Author Archives: Renee Bean

Looking Back to 14 Years Ago

Posted on Thursday, December 10, 2020 by No comments yet

The staff at FPF was touched to rediscover this 2006 Seven Days article titled “Front Porch Forum Encourages Neighborliness — Online and Off.” It’s heartening to see how far Front Porch Forum has come over 14 years.

The article explains how FPF got started. At the time it was written, co-founder Michael Wood-Lewis compiled e-newsletters alone.

“Though Wood-Lewis is currently working on FPF as a volunteer, he sees his time as an investment. He’s hoping that as the service expands, he’ll be able to find local businesses to sponsor it.”

Now the organization has a growing staff of 22. It’s been put to use in communities all over the state, and now serves parts of New York and Williamstown, Massachusetts. The look and feel of the Email Forum has been redesigned and members can now also read their Forum via mobile app and the website.

Check out the full piece for an awesome throwback (complete with a MySpace reference!)

“Local Logic: It’s Not Always a Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood”

Posted on Thursday, December 3, 2020 by No comments yet

Technology and the way people use it has the power to unite people or pull them apart. Ethan Zuckerman and Chand Rajendra-Nicolucci of Knight First Amendment Institute at Columbia University took a closer look at platforms that bring communities together on a local level, only to find that some designs work better than others.

Platforms that operate more like social media, where individuals can post whatever they want instantaneously, can lead to heated, attacking commentary, false accusations, or misinformation. This kind of content may cause civil discourse to devolve and it may disrupt the establishment of ties within a community.

On the other hand, Front Porch Forum is an example of a local platform that has systems in place to help keep conversations civil and community-minded, fulfilling its mission of helping neighbors build community. From Rajendra-Nicolucci and Zuckerman’s piece:

“That organic growth was key to maintaining one of the key differences between FPF and Nextdoor: proactive moderation. FPF uses a team of moderators that review each post to make sure it adheres to the site’s code of conduct (which bars personal attacks and behavior “counter to its community-building mission”) before it’s posted. That helps to keep the discussion friendly and constructive… We believe a platform that takes governance seriously, is designed for a specific purpose, and has ties to the communities it serves can be successful anywhere.”

The authors also share the criteria by which they evaluate various platforms. These platforms operate on a local level broken into neighborhoods, towns, or city blocks.

“Getting local social media right is important. Local platforms present an opportunity to strengthen social capital and civic life. At their best, they can keep residents informed about local issues, encourage civic organizing and action, and facilitate new connections and greater understanding.”

Read the full article on Knight First Amendment Institute at Columbia University’s blog here.

Giving Thanks This Year

Posted on Wednesday, November 25, 2020 by No comments yet

Even though this year has been full of challenges the likes of which we’ve never seen before, many folks on Front Porch Forum are finding a plethora of things to be grateful for. Indeed, an attitude of gratitude can make the darker times seem much brighter. Check out what some of our neighbors have had to say during this time of thanks:

“Hey you. Yeah YOU!!! 2020 gave you every reason to not be thankful. It threw everything at you yet here you are reading this. Thank you to all the essential workers from doctors and nurses, to farmers, to the kid bagging your groceries, you putting yourself at risk so we can have some semblance of normalcy is greatly appreciated and does not go unnoticed. Thank you to this community who stick together and help each other despite adversity. All storms end eventually and we will come out of all this stronger. Happy Thanksgiving” – R. in Stowe

FPF has been a faithful and trusted organization for us all and especially important during this challenging time.”  – L. in So. Burlington

“I am beyond grateful for this beautiful Valley in which I can enjoy the clean air outdoors, walk on hillsides that take my breath away with my dog and husband and enjoy delicious, local foods.” -L. in Mad River Valley

“It would be an even more disconnected world than it already is without FPF to tie our neighborhoods together.”  ““ J. in Charlotte

“Been living in this home since 1960. Have enjoyed the neighborhood, but recently have come to appreciate the neighbors as never before. With the Pandemic, neighbors have offered, and delivered food and help. One neighbor has taken over my hobby of picking up the trash along the roadside, beer cans, etc., that I decided not to do anymore. I think I saw her/him on the road Sat. afternoon, and checked it out Sunday, trash is gone! Yes, We like it here. Happy Thanksgiving everyone.” – A. in East Hardwick

Share what you are grateful for this year with your neighbors on FPF.

