroyed our home and our two Siamese kittens, we would like to thank all the people who came to our aid. First, the wonderful fire fighters from Richmond, Bolton, Huntington and several other neighboring communities.

Second, our great neighbors and family especially [list of names], Richmond Home Supply and all the wonderful people in Richmond. We received clothing and food, dozens of calls, cards, money and prayers. We are in the process of rebuilding and are now living in a rented house in Richmond village.

We were both born and raised in Richmond and appreciate the kindness and generosity of all of the great people who live here.


What a twisted webmail we weave…

From the National Business Review

CommScore’s latest global market share figures give Microsoft’s Hotmail 283 million users – a 15% increase year -on-year, despite a rash of complaints about a recent redesign.

Yahoo Mail is a close second, with 274 million users.

And Google is a distant third, with 113 million Gmail users around the planet.

But I don’t understand why so many people use webmail instead of an email client (e.g., Thunderbird or Apple Mail).  Using one of these webmail providers (including AOL) leaves all of your email on their servers instead of your own hard drive.  It’s like having the Post Office keep all of your written correspondence for you in their filing cabinents instead of your own… bizarre.  Except, of course, these huge corporations also are mining your private email for marketing data (and more?).


Backdoor Bakery and Front Porch Forum

Quote seen on the website for the Backdoor Bakery in Huntington, VT…

“Also on my mind — the best almond croissant I’ve ever had in my life — last Saturday — hot out of the oven from the Backdoor Bakery (my stomach thanks Front Porch Forum).”  -Catherine

This is a “community supported bakery”… locals buy shares in advance and get regular doses of fresh baked yum yums… reduces the risk for the mom and pop owners of this treasured local small business.  Suzanne Podhaizer of Seven Days wrote about it recently.


Recession Response… steal from vs. help neighbors

While some people respond to economic hard times by stealing from their neighbors, others turn to each other for mutual aid… and they use Front Porch Forum to get it done.  We just heard from Joanne that her posting helped a neighbor find a job!

I think you were the one who posted this [a job opening with the Census Bureau] to the Charlotte Shore Neighborhood forum.  Thank you very much, it led to a full time job for my father.

In fact FPF is flooded with neighbor-helping-neighbor stories.  Here a some recent ones… and kids food drives, a new community chorus, and daily occurances such as this visit from the Snowblower Fairy.


Mail Tampering and Gas Siphoning

Several postings this week in the Old North End of Burlington on Front Porch Forum report stolen and damaged mail and missing checks.

Hi All, It seems that our mail  is also being tampered with.  Several envelopes have disappeared from our mailbox altogether. The post office does not have any helpful info. I would suggest collecting your mail as quickly as possible after it is delivered.

Another person wrote about someone stealing gasoline from cars with a siphon tube.  More symptoms of our national economic meltdown?

And one neighborhood to the south, Lauren posted…

Just want to let folks know that someone (or many) has been stealing bags of children’s clothing donated for refugees off my front porch on Orchard Terrace. The latest was Monday night, when a bag of much needed infant snowsuits was dropped off late-after 10:00PM-and gone by morning. I don’t understand it, but it has happened many times. If you notice anything please
speak up. Thanks.


Don’t talk about religion or politics?

Growing up in the Midwest in the 1960s and 70s, I frequently heard that one simply did NOT talk about religion or politics.  I somehow combined this etiquette demand with the admonition that I was not to say swear words either.  Needless to say, this approach left me confused… “but how are you supposed to learn and debate and change if you can’t talk about this sh#$@t?”  Oops.

Many people, I think, still feel that it’s improper to talk about such matters among neighbors… at a block party, a school event, or on Front Porch Forum.

Recently, a member of the popular and rural Westford FPF forum posted a note about civil rights and gay marriage… an issue that is picking up steam in Vermont.  This led to a response from another resident…

If our Neighborhood Forum is going to turn into a political soapbox then I will remove myself from the mailing list.  I appreciate being kept informed on our community’s events, and knowing about lost dogs and items for sale, etc. I do NOT want to hear about somebody’s political or sexual orientation. I do not think this is an appropriate venue for such discussions.

And then a third neighbor responded to the above with…

online dictionary definition of a forum (#3)
an assembly, meeting place, … for the discussion of questions of public interest.

I like the Westford Neighborhood Forum from lost dogs, to school district issues, house sitters, farmers markets, and political issues… a place for the discussion of questions of public interest. We all won’t agree but let’s keep the forum open.

I am not interested in every posting on the Forum, but I am always eager to open the email marked Westford Neighborhood Forum and check out what is there.  I feel it is is a great resource for our community and hope it continues to grow.

It’s a tough question… some people are interested, able and willing to engage civilly about almost any topic, while others feel that some popular issues are simply out of bounds and should not be discussed openly.  Front Porch Forum’s mission is to help neighbors connect and foster community at the neighborhood/town level.  And to accomplish that we need lots of people to be involved… not just those of one political persuasion or another.  We also support open, civil and construction conversation among neighbors about many topics.  It’s a balancing act for all involved.


Kids Collect for Kids

I was so impressed with the informal groups of neighbors who came together around Thanksgiving to collect donated food, each group in their own neighborhood, to pass on to local food shelves.  A group of people in the Laurel Hill area of South Burlington have been doing this for some years and they call it Kids Collect for Kids.  This year, one of the organizing parents, Monica Ostby, turned to Front Porch Forum to get the word out… in her own neighborhood, and also to spread the concept to other neighbors… and several took up the challenge!

I love the informal nature of this… and zero overhead costs.  And the kids work and learn… great all around.  Thanks Monica and everyone.