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Building the "Social Internet" From the Outside In

Roblimo posted more than 8 years ago | from the sometimes-the-amateurs-outdo-the-professionals dept.


What initially struck me about Freecycle was that it was the first useful thing on the Internet I learned about by reading a newspaper instead of through the leading-edge online news sources I follow. The next thing I noticed about Freecycle was that, unlike Craigslist, Flickr, and other "Social Internet" phenomena, it wasn't centered on major cities but had local groups all over the place, even in towns like Apache Junction, Arizona, and Bradenton, Florida. And then, when I actually used my local Freecycle group, I discovered something else: A high percentage of users were over 50, female, or both.Note that Freecycle was not started in or near San Francisco or New York, and that it's a non-profit. It's decentralized, so anyone who wants to start a local Freecycle community, anywhere in the world, can go ahead and do it. Since it's essentially a collection of Yahoo! Groups, no technical knowledge is required, just time and patience.

Freecycle scales easily. If one group gets too crowded -- and many get hundreds of OFFERED and WANTED posts every day -- it's no big deal to split that group into two or more smaller sub-regional ones. And if more moderators are needed, training them is no problem, at least on the technical side. This is an ideal volunteer job for a retiree with a computer and Internet connection. There are plenty of retirees on my local Freecycle, and I'm sure there are many on other local Freecycles, too.

Support Your Local Blogfinder

TampaBLAB is meaningless to you unless you live in or near Tampa, Florida. It aggregates local blogs, and only local blogs. Founder/maintainer Brett Glisson put it online in September, 2005, and says it now gets "about 1000 to 1500 pageviews per day," and that it has "been picking up a lot of steam" in the past few weeks.

Brett got the idea from ORblogs, which calls itself "Oregon's Independent Weblog Community." He decided to do it as a regional thing rather than statewide because he liked the idea of it being intensely local.

Brett says, "This kind of site is something anyone with a bit of web-savvy could do."

TampaBLAB isn't as fancy as Dan Gillmor's Bayosphere or many of the other professionally-run regional blogs and "citizen journalism" sites out there, but it's not supposed to be a professional operation. It's something put together by one guy who has a day job in IT with a local financial service company, using "tweaked versions" of WordPress, FeedWordPress, the OZH Click Counter and "some custom graphics."

Brett has his own blog, My Addled Brain, but it is just one of 60+ blogs that now belong to TampaBLAB. A cabbie writes about the cab business. RANTING RIGHT WING HOWLER is exactly what you'd expect. Bitch | Lab ("because lefties and feminists have dirty mids too") is in a category of its own. Several "professional" bloggers from the St. Petersburg Times are listed. There's no set political agenda. There are neighborhood activism blogs, sports blogs, news blogs, opinion blogs, and silly random musings. It's a mix of pretty much everything and anything that anyone in the Tampa area might want to write about on the Internet.

At some point Brett hopes to interview some of the bloggers and perhaps try to have a get-together now and then in order to make it more of a community. And he may look for some local business sponsors, but has no expectation of ever earning a living either from his blog or by aggregating others' blogs.

The main thing here is that Brett has put together an easy way for locals to find what other locals are writing. It is an idea that can be duplicated anywhere the Internet reaches for next to no money, without a national company or big name behind it.

What Else is Out There?

Freecycle and TampaBLOG use existing software. They aren't hot Web 2.0 properties that have venture capitalists sniffing after them and get lots of buzz. But they are at least as important to the people who use them -- who are, remember, not necessarily computer sophisticates -- as Gmail or LinkedIn.

I'm sure there are plenty of other unheralded Web communities out there, quietly growing and attracting non-technical users. Most will never amount to much. But a few will become popular and influential, or at least will inspire imitators that might end up changing the way millions of people use the Internet.


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Enter Youth & the Y Chromosome (5, Funny)

eldavojohn (898314) | more than 8 years ago | (#14484855)

And then, when I actually used my local Freecycle group, I discovered something else: A high percentage of users were over 50, female, or both.
And on Monday, the 16th of January in the year 2006 at 3:28 PM, that statement was instantly overturned in a mad slashdotting ...

Re:Enter Youth & the Y Chromosome (1)

Hanzo (65066) | more than 8 years ago | (#14484928)

damnit, that was my immediate thought.

