A social network just for Vermont
January 24, 2019 9:30 AM   Subscribe

Do you live in Vermont? You already know about Front Porch Forum. Those outside of the Green Mountain state probably haven't heard of it. That's because this 18-year-old community website is only for residents of Vermont.

Taking a page from pre-web communities like listservs and BBSes, Front Porch Forum (FPF) has found success by growing slowly and integrating with local communities. From meager beginnings, the site has become an integral part of Vermont's landscape, hosting everything from community calendars to yard sales and for-sale ads.

FPF requires a real name and address to use. It has avoided the corporate stench of social networks by rolling its services slowly from town to town and relying on community moderation instead of algorithms. Since its founding in 2000, the site has achieved reached remarkable saturation, acting as Vermont's de facto news hub during tropical storm Irene.

People are starting to notice Front Porch Forum. There is even a documentary about the site and an NPR interview.

It remains to be seen if FPF will expand from its humble and authentic beginnings (like Craigslist did) or if it will remain an exclusive product of Vermont's rural nature.
posted by lubujackson (14 comments total) 9 users marked this as a favorite
I was sorry to have to leave FPF when I left Vermont. It helped me find people I needed, return a lost item, and get rid of stuff as I moved. It had a pretty great vibe, too, although there were snippy granola arguments that sometimes made things feel more homey somehow. Water fluoridation and chemtrails came up every so often, and I’ll never forget the guy who said that the Order of the Blue Orient was responsible for Kennedy’s death. (Blue Orient is a china pattern.)
posted by Countess Elena at 9:43 AM on January 24 [4 favorites]

I have been having a conversation with my local friend about this article and the crabbo response from some people over on Reddit (will not link, you can find it). The place really isn't a social network though, let's be honest. No profile pages, you can't even really search the thing. It's a fancy email list, and that is fine.

It's so interesting. I'm a regular FPF reader and poster and it really is a community-cohesion point for my small town. They moved in here before NextDoor thought we were not worth their while. It's an odd duck since it's advertiser supported and some critics of it say that they actually secretly prohibit postings that criticize sponsors. I haven't experienced that, though I believe it, I'm just sometimes amazed they there's no way to "thread" posts there (oh man it's like HERE) and they don't have a way for people to use images/attachments. As people get more tech savvy there are a lot of people who just make posts with links to their Craigslist post.

I applied for a job there and did not get hired. I craft a lot of great "Oh hey I know you just posted your pro-life screed but here are some facts about how we can actually do well by people with an unintended pregnancy..." posts now. In fact, I was just mentioned on mine a few days ago. You can see this full post and tell the good and the bad about how this all works.
posted by jessamyn at 9:53 AM on January 24 [9 favorites]

Is it different than Next Door? I had to trash that app because apparently my neighbors are all fighty bigots.
posted by greermahoney at 9:53 AM on January 24 [5 favorites]

As a Vermonter I can straight up say that FPF is amazing. It's also something has trouble scaling. It's quality not quantity over there. It's very labor and intensive and it's really just a list-serv made friendly. I know other town don't have FPF and it's mostly because there is a town list-serv people are on.
posted by Agent_X_ at 9:55 AM on January 24

Echoing that it can be wonderful and also tedious. It provides an avenue for delivery of the daily anti-park renovation screed into my inbox which I'll need to endure through town meeting day. But, as a hyper-local real name based listserv, it does a great service in allowing neighbors to find each other for all the odd little things you wish you knew which neighbor to approach about.

I don't know what goes on with censorship behind the scenes, but my impression has always been that they are pretty light handed. I'd frankly be surprised if they actually prohibit postings criticizing sponsors. But, whatever they are doing, it works great and I suspect would have trouble scaling easily.
posted by meinvt at 11:32 AM on January 24

I really do not like FPF. My neighborhood listserv in Nashville in the mid-90's was honestly better.

One thing I don't like is that the posts are collected and sent out as a digest. That makes it pretty useless for anything time-sensitive.

The bigger problem, though, is that the moderation is incredibly heavy handed. I've had them rephrase the title of my post (in a way that slightly changed the meaning) without my permission, and I've heard the same from others. If they feel the need to moderate at all it should be limited to removing offensive content. But since your posts are associated with your real name and address I would expect people to be relatively good at self-policing.

I guess what bothers me too is how self-congratulatory people are that Vermont has FPF. As if it is something special that could only have grown in Vermont. It's a freakin' listerv, people, and not a particularly good one.
posted by nixxon at 11:37 AM on January 24 [2 favorites]

I find the digest part slightly annoying, but I rarely post timely things; and I have gotten rid of some furniture etc to neighbors without wondering if I am going to have to worry about scammers like on Craigslist. That's as much as I expect from it.
posted by terrapin at 11:52 AM on January 24

jessamyn: wow. just wow.
posted by terrapin at 12:02 PM on January 24 [1 favorite]

I don't know what's up with the digest. I get about 1 email a day, sometimes 2.
And I like to read them ASAP- FPF usually works fast for selling or giving away things, and it's easy to miss out on something I want. I was late to get two different cars.
posted by MtDewd at 12:51 PM on January 24

I'm not sure I knew Front Porch Forum wasn't a thing elsewhere. That having been said, if I have an account, it's been inactive for 15+ years, and I don't remember ever actively using it.
posted by Earthtopus at 1:43 PM on January 24

Countess Elena: "I’ll never forget the guy who said that the Order of the Blue Orient was responsible for Kennedy’s death. (Blue Orient is a china pattern.)"

Well, that's the perfect cover, isn't it?
posted by Chrysostom at 8:06 PM on January 24

I've been using FPF for years. It's a nice window into the community (4 towns together for our "neighborhood," since each town is so small). I've participated in a few useful, if short discussions. And we have a chemtrail fan here, too, who used to take time to craft long posts (she also hates fireworks and shooting).

I think one source of FPF's success is that it relies on email, the oldest, easiest to use digital tech available.
posted by doctornemo at 10:14 AM on January 25 [1 favorite]

This thread also reminds me that I never found out about the monkey sighting. One woman posted on FPF insisting that she had seen a monkey with a high hooked tail cross her yard on all fours, and asking if anyone knew of a monkey that was missing. The null hypothesis is that it was not, in fact, a monkey, but I liked knowing that there was a place that neighbors could report their cryptid sightings in the daily conversation. The bear encounters reported on FPF were all too real, but they were black bears, and the announcements were for their safety and not ours.
posted by Countess Elena at 1:20 PM on January 25 [1 favorite]

I'd love to read about cryptids up here in Ripton, Countess Elena .
We do get bear and moose sightings. I've shared my own bear visits.
posted by doctornemo at 8:42 AM on January 26

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