Fighting for freerecyling

Climb every mountain

Whilst it is true that in general the number of posts of a given group increase with the number of members, it is also true that that is a gross generalisation. To help you get a better feel for this I have captured the number of posts in 2006 for a range of over 40 groups, with a focus on some of the largest groups.

The chart has two lines, the blue line is the number of members each of the 40 or so groups, sorted in ascending order left to right. Against that on the pink line is the total number of posts in 2006 for each group.

Also it just so happens that the two ranges – the total number of messages per year and the number of group members can easily share the same vertical scale. This is of course a simple coincidence.

If the number of posts correlated well with the number of members then the two lines on this chart would follow a similar curve. As a general trend there is some correlation, however in detail they jump all over the place. To help you see this jumping I have labelled some of the “mountains” with their number of post values. The same is true no matter whether one considers small or whether one considers large groups. Posts Vs Members

My conclusion is that group membership is an extremely unreliable indicator of the amount of tonnage saved from landfill. What’s yours?

November 26, 2007 - Posted by | freecycle


  1. Have you done the same analysis within a group over a period of time? We see a steady stream of messages in our groups and they relate to our membership. There are a few ups and downs, but one our groups has a steady state on members at about 1440 – 1450 members, with an average of 10 messages a day that doesn’t seem to let up.

    To me this seems to indicate that free-recycling cannot just be statistically determined, and that group dynamics, something a little harder to capture with metrics comes into play.

    I have also noted interesting trends over the years. Very obviously, the day before and on thanksgiving sees fewer messages. The next two days, giving people enough spare time to throw and pick up things see an upsurge, oh so slightly. Every year for the last 3 years, this seems to happen.

    And spring is another gotcha. Every spring we see a surge of posts here, with the cleaning season setting in…

    Comment by Srihari | November 26, 2007 | Reply

  2. I agree with you, Andy, as well as with some of Srihari’s points re: statistical analyses and surging number of posts in the spring, etc.

    Take a look at the group I used to moderate:

    Minneapolis had its highest number of posts approximately 4/05-9/06. In 6-05, I remember that the number of members was around 9000; now the number is ~10,900, but we have fewer posts.

    [Note: the group split into 2 groups in 8-06:
    However, the number of St Paul posts plus the number of Mpls posts does not add up to the number of the previous record high posts on Mpls alone. Also, there are many shared members in both groups with duplicate posts (both groups allow crossposting.]

    In the case of Minneapolis’s posts going down, I believe there are many factors. Here are some:

    *We never promoted the group (and I doubt they are doing so now.)

    *When the concept was new everyone was excited about it, but people lose interest when they don’t get what they want and/or when they have a few No Shows or annoying contacts.

    *I, for one, am almost totally out of things to give; I run a lean house, so I can’t post, though I did recently answer a Wanted for a salad spinner that I forgot I had. And I’ve only posted 4 Wanteds (I can afford to buy what I need & don’t want to overburden the list w/my own unnecessary Wanted post *most* of the time.)

    *I believe that Minneapolis is saturated with free and cheap groups (local grassroots efforts as well as Craig’s List). (I may as well mention that Minneapolis-StPaul is the site of the first free recycling group which predated by several years: )

    Andy wrote:
    My conclusion is that group membership is an extremely unreliable indicator of the amount of tonnage saved from landfill. What’s yours?

    Comment by Heidi | November 27, 2007 | Reply

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