All UK Freecycling group owners should immediately check who their co-owners are. The obvious one to get rid of is ErsatzFriend. However I would say if there are any old owner or moderator IDs that you are unsure about – DELETE THEM.
Do it now. Do not hesitate.
Only allow moderators and owners you trust. Verify each one of them knows what is happening.
Do it now – or tomorrow you may not have a group.
I am breaking with tradition here and going to another source. This one is from the ImodUncensored group (membership of this group is not required) who tell their individual stories with great clarity. In Laura’s Story what really hits home is about a normal person, someone who is incredibly keen on freecycling, someone who put in immense hours of dedication to The Freecycle Network for no reward and someone who deserves respect. Judge for yourself and read some more about the shenanigans of ErsatzFriend.
If you see someone called ErsatzFriend attempting to join your group then I would recommend you follow the thread on FreecycleModSquad, where someone is concerned about this and has asked for a public explanation.
I’m back having travelled 3,500 miles, many of which have been up and down extremely hair-raising-pins of Spain’s Catalonya and France’s Central Massif and “D”road system. It included marvelling at the beautiful Millau Viaduct and being abhorred at the commercialised Andorra with its excessive of police presence.
More of this perhaps later, but in the meantime more important matters are in play. It seems that while I have been away swimming, walking and sunning myself much has been happening and I am going to have trouble playing catch up. A massive 1,500 emails on the subject of free recycling in my inbox means I have my work cut out just seeing what happened in the meantime. I am going to have to work backwards, and needs must I am going to miss out on a lot.
To those that have emailed me and I incorrectly deal with their emails while playing catch-up, my profound apologies. To others I am also going to probably read emails out of sync. But as Oscar Wilde could have said had he been alive and kicking, “if there’s one thing worse than coming back from holiday and being saturated with emails, it is coming back from holiday and having none.”
With that let’s kick off with the sad, sad excesses of ErsatzFriend. It appears that abusing ErsatzFriend knows no bounds. Right now TFN instead of cleaning its act up and realising the writing is on the wall for its poor policies and procedures are now using ErsatzFriend to manipulate polls in groups where owners and moderators are taking brave steps in asking their membership whether to stay in the TFN fold or not.
I mean what clearer message can their be that TFN is totally corrupt than extending the abuse of ErsatzFriend to distort voting patterns. Come on Deron, WAKE UP to the 21st Century. We are no longer in the Dark Ages where you can manipulate the world to be the way you want it simply because you want it that way. Neither can I, neither can anyone. And anyone trying will be found out.
If you want the evidence of manipulation then check out this photo in the OFFICIAL International Freecycle Modsquad (membership required).
Yes at the same time surely IFMS should drop the UN. As it says on its home page “It’s not a fluff chat group to pass on grandmas knitting patterns.” The IFMS is one of the two definitive debating forums for thinking about the future of free recycling. Be part of that debate – and do not be manipulated.
Spam is a very emotive word. It is all about sending inappropriate email to lots of people who did not ask for it. Actual definitions vary extremely widely. I think in trying to understand what has happened an analysis of what spam is might help some people decide for themselves.
Certainly this email seems to have been sent to a group of people who did not ask for it. But then we all receive lots of emails that I did not ask for. Also spam is associated with the word inappropriate. Well, in this case that is tenuous since, according to my research the email was targeted at group owners and moderators and was considered by the perpetrators to be very relevant.
Spam is also often associated with selling things like viagra, well in this instance the only thing being offered was information at no cost.
Spam is also associated with harvesting emails from membership lists. Well there have been insinuations about ErsatzFriend and other TFN accounts being used for the very similar purposes by inviting members from one group to join another. I am sure readers would appreciate it if someone on behalf of TFN would speak to this and deny that any such thing has ever happened.
There is one more possibly justification that I can think of. And that is the key matter of free speech. If an organisation suppresses the ability for members to discuss important issues in appropriate places then perhaps it is not surprising when methods that might be called spam are used to explain what is going on.
Obviously the only method of contact on an email based system is the email addresses of its people, and if it is acceptable for TFN to use membership lists in certain circumstances then I guess the precedent is set. But rather accepting my opinions or those of others I would ask readers to vote for themselves. Poll: Was the email sent promoting reusit spam?. If you have already voted and wish to check the results then View Results.
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:
- Email from Narelle to her group members
- Email from GOA to Narelle
- Email from Narelle to Australian Modsquad
- GOA post to Australia Modsquad
- Narelle attempts to reply to Australian Modsquad
- 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 (http://reuseitnetwork.org/) 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 Freecycle.org, 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.
