Fighting for freerecyling

The Sydney North story

What follows is the complete transcript with comments regarding the delisting of Sydney North Freecycle group from TFN. The story is related from the viewpoint of Narelle and the co-owner of the group, Chris.

Important note: TFN delisted Sydney North Freecycle at around 8am Saturday. At the time of writing this blog the group is still not listed on the Reuseit Network website, nearly 24 hours later. A clear instance of TFN delisting a group that is 100% totally TFN compliant and a clear case of Hobson’s Choice.

This is a long dialogue. I have made the absolute minimum of edits to in the interests of readability in the context of this blog. Corrections include spelling corrections and removal of some flaming annotations. Also I have removed actual names of TFN representatives: the GOAs name has been replaced by XXXXX. There are a couple of editorial inserts to assist clarification, these are signalled by [editor: …]. References to EF are shorthand for ErsatzFriend and Finder refers to the finder email address: both of these are administered by The Freecycle Network.

The transcript it has the following sections:

  1. Email from Narelle to her group members
  2. Email from GOA to Narelle
  3. Email from Narelle to Australian Modsquad
  4. GOA post to Australia Modsquad
  5. Narelle attempts to reply to Australian Modsquad
  6. Chris’s attempted Email to Australian ModSquad

If any of the edits that I have made make any errors of interpretation of events, then that is my fault, and I unequivocally apologise to all parties. The original transcript unedited, is available on the International Freecycle Modsquad group, message no 2293. The transcript is reproduced with kind permission. Read it and form your own judgements.

1) Admin Email from Narelle to her group members

Fri Jul 20, 2007 6:17 pm:

This is an important announcement about the direction of Sydney North Freecycle, so please read it in its entirety. Over the past few months there has been much going on behind the scenes within the Freecycle organisation management. There has been a lot of unrest, and some hard questions being asked by group moderators that are being answered with a fair amount of “caution” by those in more senior management positions, including the founder, Deron Beal. These questions regard a number of things including The Freecycle Network (TFN) finances, future intentions, and moderator/group autonomy. I will not go into great detail here and bog you down with boring politics, but I’m sure if any of you are interested enough, Google, or Yahoo Groups search will be your friend. So, we find ourselves now at a crossroads, but would like member input as to the future direction of this group.

There has been a new network set up ( that we think has great potential and is not mired in cloak-and-dagger antics. Indeed, I (Narelle) have been working this past month or so to help set it up. Changing will simply mean that we remove all reference to Freecycle, change logos, and giving the group a new name. Our group will be delisted at, and most likely a new Sydney North Freecycle group will be started up to take our place. You, as members will not have to do anything, apart from update the URL in your address book. The decision will be made in the next few days. I will start a thread in the café group regarding this. If you have any questions or comments, please take it to that group, or email us privately at the “–owner” address. I will be as honest and open as possible when answering any queries. If you make no comment, then I shall assume you are not fussed either way and will be happy with whatever is decided.

Café url:

Or post:

Please also note, that even posting this Admin, and having a discussion on the café group will change things for Sydney North Freecycle, as unfortunately there a Freecycle “spies” everywhere who will let the upper management know what we are thinking (yes, truly! It’s like being in primary school with all dobbing going on!) Thank you for getting this far though our post and we look forward to hearing from you.

Narelle & Chris, Owner/Moderators, Sydney North Freecycle

2) Email from GOA to Narelle

Sat Jul 21, 2007 7:30 am:

Hello Narelle,

We appreciate the volunteer work you have done for Freecycle(TM) in the past. You have openly admitted to being a part of Reuseit and helping set it up. Because of your actions we are asking that you step down as a volunteer for The Freecycle Network. Please approve the interimmod at freecycle address and promote them to owner of your group.

If there are any other moderators on this group; it is advised that you create a back up members list and contact me at this time at if you would like to continue as a local group moderator. Sadly, we sometimes lose a group when we request that a volunteer step down.

Narelle, we wish you much luck in your future endeavours and thank you again for the time you volunteered with Freecycle. Your helping to build a successful local Freecycle group is deeply appreciated.

Regards, Xxxxx, Group Outreach and Assistance, NSW AU

3) Email from Narelle to Australian Modsquad

Saturday, 21 July, 2007 8:23:31 AM

So here goes… I may as well let you know what’s happening in my FC world. As some of you may be aware, I was caught up in what is now known as the “Imod Mutiny”. See IModUncensored for more details if you don’t know about it. Also freecycling blog gives some details.

