Monthly Archives: January 2009

Pick your platform…

Posted on Friday, January 30, 2009 by No comments yet

Pew keeps cranking out the internet data.  A recent report shows…

  • 74% of adult Americans are online

Of those online…

  • 2% visit a virtual world
  • 11% create a blog
  • 26% participate in online auctions
  • 32% read blog
  • 32% rate a person or product
  • 35% use social networking sites
  • 38% send instant messages
  • 89% use search engines
  • 91% use email

So, if I understand the data, Pew is saying that 26% of the 74% of American adults online participate in online auctions… that’s 19% of all American adults.  So, here’s the list for all American adults (not just those online)…

  • 1% visit a virtual world (e.g., Second Life)
  • 8% create a blog (e.g., Twitter, Word Press, Blogger)
  • 19% participate in online auctions (e.g., eBay)
  • 24% read blogs (not necessarily via RSS?)
  • 24% rate a person or product (e.g., Angie’s List, Yelp)
  • 26% use social networking sites (e.g., Facebook, MySpace)
  • 28% send instant messages
  • 66% use search engines (e.g., Google, Yahoo, MSN)
  • 67% use email

Front Porch Forum aims to have as many residents of a neighborhood as possible subscribe and participate on the associated FPF neighborhood forum.  In a sense, we host non-stop online block parties… and the more the merrier, as long as they live in the neighborhood.

Because FPF is an online service, we’re already limited, on average, to just 74% of the adult population.  If we had selected a platform/distribution channel such as a Facebook application or instant messaging or Twitter… well, we’d only be able to get, at best, about one quarter of the neighbors on board.  Of course, these numbers will change over time.

So, for now, we use email newsletters and a web-based archiving system.  This allows us to reach, on average, 67% of the adults in each neighborhood.  In our pilot region, more than 20% subscribe, with 40% on board in the City of Burlington.  We’d never have been that successful if we had limited ourselves by going with one of these other, sexier platforms.

Children stoning refugees spark community response

Posted on Tuesday, January 27, 2009 by No comments yet

I had to share a posting from Sarah Judd tonight on her FPF neighborhood forum in Burlington’s Old North End…

Please join us for the opening of the ONE Woman photography show this Friday, January 30th, at the Burlington College Community Gallery, 95 North Ave. in Burlington.  The Gallery will be open from 3-9 p.m., with a reception from 6-8 p.m.  If you can’t make the opening, you can see the show at the dates and times below, or by calling Burlington College at 862-9616 to make an appointment:

Friday, January 30, 3-9 p.m.
Saturday, January 31, 10 a.m. – 4 p.m.
Sunday, February 1, 10 a.m. -4 p.m.
Monday, February 2, 8:30 a.m. – 11:30 a.m.
Tuesday, February 3, 8:30 a.m.-2:45 p.m.
Friday, February 6, 8:30 a.m. – 11:30 a.m.

The ONE Woman photography project is a display of 200 photographs taken by 170 women living, working and learning in the Old North End.  Project participants included women who have lived in the ONE for two months and women who have lived here all of their lives.  Our youngest participant was 10, and the oldest was 85. The project, I hope, is a document of women’s lives in the ONE, illustrating who our unique neighbors are and how we live, and shows connecting links between the diverse groups of women from many backgrounds living in the same community.

This project was inspired, in part, by a Front Porch Forum post by Bridget Burns, who witnessed a group of children throwing rocks at a Somali family last April [emphasis added]. I thought if I could show who we are living in the ONE, the things we all care about like our families, places we love, pets, streets, etc., this commonality and familiarity with each other would hopefully prevent things like the rock throwing incident from happening again.  We live in a great place, filled with great people, and I hope the show reflects this.  So thanks, for your post, Bridget.

I also got several participants for the project through a post on the FPF, so thanks FPF ONECentral and the ONE women who participated!

This makes my day (week, month!).  The posting that inspired this artist has haunted me for months.  This is the power of a tool like Front Porch Forum.  The problem was shared on FPF and much discussion ensued.  Out of that (and other sources of inspiration) came this art project.  The artist used FPF to pull her project together and bring in collaborators.  And, now, she’s using FPF to share word of it with hundreds of nearby neighbors.

