Fighting for freerecyling

Distributed centralisation technospeak

If you are not a computer geek then I recommend switching off. Distributed computing is the principle of sharing around things like control, processing and storage to several computer systems and locations. Free recycling groups that use Yahoo groups are at least good for that in terms of control. Each group individually controls their membership 100%.

On the other hand centralisation in computing terms is the ability to use the economies of scale of storing all data and centralising control in one place.

In the world of computing these two ideologies are at the opposite end of the spectrum and very rarely do they meet up, and if they do meet then getting that meeting to be harmonious is an interesting challenge.

So a key question in TFN’s strategy for their new website, especially now that finder is dead is how they intend to proceed regarding these two poles. As far as I know they have employed a MySQL database and given their resources I would suggest they are going for a centralised approach to everything. If anyone can validate that or contradict it then now is a good time to speak.

Why does this matter? There are a number of key issues here.

  1. Control. If a central database for all TFN groups is used then de facto, Deron has total control.
  2. Data protection. Moving user data out of Europe into the USA is strictly controlled. A website that does this for 3/4 million users is a big ask. Do that without their explicit permission is even bigger. Do that again for countries like Australia and again you run into problems. The bottom line here is that NO group owner can proceed to migrate to the new website without express permission from each member.
  3. Reliability. If Yahoo Groups has problems then I guess we might expect one or two rumbles over time from any new TFN website.
  4. Performance. Similarly Yahoo Groups has run into performance issues of emails being delayed. I would not want the headache of managing the TFN show for all 4,000 odd groups without a decent salary, including a pay deal to cover out of hours work including bank holidays.

From what I have read from Deron, he really does not have a handle on the technical issues. Richard, I believe is paid on contract, so not being salaried implies he could walk off the job at any instant. Imagine if all groups moved across and these two guys fell out.

September 3, 2007 Posted by | finder, freecycle, MySql, yahoogroups | Leave a comment

Top Posts 3: Fact is stranger than fiction

Another post on IntlFCMS (membership required) recently updates a list of charges where TFN have been found wanting. This is posted in response to a new member who wants to get hold of a summary of things so far. There are a range of posts on this thread, but I will limit the Top Post award to this one. I will limit my comments to the considerable diligence made by those to ensure that the “facts” therein are proveable in the sense that they have direct evidence gathered to support each charge.

September 3, 2007 Posted by | freecycle, intlfcms, yahoogroups | Leave a comment

Wanted: Volunteers who are close to the top of TFN

I am looking at trying to provide a forum for those who are close to the top of TFN and want to speak their piece, indicating perhaps how they see TFN now, and how they see TFN’s critics.  If that’s you then contact me privately.

September 3, 2007 Posted by | freecycle | Leave a comment

This cannot be right, can it?

I am getting back through my email backlog bit by bit. One of the IntlFCMS posts refers to an article on called How to Spot a Toxic Boss. I used to work for a boss who was definitely toxic. He was charismatic and domineering. And he got things done. But he poisoned people against people. He controlled information so that only “he” knew the big picture. If you know of or work for a toxic boss then perhaps it is time to do more than try to break free. There is fresh air out here where you can breathe deep, free and easy.

September 3, 2007 Posted by | freecycle, intlfcms | Leave a comment

Linktome, linktome, linktome, they’ve got to linktome


For anyone who runs a website or posts anywhere that appreciates what how this blogs contributes to the debate I would appreciate a link back to this blog. The address is Such a link helps others find this blog more easily. If you do add a link somewhere, please drop me a line.

Similarly if there is a website, blog or forum out there that you think is appropriate for being covered on this blog, but is not then again drop me a line somehow and we will attempt to correct that.

Also I have registered this site on The Best of the Blogs award site.  Watch this space to see if this blog is a worthy contender.

PS There is a vapourware version of a £20 note for anyone who can correctly identify the comedian who I have paraphrased in this blog’s title.

September 3, 2007 Posted by | freecycle | 1 Comment

Tip No 5: Managing volumes of emails

Group such as fcnext debating the future of free recycling and free recycling group that has many members share one thing – they both generate a large amount of emails for you to potentially wade through each day, hour or even minute. Keeping on top of these is key to being aware when something comes into your inbox that is critical to your needs and that a prompt response to is essential to you somehow.

On these Vista forums I just read of one person’s woes in trying to manage their inbox. Right now I am not a Vista user so perhaps I am not qualified to answer this problem directly. But the sad thing is that some people put up with inferior tools that just are not up to the mark of dealing with high-volume emails. Every individual on this planet has a momentum in their actions and the tools they use, preferring the tools they have used for many years rather than learning new tools and techniques.

I have banged on about Google email before, about how good it is. One great feature for example is how it deals with spam. You can train it to understand what is spam for you as new emails come in. Actually this anti-spam feature is becoming quite common and if you are not using a n easily trainable anti-spam feature then that is one reason to consider change.

Another is how Google Email classifies emails. In the Microsoft Outlook that I have used over the years you can put messages into different folders, perhaps one folder for this project and another folder for that project etc. This technique is not the best since some messages will inevitably cross over into two or more projects and ideally you want the message in both folders. Google email allows this since any message can be tagged with as many “folder” labels as you like.

