Author Archives: Renee Bean

Cool Finds and Neighbor Connections on FPF

Posted on Wednesday, June 30, 2021 by No comments yet

FPF is the place where members can go to call dibs on cool freebies, offer up their surplus zucchini, or ask neighbors if they have an old elliptical lying around that they don’t use anymore. It’s a beautiful give and take, but most importantly it introduces folks to the people who share their community. See some recent exchanges from your neighbors on FPF:

“I just want to encourage folks out there to join the forum. It’s so informative that you want to always be checking on what’s coming next! There is a need for all to join to express your feelings, to want to buy / looking for something or wow didn’t know about that. It’s beneficial, exciting and you want to tell everyone about FRONTPORCHFORUM. When animals are lost I write their names down so I can be on the look out for them. Please if you don’t join you don’t know what you’re missing out on.” · Ellie in Ferrisburgh

“Hello neighbors, I am looking for an old Shepard’s hook (a stake with a hook on the end, and an old metal watering can. While I’m here, I want to give a huge Shout Out to FPF and this amazing community. A few weeks ago, I posted about a lost hoodie at The Grift. It was returned to me from word-of-mouth because someone saw my post. I’m So Grateful”  · Gretchen in Mad River Valley

“Guess how many responses I had to my posting looking for a dog crate? Six, plus great recommendations to purchase at the Humane Society and at Recycle North. Amazing. I will definitely post again before running off to buy anything new. Thanks.” · John in Burlington

Connect with your neighbors on Front Porch Forum and you may have some pleasant surprises in store!

FPF to Speak on Panel: Reimagine the Internet

Posted on Wednesday, May 12, 2021 by No comments yet

Detail of Civic Logic, by Fiammetta Ghedini, RIVA Illustrations

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:

Lessons from Experiments in Local Community-Building

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.

Panelists

Moderator

  • Ethan Zuckerman, Initiative on Digital Public Infrastructure at the University of Massachusetts, Amherst; Knight First Amendment Institute at Columbia University

Learn more about the virtual conference or RSVP here.

“Why Won’t You Be My Neighbor?”

Posted on Wednesday, May 5, 2021 by No comments yet

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.

 

Lost Home, Found Community

Posted on Thursday, April 29, 2021 by No comments yet

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.

Vermonters take notice of FPF in the News

Posted on Monday, April 5, 2021 by No comments yet

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.

Welcome to Vermont

Posted on Friday, February 26, 2021 by No comments yet

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 🙂

FPF on Reimagining the Internet

Posted on Wednesday, February 17, 2021 by No comments yet

Front Porch Forum‘s Co-founder, Michael Wood-Lewis, joined Ethan Zuckerman of Reimagining the Internet for an interview on running a healthy online community. Reimagining the Internet is a podcast that talks to experts in the field about what isn’t working with social media and how it can be improved. Jimmy Wales, the founder of Wikipedia, was also a recent guest of the podcast.

Give this great interview a listen!

For more on FPF check out FPF in the news!

Front Porch Forum Expands Staff to Meet Growth

Posted on Thursday, February 4, 2021 by No comments yet

Burlington, VT, February 3, 2021 — Front Porch Forum now has 200,000 members! This recent membership milestone indicates FPF is serving 75% of the state’s 260,000 households, and more Vermonters sign up every day. 

In recognition of this growth, FPF expanded its team of Online Community Managers. We welcome new hires, Emily Bissonette and Zach Scheffler, who will help the organization fulfill its mission of helping neighbors connect.

As part of FPF’s 22 staff members, our Online Community Managers (OCMs) play a crucial role in reviewing and publishing many thousands of member postings each week, and providing member support.

Zach says of his new role “It’s a joy and an honor helping Vermonters inform, inspire, and look out for one another.”

Zach has a background in community media and municipal information services. Outside of Front Porch Forum, Zach enjoys a brisk hike, photography, and woodworking.

Emily joined the OCM team in September 2020. “I really enjoy the collaborative work environment at FPF. I’m originally from Vermont and I am also really enjoying being more informed about what’s going on in our state through my FPF work,”  she said of her work.

Emily resides in Middlebury with her sweetheart, and kiddo, and a miscellaneous menagerie including a dog, a cat, chickens, and various waterfowl. She is the only Marie Kondo Certified Professional Organizer in Vermont, and when she’s not at work for Front Porch Forum, she focuses on business, Alchemy Organizing or teaching REFIT® dance fitness.

Front Porch Forum is an award-winning Vermont Public Benefit Corporation.  Our mission is to help neighbors connect and build community, leading to more resilient communities.  FPF hosts regional networks of online local forums where neighbors, small businesses, nonprofits and municipal officials post about a wide variety of topics.  This daily neighborly exchange leads to people feeling more invested in their communities and getting more involved.

Extra! Extra! FPF in the news!