It could also be said that MySpace is chock'full'o'women...but then again, who wants 'em?

Re:Enter Youth & the Y Chromosome (3, Funny)

kabz (770151) | more than 8 years ago | (#14484977)

I for one, welcome our elderly female overloads.

Re:Enter Youth & the Y Chromosome (1)

Master of Transhuman (597628) | more than 8 years ago | (#14485780)

In Russia, gramnies blog YOU!


1) Start a blog.
2) ?????

Are there any other /. cliches I've missed - or that haven't been used by the third post?

That's what I need... (1)

bobalu (1921) | more than 8 years ago | (#14484878)

A 50 yr old local blogger chick. Cool.

Re:That's what I need... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14484932)

Maybe I am the only one reading this as a chance (maybe) for even ./ readers to get laid? Untapped potential - we are all Nick Burns to the geriatric set.

Re:That's what I need... (3, Funny)

john.mull (790526) | more than 8 years ago | (#14484982)

50 year old biker chick? She told me she was a 18 year old Taiwanese College freshman with a lot of time on her hands. Man, talk about looking through Internet goggles!

50yo chicks == turkeys (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14485556)

Especially the mothers.

Money for nothing... 50yo chicks for free (1, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14484948)

"...They aren't hot Web 2.0 properties that have venture capitalists sniffing after them and get lots of buzz..."

Not yet anyway...

Freecycle business model (2, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14484950)

1. Find item on Freecycle located within a 10-minute drive of your house
2. Agree to pick up item in 5 days
3. Post a 4-day auction for the item on EBay
4. If no bids, cancel the pickup
5. If successful bid, go get item and send it to bidder
6. Profit!

Close (2, Funny)

MarkGriz (520778) | more than 8 years ago | (#14485002)

1. Find item on Freecycle located within a 10-minute drive of your house
2. Agree to pick up item in 5 days
3. Post a 4-day auction for the item on EBay
4. If no bids, don't bother to cancel the pickup. Just be an ass and leave the offerer hanging. Don't respond to any emails
5. If successful bid, go get item and send it to bidder
6. Profit!

No, I'm not bitter.

Re:Close (1)

nizo (81281) | more than 8 years ago | (#14485088)

I can't wait until the bids start flying in on the truckload of gravel I just put up for auction on ebay. I won't even need a truck to go pick it up; I figure I can just shovel it straight into boxes and leave them on his curb for the postman to pick up.

Re:Close (1)

drDugan (219551) | more than 8 years ago | (#14485682)

5. If successful bid, go get item and send it to bidder

5. If successful bid, go to "get" the item with a box, tape, packing material and mailing label. Package the item in the owner's living room and ask them to drop it in the mail for you. Go home.

Re:Freecycle business model (3, Informative)

GRW (63655) | more than 8 years ago | (#14485485)

In my experience, most items offered on Freecycle tend to go very quickly. I had three or four responses to my first offer and it was picked up about one hour after posting it. Most things that I see offered would not be worth putting on EBay. Usually it is things too good to throw out, but not valuable enough to sell for more than a couple of bucks at a garage sale.

Re:Freecycle business model (1, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14486027)

That is seriously underestimating human greed (maybe because you're Canadian?) When I lived in Ann Arbor, I knew people who made lots of money off of other people's generosity - by buying $1 books at library sales; taking items from dumpsters near student housing; or getting free items from freecycle - and then selling them on an on-line auction. One local paper even had an article about a student who paid his University of Michigan tuition doing it!

Although this is greedy behavior, I'm not saying I entirely disapprove (especially for dumpster divers, who are really doing the world a favor). The unwanted items are gone (which can be a difficult task if you wanna ditch an old king size bed and you only have a hatchback) and, eventually, someone who wants them will get them at a fairly cheap price. The only really downside is feeling duped, especially if you were giving away something nice (like baby clothes) and wanted them to go to a new family for free, not for $10 a bag on eBay.

Re:Freecycle business model (1)

GRW (63655) | more than 8 years ago | (#14487139)

Well, if somebody manages to make money from it, more power to them. As long as it keeps stuff out of the landfills. I see lots of stuff put at the curb as trash that only requires some minor repairs to be useful. Some people give away stuff because they havn't the time or energy for a garage sale.

