Fighting for freerecyling

To build a central website, or not. That is the question.

No one would argue that the current reliance of TFN on Yahoo Groups is perfect.  I am sure even Yahoo would admit some drawbacks.  But whatever you feel you would like, the reality is that 99.99% of TFN or non-TFN freecycling groups are on Yahoo Groups.  A link I have just come across presents an excellently thought out case for changing from Yahoo groups to a website with a centralised database behind it.

It talks about the many weaknesses of Yahoo Groups…   And then presents the advantages of a centralised system.
Now if I tell you that I have specified, justified, designed, built, troubleshot big server farms across the globe then I am saying I know what I am talking about.  The largest I have dealt with is a 13,000 user 3-language system running a railway that runs on time, to the second, 24/7.  Much of what goes on in the thinking behind these systems is the economy of scale inherent in a large centralised system.

But, for freecycling this large-scale website & database is the wrong model.  100% wrong.   The reason why is nothing to do with technology.  It is all to do with the freecycling movement.

Freecyclers are a loose knit very large community split across many continents and many cultures.  These communities are led by “moderators”.  These moderators have total independence from any outside the group.  Any putative replacement has to deal with this head on.

If it was my project I would be distributing the source code out under GNU or similar license and encouraging groups, and groups or groups, to do their own thing.  Then they are in control, as equals to other moderators & groups.

Small is beautiful.


July 13, 2007 - Posted by | freecycle

1 Comment »

  1. I agree 100% that a centralized database is the wrong approach. But there are definitely improvements that can be made to the current Yahoo Groups system. It’s just too hard to manage the incredible flow of messages and to find and focus in on what you want.

    There’s a new product, though, called Grouply that can help. I won’t go so far as to say that Grouply is the perfect solution for Freecycle, but it certainly improves upon the existing Yahoo Groups experience. Here are some of the benefits of accessing your Freecycle group(s) through Grouply:

    * All your groups in one place – You can search all your Freecycle groups (and all your other Yahoo Groups) at once from one website. You receive a single Smart Digest email each day that summarizes all the new items being offered across all your Freecycle groups. You can also receive individual emails if you want.

    * Tagging/categorization of listings – Anyone can categorize a listing (e.g., furniture, computers, electronics) to make it easier for everyone else to find it.

    * Saved searches and alerts – You can specify search terms associated with an item you are looking for and save the query for quick access later. If you want, Grouply will alert you via email when a new item is posted that matches your Saved Search.

    Best of all, Grouply automatically works with your existing Yahoo Groups, so there is nothing the group moderators need to change here. You can just sign up by yourself with Grouply, and in seconds you’ll be accessing your Freecycle groups in a new and better way.

    Grouply is still in beta right now, so it’s not generally available to the public. If you’d like to try it now, though, please shoot me an email at, and I can arrange to get you early access!


    Comment by Mark | July 14, 2007 | Reply

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