Search Results for: "scale"

Winooski: Scale and online conversations

Posted on Tuesday, January 15, 2008 by 2 comments

Great things are happening through Front Porch Forum in much of our pilot area of greater Burlington, VT. That said, our initial model is not an ideal fit for some communities. We’re working on adjustments and always welcome input. One such challenge is the small city of Winooski.

Winooski has nearly 3,000 households and is covered by four FPF neighborhood forums. About 12% of the city subscribes. Unfortunately, Winooski doesn’t have clear cut actual neighborhood boundaries that jibe with our target scale of several hundred households. So the FPF neighborhood forum boundaries feel arbitrary to many residents.

Couple that with the fact that Winooski is underserved by local media… no city newspaper or blog, etc. Front Porch Forum is the one thing getting any traction that I’m aware of.

All this adds up to several people calling for FPF to combine its four Winooski neighborhood forums into one large citywide forum. I’m reluctant. FPF is all about small groups of nearby neighbors connecting online… and that spilling over onto the sidewalks and into the cornerstores… from the virtual to the actual front porch.

One supersized forum, I’m afraid, will be dominated by a few loud voices focused on larger issues and official pronouncements. Gone will be the small voices and the “need to borrow a ladder” and “my teenager is available to babysit” postings.

So it was hard to read a posting the other day from a member who concluded her request for one citywide forum with a promise to boycott FPF’s advertisers until we complied. Oh dear. We’ve got to come up with a reasonable solution to this.

Enter Winooski resident Cathy Resmer

I just read your comment on Front Porch Forum about wanting Winooski to be one neighborhood.

I, too, wish we could have a way to communicate to the entire city.

However, I know Michael Wood-Lewis, and have talked with him at great length about his service, both as a reporter (in the past few years), and more recently as a representative of a company that sponsors the forums (Seven Days).

I can tell you that Michael understands Winooski’s need for one forum. But the service he provides (for free) is based on a model that’s built to encourage neighbor interactions. He believes — and his research shows — that if he increases the size of the forum to include the entire city, he will damage the neighborhood interactions that the forums are meant to encourage.

Please, ask him to explain it to you. He’s very articulate, and, I believe, an honest and trustworthy guy.

Yes, it is *extremely* frustrating that we get so little media coverage in Winooski. I do what I can to cover stories or get them covered in Seven Days. I ran the Winooski Eagle for nearly a year — essentially by myself, and at great personal cost — because I believed that the city needed its own paper. I still believe we need it, but frankly I can barely keep up with this outrageous tax increase, much less idealistically underwrite the city’s struggling newspaper.

So I understand your reaction to Michael’s refusal to create one Winooski “neighborhood.”

But I urge you to reconsider your pledge to boycott the businesses that support the Forums. Michael is providing a great service to us. It’s not exactly the service that we want, but it’s still better than what we had before, which was *nothing.*

The bottom line is that FPF is not, and will never be, a substitute for a Winooski newspaper. But it’s got me talking to you — and our neighbors listening in. I think that’s a good start. And it’s worth our support.

If we need that one Winooski forum, let’s find a way to create it instead of tearing down the forums we’ve got.

Respectfully,
Cathy Resmer, Online Editor, Seven Days

Wow! Thanks Cathy. I look forward to sorting this out.

Success and Scale for Local Online Services

Posted on Monday, November 20, 2006 by No comments yet

Recently, Peter Krasilovsky noted in The Local Onliner that Backfence.com is finding success with it’s “hyper-local” online newspapers (content supplied by local volunteers). Backfence attracted a $3M investment over the last year and now is operating in 13 communities. Further

Usage-wise, more than 10 percent of local residents in the site’s communities are logging on, and one percent are posting. “We don’t have as many posts as we’d like to have,” but the site has made real inroads in its communities, she says.

It’s a bit apples-to-oranges, but Front Porch Forum had 10% of Burlington, VT households on board within two months of launching… and for a tiny fraction of the investment. Our most successful neighborhoods have 80% of the households registered.

Also, on the issue of scale, The Local Onliner reports about Backfence…

One [lesson learned] is that a hyper-local site had better be scoped along hyper-local lines. “Arlington hasn’t done as well as Bethesda because it is a bigger area,” notes DeFife. “Arlington is actually (four) communities – Clarendon, Ballston, and North and South Arlington. It shows us what (is likely to) happen when we go into counties,” and that it important to keep the hyper-local focus.

If that’s “hyper-local” then I’m not sure how to describe Front Porch Forum’s target scale… micro-local?

Regardless, I’m fascinated to see the variety of approaches. Different strategies will work in different places.

Neighborhood Scale

Posted on Thursday, November 16, 2006 by 1 comment

Kevin Harris found an interesting item:

Here’s another take on the scale of neighbourhood, developed for work on children’s play:

‘Doorstep’ – 60m straight line distance from home (100m walking)
‘Neighbourhood’ – 260m straight line distance from home (400m walking)
‘Local’ – 600m straight line distance from home (1km walking)

This comes from a presentation given by Issy Cole-Hamilton of Play England, at a recent Neighbourhoods Green seminar.

This deliniation is similar to what we’ve found in our work with Front Porch Forum:

1. Borrow a cup of sugar distance… homes within site. Maybe 20-30 households.
2. Your neighborhood… several blocks around you. Maybe 200-300 households.
3. Your side of town… an area, more than a neighborhood. Maybe 2,000-3,000 households.

