You know it seems a bit rich to me when Beal accuses Freegle of being undemocratic. He is cited in The Guardian of saying, “If anyone had shown themselves to be undemocratic it was those who founded Freegle.”
However if you look at the facts, TFN shown almost no democracy in each of its 6 long tortuous years. What is worse is that any shred democracy disappears further with each minute that rolls by.
Am I talking rubbish? Let us look at the TFN credentials on democracy:
- Firstly Beal holds all the strings of power as he and his wife are the only real directors and shareholders.
- By shunning Neil Morris, looking back the only other director of Freecycle UK Ltd he has effectively killed any fragment of influence from the UK over their own affairs.
- The creation of MyFreecyle technology has always been about the use of public and grant money to centralise control away from the grass-roots movement. Even the term “group owner” no longer exists in the TFN vocabulary.
- Attempts in 2004 by moderators to add democracy in terms of polls are quashed as Beal bans Yahoo polls from all moderator groups.
- Attempts by any moderator to ask any question of the organisation, no matter how innocuous, leads Beal to put them on moderation. From that moment he, directly or indirectly approves or blocks all their posts before anyone else reads them. Any unwanted posts that “get through” are deleted. So the OIDG (Organisational Issues Discussion Group – a real misnoma if ever there was one) is cleansed of posts that do not discuss meaningless blabber.
- Secret rules have been at the heart of the organisation with Da-Hub being a law unto itself with no published rule book.
- TFN maintains a secret database on its moderators, logging any notes of dissaffection. It then uses this same database to control and even oust moderators, using insinuation as its primary weapon.
And this is a charity!
Check out our new facts page. Definitive reading imo – and that is why it has a permanent link in this blog.
If you have any facts to add please get in touch.
Just now I tried to find Brighton (UK) freecycle group – and had difficulties. The Cafe still exists with the freecycle epithet, but the group has either been renamed or deleted. Also the link on the main TFN page does not work. It occurs to me that in the near term many groups may be deleted.
This could mean that you, the owner decided to simply delete the group. It could also be that, sadly you did not take heed and removed ErsatzFriend which was possibly used by TFN to delete your group. It could also be that TFN complained to Yahoo about your group and that subsequently (this takes a few days) Yahoo then deleted it.
Anyway if your group gets deleted, and even if you are just a member and want it restored then ask Yahoo, officially. “Deleted” groups are simply taken off-line and can be restored for up to 120 days. If you have any problems making the approach then ask me or others for assistance.
Over the last months an earthquake has been building within the UK Freecycle movement. The first overt rumble was the resignation of Neil Morris, who until then was the lead person in the UK in more ways than one. At the same moment the entire UK lead team also resigned. The Freecycle Network reacted by putting in place an interim lead team, which subsequently has been elevated permanently to replace Neil et al, headed by Janice.
Neil and many others in the UK moderation fraternity then set about creating IAFCMods, a pressure group to promote the needs of UK moderators within TFN. The succeeded wholeheartedly in creating IAFCMods. They did this with full democratic process, even to the point of Neil not being the automatic lead person.
And then they set about trying to work with TFN to get IAFCmods recognised. Well all hopes and efforts have been either totally ignored or rebuked. Time and time againg UK moderators tried to get The Freecycle Network to listen and react positively.
The reaction can be summed up in the following email sent by Deron Beal to Neil yesterday, published with permission:
“Arrived home tonight to find the following email in my inbox. The email below from Deron demonstrates and confirms the autocratic policies that I have been fighting to change for a considerable period of time. I think the email and actions speak for themselves.
I give full permission for this to be forwarded anywhere.
Begin forwarded message:
> From: Deron Beal <deron@…>
> Date: 8 September 2009 19:32:26 CEST
> To: Neil Morris <neil.morris@…>
> Cc: EastMidlands <eastmidlands@…>, “ukgoalead@…
> Janice” <ukgoalead@…>, NptonNorthCentralFreecycle@…
> Subject: Your volunteer role with Freecycle UK
> Dear Neil,
> We’d like to thank you for your efforts in keeping your local Freecycle group going. Your volunteer efforts have been greatly appreciated.
> However, we no longer feel that it is a good fit between yourself and The Freecycle Network at this time and would ask that you step down from all Freecycle volunteer roles.
> If you could please demote yourself from your local group as a mod or owner and unsubscribe from all leadership groups that would be appreciated.
> I’d ask that any fellow local volunteers wishing to continue volunteering contact me at this time.
> Please approve the interimmod@… address and promote them to Lead Mod of your group before stepping down yourself.
So, up yours Neil is the message. However Deron has spoken to other UK moderators in the same vein. And now the IAFCMods have reacted, again this is public domain information:
> From: ****
> Date: 9 September 2009 11:00:03 BST
> To: <email@example.com>
> Subject: [UIFMS] Breaking News – IAFCM
> Reply-To: IntlFCMS@yahoogroups.com
> We the IAFCM Committee committee no longer see any way to negotiate
> with TFN or achieve our aims in the current Freecycle Network. Most of
> us are now moderated and believe we are targeted for removal from our
> TFN positions (and some are already removed). We are sorry we have
> failed to achieve our preferential aims..
> We no longer feel we can ask you to stay in the Freecyle Network.