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:
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 http://reuseitnetwork.org/ 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 Freecycle.org, 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.
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….
I have direct evidence of at least three freecycle groups on Yahoo that are under attack by TFN with Cease and Desist letters. I suspect that a widespread purge of any group related to freecycling is in progress. Remember just because your group is officially listed on the freecycle organisation’s website counts for nothing. If you or your group is approached what should you do?
Well to begin with I would:
- reread the Yahoo terms and conditions
- save your membership list
- read this blog in detail
- visit the many links on the blogroll and then
- decide in your own mind where you want to go.
If you decide that TFN is right in its approach then obviously you could ask them how you could correct the situation. Typically they have not been very good at entering into a positive dialogue that will help you, but perhaps in this purge they will behave better.
If not they could join your group under a known id or under some alias and try to ascertain their own impressions of what your group is about. Elsewhere on this blog I have talked about ErsatzFriend and its issues so I won’t bore you by repeating those warnings.
Whatever you do, do not yield to pressure to allow a TFN person to become either a co-owner or moderator. If you need a co-owner create an alternative email address for yourself (always with a different email provider, eg email@example.com and firstname.lastname@example.org) and use that. If you need another moderator go though your normal procedures. Be very wary about taking on fresh moderators that you cannot at least verify as living locally. Do not expose your membership list to all members – ensure only moderators can see it.
If TFN takes a dislike to you and/or your group then typically anything you say or do not say, do or not do will not have any positive effects.Be very wary about joining any groups such as Ready2LeaveFC, IFMS, FCNEXT or asking any questions in any formal TFN groups. All this will do is highlight that you and your group are a bigger risk. If you need to do research and an email address is required then do it anonymously under a temporary email address and never reveal what group and country you are from.
Unfortunately while a purge is in progress I would strongly recommend that you do not run a poll of your members. If you do then it will immediately flag up to TFN that you are considering your options and they are likely to make an unilateral strike against your group. This may include
- Create an AstroTurf group
- Populating it with YOUR members list
- Adding their own owners
- Getting new moderators in
- Delisting your group and replacing it with their new group
- Instructing Yahoo to delete your group, without notice.
This will happen. It is happening now. That is a fact.
I am not listing the groups I know about because that in some perverse way may help TFN in its purge. All I can say is be vigilant for AstroTurf groups that have names like yours. You need to search daily on Yahoo Groups. If you find one then act quickly to protect you and your group.
This all sounds very paranoid. I wish I was making this up. Spread the word about this blog to other moderators and owners. You have been warned.
Here is the evidence referred to in Breaking News About ErsatzFriend (comments in brackets).
May 25, 2007 4:56 pm xxx_yyy <email@example.com> Approved message #333 via web by xxx_yyy <firstname.lastname@example.org> May 26, 2007 9:10 am email@example.com Banned by xxx_yyy <firstname.lastname@example.org> May 27, 2007 6:25 pm (This shows where Robin/Judy promoted the ID they gave to Deron.) interimmoderator <email@example.com> Made owner by interimmod <firstname.lastname@example.org> May 27, 2007 6:25 pm (Robin/Judy removing themselves from group. Group is now in the hands of TFN & an IMOD.) interimmod <email@example.com> Removed from moderators May 28, 2007 1:33 am (EF comes in and demotes the ID that Robin/Judy provided to TFN. Side note - Did they think to just change the password???? Duh!!!!!) interimmoderator <firstname.lastname@example.org> Demoted owner by ersatzfriend <email@example.com> May 28, 2007 1:33 am interimmoderator <firstname.lastname@example.org> Privileges changed by ersatzfriend <email@example.com> May 28, 2007 1:33 am (This shows EF demoting the IMOD. She did NOT resign – she was removed.) xxx_yyy <firstname.lastname@example.org> Privileges changed by ersatzfriend <email@example.com> May 28, 2007 1:19 pm xxx1_yyy1 <firstname.lastname@example.org> Rejected message #334 via web by xxx1_yyy1 <email@example.com> May 30, 2007 12:01 pm (This shows EF removing the IMOD who requested to stay on. She did NOT resign – she was removed.) xxx_yyy <firstname.lastname@example.org> Removed from moderators by ersatzfriend <email@example.com> May 30, 2007 12:46 pm interimmoderator <firstname.lastname@example.org> Privileges changed by ersatzfriend <email@example.com> Jun 1, 2007 5:14 pm xxx1_yyy1 <firstname.lastname@example.org> Edited message #335 via web by xxx1_yyy1 <email@example.com> Now I do not pretend to be an expert in Yahoo Group logs but I can certainly see that EF is acting in ways that need explaining by those who control that id. So, I welcome comments from those who are experts in such logs and especially in controlling the ErsatzFriend id. Unlike OIDG your posts will not be moderated or blocked.
