Some people have stayed silent on OIDG for a long time. The only time they speak out is when they leave or have left. Unfortunately at this time they tend to be moderated so their opinions are suppressed. This post from IntlFCMS (membership required) shows that at this moment TFN can be seen to rewrite history to suit their own needs.
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
- 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.
I really have to thank Lisa, one of the IntlFCMS mods for her post today which looks back at the creation of this Yahoo Group which it turns out was created just one day after PlanetFreecycle. Without going into the historical detail covered in her excellent posting, both of these groups were created because The Freecycle Network ‘s (TFN’s) no longer had an International moderator forum. There had been one – but this was then relegated to just a national forum, now referred to as USMS.
Apparently this was all voted on, though from what people have posted the polls did not exactly explain the implications of those votes with the way things were done. The major two implications for my mind would be that:
- there no longer was an International forum,
- that by reusing an existing group that any members who had to leave (ie any non-USA people) would no longer have access to the archives.
For my money simply letting the original international forum continue would have had mass appeal. But history is history, however and whyever it occured.
It then remained for a new International forum to be created. TFN created PlanetFreecycle, and a day later IntlFCMS was born. Both of these aimed to fill that yawning gap. Therefore comparing these two after around six months of existences is very valid.
- One is from within TFN and the other is without,
- One is moderated and the other is not,
- One generally has weak posts, the other is very robust and
- One is not TM compliant and has not had a Cease and Desist letter thrown at it, whereas the other is totally TM compliant and has had a Cease and Desist letter thrown at it.
And one last point. Which do you think is which, and so do you think therefore that TFN needs a robust forum, or not.
I am getting some feedback that probably the right view of what Deron is saying, when he is saying no to the oidg-unmodered group (which no longer exists) is actually a vote of full confidence by him in the International needs of TFN moderators are fully met already. That is:
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.
One question that has arisen from the beginnings of individuals and groups leaving the fold of those who follow Mr D. Beal, is whether they should continue to work from within or without the TFN organisation. Perhaps the full weight of this is exemplified by the two most prolific groups that provide unmoderated discourse on freecycling. They are IntlFCMS and FCnext.
Both groups are aimed at moderators of free recycling groups who wish to exert their freedom of expression. Typically much of that vent is around subjects close to the heart of this blog, viz the issues that pertain to the TFN oligarchy.
To be a member of IntlFCMS, however you must be a moderator of a TFN compliant group. There is a refinement to that membership qualification. This is that a group may have been deemed by TFN as fully compliant with TFN and yet TFN may since then have “disagreed” with the owner and moderator team in some way and thus delisted, astroturfed and the rest.
On the other hand, FCnext has no such complications.
The main external perception of difference of debate between the two is whether TFN as an organisation can be reformed, or whether it is better to ignore it and “move on”. On the ground however the debate still works on very similar themes.
From my perspective is that there is no right answer here. Working from within as a kind of 5th column may seem attractive. You can perhaps illuminate new people who have risen up through the ranks to replace you and are now attempting to ask exactly the same questions that you asked. You can also glean inside information that explains where the corporate road-show is heading today, almost at first hand. You may also perhaps have the hope that by staying “inside”, somehow you will have influence to affect TFN for the better.
Very few FCnexters hold out such hopes. They tend to damn everything that Mr. D. Beal’s powerbase does, citing the vociferous actions that TFN hierarchy made from the early days back in 2005 and indeed continue to make unabated, as ample evidence for corruption that is unlikely to change.
The continued assertions that come from TFN that it is not going to change, especially when mixed with evidence are very interesting. There is no evidence to support TFN devolving its control away from one single person. There is no evidence of TFN allowing any form of internal critique process.
On the other hand the evidence is piling up that the kind of acts that some might ascribe in an over the top moment as “man’s inhumanity to man” will not stop.
TFN has lost one battle. That was for its finder email id which harvested personal data from groups all across Yahoo Groups. Finder is dead and long may it stay buried. Later this month the US Ninth Circuit will come to its decision on TFN’s main tool for control – its trademark claim. Another battle which TFN is losing is ErsatzFriend, which it has abused. And so the list goes on.