> For this reason we will now focus the attentions of IAFCM Mods going
> alone, standing on our own two feet and launching a New UK led and
> democratically led successor Network. We have received many messages
> from member moderators urging us to prepare against this eventuality
> and have a successor Network ready to launch.
> The proposed network will not follow the organisational model of The
> Freecycle Network. It will be led by a consensus, have free
> elections and polling of group members It will be looser than TFN and
> groups will be free to choose their own names for their groups, but
> may, if they wish, choose to use the the network name to increase
> their visibility in the search engines and have a higher profile as we
> promote it.
> Thee may well be some groups that wish to stay in the Freecycle
> Network and if so we wish you well. We wish to be inclusive and we
> wouldn’t mind you having a dual affiliation but it we know it would
> result in you being kicked out of TFN so we wish you you well for the
> There will be a short delay before full instructions on how to
> establishing full links with the Network and cut the ties with TFN are
> We are aware this is a big step and is not exactly what we had in mind
> when we first started with IAFCMODS and though many members are
> “raring to go” others may feel a bit pressured and need time and space
> to voice any reservations.
> We wish everyone to feel comfortable and we are aware that the
> committee were working under constraints where we could not consult on
> this as much as we wanted.
> However such constraints are now lifted and there can be open
> discussion on on IAFCMods in which committee can fully participate.
> Fuller instructions as to how to safely rename your group will follow.
> Please regularly read messages on IAFCMods group for information.
> We will also be posting admin notices you can use to communicate
> with your group members.
> Now it’s open to everyone can help modify and polish up admins etc.
> Please use this group as we used to use modquad in the past to develop
> best practise and to freely comment on proposals – but lets think
> outside the box as we don’t want to repeat TFN mistakes.
> Post here if you are asked to stand down or your group is threatened
> in any way and we’ll support you in making the necessary changes.
> Carol, Caroline,David, Edward, Mark, Saira and Seb
> Your Interim Committee
Are you a lead moderator of a Freecycle group, especially in the UK? I just wonder at what point do you draw the line.
In my personal opinion I would not think it amiss if all UK groups – every single one of them – disassociated themselves from TFN immediately. I mean, Neil a total stalwart of UK Freecycle, who has tirelessly worked over many years to promote freecycling in the UK is now totally and clearly snubbed.
In my personal opinion any non-UK group should also consider its position.
If you are ready to leave The Freecycle Network check out the Yahoo group readytoleaveFc for resources to help you in the process. I recommend also the FCnext yahoo group for open debate on the subject.
Leicester Freecycle group decided to leave TFN. To protect themselves from trademark infringement they relabelled themselves as realcycle, and so their group website is http://groups.yahoo.com/group/Realcycle-Leicester/ and so I guess that should have been the end of the matter.
However it seems that TFN has greated an astroturf group called leicester-freecycle and have automatically “joined” 11474 members since the group’s creation on August 14th, 2009, just 3 days ago.
Now creating a group is one thing. Adding members en-masse is something totally different. From my memory, Yahoo terms and conditions explicitly forbid using the joining approach to adding new members without their permission. So to invite members to join would be acceptable, but to actually add them is – again, in my opinion, not.
There is a thread to create a list of which groups were created before TFN started its trademarking campaign, so let us at least think of this as any groups created in 2004 or earlier. If you run an old group please comment here with your group name and start date (typically the one reported by Yahoo on your group’s home page.)
Sorry, I know this is a bad joke, but some people actually think the chances of Yahoo one of the largest and most successful Internet companies in the world is more likely to go bust than The Freecycle Network, a charity that struggles to raise funds just to fight its trademark campaign, never mind actually develop and host a server solution of its own making.
I mean it’s new My Freecycle service obviously hasn’t even gone through usability testing by the visually impaired!
I hereby nominate and second myself to be an officer on the IAFCMods group. My credentials are
- I still moderate a couple of TFN official groups, though I will not release their names to protect the groups and their owners,
- I have owned and run TFN official groups for around 5 years,
- I run non-TFN groups (enforced by TFN)
- I have run forums on Yahoo and elsewhere since the 1980’s (yes that’s before the Internet),
- I am very critical of the TFN leadership, which in my opinion shows a distinct lack thereof, however
- I am, like 99.999% of mods very much for freecycling in all its form and
- I do my research thoroughly, for example everything on this blog has been checked and double checked.
I realise that IAFCmods cannot appoint me since to do so would inflame matters with Mr Beal at this delicate time.
It has happened before, and is it now about to happen again. Moderators everywhere are totally afraid of speaking out about TFN in case TPTB report them to Yahoo for “trademarking abuse”, which in the past has resulted in group deletion, sometimes without not notice!
Yahoo, PLEASE listen to me. Stop doing this. TFN’s trademark claims are in total disrepair. For them to instruct you to delete a single group is a total abuse of common decency and that fact that they quote that at any group that speaks to a journalist surely is to be discouraged.
Dare I add this link? How soon will it be before this group is deleted/delisted? 10 seconds, and counting…
Freecycling in Gosport really needs to get a handle on this blogger. The latest post has splattered a member’s personal telephone number all over the Internet. I would write to Deron about this, but again he would argue that I was spamming him, whereas in fact if he does not get this sorted then he might find Yahoo’s legal department at least coming down on him like a ton of bricks.
I have blogged before about Gosport. So let me say that if this kind of blatant abuse of private and personal information happens again I will be forced to take the matter to Yahoo myself.