Now I do not pretend to be an expert in Yahoo Group logs but I can certainly see that EF is acting in ways that need explaining by those who control that id. So, I welcome comments from those who are experts in such logs and especially in controlling the ErsatzFriend id. Unlike OIDG your posts will not be moderated or blocked.
For any member of OIDG, check the files section about ErsatzFriend, aka EF. Also check posts made by Deron Beal – there is an index of them. In there you will find almost what constitutes a sworn affidavit that EF will not, never, nohow be used in underhand way to do things like delete a group.
Well, read my lips. The evidence is now available. I am just checking about the rights and wrong of posting it here verbatim.
If you run a group and you have ANY co-owners that you do not know think very hard about them remaining. If you have ANY co-moderators who you do not know, again think very hard about them remaining. Anyone you are unsure about reduce to at most a member.
Hopefully I will be able to post that hard evidence tomorrow.
Ownership is such a big word. For The Freecycle Network it implies that they own a trademark – the graphic of the word freecycle with a guitar in it. The trademark is registered but even the rights to this are doubted since it is claimed they never paid for the graphic.
Also they work very hard to ensure that the word “Freecycle” is used only in context of the movement with which they are associated. In fact there is some strong evidence that they were there near the beginning. But who created the Freecycle concept is more of a debate. There is a legal battle featuring Tim Oey being played out and featured on grist.com. In this war (all of which pre-dates me) there is considerable evidence that The Freecycle Network claims are at best contentious.
Tim is not the only person to take umbridge. And so we come to the next use of the word “ownership”. You have to understand here what the freecycle movement is. It is a grassroots movement by which I mean that it largely uses volunteers (like myself) who spend hours, days, weeks, months, years creating freecycling groups and encouraging people to reduce landfill. (I bet you wondered if I would ever get round to that!)
Yes the core goal of the freecycle movement is to reduce landfill by people giving unwanted items to others in the local community. this is not contentious so let us just accept it and get on with the debate. Ownership.
When someone creates and moderates a freecycle group they put in so much time and energy they they feel a sense of pride and ownership of that group. They run that group without outside influence or assistance in any way, day in day out. They own that group. That’s what they feel, and that is mostly what the group’s members feel.
Yet now there is an initiative by The Freecycle Network to replace the existing Yahoo Group forums with their own. Who will own these groups then? That is a very important question in my mind. Some group owners may not care, others will care immensely. And that debate should be had. That is a responsibility, in my mind of TFN to its community. But sadly that debate is suppressed.
Clues as to what TFN’s approach to ownership might be can be demonstrated in very recent events to my own group. And believe me this is awful.
About a week ago a spurious group was created on Yahoo groups with almost exactly the same name as my group.
http://groups.yahoo.com/group/CherwellValleyFreeCycle/ is my group
and http://groups.yahoo.com/group/CherwellValleyUKFreeCycle/ is the young upstart.
Both groups look like official Freecycle groups. Both look like they are serving the same community. What the hell is going on.
Well after a week the upstart has been deleted. And I stand now at yellow alert. But what did happen?
The first question is who created the new group and why? Well the obvious thing to do is to ask The Freecycle Network. To date all my requests for information have met with total silence. Not even an acknowledgement. Postings about the matter on key forums have been suppressed (aka moderated out). Please form your own judgement on this.
You might argue that the upstart was created by some other party. While I can prove very little expert moderators have investigated and report this is how a new group is formed. All the signs were there.
You might argue, what is the problem the new upstart was deleted. I think because I have heard of this happenstance occuring before I had taken some precautions, viz:
- reducing the rights of the notorious ErsatzFriend from owner to member
- removing the rights to see the membership list as only a something the moderators can do
These saved our group. Believe me had not these steps happened I feel 100% confident that my group would have been deleted and the members list raided and used to populate the new group.
This attack on Cherwell Valley has rocked me to the core. Again any pleas for further information and support from The Freecycle Network demonstrate a complete lack of responsibility. I say no more and leave you to form your own judgement.