Fighting for freerecyling

Who Owns Who

The Freecycle Network claims ownership of its groups. A Yahoo Group’s owner is defined as an owner by the terms of service of a Yahoo Group. But who does actually own what or who?

For my money neither Yahoo, nor TFN own the freecycling groups. Neither does the owner of a group own the group.

Only the members own the individual freecycling group. Without the members the concept of ownership is and means nothing. Members only stay with a group that they are happy with. In that sense the owner is only a caretaker.

Ownership is conferred by the members onto the “owner” as defined by Yahoo by virtue of the members staying with that group. That said, the Yahoo definition of an owner is far better than some outside person or group claiming ownership.

So let us look at that. TFN claims ownership of freecycling groups around the world. A similar story can be painted there. In what sense could TFN rightfully claim ownership?

Well if a TFN employee actually created AND continued to run each and every TFN group, then I believe that they could claim ownership, and rightfully so. But that picture gets diluted in several ways.

Firstly there are very few TFN employees. Most are volunteers. That might not be a stumbling block if there was a legal contract between TFN and any of its volunteers, but any contract can only exist with TFN and any of its TPTB contingent.

The wider volunteer force of group moderators and owners come and go at their own pace. Some stay for the long haul, others may be distracted by personal issues and never return. Whatever happens when a volunteer joins, leaves or rejoins they do that according to their own timescales and needs, without any reference to TFN. In that condition they owe no allegiance to TFN.

Some groups are initiated by TFN, but always the strategy is to find a local person to take over responsibility. That person may share responsibility with other members who then become moderators. That person may in the end find another person to take over the mantle, perhaps one of the moderators.

The only way that TFN can be said to “own” a group is akin the relationship of a parent to a new child. Once the child reaches adulthood they owe nothing to the parent, unless they continue to gain some mutually beneficial respect from a continuing relationship.

Yes, TFN may spawn groups, but after a group has become mature TFN no longer owns that group. The only possible continuing relationship is that of affiliation.

By affiliation a group decides that it gains some continuing benefits from affiliating to TFN. This may be in terms of online directory listing, perhaps membership of a support group such as a ModSqaud. That’s it.

While I say this in context of TFN the same is true for all other online directory and support services promoted by Reusit, Freesharing and others. The sad reason though for focusing on TFN is that they somehow wish to continue to claim ownership.

It is very worth while comparing and contrasting the concept of TFN and other freecycling groups with other organisations. Sadly there are not many parallels. Most traditional volunteer organisations’ local groups simply could not exist or function without their central organisation. That is patently untrue for freecycling groups.

They could continue to grow, with ease and trouble free, for the short, medium and long term.


September 19, 2007 - Posted by | freecycle

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