UPDATE: Mike Ives filed a good piece about this show for Seven Days.  In part…

Judd’s inspiration came last April, when she read a post on the local listserv Front Porch Forum titled “Neighborhood Bigotry.” The post’s author, a twentysomething Old North End woman, reported seeing a group of boys throwing rocks at a family of Somali refugees. Judd, 42, a Connecticut native who grew up in a multiracial family, wondered if the incident would have occurred if the boys had known more about the immigrants they chose to terrorize.

Town Crier, Town Square, Town Expert

Posted on Monday, January 26, 2009 by No comments yet

I’m intrigued by Steve Yelvington’s post today about possible functions that a local newspaper can fulfill…

Vermonters to Inauguration

Posted on Monday, January 26, 2009 by No comments yet

President Obama’s inauguration was incredible… inspirational.  Here are a couple of TV news stories from WPTZ (on the way to DC and upon our return)…

[grr… can’t get the video to load here or onto YouTube… hopefully WPTZ will keep them accessible on its site for awhile.]

And some newspaper coverage of our journey is here.

It’s always a kick when our baby, Front Porch Forum, helps deliver something particularly amazing to our lives… like this whole DC experience.

UPDATE: Here are links to an article by Lynn Monty and a video (below too) by Mark Gould, both of the Burlington Free Press, who were “embedded” on our bus trip.

National “local” websites in the news

Posted on Thursday, January 22, 2009 by No comments yet

A couple of deserving media darlings are in the news again this week…

EveryBlock, the six person Adrian Holovaty “micro-local” project funded to the tune of $1.1 million by the Knight News Challenge, is preparing to go “for profit” when the two year Knight grant ends in June.


Placeblogger, a 2007 recipient of $220k from the Knight News Challenge, has recently been revamped by its founders to encourage more personal interaction.

Details from The Local Onliner (here and here).

Some people don’t want to connect with neighbors

Posted on Thursday, January 22, 2009 by No comments yet

Kevin Harris posts from the U.K…

Last month HBOS released another in this entertaining series, finding that 6% of respondents thought that good relationships with new neighbours were ‘not at all important’ and would prefer not to have any contact with them.

So not everyone is gungho on the concept of community and neighborhood.  So be it.

Obama or Bust… hitting the road for DC

Posted on Monday, January 19, 2009 by 1 comment

UPDATE: Click here for some TV news coverage of our journey.

Joel Banner Baird wrote a piece in today’s Burlington Free Press about a little community adventure my wife is organizing.  Should be wonderful!  Good, bad or otherwise, you can follow along as the Free Press will be reporting live along the road.

Vermonters take bus ride to history
By Joel Banner Baird
Burlington Free Press
January 19, 2009

Her preparations include flag-topped cupcakes and sensible shoes; pillows and a back-log of reading.

She anticipates sleep deprivation and full-tilt improvisation.

Valerie Wood-Lewis’s inauguration itinerary for the next 48 hours falls somewhere between a no-frills rough guide and a magical mystery tour.

This evening, she and 56 other bus passengers will board the red (and white, and blue)-eye to Washington, D.C. They plan to take in the presidential-elect phenomena, then re-board the bus Tuesday evening and head for home.

Anything more is anybody’s guess. Amid ever-shifting security regulations and crowd estimates, the logistics of pilgrimage continue to evolve. Fervor is the constant.

“People are just pumped up,” Wood-Lewis said last week. “Everyone’s pretty much going to go their own ways, then regroup for the trip back.”

Valerie Wood-Lewis of Burlington chartered a bus with her friends and neighbors to travel to Washington, D.C., on Monday evening for Barack Obama’s inauguration.

She organized the trip on a whim. It began at her mother’s home, while watching inaugural preparations on television.

“It was an epiphany-type thing,” she said. “It became real to me for the first time that people were travelling from all over the country for this thing. I thought — how exciting, just to be in that crowd — and I wondered if I could pull it off.

“My mother said, ‘You wouldn’t catch me dead there,'” Wood-Lewis continued. “I said ‘Aha! I’ve got to be there. I’m going.'”

After investigating several bus services, she settled on Bristol Tours — a company she said has considerable experience with quick trips to Washington, and is “wonderful, unflappable,” she said.

She envisioned a neighborhood field trip. She posted a note on the Front Porch Forum e-mail network, and the reservations swarmed in. She turned aside requests to charter a second bus. The list of standby passengers grew longer.

