Design your life to include more money, health and happiness with less stuff, space and energy.

Design your life to include more money, health and happiness with less stuff, space and energy.

Connect with Neighbors On and Offline with Front Porch Forums

According to the US Census Bureau, the average American moves 11.7 times in his or her lifetime. As the average life expectancy of that same citizen is 78.2 years, most Americans will move every 6.68 years.

It is perhaps this peripatetic lifestyle and an ever-accelerating pace of life that leads many of us to live those 7 or so years without getting to know our neighbors. We don’t know their names and we don’t rely on them–i.e. the original collaborative consumption.

A website called Front Porch Forum is making getting to know your neighbors just a little easier. The site is like the front porch or town square where people voice their needs, opinions, services–pretty much anything. Your particular forum is determined by your street address and unlike a community site like Craigslist, it is not anonymous. There are real names of real people who live really near you. Unlike Yahoo or Google Groups, you don’t need any special interests–just an address.

One of the site’s FAQ’s is “Has it really come to this? Using computers to talk to people next door?” The answer, they believe, is yes. Here’s what they claim:

In one rural town, we found that half the community had subscribed to FPF after one year and, remarkably, 66 percent had posted….In another study in Burlington, Vt., where half of the city subscribes to FPF, 90 percent reported that their local civic engagement had increased due to this online service.

Their site includes a sample of posts–things like “Found watch – yours?” and “Audubon summer day camp scholarships available.” The kind of casual stuff you’d chat with a neighbor about. Though we cannot attest to it personally, we imagine this online interaction would serve as a catalyst for face-to-face communication.

The site’s newsletter are sponsored with ads. If you’re an idealist, this might strike you as a corrupting force. If you’re a capitalist, this might strike you as practical. The fact is sites like these take time and money; they can either be beholden to volunteers, donors or corporate sponsors.

There is one serious rub to FPF: it is almost exclusively in Vermont (there are couple communities in NY and NH). They are actively looking to expand, but right now that is not the case.

If you are interested in creating a FPF in your area, drop them a line. If you have used FPF, we’d love to hear your experience.

image credit: portlandoregon.gov

  • Justin Winter

    I have seen several other attempts to do this. The best I have found and the one with the most traction is nextdoor.com. They have recently raised a round of funding, they have the best UI in my opinion, and are growing like a weed.

    I printed out flyers with unique invite codes for everyone in my neighborhood and drove around and dropped them at every mail box just ab

  • Thanks for the mention, David.  We’ve been hosting daily neighborhood-level online conversation for a dozen years… and we’re still learning something new every day.  This is why many start-ups in the space stumble… the social equation is not trivial to solve.

    One point of clarification… we’ve gotten very positive feedback about our advertising… because the ads are from mom-&-pop establishments… not national brands.

    It’s hard to describe the vibrancy.  We host Front Porch Forum across a 110,000-household portion of our state and 40,000 subscribe.  Even more incredible than our traction is the engagement… fully half of our members speak up on their FPF.

    We’re preparing to expand beyond Vermont in the coming year.

    -Michael Wood-Lewis, co-founder
    FrontPorchForum.com

  • Pingback: LifeEdited takes a look at FPF | Ghost of Midnight()

  • Christine B in ME

    I want to like FPF, really, I do, but I tried signing up with them years ago and never heard back.  Now, when I visit their website & enter my address, it tells me it can’t find it.  I’m crossing my fingers and going to check out the nextdoor.com site now…

  • HI Christine… FPF is only available in Vermont, and bit in NH and NY.  We’re eager to start serving Maine too… perhaps in 2013.  -Michael @ FPF