Category Archives: Real Estate

Are Wealthy Neighborhoods Less Neighborly?

Posted on Tuesday, March 4, 2008 by 1 comment

A couple pieces today make the case that well-to-do neighborhoods have a reduced sense of community vis-a-vis more middle-class and low-income neighborhoods.  True?

From a Wall Street Journal blog (see the comments)…

I’m always amazed at how the richest neighborhoods are also among the most empty.

And from Playborhood

The fact is that, overall, the owners of these 2+ million dollar homes are not very “neighborly,” at least when they’re compared to owners in other neighborhoods with much less expensive homes.

“Army of Davids” use internet tools against unwanted development

Posted on Tuesday, March 4, 2008 by No comments yet

The Planning Commissioners Journal blogs today that…

Free, new media have empowered neighborhood groups tremendously. A decade ago, anyone wanting to oppose a rezoning or a development had to go door to door or make scores of phone calls to get people to meetings. Time and distance greatly constrained what people could accomplish.

But now an increasing number of neighborhood groups are using tools like Yahoo or Google groups, which allow e-mail messages to go out instantly to group members — and only to group members — so quickly that neighborhoods are now as agile as their industry opponents. Neighborhoods are also using free blogs to give them a public face and to archive public documents.

I think this new “Army of Davids” power is very apparent in Greensboro, where developers have lost recent rezoning battles (or given up before they started) in response to neighborhood pressure. It looks like they’re going to lose a few more.”

— David Wharton, “And They’re Getting More Organized All the Time” (Dec. 4, 2007, on his A Little Urbanity blog about living in the middle of Greensboro, North Carolina)

People put Front Porch Forum to use in this way too… dozens of times in the past year or two.

Local Development Controversy

Posted on Wednesday, December 26, 2007 by No comments yet

Philip Baruth writes today about a controversy in Burlington’s New North End…

Fascinating little snafu in Burlington last week. A very hard-working local activist, Lea Terhune, called a meeting to organize against a new Senior Housing development slated for the Apple Tree Point section of Burlington’s New North End. Wet-land is at issue, and Terhune says that Infill Development Group’s project would “warehouse [seniors] in a swamp.”

When Infill representatives arrived at the meeting, they were barred from attending. The meeting was declared a private gathering of concerned neighbors and not a public meeting. The announcement that was posted on Front Porch Forum was not clear on this point and should have been. I certainly regret any misunderstandings.

FPF is breaking new ground… nothing else like it out there. So we openly request constructive feedback on ways to improve our service. And, as always, we invite participation (join your neighborhood forum in Chittenden County, VT, here). As Philip says…

What we do know is that the Front Porch Forum has now been elevated beyond a mere local-networking tool: it has become required political reading for those on any side of any issue, any policy debate, any ongoing campaign.


“Local swallows the internet”

Posted on Thursday, September 20, 2007 by No comments yet

From Greg Sterling

… from a consumer perspective local swallows the Internet. As I tried to explain: Local is actually the biggest thing on the Internet because it’s really about offline transactions. It’s about people using the Internet as a research tool and then buying or transacting in local stores (be they mom and pops or big boxes) or with local service businesses.

Local is about where the money is changing hands. E-commerce is a niche (in terms of relative dollar value [4% of US retail]). Local is also about solving the “last mile problem” of search — getting people from their research online to the cash register (or its equivalent) in the real world.

Case in point, Greg also reports that just raised $30M in another round of investment. Huge sums of money pumping into local online.

UPDATE:  The Local Onliner has more about the Zillow deal…

Zillow has landed $30 million in new financing, which comes on top of the $57 million already raised. The new round values the 155 employee “Z-estimate” provider at $350 million, according to reporting by Rebecca Buckman at The Wall Street Journal.

Posted on Monday, August 27, 2007 by 1 comment

Not sure what to make of It’s…

the first real estate search engine of its kind that helps you find bad neighbors before you move so you don’t regret the purchase of your new house, home, condo or apartment.

A different approach than Front Porch Forum to say the least.

Everything is Miscellaneous, so Why Lump it Together by Subject?

Posted on Friday, August 17, 2007 by 1 comment

I’ve been wanting to write about David Weinberger‘s Everything is Miscellaneous vis-a-vis Front Porch Forum since I had the pleasure of meeting him at a Berkman Center-Sunlight Foundation conference at Harvard earlier this year… so today’s the day.

The reason for my delay in writing is that I’ve been hoping to actually read the book(!), but it hasn’t happened yet. However I have digested enough reviews to be in receipt of the gist. From

Human beings are information omnivores: we are constantly collecting, labeling, and organizing data. But today, the shift from the physical to the digital is mixing, burning, and ripping our lives apart. In the past, everything had its one place–the physical world demanded it–but now everything has its places: multiple categories, multiple shelves. Simply put, everything is suddenly miscellaneous.