When Wood-Lewis got word that strollers would be forbidden along parts of the parade route, families with young children bowed out. Their seats filled within minutes.

Wood-Lewis and her husband, Michael, decided to wing it. She wrote out a three-page list of instructions for relatives who will watch over their four kids.

“We’re looking forward to a ton of walking,” she said. “We lived in D.C., in the years after college and before children. We didn’t own a car and we’re familiar with the Metro and bus lines. We’re feeling almost like it’s a little honeymoon.”

She packed and re-packed. Then word arrived that backpacks, too, would be restricted in the Capitol area. She put out another appeal on Front Porch Forum, this time for a fanny pack.

“Some of them were big enough for a camping trip. Others just had room for a Chapstick and a $5 bill.”

She settled for one that could manage a water bottle, power bars and a small digitial camera.

Aboard the bus, she plans to dig into a stack of neglected “New Yorker” magazines and read a couple of books. She brought re-runs of “The West Wing” to share with her fellow passengers.

“And hopefully, people will sleep,” she said.

When the bus arrives at RFK Stadium (sometime between 5:30 a.m. and 6:30 a.m. Tuesday), she and her husband will hoof it to a friend’s office with windows overlooking Pennsylvania Avenue — with the understanding they might be turned away at security roadblocks.

Or they’ll take a shuttle to the parade route.

They will have to choose between glimpses of the parade or staking out a few square feet on the Mall, where the swearing-in will be screened on a series of giant television monitors stretching from the Capitol to the Lincoln Memorial.

“It won’t feel as daunting for us as it will seem to for someone coming all the way from New Mexico, for example,” she said.

At the end of the day — whenever that is — Wood-Lewis and the other 56 passengers will return to RFK and the bus that will ferry them back north.

Has launching the Obama-mobile inspired her to organize more calls to community-action?”This is mostly a personal undertaking,” she said. “It’s been a ton of work. But it’s upping my excitement levels.”

Contact Joel Banner Baird at 660-1843 or

Additional Facts:
Live Blog:  Follow the bus ride and the complete Inauguration coverage by The Burlington Free Press right here at the Free Press Web site ( Join the moderated conversation when it opens at 6 tonight. We welcome your comments and feedback. Reporters Lynn Monty and Mark Gould will report live from the bus ride to D.C. as well from all the festivities in our nation’s capital.

Save Money on Telecom through FPF

Posted on Friday, January 16, 2009 by No comments yet

We’re proud to announce a new set of telecom specials made available to eligible Burlington Front Porch Forum members via Burlington Telecom.  If you live in Burlington in an area served by Burlington Telecom and are interested in top-of-the-line internet/cable TV/telephone service options, please check this out.  Also, existing BT subscribers can get special discounts via FPF on various upgrades.

As a recent FPF member said… “I can think of no reason not to sign up with Burlington Telecom as soon as possible… and now it’s even cheaper through Front Porch Forum.”

Every person who mentions Front Porch Forum when signing up or upgrading with BT will get their special deal and will earn a referral fee for FPF that will help keep our community-building service free of charge.

Stimulus for digital bridges

Posted on Wednesday, January 14, 2009 by No comments yet

Steven Clift today calls for federal stimulus dollars for Front Porch Forum-like projects across the country… to the tune of $900 million.  Go Steve!

A bridge is infrastructure designed to connect people to each other for social and economic growth. Digital bridges can do the same for a fraction of the cost.

Across the United States, a quiet revolution is connecting some local people to one another online. Let’s make it most people. Americans are using technology to:

• Create electronic block clubs to deter crime and keep their children safer.

• Establish online neighborhood and community forums, blogs, and social networks that promote community problem-solving, support for local small business and are beginning to be used for mutual benefit and support during these difficult economic times.

• Promote reuse of goods and materials through open exchange primarily at a regional level.

• Promote awareness of volunteer opportunities in local community and non-profit groups.

• Connect the public to local government services through e-mail newsletters, customized alert services, and other online systems.

Nine-Word Wonders

Posted on Monday, January 12, 2009 by 4 comments

Wow!  Once Front Porch Forum members got the hang of our “Nine Words for 2009” contest, the entries started to roll in… 990 at last count!  And more than half were submitted from subscribers who had never posted before.  Hopefully, their neighbors will be hearing from them again, now that they successfully posted their first message to their neighborhood forum.

