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
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