Re:Freecycle business model (1)

agentkhaki (92172) | more than 8 years ago | (#14487854)

Heh... Those were the days. The best was going dumpster diving at Property Dispo(sition), and then eBaying/keeping that stuff. They'd get mad as hell if they caught you, but I once made several hundred bucks selling old NeXT equipment they'd tossed.

That aside, true greed (perhaps "stupidity" is a better word) shows itself on the Freecycle lists too. All sorts of "WANTED" messages asking for things like XBoxes, flat-panel monitors, cars, and other things that you'd have to be an idiot to throw away and completely friendless not to already know someone "in the need." It's the primary reason I unsubscribed (well, that and the constant "can you drop it off?" requests).

Yup, same here... (5, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14484956)

"And then, when I actually used my local Freecycle group, I discovered something else: A high percentage of users were over 50, female, or both"

I discovered this too when I went to milffinder.com and got redirected to freecycle.org

Sweet Jesus, there's a milffinder.com? (3, Funny)

bobalu (1921) | more than 8 years ago | (#14485001)

Man, I gotta get more creative in my Googling....

Freecycle (0, Troll)

dcsteve72 (786185) | more than 8 years ago | (#14484963)

On Freecycle it's not a/s/l it's "what crap do are you giving away today?"

Re:Freecycle (5, Informative)

Bob_Villa (926342) | more than 8 years ago | (#14485058)

Maybe it is crap in your area, but we have gotten a $400 swing set (2 years old) for free, you can get landscaping timbers, bulbs, sometimes you can get mulch, excess building materials, etc... You can also get working televisions and computers that people are giving away because they have newer ones.

If you have children (like I do), you can get your type of formula, coupons for formula, clothing for your little ones, toys for them, etc...

If you have pets or just got a pet, you can get litter boxes (for cats) and toys. You can get aquariums, fish, dogs, cats, hamsters, snakes, birds, rabbits, etc... (Yes, Freecycle does allow people to give away pets, but gives lots of warnings on doing this).

You can get furniture (usually good quality), cooking materials, school books, books on any topic you can imagine, magazines, etc... People have even given away pool tables, above ground pools, spas, etc...

And if you want to reduce the clutter in your house, there is always somebody that could use what you consider 'crap'. There are a lot of people who can't afford to buy very much, so be considerate.

Re:Freecycle (2, Informative)

Bob McCown (8411) | more than 8 years ago | (#14485217)

Yup, we love the freecycle groups around here, too, got all sorts of neat stuff, and got rid of a bunch of stuff. But, the moderators of the groups are petty dictators, always ready to slam people for not formatting their posts right.

Re:Freecycle (1)

dcsteve72 (786185) | more than 8 years ago | (#14486333)

Oh, it's absolutely the area. I try to make sure that stuff that I post to the Freecycle group is not something that should just be tossed in the first place. There are some good things that appear from time to time, but when you are more the type to give than take, Freecycle serves well for cleaning out space!

Formula? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14486493)

If you have children (like I do), you can get your type of formula, coupons for formula,...

The only type of "formula" that a child should be having comes out of that child's mother's breasts.

Re:Formula? (1)

Liberal Mafia (544475) | more than 8 years ago | (#14487745)

Sometimes, for whatever reason, the mother's body doesn't produce enough milk to keep the baby fed, and then she has no choice but to use formula. Don't be too quick to judge.

And another thing I learned about Freecycle was... (0, Redundant)

hackwrench (573697) | more than 8 years ago | (#14484989)

...that I wasn't going to find out what it was from the Slashdot article. I mean really, is putting:

It's a grassroots movement of people who are giving (& getting) stuff for free in their own towns

Somewhere near the top of the article too much to ask for?

Oh, you (2, Insightful)

chivo243 (808298) | more than 8 years ago | (#14485008)

I heard about it a while back at my bridge club.... but then again you insensitive clods never get out from behind your computers and socialize!...

Re:Oh, you (1)

Misch (158807) | more than 8 years ago | (#14485956)

but then again you insensitive clods never get out from behind your computers and socialize!...

But I have a webserver running!