I intended to write a thorough blog post about the nine-word entries, but the 25 pages of brief missives proved overwhelming… there’s a book hiding in there.  So here’s a random sample of nine-word wonders… there’s more where these came from…

  • I thought we would be together by now, no.
  • At the summit of Libby’s Look, we were engaged!
  • Travel partner sought, will finance with laughter, heady food.
  • Gardens, once snow, will really become fruits and flowers?
  • I am the nine cents before passing Neighbor Five-n-Dime
  • If what you’re doing isn’t working, do something else.
  • Welcome 2009. Will you be more of the same?
  • He who snoozes looses and he who sows reaps.
  • Snow Snow Snow go away come again another day.
  • Wes White Hill, slippery when cold, please go slowly.
  • Shopping for an air conditioner she bought a convertible (true story).
  • Your success is measured by the lives you touch. Thanks
  • I’m looking forward to getting to know my neighbors!
  • Though it snows and snows, I still stack stones.
  • Twins, (7), seek great entertainer for occasional parental relief!
  • Grey cat around house at night, is it yours?
  • Ever get the feeling the economy’s gaining on you?
  • Ten wild turkeys marching across our yard last week!
  • Tree burning party! Saturday, 7:00 Dessert potluck 338 Thompson
  • Who lives on my street? Let’s have a potluck!
  • Nine words? Oh crap, those count. Notary Public Needed!
  • Season’s Pass. Mine’s for Bolton. Where do you go?
  • Please shovel your sidewalks of snow for winter walkers.
  • Whadda ya call cheese that’s not yours? Nacho cheese!
  • “I’m from the government and I’m here to help”
  • Summited Everest. We’re hypoxic. Storm. Why’d we climb here?
  • Goodbye Peter Freyne, you will be missed my friend.
  • school today, teenagers reluctantly drag themselves out of bed.
  • Recovering from mental illness the possibilities could be endless!
  • Sledding: North Beach– past high school, before bike path.
  • “Damn!” cursed the man known as Eight Word Sam.
  • My cat is not missing but I love prizes.
  • We must remember, nothing is obvious to the uninformed.
  • Want to share a blower with 2 other neighbors?
  • Shoveled, clear, ready to leave. Oh no! The plow!
  • Wintry Mix: atmospheric precipitation or a new Vermont cocktail?
  • Large dog on the loose, Lyman Ave and Wells.
  • It would be super fine to win in 2009!
  • “There is no bad weather, only the wrong clothes.”
  • 9 Words For Owner of Dog That Jumped On Me at 5:30 This Morning…
    Leash, leash, leash, leash, leash, leash, please. Thank you!
  • Looking for good, reliable babysitter for our two girls.
  • Ending stigma today, ends it for many who suffer.
  • The answer to life, for anyone who’s interested, is
  • Snow covered horses with manes blowing in the wind.
  • Free – large inflatable pool, good condition, couple patchable holes.
  • BUSH CLOCK: 13 days, 2 hours, and counting… HURRAH!
  • Finally some friends here; chickadees found the filled feeders.
  • Snow falls, no school, hot coffee brewing, movies today.
  • To catch a unique rabbit, unique up on him.
  • Lock up strollers on your porch, parents. Thieves abound…
  • Quiet! The flowers are fast asleep under the snow.
  • New economy. Buy less, have less, open your heart.Ouch!
  • My cat bites. Any suggestions for me? Thanks.
  • What a joy to live in Five Sisters Neighborhood!
  • I look forward to daily Front Porch Forum emails!
  • Nate and Danielle are getting married on September twelfth.
  • We breed miniature donkeys. Come and meet them today
  • where to sharpen hockey skates? Forum’s wisdom pour forth!
  • Watching your children laugh = Best cure for hard day
  • When in doubt, think of what Elmo would do.
  • Inaugural Ball at Town Hall January Twenty Come All!
  • in the snow blanketed yard, not one bone, alas
  • Wanted: Partridge in a pear tree. Needed last month.
  • Take care of your neighbors. No person succeeds alone.
  • “No one has become poor by giving.” – Ann Frank
  • Propane tank stolen from back porch. Ready to explode!

And on and on!  Here are a few more