Although I wasn’t one of the 9, I was demoted by EF after the mutiny (i.e. by FC hierarchy), and Stephanie threw me out of the Imod group without ever giving me a reason. I can only assume it was guilt by association. I have never been contacted by any of The Hub, or by any GOA regarding this. The last contact I had was to wake up to an email demanding that I choose “between Freecycle or my friends” and to find myself out of the Imod group (without any chance to choose freely anyway!).

Over the past couple of months I have watched with growing dismay on USMS and OIDG events unfolding: the suppression of any free and honest speech by members has been quite an eye opener.

So as my Imod friends, along with many others who have dared question the FC regime, have received their C & D emails, and been delisted by FC (yes, some of you have noticed all those new groups and wondered why they are replacing perfectly good active groups: that’s why), we decided to be pro-active, and have been quietly organising an alternative:

And so has been born. It is still in its infancy, but Freecycle are worried enough about it to send me my “please hand over your group to us” email, and have Imods (the new, untrained ones) join my group.

Finally, I urge you to delete EF as a mod in your group, and to delete finder as well. It has been my experience that these two id’s can be used to take away your moderator powers. Besides which, as finder is removing info from Yahoo and placing it on another server, it is actually going against Yahoo TOS.

It is sad that a few people in Freecycle have gone power crazy, and that it has come to this end for me. Although at the moment I still have a fully compliant Freecycle group, I doubt that TPTB will care much, and will still delist my group illegally. It is also not only sad but extremely childish that *someone* took it upon themselves to rush to the GOA and dob on me for daring to take it to my members to consider an alternative group.

If you are interested in joining Reuseit, or have any questions, please feel free to email me.

Thank you and good luck, Narelle, Sydney North Freecycle

4) GOA post to Australia Modsquad

[editor: exact time unknown]

Morning everyone. Just a quick one to clarify some facts for you…

1. This is fallout from the “IMOD mutiny” – yes. When individuals remove themselves and/or the groups on which they are owners, it is my responsibility to ensure the integrity of TFN.

2. We are representatives of TFN – as such, our loyalty is with this organisation, as it is from here that we accept their systems, procedures, publicity, links, guidance, support, etc. But more importantly, at a grassroots level, the members of our individual local groups join Freecycle – not Xxxxx’s group for example. Members join because they believe in the principles, logic, the theory behind TFN. As owner, I’m only caretaking and ensuring that I develop the group to the best of my ability under the ethos of TFN.

3. Therefore, if an owner decides to go independent or join another organisation, that’s fine – no problems whatsoever. But obviously, they can’t remain within TFN because you wouldn’t be following their guidelines – you’d be following your own. So it’s my job to ask them to make a decision – if they choose to join another organisation, then I need to ask them to remove themselves as owner of the existing group. Some people do – but others ‘hijack’ the membership and I have to put up with the complaints from members who are outraged that they joined one group only to find that they now belong to another – but that’s a separate issue!

4. In this particular case Narelle was part of the ‘mutiny’ by accepting ownership of groups when EF was removed. She was asked to step down because she has admitted to being involved in helping set up Reuseit, nothing more and nothing less. Narelle was terrific when she worked with TFN and I know that I for one will really miss her input – she put many hours into her group and in helping others through Oz. But she has made her decision and as I am GOA with Freecycle, I’ve had to ask her to remove herself from TFN groups.

We all know that it’s been tough for some within Freecycle lately – most group owners just want to get on with the job of improving their own groups and want to know how to go about this! In Oz, we’ve got amazing groups with new ones being applied for daily – our poor NGAs are snowed under with their applications. So we’re all doing something right, I have to tell you!! Thanks so much to you all – I know that this is confusing. I hope that I have demystified it somewhat.

Now, on a final note, just so you know – I’m off to the footy this pm – then I’m at some footy celebrations tonight. So I won’t be around to answer questions today. But tomorrow I’ll catch up. Enjoy your weekend – hope that the weather will treat you kindly!

All the best, Xxxxx

5) Narelle attempts to reply to Australian Modsquad

[editor: exact time unknown]

I began to reply, via the website, within a few minutes of her post, but as soon as I pressed “send” found out that I had been removed. I then saw that I had been removed from USMS and OIDG.

[Editors note: this is not what the GOA said would happen, which was that Narelle would be asked to leave]

As I have received no notification of my removal, I assume they changed my setting to “No mail” before doing Deron’s work. I then also checked, and lo and behold discovered my group had been delisted, also without notification, without proper due cause and certainly without following their own protocol regarding how to delist a group.

As I did not get a chance to reply there, please allow me to post it here, so that at least my reply to her gets heard by a few, and I can defend myself against her accusations. So here is my reply to her points.

Answer to paragraphs 1 and 2. But if one is asked to choose between an Internet organisation and friendship, then one needs to question to ethics of the organisation, and those running it.