Freecycle doesn't scale (4, Informative)

PostItNote (630567) | more than 8 years ago | (#14485012)

I joined my local Freecycle and it was was great, but, as Craig found out with his list, it doesn't scale and I've been forced to unsubscribe because of the sheel volume of postings. The reason that Craigslist is a website for larger (and even smaller [craigslist.org]) cities is that sending everything to everyone is not a long term solution. But for tiny communities Freecycle is just right.

It's all about the size of the group you are expecting to build. If it is a small community, then everyone chatting to everyone fosters a sense of belonging, but if you are expecting hundreds of people to join, then everyone chatting to everyone makes for too much noise and not enough signal.

Re:Freecycle doesn't scale (2)

webmistressrachel (903577) | more than 8 years ago | (#14485241)

I am a member of Manchester Freecycle, we have 2 million residents in the city and a Green friendly Council promoting this service to most tenants. It scales - individual groups have their own solution - for example, we use Yahoo Groups, which can send convenient digests. By using standard words like offer and taken, and copying and pasting item names, one can track a wanted item quickly. I can personally vouch for some of the great stuff that is given away and that I have given away!!

Re:Freecycle doesn't scale (1)

PostItNote (630567) | more than 8 years ago | (#14485651)

They were trying that, but the preponderance of people who were new to this whole internet thing meant that very few people followed the guidelines. When I finally unsubscribed there were hundreds of messages every day, 99.95% of which I didn't care about. And it's hard to say whether there was really a problem. People were posting OFFERS and WANTED and TAKEN and all that, but there was just too much stuff and I didn't want anything to do with any of it, except for that aforementioned .05%.

1 of 2,000 messages was something I cared about. That is simply not enough signal for me. Craigslist for the same area has proven far more functional.

Re:Freecycle doesn't scale (1)

Paradoks (711398) | more than 8 years ago | (#14485264)

I agree fully that Freecycle doesn't scale well for getting stuff off of it, as it takes huge swaths of time to look through everything, find something you actually want, and be fast and lucky enough to actually get the item.

So I don't do that. It's not worth it.

But, when I had six cases [livejournal.com] and a couple of bags full of old, mostly worthless, computer crap that would have been an absolute pain to eBay, I freecycled it, got four or five offers, and a day later I had freed up 10+ square feet of floor space.

Frankly, it's utterly amazing the kind of crap people will take when it's free.

Re:Freecycle doesn't scale (1)

nobodaddy (453525) | more than 8 years ago | (#14486050)

Here in Dublin, Ireland, the local authorities are starting to charge for all waste disposal (I pay € 6 for a 240 Litre (thats 200 Kg for you americans) wheeliebin every 3 weeks), and offer free disposal of recycled waste [fingalcoco.ie] (I load up the car with glass, paper, plastic bottles, cans every month or two), and slapping additional disposal charges on household electrical goods (e.g.€ 5 for a TV -- it's the EU WEEE [wikipedia.org] regulation), and there's composting bins too (not collected). All free for the unwaged. Isn't socialism great?

Freecycle is a wonderful adjunct to sensible waste disposal solutions.

My site scales :-) (1)

wurp (51446) | more than 8 years ago | (#14486389)

I started a localized sale and give-away site [frimp.net]. All of the functionality is there - list items, post pictures, print a flier, search by zipcode & range, get automatic emails when new items matching a search appear, etc.

I emailed the owners of Freecycle looking for a partnership, and got no response. My guess is that they thought a site that allowed local search would steal their thunder, and didn't want to pitch it to their users, but I think their ability for people to give people a local community of like-minded people would go great with my ability to let people search by range instead of grouping with an arbitrary boundary.

People with lives do interesting things online... (5, Insightful)

AEther141 (585834) | more than 8 years ago | (#14485022)

Amazingly enough, many of the really interesting developments in online communities are being driven by people who couldn't give a chuff about Web 2.0 and the blogosphere and are using existing (and in many cases decades old) technologies to do things that weren't envisioned by the designers. 'Democratisation of the hacker ethic', if you need a buzzword. Us insiders get wrapped up in the idea that the net is all about creating a parallel reality but the really interesting stuff that's happening now is non-geeks using old tech in new ways.