Sharing Hope and Gratitude

Posted on Wednesday, November 18, 2020 by No comments yet

It’s easier to remember we’re all in this together when we experience acts of kindness that inspire hope. Check out these Front Porch Forum postings for a reminder that we have some pretty great neighbors out there! We’re all in this together.

“Thank you to the kind stranger who returned my wallet to my home address today, everything fully intact. I lost it during a particularly discouraging week, and it was incredibly uplifting to find it in my mailbox today. Beyond the relief of not having to replace all of my IDs and cards, it is wonderful to be reminded that there are good people in this community doing the right thing. There wasn’t a note, so if you who returned it happens upon this post, please reach out and let me know– I would love the opportunity to thank you directly and return your kindness.” • Olivia in Burlington

“We are now 8 months into this pandemic, and it has been a very strange and stressful time. Are you OK? Are your neighbors OK? Many folks are struggling with things like loneliness and depression. Many have disabilities making routine tasks difficult. Some of us are facing food insecurity or struggling with addiction. Please remember to check in with your neighbors who may need help, and if you need help yourself, please reach out and feel the love this community has for you. Let me know if I can help or put you in touch with someone who can.” • Mark in Castleton

“About 2 weeks ago there was a posting for a man’s wedding ring that was found at Waterbury Reservoir. I’m happy to report that ring is now back on my nephew’s finger. To truly appreciate this story I have to share that the ring was lost at Waterbury Reservoir 2 YEARS AGO! We will never know what adventures that ring went on swimming around in that huge body of water. Thank you to the people who found it and posted it. Thank you to FPF for providing the most amazing service to our community. Never give up hope.” • Lorraine in Cambridge

“Thank you to everyone who emailed me in support of my post about the signs the other day. You are all so kind to take the time to extend your warm words.

It got me thinking though about how 2020 has been a dumpster fire of epic proportions A year that has left us with so many emotional jagged edges it’s no wonder we react without thinking, tear into friends and strangers and generally not being our best selves. We all know we can do better, we just seem to not have much bandwidth left for that.

So I would like to propose a community FPF challenge. It’s an easy one too. I would like everyone who reads this post to reply with a story of something great that happened to them today or this week. It doesn’t have to be big, or life changing or deep, in fact something simple and sweet is best. The idea is to fill up our hearts with all the ways we are a fantastic community, surrounded with great neighbors and friends and that we are truly lucky even when we forget that. Our “wealth” is all around us, we just need to remember that more often than not.

I hope you will take 60 seconds to join me and hit reply all with your own story of gratitude. Thanks, Beth

I will start.

I want to acknowledge and thank the man who I see walking around town with his garbage grabbing stick and orange bag picking up other people’s trash nearly everyday. You sir are AWESOME. Thank you so much for making our roads cleaner and more beautiful for everyone to enjoy. Hometown Hero in my book. Thank you so much.” • Elizabeth in Stowe

Spread your message or story of hope to your neighbors on FPF.

VT Farmers: Apply by Oct. 1 for State COVID-19 Relief Grants

Posted on Thursday, September 3, 2020 by No comments yet

It’s not too late! The Dairy Assistance Application and Agriculture and Working Lands Applications are now live. The deadline to apply for these funds, part of Vermont’s COVID-19 Agriculture Assistance Program (VCAAP), is Oct. 1, 2020. These grants are intended to stabilize agricultural businesses and organizations based on their lost revenues and expenses related to the COVID-19 public health emergency. Learn more here.

If you have neighbors in your community who could benefit from this information, or other helpful info to share, post it on your neighborhood FPF!

Front Porch Forum Expands Engineering Team

Posted on Wednesday, August 26, 2020 by No comments yet

Front Porch Forum’s tech team is growing! Two more software engineers, Noah Harrison and Aaron Lipman, have joined FPF to continue upgrading and expanding our custom-built mobile, web and email platforms to better serve our social mission.

Since 2006, FPF has been helping neighbors connect and build community by hosting a statewide network of online local forums. Out of Vermont’s 260,000 households, FPF has more than 190,000 members.  As part of FPF’s 20 staff members, our software developers play a crucial role in providing high-quality service and developing relevant new features for members across all of Vermont and parts of surrounding states.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

New Hires:  Aaron Lipman and Noah Harrison

Noah and Aaron each work closely with Lead Engineer and Tech Team Manager, Matt Barry, and tech advisor, Jan Schultz. Together they maintain and improve FPF’s unique web and mobile applications, which are used by more than half of the households in Vermont on a daily basis. Stay posted for new features and updates!

