“I believe that access to the financial records of our presidential candidates will help voters decide whether the candidate has a conflict of interest. When I arrived at this realization, it was too late to add this idea to the Town’s warned articles. I am using Front Porch Forum to give my neighbors advance notice of a motion that I hope will be discussed and passed at Town Meeting during the new or other business portion. The motion highlights the efforts already underway in our State Legislature (H. 243 and S. 77) and in the U.S. Congress (S. 26). Here is the proposed motion:
“‘The citizens of Jericho, Vermont support the efforts of our state and federal legislators regarding proposed laws that require the disclosure of federal tax returns before a presidential candidate’s name can be place on the primary and general election ballots and, upon passage, we request that our town employees and/or officials convey the vote to the appropriate persons in our state and federal legislative bodies.'” • Bill, Jericho FPF
Town Meeting Day is March 7 this year (statewide… actual meeting dates vary by town)… how are you using your local FPF?
“A couple of months ago, a community member in my town posted on our Front Porch Forum an invitation for neighbors to gather in questioning how we can become more organized, informed and better able to rapidly respond to current social issues. From that one post, about 40 people showed up. We squeezed into the old South Newfane School House and began an important conversation. Out of this gathering, we are now defining the contours of what we want to do as a group and how to effectively connect with other grassroots efforts in our state. At the last meeting we invited our local legislators and many showed up. FPF has been instrumental by creating the infrastructure that has allowed such a level of individual activism and organization to occur.”
• Heidi, Newfane Townshend FPF
When it’s time to get organized in your community, start with FPF.
… social media represents the ultimate ascendance of television over other media.
I’ve been warning about this since November 2014, when I was freed from six years of incarceration in Tehran, a punishment I received for my online activism in Iran. Before I went to prison, I blogged frequently on what I now call the open Web: it was decentralized, text-centered, and abundant with hyperlinks to source material and rich background. It nurtured varying opinions. It was related to the world of books.
Then for six years I got disconnected; when I left prison and came back online, I was confronted by a brave new world. Facebook and Twitter had replaced blogging and had made the Internet like TV: centralized and image-centered, with content embedded in pictures, without links.
Like TV it now increasingly entertains us, and even more so than television it amplifies our existing beliefs and habits. It makes us feel more than think, and it comforts more than challenges. The result is a deeply fragmented society, driven by emotions, and radicalized by lack of contact and challenge from outside…
“As I look back on this past year, I am so grateful to Front Porch Forum for their posting of our many Community Senior Center events, and so happy about the community’s response to our activities! Participation in events and activities is now approaching 400, and we receive new ideas and suggestions on a weekly basis.”
• Martha, Richmond FPF
“Thank you to the dozen or so neighbors who emailed personal notes of appreciation for my post on last week’s Really Big Thing that happened.
“I take Front Porch Forum literally for its ‘front porch-ness.’ So when a Really Big Thing happens — like a storm, crash, or national tragedy — the first place I want to go is the front porch. To look around the neighborhood and ask, ‘How’re you doing? Everybody in your house okay?’ And if possible, offer any solace or help.
“I understand why some folks wouldn’t want national politics on our local Front Porch Forum. But last Tuesday’s election left many in our community reeling.
“I think it’s important to recognize this and resist the urge to limit what can and cannot be said here. If for no other reason than to support our neighbors who might have been left feeling particularly vulnerable.”
“Vermont is awesome! We have this thing called Front Porch Forum – like a neighborhood Craigslist. I posted seeking to borrow a GPS unit with UK maps, and, low and behold, someone came through! Saved $150 on renting one with the car. Being able to trust a small subset of local strangers is great. Front Porch Forum has restored some of my faith in the good of humanity. Seriously.”
Dan focuses on Facebook’s growing dominance as a news distributor…
How should we respond? From my perspective, two primary schools of thought have emerged. One is to embrace that dominance, albeit with some unease, and fully participate in Facebook’s ecosystem. Another is to persuade Facebook to take seriously its growing responsibility to help get quality journalism in front of as many people as possible.
Both of those approaches assume that Facebook is too big, too powerful to resist that we have no alternative but to capitulate to its dominance. But if that is true, the consequences will be disastrous. We will be living in the ecosystem of a company that has repeatedly demonstrated its untrustworthiness, an enterprise that would become the primary newsstand for journalism and would be free to pick the winners via special deals with media people and tweaks of its opaque algorithms. If this is the future, we are truly screwed.
And… to add to Dan’s call… let’s go beyond journalism. Let’s click local for retail, for discussion, for classifieds, for reviews, for sports, for entertainment, for networking and more. Many communities have local efforts underway, and they struggle to capture people’s attention as so many of us habitually scroll through our Facebook feeds, go to Amazon, Yelp, etc. Why not try local efforts? While the internet and mobile devices still hold the promise of decentralization of power, we now know that the digital juggernaut is also acting as a giant concentrator of wealth into a small number of pockets. Thousands of local taxi companies replaced by Uber and Lyft. Thousands of local bookstores replaced by Amazon.
To quote Dan one more time…
I say: no. Let’s not give up so easily. Instead, let’s resist and find a way out of this trap.
One day and 3,000 miles apart, two local TV newscasts took diametrically opposed approaches covering crime and local online forums.
KGET-17 in Bakersfield, CA asked multiple times in their story (Neighborhood safety apps and websites, are they actually safe?) if services such as Front Porch Forum, NextDoor, EveryBlock and AmericanTowns are safe to use. While a local police sergeant advised caution about what a user shares — which is good, common sense, advice — his point that the Bakersfield Police Dept. has “only seen the programs used in a positive way” was buried in the closing sentence.
Meanwhile, in an unrelated story the next day in Burlington, VT (Police see city-wide spike in burglaries), WPTZ-5 reported that the local police chief had just posted on Front Porch Forum — to which more than 75% of local households subscribe — about a string of burglaries. The Chief provided details and told his FPF readers that “the department is using plainclothes, unmarked and patrol units to track down those responsible.”
We’re pleased that law enforcement in Vermont finds value in Front Porch Forum, and that local media here mine FPF for story leads. FPF is part of a healthy local media ecosystem and we’re glad to play our role.