Re:People with lives do interesting things online. (1)

DogDude (805747) | more than 8 years ago | (#14486163)

I happen to agree. The best way to buy and sell used stuff in my area is a good ol' newsgroup: triangle.forsale. It's been around forever, it's used heavily, and there are no stupid blogs or "Web 2.0" crap involved. Post what you want to sell. Contact a seller if you're buying, and drive over and pick it up. I don't understand the needs to make everything online so goddamned complicated.

Newsbreak: women + older people use the internet! (4, Interesting)

standards (461431) | more than 8 years ago | (#14485053)

It's funny when people think that it's interesting that the internet can cater to both women and those over 50 years old. I can see that being odd some 15 years ago, when the internet wasn't readily available to the public, and when PCs were just for the wealthy geeks in town.

But these days EVERYone has a PC. People do things like shop, bank, and communicate using PCs. 66% of American women go on-line [according to Pew, 2005] [pewinternet.org]. My elderly mother and all her friends use the internet every day.

So what's the big deal about a let's-share-our-shit forum that appears to attract woman over 50? I bet the on-line barbie forum attracts a lot of pre-teen girls, and the knitting forums have a surprising number of women. I even know women that use eBay.

Welcome to the new world, where women and older people use the internet too.

Re:Newsbreak: women + older people use the interne (5, Funny)

alicenextdoor (910558) | more than 8 years ago | (#14485140)

Believe it or not, women actually read slashdot, check out the Reg, and have a long list of tech sites bookmarked. Some of us can even write code, so long as we have a really pretty IDE to do it in, and are at no risk of breaking our fingernails.

Re:Newsbreak: women + older people use the interne (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14485369)

Yeah right, and I am sure you are not a lesbian either.
Seriously though if there are girls like you were are you? I have looked and looked, never found one that is single, oh and the girl has to be a nerd, you cant be a makeup wearing, pom pom waving, sorority bitch. She should not care what she looks like, but cleanliness is a must. She must care about the rest of the world as in an activist mentality is necessary. Also the girl has to be as smart as or smarter than me, no blondes please (figuritively, the actual hair color does not matter).
If you can find me a girl like that I would put a ring on her finger faster than you can say 'yes'.

Re:Newsbreak: women + older people use the interne (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14485457)

dude, this is /.! use match.com or even okcupid but we don't want to hear it here. KTHXBYE

Re:Newsbreak: women + older people use the interne (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14485516)

Geeks think they want geeks. Geeks don't want geeks. Geeks want artists, they're far more compatible.

Put yourself in a position where you're likely to meet an artist type.... a musician, a painter, a writer, etc. You'll do well. Trust me =)

Re:Newsbreak: women + older people use the interne (1)

daviddennis (10926) | more than 8 years ago | (#14485849)

The parent poster is absolutely right.

Artistic women bring joy and warmth to your life.

When you meet one, you'll never forget it.

Hope that helps.


Re:Newsbreak: women + older people use the interne (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14487637)

I've met them.

I just didn't marry one.


Re:Newsbreak: women + older people use the interne (1)

daviddennis (10926) | more than 8 years ago | (#14485607)

You're asking for a girlfriend as Anonymous Coward?

Isn't that a little silly?


Re:Newsbreak: women + older people use the interne (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14485637)

not asking because I know this girl does not exist.

Re:Newsbreak: women + older people use the interne (1)

d-e-w (173678) | more than 8 years ago | (#14485407)


And some of us even can do it without the pretty IDE! ;)

Girly Girl (1)

umbrellasd (876984) | more than 8 years ago | (#14486207)

Ok, that's just too much. I was willing to give the benefit of the dot when I had the image of the pink IDE with the big bubbly code font, but take that away and, "That girl is a girly-man, baby!"

"Why won't this wig come off?"

Apparently not everyone has a computer (1)

jruschme (76180) | more than 8 years ago | (#14485372)

But these days EVERYone has a PC. People do things like shop, bank, and communicate using PCs.

Funny, but you wouldn't think it if you've ever offered a PC on a Freecycle. The last time I did, I had about an 8:1 ratio of responses to available computers.

Re:Apparently not everyone has a computer (1)

Hatta (162192) | more than 8 years ago | (#14485671)

But these days EVERYone has a PC. People do things like shop, bank, and communicate using PCs.

Funny, but you wouldn't think it if you've ever offered a PC on a Freecycle. The last time I did, I had about an 8:1 ratio of responses to available computers.