Answer to point 3: I was *not* part of the mutiny, and certainly did *not* accept ownership of any groups where EF was removed. Just the opposite happened. I was removed by EF *after* the mutiny by someone high-up in The Freecycle Network. Who else has access to EF? Nor have I hijacked my group, or intend to. Read the post that I sent to my group again. If I choose to change, all members have agreed to that change, either by contacting me or by implied consent through their silence.

So? My group is still fully TFN tm compliant and follows TFN rules and guidelines. Helping to set up Reuseit or any other Y!G is not against any TFN guidelines. I know there are plenty of FC moderators who own/moderate other recycle, trade, swap or buy and sell groups.

One quickly learns who their friends are when in crisis. Not a peep out of any TFN hierarchy, au or otherwise, for the last 6 weeks to see how I was going.

My group is still a TFN group, so I won’t be removing myself from anywhere.

Nope. Narelle

6) Chris’s attempted Email to Australian ModSquad

My co-owner, Chris was removed from Aus MS, OIDG and USMS at the same time as I was, also without any notification (where have I heard the guilt by association song before… Oh that’s right: Me, during the Imod Mutiny!) He also (before realizing he had been removed) attempted to post a reply to Xxxxx on the Aus MS. His post is spookily similar to mine, even though we did not confer in any way when replying.

[editor’s note: Chris’s email removed to assist brevity. Chris’s key points follow verbatim. Also the exact time is not known]

Narelle hasn’t done that yet and wasn’t part of the mutiny. The mutiny was 9 IMODs that I don’t even know and Narelle had fingers pointed at her a few days after the mutiny actually happened. When the mutiny was actually occurring I contacted Narelle to figure out what was going on and she was as much in the dark as I was.

I used the believe this that group owners were caretakers… But I’ve proven to myself over the last 6 months that members really don’t care. They are interested in their LOCAL COMMUNITY, not a global monolith that doesn’t respect the local input made by the people that make the network work.

IMHO, there has been no formal decision made yet. Narelle is polling the group for comment, that’s all that has been done.

Right, this is where I really get upset [ed: …is the insinuation about the Reuseit association]. Because Narelle has used her Freecycle knowledge to assist in creating another network then she’s axed? If this was corporate business then I would understand, but this is about local communities recycling unused items and reducing the burden on the environment and landfill … Wouldn’t it be nobler to applaud her for getting multiple groups to do this?

Right. So she puts lots of time into growing her local group, and assisting multiple other groups across Australia (she was an imod after all) and then TFN says “thanks, but we don’t need you”… wouldn’t that upset you … even just a touch ?

Basically, Narelle has done nothing wrong. She was demoted from imod duties without any proof that she was one of the 9. She has been told to surrender her group because she’s removing it from TFN (yet to be decided), and I just heard that she has been removed from this very group without any discussion at all.

SURELY if you value her input so highly, and the work that she’s put into the Network over the years, you should at least discuss things before termination.

Thanks for reading this. I’ll say my goodbyes before I get the chop as well….



July 22, 2007 - Posted by | australia, ersatzfriend, finder, freecycle, goa, imoduncensored, OIDG, reuseit


  1. I don’t understand nor am I interested in this tit for tat cat fight going on.

    I just like the idea of passing no longer needed items around for others to get use of them.

    All I want to know is simply, what does this tit for tat cat fight mean to me or for me and my interest in re-cyling and acquiring recycled things from freecycle?

    Comment by Becky | July 23, 2007 | Reply

  2. Becky this means nothing – because your owners and moderators have ensured that you will be able to continue giving and receiving items without interruption, now and in the future. And if that is all you are interested in then read this blog no more.

    However imagine if your national government simply replaced your local city and county councillors without any democratic local input. That is the kind of problem your owners and moderators faced up to. TFN have a history of simply going to Yahoo and instructing them to delete groups without notice. Zap, poof and you no longer have a group and can no longer freecycle until a new group’s membership builds up from nothing.

    Moderators and Owners (who are the original moderator) run your group(s) on a daily basis. It is they who expend effort each day to sort out any issues for you, they who take any local flak for anything going wrong, they who find new members and promote your group in the local radio, TV and newspapers – each day. It is them who get rid of any spammers etc. And they do this for no other benefit that the love of supporting their local community.

    Whether or not TFN or instead your group’s owners and moderators are right to do what they have done is the debate that this blog is about.

    By doing what Sydney North moderators and owners have done people like yourself can continue to simply freecycle, and simultaneously the debate can continue until it is resolved in a climate of free speech.

    Whatever you do keep on free recycling aka freecycling.

    Comment by andyswarbs | July 23, 2007 | Reply

  3. I would like to clarify something, I have been sent an email by someone saying that it was me that Dobbed Narelle into Emily, which resulted in Narelle’s group being De-listed.

