Fighting for freerecyling

Bring it on

As implied on fcnext, whose tagline might be the home of the freecycling movement, please TFN delist and send out C&Ds to many more groups. Every time you do you are strengthening and expanding the movement. More and more group owners and moderators are finding themselves attacked with C&Ds, and more and more are finding true support comes from moderators with so much experience behind them. It is true to say – they wrote the book.

October 21, 2007 Posted by | fcnext | 1 Comment

Moderators and moderation

OIDG, PlanetFreecycle, IntlFCMS, Fcnext, USMS, UKMS etc etc are all groups whose members are almost entirely moderators. But those groups themselves need moderating. Thus we have moderators of groups that exist for moderators. This can be very confusing.

As well as this we have the complex of what actually is moderation. The obvious definition is when ones posts are moderated, by which I mean that after you send your post to the group it is put on hold until a moderator does one of three things:

  • accept it as it is
  • reject it outright
  • accept it with modification (either major or minor edits)

Not every member of a group need be on moderation, though in some groups all members are on moderation for long periods, or even permanently. If a group has a large membership with a large number of posts then this tends to be used when a group has gone completely haywire in some way and needs to be reigned in en masse because doing it generates a lot of work for the moderator team.

In other groups only some people are on moderation, again either for short periods of permanently. It is a common occurrence for new members to be on moderation at first whilst they demonstrate they know how to post according to group rules.

The reasons for moderation normally tend to include

  • spam postings
  • advertisements
  • flame and vindictive posts
  • posts of excessive length and verbosity
  • posts that are either way off-topic or repeatedly off-topic

As well as the above actual moderation techniques is also the implied form commonly referred to as self-moderation. What I mean by this is that members know that if they breach group rules then real moderation of some sort will be imposed, so they keep their own posts in order to avoid real moderation.

There is one further form of moderation which is not often seen. That I would like to term censure. This is a form of self-moderation when subjects that are supposedly on-topic are not discussed. A particular form of censure is when a group reduces the quality of postings to fluff. This is when almost all meaningful discussion is seen as out-of-bounds. A feature of groups where hidden rules of censure operate is a range of banning members.

September 9, 2007 Posted by | fcnext, freecycle, intlfcms, OIDG | Leave a comment

Top Posts 5: Historical perspective

You need to read this one from about midway down. It gives some interesting insights into the origin of the species called freecycling. I was not around at the time so I cannot vouch for its authenticity, but it does raise some good questions.

September 8, 2007 Posted by | fcnext, freecycle, yahoogroups | Leave a comment

Nobody expects the Spanish Inquisition

(If you are looking for either Monty Python humour or a critique of Catholicism then you are in the wrong place, sorry)

As I have mentioned before I have been reading up on a large slice of world history regarding the Inquisitions that emanated from Spain and then through Portugal to their colonies around the world going as far afield as the Americas and India. I very much enjoyed the Monty Python humour but nothing entered my brain about this from my school’s history lessons. What seems to be true though is that a culture of Fear, Uncertainty and Doubt are flavours that are not a new feature of life and the Inquisitions of Spain and Portugal spread their own flavours in the interests of power and control. Beyond the obvious examples made of people who were tortured and some burnt to death, the techniques used to spread FUD was essentially picking on a minority group and “outing” them.

I am put in mind of fcnexters, who were “outed” from TFN as “rogues”. I ask you how is it that some of these people rose to the headiest ranks of TFN’s TPTB (the powers that be)? One of the climaxes of the Inquisition years was the torturing of one of the heads of state – thus showing that nobody was free of FUD. Some of the fcnexter original people (of which I am not one) are the cream of the crop of moderators of free recycling groups – of all time. TFN makes insinuations so that these “rogues” opinions are marginalised, as if they are only acting out of jealousy or something. Unlike the private machinations of TFN’s daHub and other private groups the entire debate and credentials of fcnexters is help up to the public light of scrutiny in their public archives.

It is now a known fact that TFN maintains a database of potentially rogue groups and individuals. Is your name or the name of your group on that list? Please correct me if I am wrong, but don’t you at least, according to the UK Data Protection Act 1988, have a right to ask for that disclosure – by law. Perhaps someone in the USA could illuminate on personal data privacy legislation their as well. Perhaps you should ask before the Inquisition (in the form of a C&D letter) comes for you.

September 7, 2007 Posted by | fcnext, freecycle | Leave a comment

I do not want TFN to die

In a recent posting by The Powers That Be on OIDG it was insinuated that many critics of TFN only wanted TFN to somehow die. Let me just go on record that is the last thing that I want to happen.

