Fighting for freerecyling

Don’t you just love ’em!

Dear Owner of the Yahoo group “xxxx”,
I am writing on behalf of The Freecycle Network(TM) to notify you that your link has been removed from This was done at the request of the Group Outreach and Assistance Coordinator for your region because your group is not currently set up in accordance with the basic requirements for all approved Freecycle(TM) groups.
We have invested considerable time and resources in insuring that our organization is associated with only appropriately moderated, legal, and totally free services that have a common source of origin from The Freecycle Network(TM). This is why we only allow approved groups to associate with us in each community–to avoid any confusion among the public as who they are dealing with when the Freecycle name is used. Accordingly, please consider this your official notice to stop using the trademark-protected Freecycle name and logo, as well as any and all copyrighted texts, graphics, rules, guidelines, title, or its URL (Yahoo group name).
Please understand that our intent is not to stop your or your group from gifting or exchanging unwanted items with fellow users. Should you wish to remain independent of our organization, you are, or course, free to start your own gifting-based site under a name that is not confusingly similar to Freecycle.
For those of your members who are looking to join a local Freecycle group, you may simply refer them to where they can find all approved Freecycle groups.
Please let me know when either the group has been deleted or the above-listed Freecycle materials have been completely removed from your group. We appreciate your commitment to furthering the overall mission of promoting the local gift community in your area while keeping good stuff out of landfills.
Freecycle(TM) Trademark Team Coordinator

I reproduce the above with kind permission. While it is fair for any organisation to ensure that it operates effectively I do have a number of issues with it. Firstly there is an implication in the email that somehow a GOA-type person initiated this email. While always possible and likely in some cases it is obvious that when TFN starts doing a purge of groups (as it historically has done) then that can only come from the central team and to try to blame someone else smacks of disingenuity.

Secondly and more importantly one has to question how TFN goes about ensuring its groups are TFN compliant. I hear of so many stories of groups working so very hard to be TFN compliant and getting no help whatsoever that one has to ask about the processes involved.

A third point is this email is not actually trying to solve the compliance problem, it’s approach is “we do not want you”. Surely a healthy process would be to indicate what the actual non-conformance was and to ask that it would be remedied? I ask for ANY group that has had such a Cease and Desist email to provide any communication that lists points of non-compliance. Basically non-compliance in such instances often seems more like a “we don’t like you” attitude rather than any attempt to find a supportive solution.

Finally this email is often entitled as a “1st request”. I repeat this is, in TFN’s words a first request. Often when this kind of email arrives in your inbox it is the first you know of the problem. Wouldn’t it be nice if a “first” step was really a discussion around what any problems were and what kind of solutions might be possible, instead of saying “that’s it, you’re dead.”

I sincerely hope that you, as a group owner of what you think is a TFN compliant group do not get a “1st request.”

PS if you want to see a critique on TFN’s trademark claims then read chilling effects on “1st request”.

July 12, 2007 Posted by | cease and desist, chilling effects, freecycle, freecycling, goa, management, trademark | 2 Comments

Is it a dream or is it a nightmare?

Ok, lets hypothesise.  Deron Beal thinks to himself “I have had enough, I’m off” and he drives off into the sunset.  What is left regarding TFN and freecycling?  Some might argue possibly much the same unless you at least pack his car with a few key colleagues.  But is even that enough?  Remember that the sponsorship comes from the corporate world.  Won’t they want to continue as they were? 

Also any lawyers and accountants who advise TFN (who all want to make some money at some time out of this at some time if not now) all must have supported going down this road.  So they aren’t going to backtrack easily.

So you clean out all that and then what?

Then you have to really think hard about the top of the organisation and what its relevance is.  Should new incumbants simply take over.  What will their direction be?  Ok so they have a clean slate.  Where will they get their ideas from?  From moderators, and if so which ones or even from the membership? 

That’s a big ask and you might end up with exactly the same situation.

What I am saying is that simply taking out the top person or team of an organisation does not necessarily get you where you might want to be instantly.  There is instead a lot of work to do, and I mean a lot.

Fortunately, unlike many “organisations”, freecycling groups on Yahoo Groups would just go on, and on and on. 

(By the way I am definitely not advocating any action, all I am trying to get people to see is that it is not necessarily a simple choice.  So Deron, please don’t quit the day job just yet.)

July 7, 2007 Posted by | freecycle, management, yahoogroups | 1 Comment

Good management technique no 1.

Keep people in the loop takes just a little bit of effort. And if I was going to manage the creation of a new group then I would keep the following people informed:

  • the applicant for the new group,
  • any owners of nearby groups and
  • anyone else who needs to know in the organisational hierarchy.

I would set up a distribution list and everyone gets every email regarding the application. That way, using common courtesy, no feels left out and there are no surprises. It also helps in cases somehow the decision makers have made a blunder (everyone does) and then there is a chance of nipping the problem in the bud by re-evaluating the decision. So many benefits…

I would not recommend an organisation where they reduce the distribution list to next to nothing. This leads to misunderstanding, fear uncertainty and doubt and makes your organisation look like a… So many drawbacks…

Now who do you think uses the latter model?

July 5, 2007 Posted by | freecycle, management | Leave a comment