Noah, who is working with email integration and web browser technologies, says “I really enjoy the direct appeal that FPF forums have to many of my friends and neighbors.”

Noah comes to Front Porch Forum after ten years as a software developer and project manager consultant for various companies, including projects for NBCUniversal and on a 3D globe projector.  He earned a degree from Dartmouth College, having studied Classics, Religion, and Computer Science.

On his new role, Aaron remarks “I consider myself privileged to work on a platform that helps Vermonters work together in weathering events from Hurricane Irene to the current COVID-19 pandemic.”

Aaron has a background in electoral data modeling and a passion for writing software that strengthens communities. Outside of Front Porch Forum, Aaron contributes to several open source projects. When not writing code, Aaron enjoys road biking.

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.

Scat Whisperers

Posted on Thursday, August 20, 2020 by No comments yet

Front Porch Forum is a way to connect with neighbors on community efforts, local issues, and…scat identification? One curious neighbor asked for help discovering what kind of animal had been in their backyard, and got a huge and helpful response on their neighborhood forum! Check out the story below.

“Well, if you want to gather a crowd, just show up with a little scat.

I received 17 unique offers of help analyzing the scat photo. Each was serious and wonderfully curious in their pursuit of an answer.

The identifications offered included: skunk, raccoon, feral cat, weasel, coyote, red fox, grey fox and bobcat, after our neighbor reminded me that we had a beautiful bobcat sitting in a maple across from our barn a year ago.. Catamount was ruled out.

Several folks forwarded the picture to several other more expert folks who responded with a more focused belief that it was either a skunk or a raccoon but most likely a raccoon.

My thanks to everyone who replied to my ask. It was great to touch base with so many old friends that, due to circumstances, have been out of touch.

FPF is a force for good and re-tightening community. Thank you.” • Phil in Craftsbury, Vt.

Have a question you could use some input on? Try asking neighbors on your local FPF.

“Can’t Find It at the Store? Try Bartering For It.”

Posted on Wednesday, August 5, 2020 by No comments yet

In an Aug. 3 New York Times article by A.C. Shilton, Front Porch Forum got a shout out as a platform that people successfully use to barter. When folks have too much zucchini but really need to borrow a hedge trimmer, FPF shines as a way for neighbors to help each other access what they need. Check out the excerpt from the article below:

Bartering hasn’t been this widespread since its days at the elementary-school lunch table. Front Porch Forum, a hyperlocal social network in Vermont and parts of New York that has long been a hub of bartering, has seen an 83 percent increase in new-member sign-ups this year over the same period last year, said Michael Wood-Lewis, who co-founded the site with his wife, Valerie, as a neighborhood listserv back in 2000. While Front Porch Forum is a way for neighbors to connect on a range of things, recently, appeals for swapping eggs for rhubarb or chicken wire for day lily bulbs have increased, Mr. Wood-Lewis said.”

Read the full article on the modern barter economy here.

“What Vermont and Its History Might Teach the Nation About Handling the Coronavirus”

Posted on Wednesday, July 29, 2020 by No comments yet

Vermont has the lowest number of cases of COVID-19 in the United States and it begs the question “why?” In Bill McKibben’s July 28 article in The New Yorker, he explains the state of Vermont’s unique history and social structures that likely pay a big part in preventing the virus’s spread throughout the Green Mountains.

In addition to Phil Scott acting quickly when the first few cases appeared, McKibben credits much of the spread slow-down to neighborliness and social trust:

“Vermonters entered the pandemic with remarkably high levels of social trust. Only thirty-eight per cent of Americans say they mostly or completely trust their neighbors, but a 2018 Vermont survey found that seventy-eight per cent of residents think that “people in my neighborhood trust each other to be good neighbors”; sixty-nine per cent of Vermonters said that they knew most of their neighbors, compared with twenty-six per cent of Americans in general…

…All that is a reminder of how social trust has been squandered across so much of our nation as we’ve divided into red and blue teams, concentrated on individual advancement, and had our worst instincts yanked at by social media. In this case, Vermont is extremely lucky to be living a little in the past. The governor didn’t immediately mandate mask-wearing because almost everyone mandated it for themselves…”

Read Bill McKibben’s full article in the New Yorker here.