Before that happens I want TFN to clean up its act such that it allows and encourages criticism, albeit in the private arena of something like OIDG. Not OIDG since that has such a bad reputation, but a new one perhaps OIDG-unmoderated. Also since the temptation from TFN to stifle comment is obviously far too great, I want this to be owned (and moderated) by an independent group of people.

To help facilitate this I have created just such a group on Yahoo, called OIDG-unmoderated. I have issued one invitation to join this group – to Mr Deron Beal. No other membership will be accepted unless he signs up to this. What follows is the text on the home page for the group.

This is an unmoderated OIDG forum for freecycle moderators.
By unmoderated, I mean that any NON-ranting post is allowed providing a context continues around moderation of freecycle groups with a primary focus around The Freecycle Network.
I am looking for some moderators to run this. The requirement is that:
  • they hold no post in TFN above moderator/owner. That is all GOAs, iMod, DaHub etc cannot own or run this group. If a moderator/owner of this group is promoted to a postion in TFN then they must relinquish their post immediately.
  • similarly anyone who is a member of either fcnext or IntlFCMS cannot hold post.
  • they must be moderators or owners of existing TFN groups.
  • no two people can come from the same state in the USA, also representation from 2 other countries is required
I think a team of between three and five people are needed.
To ensure that this group is run independently I also want to ensure that ownership and moderation control is rotated. That is any one moderator or owner of this group can not hold post for more than a year.
The first person to be accepted as a member will be Deron Beal. On accepting membership he will be appointed immediately to co-owner. The invitation has been sent to him.
Both Deron and I will cease my membership when we both know this group is properly formed.

September 6, 2007 Posted by | fcnext, freecycle, goa, intlfcms, OIDG, yahoogroups | 16 Comments

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

Top Posts 1: Serious pointers to avoiding no shows

The first in a series of articles that try to highlight some of the best postings around in some of the free recycling groups. To access some of these you may have to join the group, for others their archives (that is all the emails) are available without registration. My primary source for this is probably going to be the high-volume and free thinking fcnext group which in just the month of August netted over 3700 posts and is rapidly becoming THE definitive source for free thinking recyclers.

Anyway to start this off, this one is a range of postings that sparked my contribution but actually put mine to shame. Firstly MelbourneFl-rCycle · Melbourne Florida Free Recycle, guide to managing no shows and is now reposted to fcnext thanks to Char, one of the most experienced moderator around, imho. This posting shows a tremendous depth of experience of Char and colleagues, and if I might highlight just one thought for anyone who is offering items that happens to attract perhaps several potential takers, “The key seems to be to NOT choose the first respondent.” To read more, read the Our Admin on No Shows.

The second is the whole original thread that initiated these responses. This is a mine of useful information that represents definitive reading for any moderator who wants to understand the whys and wherefores of no shows. Read and learn from the free recycling experts.

September 2, 2007 Posted by | fcnext, freecycle, yahoogroups | Leave a comment

An fcnext explosion fallout?

A new free recycling moderator group has sprung onto the scene called fcnow. This group is interesting, in that its creators are staying totally anonymous and that, by the nature of its name it is trying to ride on the coat-tails of the gargantuan fcnext increase in activity and membership. As I have posted on here before anyone who comes into this game and stays anonymous worries me. Anonymity smacks of hidden agendas. So what could they be for fcnow?

Could the group be actually created and managed by Deron Beal. Certainly the group forbids any TFN bashing. Also all members start on moderation. Also anyone posting anything inflammatory can expect to be treated in the same way that OIDG members are treated. Also a principle of TFN management is anonymity. Also any questioning of the group’s aims is to be suppressed and considered off-topic. And certainly an astroturf group for fcnext might not do TFN any harm. Finally fcnow actually compares itself to the renowned fcnext.

If the above assertion is true then what a compliment to the owners and members of fcnext!

Let me ride this by saying there is always room for a new group. The whole free recycling industry is in turmoil, well at least TFN is. So any forum that looks at what is going to follow TFN has to be a good thing for free recycling, and I, for one, welcome that.

But any group that starts out life anonymously is in for a perilous attack of criticism, by definition. If anyone thinks that this blog is just about stinging TFN, then that is a total lie. This blog is about what is good for the industry and TFN is, right now the flagship of what is wrong in the industry. But the rest of the industry is not perfect.

Recently the reuseit network website launched. In doing so it started out life anonymously. By the heck was it castigated dramatically for doing so. The only way forward was for the website owners and proponents to come out the closet, and fast. Fcnow – you have been warned.

Finally may I add that I have left the fcnow group as soon as I joined it. If the group serves a useful purpose in the industry – good luck. But for me it is riding perilously close to the fluff line, and so is not anything I can support. As I have posted on the group, if that stance changes then let me know and I may consider rejoining.

