Fighting for freerecyling

Moderation in all things

If anyone has not understood where I am coming from then let me say that THE cornerstone of freecycling is good moderation. The heart of this is one or two people called moderators. These are the people who look after a local freecycling group, and all of what they do they do freely and often very time-consumingly.

There are freecycling styled websites (such as Gigoit) that as far as I know do not have the concept of moderators. This to my mind is a mistake. It takes things out of the equation. At least one of which is the sense of community. If you think about the word “giving” for a moment you will realise that generosity is a cornerstone of freecycling. Generosity cannot exist without the human element.

But the human side of things, especially on the Internet can be a dangerous thing. In discussion groups flame wars can easily come out of nowhere and distract a group – to distraction. I know this to my cost with a recent debacle with a fellow member over the subjects of trust and reputation. Whilst I wanted to draw out the concepts with in-context examples the other party (I think) took this as some form of personal attack. In a discussion group such flame wars are important to those involved, perhaps as a matter of ego. What is also important to understand is that they are important to no-one else in the group. From the group’s perspective they are a distraction and a frustration.

This is where the moderator steps in. The moderator has as one of their roles, not arbitrating between two feuding parties but simply stopping it from swallowing the group up whole. This moderation process starts by gentle admonition to one or either party (since flame wars are usually between two sides) involved, rising to official warnings, thence to putting either or both parties on moderation (which means that any posts they make must be approved by the moderator first) and finally to banning where one or more members is ousted from the group.

Sensitivity is everything in moderation. That becomes more difficult as both the number of members rise (and many freecycling groups have thousands of members, with some heading towards 20,000 members) and as the strength of feeling that a group engages increases. Freecycling per se is rather amicable – “do you want a free TV?” – “Oh, yes please.”

The groups that moderators themselves get into to to talk about moderation generally support more traditionally robust talk. The Freecycle Network has a policy of “two strikes and you’re out”. This is a tough line and one to me that feels like there is a loss of tolerance and a preference for hard-line tactics.

As I say, I prefer moderation in all things. What about you?


October 3, 2007 - Posted by | freecycle


  1. FWIW, Andy, I think you were unfairly treated. It seems some are allowed to break the rules (reposting private e-mails) and others are not (expressing frustration and asking why that was allowed.) It seems people are jumping on your case lately—hopefully, you let it roll right off your back. Keep up the good work!

    Comment by anonymous | October 3, 2007 | Reply

  2. Thanks for the vote of support. In that debacle I wanted to probe to find out what if anything I did wrong. Various group members both on and off list, as you say got on my case and instructed me that I should not go down that path. That left me no way to find any method of problem resolution, and then to have private emails exposed seemed like a step too far.

    Anyway I have my blog and can at least air my perspective even if I am blocked from find a peaceable resolution. So thus it is time to move on, knowing that as someone who puts his head above the parapet needs must become a likely target.

    As you say, time to roll on.

    Comment by andyswarbs | October 3, 2007 | Reply

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