Clearly, everyone has a pc. But no one has enough.

Re:Newsbreak: women + older people use the interne (1)

dkleinsc (563838) | more than 8 years ago | (#14485488)

Actually, these demographics don't surprise me in the least, and probably line up extremely well with the demographics of people watching daytime television. The people who engage in this sort of activity are those with the time to do so, which in most cases are those who aren't working on the weekdays. If we measured who uses the largest amount of internet use for recreational or personal purposes, I'd expect to find the following categories overrepresented:



Students (of all ages)


Re:Newsbreak: women + older people use the interne (1)

Syberghost (10557) | more than 8 years ago | (#14487880)

I bet the on-line barbie forum attracts a lot of pre-teen girls,

Do you realize what you just unleashed on the Barbie forums?

That's because Freecycle is like eBay (4, Insightful)

Animats (122034) | more than 8 years ago | (#14485054)

Freecycle is about trading physical items. That's why it has such demographics. Like eBay, it's people with too much time, too much stuff, and too much storage space. Yes, Freecycle is about free stuff, but the same finding and shipping issues apply.

Re:That's because Freecycle is like eBay (3, Informative)

Red Flayer (890720) | more than 8 years ago | (#14485112)

The Recycling Center in Redding, CT has free item dropoff/pickup (BTW, this is where people take their cans/bottles etc). My sister-in-law has gotten some real finds there, and also left valuable items that she no longer has use for (Baby furniture, etc).

So, this exists in meatspace as well as online.

My point is that savvy people with a real need for stuff can do really well on Freecycle, it's not just for "people with too much time, too much stuff, and too much storage space.

Re:That's because Freecycle is like eBay (1)

hondo77 (324058) | more than 8 years ago | (#14487651)

So, this exists in meatspace as well as online.

Wow, so people actually do use the word "meatspace". I thought it was something that journalists just made up.

Re:That's because Freecycle is like eBay (2, Informative)

mblase (200735) | more than 8 years ago | (#14485293)

Yes, Freecycle is about free stuff, but the same finding and shipping issues apply.

But that's the advantage of a local emphasis: "shipping" just becomes a matter of deciding who can drive to the other guy's house to pick up or deliver the item.

Example: My wife's a subscriber to the Peoria, Illinois freecycle group. Lots of traffic, but it's managable, on the order of a large rec.arts.* newsgroup back in the heyday of Usenet, and like those newsgroups members use descriptive subject lines to others don't have to read every friggin' message. We get, and give, a lot of kids' stuff as our toddlers grow into preschoolers and kindergarteners. It's like a thrift shop without the shop.

Freecycle is nothing like eBay (1)

NardofDoom (821951) | more than 8 years ago | (#14485630)

That's not at all what I encountered.

My wife and I had to get rid of an old washer/dryer that we got with our house. The previous owner said it needed parts, but it ran fine. Since we just wanted the damn thing gone, and we didn't want to put up the money for a newspaper ad, and it still worked and we didn't want to throw away something that was perfectly serviceable, I listed it at our local Freecycle group.

We got about 25 offers in the first hour of it being listed. Most of them were from the people who live around us; college kids and people with large families and limited incomes. Neither of these groups can be said to have too much time or stuff.

The eyesore in our basement eventually ended up going to a former appliance repairman and his disabled wife who, because of back surgery, couldn't go down into the basement to do laundry anymore. Shipping wasn't an issue because, since it's local, he came with his sons to pick it up. All in all, it turned what was, to us, a piece of junk into something that improved someone else's life and kept it out of the waste stream for a few more years.

It's less like eBay and more like a group of folks who don't want to or can't spend money on things, or don't want to see perfectly good stuff go to waste.

full disclosure (5, Interesting)

outcast36 (696132) | more than 8 years ago | (#14485070)

so I've been a "freecycler" for about two years now. I generally give away way more stuff then I pick up due to the SO wanting a "clean house" (ie no more random wires). In addition to that, I fancy myself a bit of a "tree-hugger", and these groups do fit right into the reduce, reuse, recycle mantra.

