Front Porch Forum‘s co-founder, Michael Wood-Lewis, will speak on a panel for the virtual conference, Reimagine the Internet, on Thu., May 13 at 12:00 p.m. The event is co-hosted by the Knight First Amendment Institute at Columbia University and the soon-to-be-launched Initiative on Digital Public Infrastructure at the University of Massachusetts, Amherst.
FPF will be joined by many notable panelists, including Cory Doctorow of Electronic Frontier Foundation, Evelyn Douek of Harvard Law School and Katherine Maher of Wikimedia Foundation.
Front Porch Forum will be part of Thursday’s discussion:
Thursday, May 13, 2021
12:00 p.m. – 1:30 p.m.
This panel will focus on lessons learned from local communities and the implications of these lessons for online spaces. Sara Lomax-Reese is the CEO of WURD, a family-owned talk radio station in Philadelphia that serves that city’s Black community. Michael Wood-Lewis is co-founder of Front Porch Forum, an online community of mailing lists that serves every town in Vermont. Individually and in dialog, both will address lessons learned in building hyperlocal media and the ways in which online communities build trusted relationships.
Learn more about the virtual conference or RSVP here.
Front Porch Forum was recently featured in an episode of the podcast “Home. Made.” It tells the FPF origin story, and also gets into the behavioral science of what happens when we feel like we finally belong somewhere. Give it a listen!
Learn more about the episode or read the transcription here.
When a tornado struck an Addison County family’s home, so much was lost. In the wake of the disaster, the community came together to help offer support. See this beautiful message of gratitude shared on their FPF, after having shared their initial story:
“My son and I want to thank all the people who read our original FPF posting and responded with such sincerity and caring. Whether offering us a place to stay, coming over to help clean up, letting us know you’re willing to lend a hand down the road or sending messages that continue to lift our spirits, your presence is being felt, and it is comforting and reassuring.
Our deepest thanks to Randy and his wife (of Randy’s Service Center.) One of the first calls I received was from Randy, offering us the loaner car in his shop. He’s given us the gift of ease in the midst of much that is challenging.
I wish I had the capacity to respond to each and every one of you. Your poems, stories and heartfelt words have encouraged us as we get our bearings along a new and different road. We want you to know that your reaching out in these creative and caring ways is quite literally brightening our days.
The further we get from the “event,” the more we’re appreciating that we’ve not been forgotten by the people around us. My son and I are grateful for your continuing companionship.”
As they start to envision their next steps forward, the family reflected on “the new normal” and the transitional state that most in the world are facing. They bring to their community an imagination circle to bring new hope, ideas, and possibilities for the future.
Strength and hope can be found in difficult times when a community comes together. FPF is happy to be a resource where neighbors can connect in times of need as well as in times of hope.
Wow! A number of students and families participated in this year’s “At-Home” version of the Good Citizen Challenge, complete with 40-plus activities encouraging learning in History, Government, Community Service and News Literacy. Many put FPF to work to complete the activities:
Team Tiki in Wolcott organized donations to the Hardwick Area Food Pantry. Blaine, 6, chose the charity. “It was all him,” said mom Laura.
Laura put out a call for donations on their Front Porch Forum, and neighbors they’d never met responded, dropping food off at their house. They’d beep when they arrived, said Laura, and “We’d wave from the window” or help unload the items.
She said delivering the donations was a big moment for Blaine. “I think it was the first time he really had an experience where he could actually feel that he had an impact on the world,” she said. “Things like that really sink in for children. I think he won’t ever forget that.”
Pick up the April issue of Kids VT, which is in this week’s Seven Days to learn more, or read online.
Front Porch Forum is celebrating the start of spring and lots of mentions in the news recently which our members have noticed!
“A big shout out to let everyone know that the April issue of The Atlantic has an excellent article called The Internet Doesn’t Have To Be Awful. This article mentions our fantastic Vermont FPF as an example of how we can make the internet a space that promotes democratic values by helping to make conversations better to benefit everyone in a community.” • Sandy in Burlington
How to Put Out Democracy’s Dumpster Fire
By: Story by Anne Applebaum and Peter Pomerantsev
Instead of making people angry, participation in online forums can give them the same civic thrill that town halls or social clubs once did. “Elks Club meetings were what gave us experience in democracy,” he said. “We learned how to run an organization. We learned how to handle disagreement. We learned how to be civilized people who don’t storm out of an argument.”
