Check out this romantic way to use Front Porch Forum. It’s too delightful not to share. Read this episode from RumbleStrip, a Vermont-made podcast that is top-ranked by The New Yorker and The New York Times, here.
Or listen to the episode on Spotify, here.
“A couple weeks ago on Hardwick’s Front Porch Forum, someone called Tiana asked if there was anyone who could help her with her hair and makeup for an important date with her boyfriend“… read more.
What would the internet look like if it weren’t dominated by a few huge corporations? And is such an internet even possible? A few smart folks at the Initiative for Digital Public Infrastructure have some really interesting ideas about what a more humane and diverse internet might look like. In a short, highly readable paper called “The Three Legged Stool: A Manifesto for a Smaller, Denser Internet”, they outline a different world and explain how to make it happen.The “three legged stool” refers to the three core principles of a better internet:
Front Porch Forum is a strong believer in a diverse and people-centric internet. We’re pleased to be working towards that future in the company of smart and committed folks like these. Let’s build a better internet together!
At FPF, we don’t see how many off-Forum replies members get to their postings. We see a lot of responses in individual Forums, or we get hints, like the one below, revealing just how much activity is happening off the Forum between members.
“My recent request for hearing aid recommendations was a rousing success. 30+ people responded! (Costco was the overwhelming favorite.) Thanks one and all.” • Fred in Brandon
Wow! And, no, Costco did not pay us to share this 😉
“Tech companies maintain that they cannot moderate online communities because that would jeopardize our right to free speech and because there is simply too much content flying across these networks to track. Both these issues are false flags. We now know that the core infrastructure of these platforms is intentionally designed to amplify vitriol and misinformation because this increases engagement, keeps us online longer, and provides tech companies with billions of dollars from ad revenue. It doesn’t have to be this way.“
Further, Stebbins adds, “We should focus on creating new spaces that have explicit civic goals and are designed for equity and social cohesion. Real-world communities need to be involved in intentionally designing their own local digital public spaces rather than leaving this work to global tech companies.”
Front Porch Forum gets a nice spotlight in the article…
“Front Porch Forum […] focuses on real world community building. It is the antithesis of Facebook, TikTok, and Twitter. Rather than try to keep users online, it strives to get people offline and more connected to their local Vermont neighbors. Most people spend five or ten minutes a day online to get news that their neighbors have posted: lost dogs, bake sales and announcements of upcoming school board meetings. It is funded by donations and local ads based on where someone lives, but it does not track user behavior and advertising does not drive platform design.“
“Independent research on Front Porch [Forum] shows that it builds social cohesion and is improving the resilience of local Vermont communities. Building stronger community cohesion produces many intangible benefits such as high civic engagement, more instances of neighbors helping neighbors, and lower crime rates.“
Thanks to Jill who just posted on the Craftsbury Forum:
“I just came across this New York Times article recognizing the great job Front Porch Forum is doing with keeping Vermonters connected. I know my family and I are grateful for the network it provides.”
A new article in a Stanford University journal underscores various failures of Big Tech social media, and highlights Vermont’s own Front Porch Forum as a better way.
In the bowels of social media giants, like NextDoor and Facebook, live online spaces for local social networks to take hold (e.g., a neighborhood based Facebook group).
One might think a healthy form of social connection would come from these local online networks because they’re grounded in real-world relationships and physical space — you could literally bump into that posting’s author on your way to school drop off — but in practice, as this article points out, local social media can be even more toxic than global platforms. It’s dubbed the ‘local paradox‘.
The solution to this local paradox, they say, is to build networks that are values-driven, closely moderated, trusted, and local. Further, they share Front Porch Forum as a leading example.
Big Tech and social media giants are under the microscope more than ever. Front Porch Forum continues to draw attention from news outlets as the more friendly alternative among sites that are meant to connect us.
Julia Angwin, Editor-in-Chief of The Markup, a popular publication investigating Big Tech, recently spoke with FPF’s co-founder Michael Wood-Lewis to learn more about how FPF keeps conversations neighborly and kind, while other social media sites seem to be losing civility.
Read the full interview here.
Vermont’s own example of “Small Tech,” Front Porch Forum, drew several mentions this past week as the antithesis of Facebook and other destructive Big Tech.
Michelle Goldberg stated in the New York Times:
“Deb Roy, director of the M.I.T. Center for Constructive Communication and former chief media scientist at Twitter,… believes that the potential for a healthy social media exists — he points to Front Porch Forum, the heavily moderated, highly localized platform for people who live in Vermont. But it’s notable that his best example is something so small, quirky and relatively low-tech. Sure, there are ways of communicating over the internet that don’t promote animosity, but probably not with the platforms that are now dominant.“
While Jason Kelley and Danny O’Brien at the Electronic Frontier Foundation shared…
“[FPF] users say that while most of the internet ‘is like a fire hose of information and communication, Front Porch Forum is like slow drip irrigation.’ While many of the most popular social networks need to scale to perform for investors, which relies on moving fast and breaking things, Front Porch Forum could be described as a site for moving slowly and fixing things.”
And civic tech expert Micah Sifry said in his SubStack newsletter The Connector…
“Ian Bogost makes a good argument in The Atlantic for legislators or regulators setting speed and volume limits on sites like Facebook. Getting the tuning right won’t be simple, but in the same way that we’ve come up with safety rules for all kinds of products, we need them for social media. I’d start by looking at what has worked for a platform like Front Porch Forum, and try limiting the size of people’s ‘friend’ lists and the speed of comments.”
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!
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.”
“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.