In Everything Is Miscellaneous, David Weinberger charts the new principles of digital order that are remaking business, education, politics, science, and culture. In his rollicking tour of the rise of the miscellaneous, he examines why the Dewey decimal system is stretched to the breaking point, how Rand McNally decides what information not to include in a physical map (and why Google Earth is winning that battle), how Staples stores emulate online shopping to increase sales, why your children’s teachers will stop having them memorize facts, and how the shift to digital music stands as the model for the future in virtually every industry. Finally, he shows how by “going miscellaneous,” anyone can reap rewards from the deluge of information in modern work and life.

My take on David’s thesis is that trying to make one order out of “everything” is hopeless and not even especially useful. Better to tag everything and search anew every time you want to get at something. (Brings to mind huge filing projects in the pre-web days… I remember filling out cross-reference cards and placing them throughout the file cabinets… arghhhhh.)

So I’ve seen with Front Porch Forum. In our pilot city, more than 20% subscribe, each person belonging to their neighborhood’s forum. People post messages for their neighbors about babysitters, lost cats, restaurant reviews, plumber referrals, school tax debate, car break-in, moose sightings, school fundraiser, car for sale and on and on.

A few members have expressed frustration that all these messages aren’t neatly ordered into threads. Or that we don’t offer one part of the site focused on contractor reviews, another area on classified ads, another part for political debate.

Instead, each neighborhood forum publishes a single issue every few days with whatever postings the neighborhood has generated. Each message is clearly labeled. Current and past issues, a mishmash of subjects, may be browsed or searched by keyword, author, street, etc.

I don’t think caging this information into various compartments will serve anyone well. It’s all about the conversation… not order. FPF’s aim is to help neighbors connect and foster community within the neighborhood… not create a Dewey Decimal System at the neighborhood level.

Which brings me to much of web 2.0. Whether it’s real estate, reviews, classifieds, directions, discussion… whatever, many FPF members have reported that they would rather just search their neighborhood’s archive for what they need (and come across other interesting tidbits) or post a brief note to a couple hundred nearby households… rather that then go to one of the burgeoning number of these specialty sites.

Put another way, David argues that many web 2.0 sites free information and make it accessible in many ways. But these examples are still in verticals, such as real estate. So the information is constrained, although it’s accessible to everyone.

Front Porch Forum removes all subject constraint and instead limits who can participate… only residents of a given neighborhood.

For what it’s worth.

Real Estate… databases vs. stories

Posted on Tuesday, August 7, 2007 by 3 comments

Location, location, location… right?  Real estate keeps coming up recently.  Front Porch Forum has been hearing from realtors lately… interested in what neighborhoods are doing with their FPF forums.  So I found these postings from the blogosphere interesting…

First, from Greg Swann’s real estate blog

I’m quoting from David Gibbons from He wrote these remarks in a comment… How can web-based vendors build databases of neighborhood expertise?

What you are seeing in the neighborhood space is the lack of any predefined neighborhood database. It’s never been done before and so, while there’s a great place to start when building a taxonomy of regions at any other level, neighborhoods are tough to build. The 6,500 neighborhoods currently defined on Zillow were done by hand. We’ve talked this through with – they took the same approach. The solution is to allow homeowners to collaboratively describe their neighborhoods and we’ll iterate towards that but even homeowners seldom agree on neighborhood designations and boundaries. It’s an interesting problem to solve.

Greg goes on to say…

On-line neighborhood databases are the virtual sex of real estate. This, from Seth Godin’s All Marketers Are Liars: The Power of Telling Authentic Stories in a Low-Trust World, is how you get neighborhood information:

Arthur Riolo is a world-class storyteller. Arthur sells real estate in my little town north of New York City. He sells a lot of real estate — more than all his competitors combined. That’s because Arthur doesn’t sell anything. Anyone can tell you the specs of a house or talk to you about the taxes. But he doesn’t. Instead, Arthur does something very different. He takes you and your spouse for a drive. You drive up and down the hills of a neighborhood as he points out house after house (houses that aren’t for sale). He tells you who lives in that house and what they do and how they found the house and the name of their dog and what their kids are up to and how much they paid. He tells you a story about the different issues in town, the long-simmering rivalries between neighborhoods and the evolution and imminent demise of the Mother’s Club. Then, and only then, does Arthur show you a house.

It might be because of Arthur’s antique pickup truck or the fact that everyone in town knows him or the obvious pleasure he gets from the community, but sooner or later, you’ll buy a house from Arthur. And not just because it’s a good house. Because it’s a good story.

Forget the silly, way-too-large neighborhood definitions, forget the duplication of records, the omissions, the errors. This is what a database can never do.

In less than a year, Front Porch Forum is brimming with neighborhood stories churned up by 10,000+ messages among nearby neighbors.

And Peter K. at the Local Onliner has several recent real estate postings about large national efforts, including… update… “[CEO] Barton noted that Zillow now has 250,000 listings, and that 50,000 agents have created custom profiles. ‘350,000 Realtors come to the site every month.'”

CraigsList update… “is now getting 8 billion page views a month from 450 cities in 50 countries. He also noted that the service is up to 23 staffers, and will be adding a couple of programmers.”