    This is incorrect & I want it made known that I had absolutely nothing to do with this. I thought of Narelle as a friend & as such I do not treat my friends in this way.

    I would also appreciate it if the person or persons who were responsible for this to make it publicly known that I had nothing to do with it.

    Well that my threepence worth.

    Mal – VK2STG

    Comment by Mal - VK2STG | July 23, 2007 | Reply

  4. […] only half way through the (US) day On WordPress top blogs and posts of the day, the Sydney North post is currently running at No […]

    Pingback by In at no 73, and we’re only half way through the (US) day « The FreeRRRs - recycling, regiving and reusing, as it should be | July 23, 2007 | Reply

  5. Good on you Narelle & Chris for perservering.
    Personally I think the politics that started gathering momentum in the Freecycle group, directed from the hierarchy in the USA around a year ago is all a crock of crap! The original intention was to stop useful items going to landfill – not placing a logo 3mm exactly to the left of a column – nor dictating what groups members can belong to.
    Its such a shame that pettiness smothered a great initiative.
    all the best with the new group.

    Comment by kylie | July 24, 2007 | Reply

  6. Hi all. I understand that reuseit was created as an alternative to freecycle. I don’t yet understand why this was necessary. Seems to me that we will get greatest community power/ recycling when we are all part of one community. Isn’t that what everyone wants? Now it seems we have 2… Good news for the rubbish dumps???

    Comment by Tom Sherlock | July 24, 2007 | Reply

  7. As a re-cycler of a few years standing I want it know to all involved that I don’t give two hoots about who runs or does not run this or any other group. My sole concern is to be able to recycle goods – period! To that end I, nor anyone really interested in doing so needs, nor apparantly is it desirable considering the facton fighting and freedom-limiting practices of late, a trademarked organisation on the other side of the world whose interest is more in “Brand” augmentation rather that the service itself. Any group that allows me to offer my goods and allows me to post wanted’s in a friendly, free, not – for profit – manner, is all I ask. My community comes first!

    Comment by Friendly Recycler | July 24, 2007 | Reply

  8. To Tom Sherlock: Thank you for your comment. Actually if you follow the links on the right of this blog you will see a very wide range of free recycling directories. At least one is older than TFN itself.

    Comment by andyswarbs | July 24, 2007 | Reply

  9. There is no rule that says moderators or group owners can’t belong to other groups, build websites, or even participate in other recycling efforts.

    There is no part of the “contract” we agreed to that has a “competition” clause.

    For TFN to insist on absolute loyalty to the point of attempting to control our participating and access to groups not associated or affiliated with TFN borders on obsessive-compulsive, dictatorial, and monopolizing behaviors. They have no RIGHT to decide what I do with my time or my life.

    Comment by Jamey | July 24, 2007 | Reply

  10. Oh for heaven’s sake – I have only understood about one word in 25 of all this rubbish. GOA? Freecycle spies? USMS? OIDG?

    Let’s just concentrate on what’s important – saving perfectly good stuff from landfill!

    Comment by Pam | July 25, 2007 | Reply

  11. Pam, thanks for the comment. If you do not understand my words, fine instead go to the many links,read and ask others. But simply stating that it is rubbish without doing research is like burying your head in the sand.

    All I ask is that you ask a question on your modsquad as to whether this is rubbish or not. Then you will see very quickly as you are placed on moderation. Go on, if what is said in these pages is rubbish, get someone from TFN to say so in the privacy of your modsquad or oidg.

    Comment by andyswarbs | July 25, 2007 | Reply

  12. Andy,
    I think Pam may not be a mod, just an interested member/reader, and thus is having problems understanding acronyms, so:
    EF – Ersatzfriend is commonly used as a neutral backup CO-owner on Freecycle lists.

    GOA – Group Outreach and Assistance: each state has one, andthey are 1st point of contact for moderators with problems

    IMOD – Interim Moderator is just what the name implies. This team takes over orphaned and abandoned groups, and managed parallel groups until a local moderator can be found and trained.

    MS – ModSquad. Each country has one, and it is for FC moderators to chat, discuss issues

    OIDG – The Org Issues Discussion Group is a Yahoo group for FC mods around the world and “focuses on issues central to the ongoing development of”

    FC spies – People within the FC org that have multiple id’s and join local groups to “watch” an report back to those in charge any goings-on that could be considered ‘anti-Freecycle”, such as my original Admin to my group. Not an offically postion within that network, but exists nontheless.

    Comment by Narelle | July 25, 2007 | Reply

  13. Wow. Who knew? This is rather concerning.

    Comment by Anne | March 12, 2010 | Reply

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