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Category Archives: Online Civility

FPF in the news!

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.


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

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.


The Choice for Vermont Candidates: Facebook or Buy Local?

Does your favorite candidate for the legislature or statewide office support Vermont businesses?  How about racial justice?  If both answers are yes, then consider asking them if they are spending their ad budgets with Vermont media — or with Facebook.

Why does this matter?  Because sending Vermont dollars to Facebook is not “buying local” and runs counter to racial justice.  Facebook gives a voice to the highest bidder, even if that voice is sharing inflammatory hate speech.

Here in Vermont and around the nation, people are rallying to lift their communities by supporting the local economy and standing up against racism.

One example is Buy LocalThis is a collection of efforts to encourage people to use the dollars they spend on everyday necessities with local businesses, building community wealth along the way.  In fact, Vermont’s own state government is funding dozens of Buy Local initiatives this summer across the state.

Another case is #stophateforprofit.  This fast-growing global campaign asks “all businesses to stand in solidarity with our most deeply held American values of freedom, equality and justice and not advertise on Facebook’s services in July.”  Click on the link above to see how Facebook is on the wrong side of history, putting corporate profit ahead of American’s core values.

Corporations of all sizes are taking the pledge.  Among many others, Verizon, Starbucks, Coca-Cola, Unilever, Honda, Patagonia, Levi’s, and Ben & Jerry’s, have pledged to stop advertising with Facebook for the month of July.

In this context, Front Porch Forum joins Seven Days and other Vermont media in calling on candidates for statewide office or the legislature to take a stand too. It’s time to stop sending Vermont money to Silicon Valley billionaires who have repeatedly failed to use their power to curb hate. It’s time to ask Vermont candidates to put their money where their values are – with local media that put Vermont values first.

Many of the dozens of small locally owned media businesses in Vermont are struggling financially.  Now is the time to step up, for those who can, and Buy Local with their advertising dollars.  Where do your candidates stand on this choice?


Pay It Forward

When you need hope the most, look to your neighbors. Sometimes the most shining and inspiring demonstrations of hope are right outside our front doors. Do you want to spread some hope and uplift others? Check out this awesome game created by a Montpelier FPF member and feel free to try it in your own neighborhood!:

“In these strange times, with so many of us experiencing increased anxiety and overwhelm, I’m inspired by all the generosity and goodwill I see here on our FPF. It really helps. It gave me a fun idea, and I wonder if anyone would like to play along. I was thinking, wouldn’t it be fun to have a pay-it-forward-style chain of giving around town–and FPF seems like a great tool by which to spread it.

Here’s how it could play out:
I love to bake sourdough bread. Do you know of someone who might really enjoy a surprise gluten-full delivery? (Yes, it can be you/your family, haha). Reply to me directly and I’ll drop some off on their/your stoop in a couple days, at no cost. Then, to continue the chain, you post about some thing or some (socially distant) task you can offer, and it goes and goes. If you’d like to play, please read the guidelines below.

So, consider my bread offer the start! Anyone know of a bread fiend who would really enjoy a homemade, crusty, whole-wheaty-y loaf? Let me know and I’ll get to bakin’. 🙂

Lauren

P.S. I follow recommended precautions to limit the spread of the corona virus, and will thoroughly wash hands before handling the baked loaf and will wear a mask for delivery. 🙂

Pay it forward
How to play:
–We’re playing a game to highlight and spread our community’s generosity and goodwill! Have a skill or item you’d like to brighten someone’s day with? Say, you could bake someone a dozen cookies, gift a bag of veggies from your garden, some pesto you made, a sketch or print, or offer a free lawn mow, an hour of weeding, or log splitting…we all have so many ways to contribute, and random acts of kindness make people happy. So let’s play!
–Post “Pay it forward” in your subject line here on FPF, and copy and paste this “How to play” blurb at the end of your post, so that new folks can catch on. Offer an item or task up to the Montpelier FPF community at no charge.
–Note that you will take all recommended precautions in handling your pay it forward item or task to limit the spread of the corona virus, so folks feel comfortable accepting the goodness.
–When folks respond, deliver your item or task to them in a socially distant manner.
–Rejoice!” • Lauren in Montpelier, Vt.

Start playing in your neighborhood; post on FPF!

Need some more inspiration? See how others have started to play the Pay it Forward game:

“Great idea…And fun game! We received an extremely tasty loaf of bread and some flourless cookies from Lauren. Thank you so much!

I have a plethora of Ramps in my woods and I have some Fiddleheads to pick. I’d be happy to pick a bag and deliver to you to grill or prepare as you’d like. So delicious! Just send me an email and then ‘Pay it Forward!'” • Chris and Suzie in Montpelier, Vt.

 

“We love Lauren’s idea and we’d like to play, too. My sweetheart and I would be happy to come to your house and stack your wood for two hours. We’ll wear masks and gloves while stacking. Reply to this email and then ‘Pay It Forward!'” • Nancy in Montpelier, Vt.

 

“Today I’m going to get some fiddleheads and ramps from someone and am offering up a few thing in gratitude to this awesome new FPF trend in our community.

I’ve got a box of strawberry starts that I got for free but then realized I had no time or tools to prep a bed in my yard. They seem, miraculously, to have survived.

If you have a home for them, I can put them on my front porch! I’m just off Berlin, about 1/2 mile from the food coop.”• Lisa in Montpelier, Vt.

Post your ‘pay it forward’ on FPF!


Reflections on Wandering Chickens and Gardens

With many of us finding more time on our hands, what better opportunity to reflect on ourselves and how we fit into the fabric of our communities? Keep reading to take in a beautiful reflection on the past, giving items a second life, and giving and receiving as part of a close-knit community. We are so grateful to witness these kinds of exchanges on Front Porch Forum!

“I don’t know why it does, since I have known it since moving to Vermont, but I am nevertheless continually surprised by the kindness, thoughtfulness and genuine humanity of our small community of people here. I grew up in South Africa as a privileged white person in the days of the Apartheid regime. But I worked for many years before leaving, as a teacher in the indigenous community that surrounded my home. And from them I learned (amongst other things) how to make something out of very little and always reuse anything that could have another life somehow.

And so, over the years I have developed a passion of my own for finding a use for things that someone else no longer has a use for.

Each time I have posted here, looking for something that might replace going out and buying another new “whatever”, I have received such wonderful responses and I want people to know how heartwarming and reassuring this has been. Particularly now in these times of such uncertainty and personal insecurity.

So thank you to those of you who have been so forthcoming, not just with physical objects, but with ideas, suggestions and perspectives that have all been so helpful. I will probably continue to post here when I think I might need something for our new garden or chicken project.

And of course I am constantly reading the posts of other people’s searches, to see if I could be on the other end, and find a home for something I no longer need.

My wife says that this is a part of me deeply engrained and unlikely to change, something regarding leopards and spots. I think I agree with her. Allen in Ferrisburgh, Vt.

 

Do you have an observation or reflection to share with your neighbors? Do you have something to give away or that you’re seeking for a project? Post about it on FPF!