August 19, 2007 Posted by | fcnext, fcnow, OIDG | 5 Comments

Calling all “freecycle” group owners

TFN is on a mass campaign to ensure that any group that displays even the smallest infringement of copyright, left, upside-down or XXX forbid, actually use their trademark – well you are likely to find your group deleted by Yahoo with no notice. The reasons used by TFN are around their spurious claims on trademark. That’s the bad news.

The best notice you are likely to get is an email from Yahoo saying that you should take up any grievance with TFN. But that is exactly what you should not do. Let me awright that – yes do complain to TFN, complain to the press, but above all complain back to Yahoo.

The good news is that the word is out that Yahoo will reinstate groups that complain. So if enough ex-group owners and moderators complain then someone will get the message and you will help preent other group owners going through the same pain. You should address any Yahoo emails to copyright at yahoo dot com. There are a wide range of email addresses that you can also email to help gain credence for your case of reinstatement. See fcnext for more details.

August 15, 2007 Posted by | fcnext, freecycle, trademark | Leave a comment

I want TFN to have a future

Let me say that I absolutely want TFN to have a future. They are, right now the epicentre of free recycling. But if what I have just heard is correct then that epicentre could move, and very rapidly.

I was one of absolutely so many people since OIDG started who wanted, nay needed to ask questions. As owners and moderators we felt we had a right to ask. In each instance we were told we were the “enemy”, this is totally something of TFN’s own invention. They drew the line unilaterally implying you are “either with us, or against us.” And thus they have spread their own fear, uncertainty and doubt.

If you want a clear timeline of events a very good indicator can be had by looking at the number of posts on groups such as Fcnext and IFMS, but particularly the FCnext.Fcnext Message History

This message history is the number of message posts on Yahoo Group FCNEXT, by month since the group was started by Tim Oey. If shows an increasing number of posts over time with peaks at around September 2006, January 2007 and the largest one right now, June and July 2007. These dates correspond to TFN delisting and AstroTurfing groups en masse. These dates correspond not only to the departure of groups but also to the iMod, NGA and GOA disaffection and for some departure.

My departure was (as far as I know) a reasonably solitary affair and what catapulted was the, again unilateral way the powers that be in TFN decided that they would present an opinion on Climate Change. This was so clearly a instance of do as we say, not as we do as you can ever imagine. The guidelines for freecycle clearly state no politics and here were the controlling interests going directly against many, many moderators and making a politically motivated official statement.

What my own solitary departure gave me was a possibly unique perspective on moderator and group departures. You see I have only been a member who freecycled for around a year, and was only recently elevated to moderator. This meant that I neither had any baggage of history around me (something that the unmoderated groups have plenty of – and I just LOVE that passion), nor any real concern with managing the day to day issues including very deep soul-searching that many group owners have when they think, “right I have had enough and so now I am going to leave TFN and take my group with me, if they want that.”

I had it easy. And that “outsiders” view led me to believe that hiding the profound discussion and passionate debate behind the closed doors of a Yahoo Group was simply not the approach that I would take. My core issue was around Free Speech and that was why I started this blog.

I am now hearing, second hand details of what is going on in OIDG, at last. At last people are beginning to be able to ask serious questions. They are now beginning to ask questions that are nothing to do with fluff, nothing to do with mundane subjects such as “too many wanted posts”.

What is being asked are questions like

  1. Approximate numbers of member groups which have left tfn to join ReUseIt or to be independent (presumably since the mutiny).
  2. How many complaining emails from individual members has Deron received (about groups leaving tfn)?
  3. The result of a simple formula – total membership of “lost” groups divided by the number of complaining emails – to give a percentage of consequently unhappy individuals, on the basis that most members are more concerned about their groups functioning at a local level than anything else.
  4. Does Deron realise how much recent events have created a lot of distrust?
  5. Does Deron feel that his hub has always acted fairly?
  6. What has happened when they’ve got it wrong? Do they put things right asap and apologise?
  7. Is tfn as transparent as it could be?
  8. Is the hub acting as a team? Or are the individuals concerned creating situations without talking it through with the team?
  9. Is Deron aware of Founder’s Syndrome and does he recognise the pitfalls?

These are brilliant questions in my mind, and whoever has allowed these posts has done TFN one of the biggest favours ever possible. Deron the time is now for some absolutely straight answers and some clear direction leading to TOTAL openness of TFN. Anything less is a joke but the ending will not be very comic.

July 21, 2007 Posted by | fcnext, free speech, goa, ifms, OIDG | Leave a comment