Another disadvantage of desktop email clients is the speed and ease of searching for ad-hoc emails with a given keyword. Again, my experience of MS outlook was always frustrating, without exception. Finding emails on given keywords quickly turned into a joke. The (much researched) answer of using a desktop search tool (including Google Desktop) was, for me, not an option since this always slowed my computer to a halt as my disk filled with indexes. The speed at which I can search through my Google email is blinding. Not only that the ease of search is great since normal web searching rules apply, with a few extra ones thrown in for good measure.

But what really makes Google Email work for me is its thread management. It is not perfect but I really get the sense of new messages on an old subject being collected together and “me” being in control of reading what I want and need to read, when I want to do it.

Now to wrap this up some people complain about Yahoo’s adverts. Well I am sorry but if you will use the Yahoo Email and Yahoo Groups website then you only have yourself to blame. Google Email is largely advertising free, though you can configure it to add a news feed and also context sensitive ads do appear. But these are text based and a discreetly placed and contain no pictures. In fact any email with pictures, by default Google Email prevents the pictures from being displayed. This makes for super-efficient bandwidth control for people on dial-up modem.

Finally if you sign up to Google Email then you get free access to their Google Docs which are Excel and Word “look-alikes”. And of course there are other features of Google Email such as on-line presence stuff and a very useful chat that records what you chat directly into your email inbox.

I will just end this sales-pitch saying that although what Google Email delivers is, to my mind, very much state of the art that also technology is leapfrogging. Yahoo Webmail was revamped recently and is going down a similar route. The trick is to try it out and see if it works for you.

September 3, 2007 Posted by | fcnext, freecycle, yahoogroups | Leave a comment

Spare time

In case anyone did not know I spend a lot of time on this blog, both researching and posting. This I do in my spare time, voluntarily for the greater good of the industry as I see it. Gosh, aren’t I a goody-goody. Anyway I just thought you might like to know and I apologise to all for important events that I do not cover properly or effectively.  It’s just that I do have a life outside free recycling, somewhere 🙂

September 3, 2007 Posted by | freecycle | 1 Comment

News Watch: Medford breaks ranks

So many groups have left TFN it has been an impossible task to keep up with it.  One that hit the Tribune headlines was Medford.

September 3, 2007 Posted by | freecycle | Leave a comment

The Queen is not an Ostrich

On the box, earlier tonight I watched The Queen starring Helen Mirren. What struck me was the theme that the Royal Family was initially in total denial and basically did not understand the feelings out there in the UK population, nor worldwide in the aftermath of the Princess of Wales death. Their sense of denial increased until, in The Queen’s instance she saw sense and actually reversed policy and started to understand and accept that old methods and processes had no relevance in this particular changing society.

I am neither a monarchist, nor a republican and neither do I sit on the fence, but that is another story. What I wish to draw from this storyline is that in The Queen’s instance the UK monarchy was in so much denial that its continued existence was substantially threatened. Not only that but that this threat almost entirely came from its own actions, or rather inaction.

This reminds me of a certain company featured on this blog that is looking more like an Ostrich every day.

September 3, 2007 Posted by | freecycle | Leave a comment

Tip No 4: Pesky Public Postings

For a while now I have had a number of alerts running through Google for words like “freecycle” with the aim of helping me keep abreast of the industry. One alert that has arrived in my inbox that has caused me to write individually to the owners of various free recycling groups that I do not belong to. Having done a few of these I now wish to share with you what I have been doing and perhaps it may help another moderator improve life for their membership.

What triggered me to do this was in fact the finder fiasco in which this blog has played its small part in revealing and correcting. Finder, as regular readers will remember was regularly taking all the details of all members posts in a private yahoo group and collating that information inside TFN’s databases. This gave the potential to reveal some or all of that information to the TFN website, which would be in conflict with Yahoo’s terms and conditions. TFN have now done the honourable thing and revoked finder – forever. And all I can say to that is – well done to TFN for seeing sense and acting sensibly.

Now back to my tip. What I realised is that TFN were not the only source that was, and is breaching Yahoo’s terms and conditions. It seems that some members are joining groups and privately reposting daily digests, or parts thereof onto websites such as blogs. One persistent and repeat offender is Games-9, running on This blog regularly provides daily digest information from the windsor-maidenhead-freecycle group. One effective way to ensure any such blog is stopped is to at least ask the poster to stop posting. Sometimes blogs are done anonymously so a moderator might have difficulty knowing who is actually behind the offence, and therefore hampered from solving the problem.

One further aid is possible with all blogs and that is to complain to the blog company. They may not act, but at least they have the opportunity of investigating the problem on your behalf. With marking a blog as having a problem is relatively easy since at the top of each blog page is a “flag” button which you can click and this immediately raises the blog as having questionable content.

Finally you could notify Yahoo. They have an interest in protecting the data of their members and may, just may be interested enough to speak to the problem.

So in summary:

  • Run a news alert such as Google Alerts with a keyword like “freecycle”, ensuring this includes blogs.
  • If an alert arrives indicating that your daily digests are being reposted then
  • Chase down the poster and at least ask them to stop. Possibly ban then from being a member.
  • Also perhaps complain to Yahoo and/or the blog company.

Good luck!

September 3, 2007 Posted by | finder, freecycle, google, yahoogroups | Leave a comment