Community forges connections online in Lincolnville
Lincolnville — When Diane O'Brien originally thought of creating an online bulletin board to connect the Lincolnville community, she was inspired by friends from a small town in New Hampshire. She said her guests told her their small town used an online forum as a resource to facilitate community interaction.
"It sounded so cool," O'Brien recalled.
She said she called her oldest son Bill and asked him to advise her about creating a similar forum for Lincolnville. He told her creating a Google Group would allow the community to interact with one another online and the Lincolnville Bulletin Board was born. Diane and Bill O'Brien have acted as the managers of the group since it was created.
The Lincolnville Bulletin Board began in 2010 with about 20 members, Diane O'Brien recalled. Since then the group has burgeoned to more than 260 members. Through the Lincolnville Bulletin Board lost dogs have been found, cows have been sold, information has been exchanged and genuine community building has occurred, O'Brien said.
O'Brien and her son continued to manage the group and worked to add members by obtaining email addresses and inviting residents to join the conversation. She said a few simple ground rules have governed Lincolnville Bulletin Board — namely no discussion on the topics of politics or religion — and they've had precious few breaches of those topical parameters. O'Brien said Lincolnville Bulletin Board has been self-governing: she recalled one instance where a political discussion occurred and Lincolnville Bulletin Board members stepped in to preserve the integrity of "their" bulletin board — gently putting at stop to the inappropriate discussion thread.
O'Brien said members are invited to post meeting notices and the rules are mostly in place to "prevent prosthelytizing."
O'Brien said Lincolnville Bulletin Board has become a forum for diverse interactions. Members use it as a forum for standard community announcements — like bake sales, bottle drives and yard sales — and for discussion on more finite topics. A recent thread offered up cuttings from a heritage Fletcher Sweet apple tree, another inquired about interest in the acquisition of a community cow since the local dairy has recently closed and yet another inquired about summing up "our town" in a single word for an in-the-works magazine article by local writer Elizabeth Hand. Lincolnville Police Chief Ron Young often uses Lincolnville Bulletin Board to dispense information to the community, including warnings about public safety issues regionally and statewide.
Though membership on Lincolnville Bulletin Board isn't restricted exclusively to town residents, O'Brien said the purpose of the Google Group centers around the interests and activities of Lincolnville residents.
"You get to know people," O'Brien explained. "Some people you've never even set eyes on."
Membership grew slowly at first, with a handful of new participants here and there. Recently, O'Brien said, the bulletin board has really taken off.
O'Brien said she hopes the success of Lincolnville Bulletin Board will inspire other communities to connect in a similar fashion.
"Figure out what the purpose is," she said. "Tell 20 friends and spread the word around town."
O'Brien said Lincolnville Bulletin Board has created a unique dialogue within the community.
"I think it shows how much we have in common," she said.
Courier Publications reporter Jenna Lookner can be reached at 236-8511 or by email at email@example.com.