Posted on Wednesday, January 20, 2021 by No comments yet

Front Porch Forum is gaining some remarkable national attention these days.  It’s an honor to be featured and recognized for our community building work, local focus and approach to digital tech.  Check out some of the cool things that have been happening with FPF in the media below:

“To Thrive, Our Democracy Needs Digital Public Infrastructure”

Jan. 5, 2021
By: Eli Pariser and Danielle Allen of Politico

“…what we need are not just information services with a mission-driven agenda, but spaces where people can talk, share and relate without those relationships being distorted and shaped by profit-seeking incentive structures. We are just beginning to see glimpses of what these spaces might look like. One model is Vermont’s Front Porch Forum…two-thirds of Vermont households are on the Forum, and many Vermonters find it a valuable place for thoughtful public discussions…

…Built into the premise of this work is the notion that what’s needed is not one publicly owned Facebook clone, but an armada of localized, community-specific, public-serving institutions that can serve the functions in digital space that community institutions have served for centuries in physical places. Vermont’s Front Porch Forum and other examples show this is possible, even in the digital age.”

Read the full article here.


“Imagining Our Social Media Future”

Jan. 15, 2021
Hosted by: Brooke Gladstone of WNYC Studios and featured on NPR

Brooke Gladstone and Eli Pariser explore the limitations mainstream social media places on real communities. Welcoming and thought-provoking digital spaces make community building more possible. How the spaces are designed will decide how we participate in them.

“I’m inspired by examples like Front Porch Forum in Vermont, which is kind of like a slow social network…it’s very heavily moderated local email list that you can post to [daily]. If you post something and it’s against the rules and norms it gets sent back to you with a nice little note saying like “hey can you try saying this a different way.” The once-a-dayness is really important because you have to have a lot of stamina and energy to sustain an argument across 14 days of back-and-forth. What’s interesting about Front Porch Forum is it’s used by a huge portion of households in Vermont. Local representatives in Vermont are on Front Porch Forum because they know that’s where the issues of the day are being discussed and addressed.”

Listen to the full, 15-minute discussion here.

 

“Replacing Facebooktwittergooglamazonsoft”

Highlights from the New Public Festival, held Jan. 12-14, by Micah Sifry

“Given all the problems with civic engagement today widespread misinformation, heightened polarization, online mobs (and their offline manifestations), fears of censorship by over-empowered tech bros, social isolation, increased mood disorders from online addiction, the list goes on and on–should we fix the tech platforms, or should we start over?”

Front Porch Forum co-founder, Michael Wood-Lewis, presented alongside dozens of other tech innovators and project leaders working to shape the future of tech spaces. For more information on who participated in this year’s New Public Festival or to sign up for more information, visit here.

 

 

“These 14 principles could help big platforms create healthier social media”

Jan. 20, 2021
By: Steven Melendez

“The Civic Signals founders say they have had some discussions with big tech companies about their work. But they also see the signals as useful to smaller and nontraditional operations, including publicly operated civic forums and smaller platforms like the Vermont-run Front Porch Forum, a network of neighborhood-based sites.

“We have a realistic view of what can happen in traditional tech-startup world, and we don’t think that all of these public functions can be served just by private companies alone,” Pariser says. ‘There’s a role for public infrastructure as well.'”

Read the full article here.

 

“Could Tax Dollars Fund Smaller, Better Social Media?”

Feb. 2, 2021
By: Stephen Gossett

“…Users will need a brigade of options “localized, community-specific, public-serving institutions that can serve the functions in digital space that community institutions have served for centuries in physical places,” as Pariser wrote in Politico.

One model that Pariser has pointed to is Vermont’s Front Porch Forum, a 20-year-old local forum/digital newsletter that has become an unlikely model for online communities.”

Read more here.

 

Also, check out more commentary from Eli Pariser from Dec. 2020 on an episode of Your Undivided Attention from the Center for Humane Technology here.

Wood for Good

Posted on Wednesday, January 6, 2021 by No comments yet

Front Porch Forum gives members across Vermont and parts of upstate New York and Massachusetts, a space to connect with their neighbors and communities. We see all kinds of postings, but some of our favorites are postings were people come together to help meet a need in the community.

Eric Axlerod, and FPF member from Jericho, uses his neighborhood forum to help provide firewood to neighbors in need. It started with a simple surplus of wood and has evolved into an effort to source, cut, stack, and donate cords of firewood.

Check out this excerpt from Seven Days:

“Thus far, they’ve given away 12 cords of wood. The crew is hoping to collect 20 cords to have on hand ahead of this fall. While they started collecting at their own house, they’ve also cut wood on neighbors’ properties.

The trio has dubbed the undertaking “Wood for Good,” and its mission is similar to that of organizations such as the Monkton Wood Bank in Addison County. Axelrod said he eventually wants to form a nonprofit and hopes to sign up more volunteers to help the cause. He’d consider expanding beyond Chittenden County if it takes off.”

Burlington Free Press also covered the story, sharing that many community business have pitched in to provide trees, wood-splitting and stacking equipment, and volunteers to help get firewood ready for this winter:

“Last month North Star Leasing Company in Burlington announced it was donating a portable wood conveyor to Wood for Good…

…Employees of North Star Leasing are arriving earlier to help split wood. People from the Rotary Club of Burlington and Axelrod’s men’s group have also come to help. Barrett’s Tree Services in South Burlington dropped off seven loads of trees that gave Axelrod a huge boost for 2021. Teachers Tree Service in Shelburne also donated trees.”

When people come together and give back to their community, amazing things can happen. This is a wonderful testament to how challenging times have inspired many amazing neighbors and small businesses to help support those in need of food, warmth, and support.

Read and post on FPF to brainstorm ideas for community outreach, connect with resources that may help you and your family, or organize an effort in your town!