Top 10 Reasons I Created Progress And Main

Since starting Progress & Main, I've received a lot of questions from people. The two most common questions are:

-Why Did You Create ProgressAnd
-Why Do We Need Progress & Main When We Already Have X (Facebook, Scholar, LinkedIn, Twitter, Town Newsletters, Discussion Boards, etc)?

Both are valid and good questions. So here are my Top 10 Reasons I Created Progress & Main:

10 - Meet New People - While Facebook/LinkedIn are great, it is mainly about staying in connect with people you already know (or that you knew a long time ago). I wanted to meet and connect innovative people in the community that I don't already know. (But Progress & Main has privacy controls if you don't want to do this). Personally, I've already met a ton of innovative people and collected a number of great blogs through Progress & Main.

9 - Calendar of Good Gov't Events - There are lots of great community organizations that put on a ton of events. However, the events and organizations are siloed and it is hard to keep track of all the activities going on. With Progress & Main, any one can update their event to share with the members.

8 - Better Discussions - I've participated in discussion boards and have generally been disappointed. Most boards end up focusing on topics like maximizing TSP or how great an idea is, rather than putting you in touch with the people that are actually willing to solve an issue. Other boards just turned into anonymous ranting against bosses and their agencies. Facebook and LinkedIn both lack true blog features. Plus, Facebook group discussions are limited, often inactive, and siloed while LinkedIn groups lack a discussion feature (Q&As can work sometimes). I wanted a place to have substantive discussions such as "What's the Future of Virginia Tech and how will that impact my neighborhood" or " What is the best way to calm traffic on neighborhood streets" or "Why do we have town ordinances that we never actually enforce, what are they what should we do about it?"

7 - Anonymity vs Openness - One of the disadvantages of most discussion boards/comment threads is the anonymity. You don't know who you are talking with and their background. Progress & Main improves this through social profiles so you know people's background and what they look like. And for those that still need anonymity, you can keep your profile very limited.

6 - Breaking down the Town / Gown eBarrier - If you don't have a PID / University computer system log in, you just don't live in the same worlds.  Progress & Main is designed for community building without regard to your affiliation to any local school.

5 - Resources - When I first moved to Blacksburg as a student, I didn't realize how separated our communities actually are.  I didn't know there were Civic Organizations, professional and student groups and events that would like to be a part of or that they would welcome me.  Along the way, I've gathered a list of great resources for new and exciting citizens that I hope people will use to get friendly and familiar quickly. Eventually, I'd like to move this to a wiki but for now, send me any resources I'm missing.

4 - Break Down Silos - State institutions like universities can easily be siloed. You can be stuck in your group of associates. Your major if your a student. Or only talk to only one sector segment of the community  (Undergrads, Artists, Musicians, department collegues). But I noticed in my participation in conferences, there were a lot of great ideas and action going on in a wide range of places. However, they often did not know about each other but would always be excited when they could make the connections and learn from each other. Hopefully, Progress & Main will break down some silos and increase sharing across all levels even towns.

3 - Outlet for Ideas - Most people who live in my community are passionate about their neighborhoods . Additionally, they have a lot of ideas on improving our "quality of life" or sustain the fabric community. However, these ideas may not always have a voice in you social circle. This could be due to your  neighborhood organization's structure (or lack of it), time constraints or family commitments. Progress & Main offers an outlet for people to share their ideas from the inside on how to improve our community.

2 - Central Hub - It is hard to keep track of all the good stuff happening in the NRV. As discussed earlier with calendar, the various we work with are siloed so it is hard to keep track of what is going on. Also, discussions are stuck in their siloes. For example, rather than just my neighbors talking about traffic calming and over-occupancy wouldn't it be cool to open up the dialogue to academics/students in Tech's Planning school, who may be innovating, digital natives who use social media daily, as well as global/state/local innovators who have ideas.

1 - Open Up the Community - Great ideas come from everywhere. However, a lot of the places where the community connects and discusses ways to improve government have geographical and time constraints. As I attended more of these events, I thought more about the guy with two teens and toddler who couldn't attend events after work activities as they had to pick up their kids. Or all the experts outside of the NRV. who couldn't attend these events. Or have funding to attend these great conferences elsewhere. Or the just retired expert who lives in NC but would still like to share his/her ideas. Or the academic/student living in Kent WI or Pullman WA. Progress & Main opens up the community and eliminates these restrictions (you just need Internet).

Bonus Reason - I Needed a Hobby - and this just seems like a cool thing to do.

So those are my reasons for starting Progress & Main. What are your reasons for joining? What do you find valuable? Any suggestions for improvement.

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Comment by Dennis Smith on June 26, 2011 at 10:20am
Any one of these reasons was good enough for having Progress & Main, but finding ten was pretty impressive.  When I was a hapless student at VT in the early 70's all I cared about was making fairly decent grades, feeding myself, and having friends to do stuff with.  With age comes wisdom, I hope.  Now, like Mike, I care a whole lot more about this great little town, it's people, it's prosperity, and it's continued viability.  The lines have gotten blurred between the town and the school over the years.  I personally would love to see a lot of the old Blacksburg return .... the one that had real stores and not just restaurants and bars in every other building.  This is a great forum for connecting people and I hope it continues to gain momentum.  I recently quit Facebook for good and I actually feel liberated.  I'd much rather talk to people face to face, share a beer and some philosophy, or just appreciate some good music.  I think Progress & Main is a good outlet for an exchange of ideas .... ones that could lead to substantive and positive changes to the place we call home.

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