Our service is aimed at the second level. We get folks who want us to make it work at the first or third levels… but that’s not what we’re designed for. Too small, and the forum doesn’t acheive a critical mass of users and the conversations dies out. Too large, and the sense of intimacy doesn’t occur.

Healthy Digital Discourse

Posted on Monday, November 22, 2021 by No comments yet

The Aspen Institute just issued its Commission for Information Disorder final report.  We’re humbled to see Front Porch Forum recognized among a short list of approaches that are making real progress instead of feeding the spread of disinformation.  The commission includes celebrities like Craig Newmark, Katie Couric and Prince Harry, along with an array of national experts. 

FPF was held as an example of how to

Develop and scale communication tools, networks, and platforms that are designed to bridge divides, build empathy, and strengthen trust among communities.

Learn more here.

Do You Value FPF? Please Donate Today

Posted on Monday, October 18, 2021 by No comments yet

Today we are launching Front Porch Forum’s annual fall Supporting Member Campaign. If you are able, please support FPF by donating now by credit card, PayPal or check: https://frontporchforum.com/supporting-members

With the pandemic and other challenges, more people are using FPF than ever before to stay informed and to reach out to neighbors.  Our workload continues to increase, and our costs and staff have grown accordingly.

We know that many of our members are not in a position financially to make a contribution this year. Regardless, please DO keep using your local FPF.  Your engagement makes a big difference — it’s more important than ever to build community among neighbors.

If you value FPF, please support our work by participating and by donating today.

Thank you.

FPF is a Vermont Public Benefit Corporation and not a charity. Contributions are not tax deductible. Ad sales to local businesses cover most of our expenses, and your Supporting Member contribution helps close the gap.

Honoring those who have passed in a special way

Posted on Monday, November 9, 2020 by 1 comment

We couldn’t resist sharing this story shared on Front Porch Forum. A unique way to “pay it forward.”

“Something amazing happened to us tonight. We went out to dinner to celebrate our 51st wedding anniversary. We had a very nice meal which we very much enjoyed. When we asked for the check the waitress said that she had heard us say that it was our 51st anniversary. A frequent customer of their’s had called in and asked that, in memory of his son who would have been 24 today, the restaurant choose a customer celebrating something of consequence, and he would pick up the bill! So we had a very nice dinner capped off by this man’s thoughtfulness! We, of course, paid the waitress a tip for 20% of what the bill would have been and asked the hostess if she could give us our benefactors name and telephone. She did so and we called him as soon as we got home and thanked him. We also decided that this was such a nice thing to do that we will “pay it forward” and do the same thing in future every year on our anniversary to honor our long deceased parents and their anniversaries.”  • John in East Hardwick

Have your own examples of “Paying it Forward?”  Post them on FPF!

“The Internet’s Missing Link in the Age of COVID-19”

Posted on Wednesday, June 10, 2020 by 1 comment

COVID-19 is forcing everyone to adapt. An essential part of that adaptation is the use of technology to keep people connected without the face-to-face risk factors the coronavirus presents. Micah Sifry of Civic Hall observes the many challenges we all face as we navigate a global pandemic and the tech solutions that may help us move forward.

Sifry identifies Front Porch Forum as digital public infrastructure that can help communities thrive. See the excerpt below.

In all my years of reporting on how we use tech in civic life, one platform has stood out for how it has successfully fostered healthy community engagement while reaching significant scale: Vermont’s Front Porch Forum. Seventy percent of the state’s 260,000 households have an account on one of FPF’s local town or neighborhood forums, which are in every part of the rural state. Two years ago, the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation released an in-depth study of FPF’s users, finding that their daily use of the site led to increased trust in their neighbors, increased interest in civic life, greater participation in local government, and increased optimism about the future. ‘Witnessing everyday acts of neighborliness is a powerful driver of both online and offline community engagement,’ the study concluded.

Last week, I checked in with its founder Michael Wood-Lewis and his chief innovation officer, Jason Van Driesche, to find out how they are weathering the current storm. After a brief dip in the site’s fortunes when the state went into lockdown in March, they were happy to report that even though no one was posting yard sales or local events, the type of information that has always been FPF’s bread-and-butter, user engagement was up. The number of net new signups per day doubled during the first weeks of the crisis, and posting is up considerably over the seasonable average, along with open rates.

Wood-Lewis and Van Driesche are also gratified to report that people are using the forum’s daily email bulletins to organize help for neighbors, share vital public health information, and fight isolation. They’ve decided to have their paid community moderators screen out misinformation about COVID, which Wood-Lewis said is ‘usually people getting stuff off of Facebook and sharing it with good intentions.’ They’re working on an array of service improvements, and also thinking hard about how to support the 10,000 local businesses, thousands of local officials and hundreds of nonprofits that use the site. ‘On a daily basis, most of the people in our state are giving us five to ten minutes of their attention,’ Wood-Lewis noted. But he and his team are frustrated that so much of FPF’s core mission, which is to bring neighbors together face-to-face, is stymied by the pandemic. ‘We know we’re successful when those real in-person things happen,’ he adds, so his team is trying to highlight local initiatives like safe scavenger hunts for kids and community claps for frontline workers.

Front Porch Forum’s model works because it keeps its forums to human size and speed, and it has paid moderators perusing every post before they reach subscribers. A typical instance has 500 to 1,000 people on it, all from the same town or neighborhood, and all verified, using their real names. Everyone sees the same content at the same time, Van Driesche pointed out; there’s no microtargeting of content. So while people still are people, and they may post things that get on their neighbors’ nerves, the general tenor of the site is ‘let’s pull together instead of knocking each other down.‘”

Read the full article here.