Versions of this idea already exist. A Vermont-based site, Front Porch Forum, is used by roughly a quarter of the state’s residents for all sorts of community activity, from natural-disaster response to job-hunting, as well as civic discussion. Instead of encouraging users to interact as much and as fast as possible, Front Porch slows the conversation down: Your posts come online 24 hours after you’ve written them. Sometimes, people reach out to the moderators to retract something said in anger. Everyone on the forum is real, and they have to sign up using real Vermont addresses. When you go on the site, you interact with your actual neighbors, not online avatars.
Read the full article here.
“Kudos! FPF is showcased in the Atlantic. Upon which Fareed Zakaria (Foreign Affairs Quarterly, Global Public Square) highlighted FPF in his Global Briefing newsletter, “Can Online Politics Be Fixed?” • Alison in Burlington
Can Online Politics Be Fixed?
Insights, analysis and must reads from CNN’s Fareed Zakaria and the Global Public Square team, compiled by Global Briefing editor Chris Good
In Vermont, a site called Front Porch Forum “is used by roughly a quarter of the state’s residents for all sorts of community activity, from natural-disaster response to job-hunting, as well as civic discussion,” Applebaum and Pomerantsev write. “Instead of encouraging users to interact as much and as fast as possible, Front Porch slows the conversation down
See the full newsletter here.
9 Projects Trying To Build Social Platforms That Don’t Make You Hate Yourself
By: Jeff Link
Now in its third software iteration, Front Porch Forum is a community-based forum where neighbors can share information and local concerns. Active in Vermont and parts of New York, the 20-year-old platform launched by Michael and Valerie Wood-Lewis trades in short posts about locally relevant topics lost pets, cars for sale, plumber recommendations, school budget issues and political protests. The service hosts online neighborhood and small-town forums for registered users.
“Once a day they’ll get an issue that arrives via email or website or mobile app,” Wood-Lewis said of users. “The average issue might have about 10 postings. It’s not emoticons. It’s not LOL-type stuff. It’s more substantive. The most compelling content tends to gravitate toward the top.”
“There’s no anonymity. It’s like wearing a name tag and showing up at a block party with your neighbors.”
Open only to local citizens, officials, nonprofits and businesses, the platform is distinct from several of its larger social-networking competitors.
“There’s no anonymity. It’s like wearing a name tag and showing up at a block party with your neighbors,” Wood-Lewis said during the panel discussion.
In addition, every posting is reviewed by a staff of online community managers before publication.
Read the full article here.
Virus in Vermont: In mutual aid groups, people help one another
By: Nora Peachin
Michael Wood-Lewis, co-founder of Front Porch Forum, says local communities have been weakened as life has moved online, a trend he has been trying to reverse with Front Porch Forum a community bulletin board since its founding in 2006.
“It would be my fondest wish that the social capital, those connections created in [mutual aid] work, don’t dissipate with the crisis,” Wood-Lewis said. “I hope all those mutual aid groups continue to live on, even if only as a social entity so that people can keep those connections in this time of political divisiveness and with all that big tech has foisted on us.”
Wood-Lewis noted a dramatic increase in almost all of Front Porch Forum’s metrics new members, postings, advertisers, clicks on ads during the pandemic. Wood-Lewis’ team set up a special category for mutual aid groups in the online directory and a list of ways to help during Covid.
Read the full article here.
Stay in tune with all the latest FPF mentions on our media page.
Front Porch Forum helps neighbors find the help they need, sometimes with only seconds to spare!
“FPF is amazing. Friday morning my computer power cord stopped working and one of the last things I managed to do online before my computer battery ran completely down was post to FPF looking for one. Within hours I had several responses, and by the end of the day I had a new-to-me power cord. Thank you so much!”