Where does it end? Interestingly no matter how many groups leave TFN the statistics portrayed by TFN of staggering growth of membership goes on unabated. The staggering free publicity which freecycling groups all over the world give the freecycle brand obviously work their magic.
So it is unlikely that TFN will die. Why should it and arguably no-one wants it? Mr D. Beal is welcome to run his company they way he sees fit. If group’s find that the ways of TFN are “difficult”, then Mr Beal is on record several times, of stating that they are free to leave.
For me, the only end-point is The Freecycling Charter. The Freecycling Charter will be the standard bearer for organisations that enable free recycling groups to operate in a healthy atmosphere. Against its yardstick both TFN and all other free recycling groups will be measured. And those that do not measure up – well they will be named and shamed.
Another post on IntlFCMS (membership required) recently updates a list of charges where TFN have been found wanting. This is posted in response to a new member who wants to get hold of a summary of things so far. There are a range of posts on this thread, but I will limit the Top Post award to this one. I will limit my comments to the considerable diligence made by those to ensure that the “facts” therein are proveable in the sense that they have direct evidence gathered to support each charge.
I am getting back through my email backlog bit by bit. One of the IntlFCMS posts refers to an article on CIO.com called How to Spot a Toxic Boss. I used to work for a boss who was definitely toxic. He was charismatic and domineering. And he got things done. But he poisoned people against people. He controlled information so that only “he” knew the big picture. If you know of or work for a toxic boss then perhaps it is time to do more than try to break free. There is fresh air out here where you can breathe deep, free and easy.
To read the full text of this post on the International Freecycle Moderator’s Group you need to be a member. (Also note the group has gone through a slight rebranding and is now located at http://groups.yahoo.com/group/IntlFCMS/ rather than the old IFMS.) Membership of this group is restricted to moderators of TFN compliant groups, including ones that have been delisted.
Anyway onto the post. Actually because of the group’s privacy rules I will provide neither the full text nor a synopsis. Members can read the full text in Freecycle grants etc… – sorry for the long post! What I will do, however is draw out some of the questions raised in the post.
The core question raised regards how a local TFN group could raise funds locally and use those funds locally. It is not about how they go about chasing funds, but assuming funds are actually coming then what bank account to use, what fiscal controls are in place, and how and if this should be done with relation to the TFN company. This post became interesting since the issues initially were addressed by Deron. Unfortunately he seems to have left the group hanging in limbo without any final and acceptable solution.
You see a “normal” charity has bank accounts set up in each country in which it operates, with proper fiscal controls so that any local group can establish or reuse a bank account properly and that any funding organisation can thus have total confidence that the money is used properly according to the funding guidelines.
TFN does not have such fiscal controls in place, except for perhaps the USA. So the first problem that arises is whether any money so raised in another country, or for that matter in the USA, should be routed through TFN’s own bank accounts. If any money is routed Internationally then you can easily hit some large financial penalties for moving money around, that’s one problem.
Another is that if it actually ends up in TFN’s pockets then it could take control of whether and when that money goes back out. This may suit TFN’s accounting needs but is likely to be entirely contrary to the local group’s needs and indeed their funder’s needs.
There is also the issue that once in TFN’s hands it might be technically possible that TFN might only return funds if spent according to TFN’s guidelines – and that these might actually not be aligned either with the original funder’s goals, or even the local group’s needs.
Rewinding a bit before any money moves, or is even promised to move, someone needs to sign for the money. So who should sign? Should the local moderator sign? Should a national supermod, such as a GOA, sign? Should even Deron sign?
I hope I have alluded to some of the issues raised clearly enough. Any moderator who has tried to raise funds for a TFN related group probably has felt some of the pain. It would be nice to think that TFN spent a lot of its own resources helping groups to raise funds, though in this example I am sorry to say the outcome was far from satisfactory.
Such problems actually prevent a group growing even when local funding is potentially being thrown at them. In this case it seems even the funder was recommending groups should change their affiliation away from TFN!
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.