• Dvora in Worcester
“I sent out a post today asking for helping moving a couch up to my apartment. I received an overwhelming number of responses with offers. While I can’t respond to each of you, I want to say thank you! It’s comforting to know I moved to such a great community.” • Molly in Montpelier
“I can’t believe how many kind people responded to my question about the dryer not spinning. Thank you all very much! I am grateful for this helpful community. :-)” • Katie in Burlington
“We’re starting some babysitting for a grandchild, and are looking for all sorts of handy items….Through the wonders of FPF and the kindness of neighbors and strangers, we have already found a high chair, carseat and a fantastic orange stroller. Thank you FPF and neighbors!” • Loring & Michael in Calais
Town Meeting Day brings out conversation between neighbors on FPF.
“Thank you FPF Member Support for your clarification and endorsement of political discussion. I have no ‘dog in this fight’ but think the Reading election discussion is totally fascinating. I have enjoyed reading all the posts and if I didn’t, I simply wouldn’t. I almost can’t wait for the next installment. You all are exerting your democratic rights of free speech. And, what a great place we all have for doing that very thing – Front Porch Forum. FPF the highest “stump” for our communities and available for all to express their views on most issues. CHEERS to all the contributors on all sides of the discussion and thank you FPF for being there.” • Neil in Brownsville
“It looks like it is that time of year again, when we start seeing/reading heated discussions here on FPF. As your neighbor I would like to stress , as I have in the past, we are in this together. We all need to take a few minutes, calm our thoughts, and remember that most people want to do the right thing. We also should remember that we all make mistakes, no one ever learns anything without them. The key is to understand what went wrong, learn from it, and become a better person. I love living on this Island, and it is not only the location that I love, its also the community that is around me. It’s time to be respectful to one another, because “We are in this together.” • Matthew in Grand Isle
“I wanted to write and thank FPF for moderating our town bulletin board. The world seems like it has changed so much over the past few years…but I guess there have always been tough conversations to have about how certain people share in public. It must be incredibly challenging for you all to make decisions on what content to ban. Your platform has brought towns together in such a lovely way, and I appreciate the way it connects us in rural Vermont.” • Mary in Underhill
From maple creemee tours to swimming holes, farmers markets to local writers, there’s plenty of hidden gems that any new Vermont resident simply must check out. One perfect example is the locally grown VPR podcast, Brave Little State; it will tell you all you need to know about making your home in the Green Mountain State! We think their tip about joining FPF is especially good 🙂
From bread fairies and neighborhood scavenger hunts, to Little Free Pantries and mutual aid networks, Front Porch Forum members have been reaching outto offer their love and support to each other. This Valentine’s Day we share the love neighbors have for their communities.
While there were too many heart-warming postings and stories to choose from this especially difficult year, here are a few that made us feel warm and fuzzy:
“I heartily praise Northfield’s “gem of a library” and know that there are many additional people, organizations and businesses that have also done a lot to help our community through these recent months. I’d like to suggest taking some time to send a card or email, or perhaps make a phone call, to thank those who have made a real difference in your life. And, in that spirit, thanks FPF for helping me stay connected to the community while I isolate at home!” • Sue in Northfield
“Today, I want to reach out to everyone I have had the opportunity to meet, within the Starksboro community, and to those I hope to meet in the future. I want to say how thankful I am for this community. We are a little shelter of giving and caring and reaching out. Welcome to the newer residents. I have the fortune of knowing there are folks who help, and give, and tire themselves for other needier people around them. I have the fortune that I can disagree with someone’s politics and still be grateful they are my neighbor. Take care everyone this winter season. Reach out. Extend your love and care. Ask for help. We all need to know we are not alone.” • Carin in Starksboro
“I am so grateful for the business owners, healthcare workers, teachers, school nurses, sanitation staff, grocery store staff, and so many others who are obligated to risk their health for the sake of the community, or the sake of themselves and their family as they hold an in-person job while so many of us are struggling at home. Sending thanks and love to the children and teens in this community, whose resilience astounds me and inspires me to keep going, keep making safe decisions to keep their schools open and their lives as close to normal as possible.” • Lauren in Waitsfield
“This is my first time in a small community and the love and support of total strangers has overwhelmed me. I don’t remember everyone’s names, but you have provided me with rides to work, tires, ironing board and iron, and the list goes on. When I post a need, I receive multiple emails. I am grateful to each and every one of you.” • Gloria in Morrisville