However, as these groups break away from the fringe and become more mainstream you wouldn't believe some of the pompous posts I've read. stuff like, I'm looking for a 24 foot black leather sectional gently used, nothing tacky. OR wanted PS2 new games only. Like these services were created to help people fulfill their material desires with no cash outlay. That is the real reason these groups don't scale, it's not that an email list is difficult to manage. The problem is that people view thses lists as their internet Santa Claus.

Re:full disclosure (1)

bahwi (43111) | more than 8 years ago | (#14485449)

Agreed, that's why I got out of it. Too many WANTS. I think WANTS need to go and OFFERED needs to be the only thing there.

Re:full disclosure (1)

Dieppe (668614) | more than 8 years ago | (#14486480)

One of the more amusing FreeCycle beg posts I've seen was a woman who wanted to know if anyone had the McDonalds Monopoly piece for "Boardwalk" as she had "Park Place" and was willing to share the $1,000,00 with whoever had "Boardwalk"...

(For those who don't know "Boardwalk" is the winning piece in the game. They make about 1 of them, and about a million "Park Places"... you could get a "Park Place" if you bought you and your closest buddies all a value meal...)

Another post was someone asking if anyone out there had a "spare iPod" they wanted to give away...

Yeah... right... I got spare iPods just floating in my shit...

But that is the downside of FreeCycle is too many kids on it think that Santa Claus is there just waiting to give them their dream present.. for FREE!!!

caveat Freecycle (5, Informative)

fdrebin (846000) | more than 8 years ago | (#14485121)

I've used Freecycle extensively, mostly to get rid of what I had thought was "junk nobody could possibly want" and to get a few things. Frequently this was stuff I figured I couldn't sell on ebay.

The hard part is that of the maybe 30 Freecyclers I met up with, about 1/2 are unable to show up when they say they will, or say that they won't be showing up after all, etc. So there are a few possible downsides. Some folk just want to get stuff for free, etc. Often (20% of the time) you see items reposted because the recipient couldn't be bothered to show up.
Another way to put this - you'll meet a different social stratum than you might be used to. I met some might fine folks... and a few I hope I never meet again. You don't have to meet folks personally, though - often you just put stuff on the porch and people come pick it up.
I always felt creepy walking up to peoples houses and taking stuff... but that's the way some folks want it.
It does take some time to wade through the postings/emails. Much of it is baby clothes, stuff that doesn't work, etc.
Generally the approaches of the "giver-awayers" is "first one to pick it up gets it", "first email gets it", or "best sob story" gets it. It's up to the person doing the giving.

On the plus side - there really is one - a lot of stuff that might otherwise go into a landfill goes to some useful purpose.

Someone asked for a scanner - I had one that only worked under Win95. Turns out - that's what the lady had. Perfect fit.
I had some old PCs and boxes and boxes of old PC parts, VL bus, ISA, etc. This guy who teaches kids how to work on computers took it all. What better way for them to learn when it doesn't matter if you blow the whole thing up.

I got this nice 7x7 L-shaped desk I use. I had to go to the donors house and disassemble it. It was like $1000 new, it cost me nothing.

Of course, you might be in a different kind of area than I am (St. Louis County)

Re:caveat Freecycle (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14486975)

I used to live in Columbia, Mo., and when my then-girlfriend and I moved she put everything that didn't sell in our yard sale on Freecycle, saying first come, first served. We watched a DVD and when it was done we walked out on the porch and it had been picked clean. We were spared a lot of hassle, and some people got some stuff that ranged from relatively nice to "why the hell did you take this?".

Freecycle is about recycling? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14485133)

Where's the networking stuff? Don't even get me started on recycling. I have over one thousand dollars of CD's stacked on the kitchen table ready to go to the landfill. Why? Basically it's less of a hassle and more cost effective from a personal time and effort point of view.

inventgeek.com (-1, Offtopic)

alanw (1822) | more than 8 years ago | (#14485222)

As seen on Saturday over on RootPrompt [rootprompt.org], Inventgeek [inventgeek.com] is running an article The Poor Man's RAID array [inventgeek.com], written by Jared Bouck. It's built out of SCSI drives and a RAID controller card. The appliances that the company I work for ships use dual SATA drives, the Linux MD driver and LVM2 though. I still haven't worked out whether that rumours that SCSI drivers are better built and have a greated MTBF are true - they certainly cost a lot more for smaller capacities.
What self-respecting geek doesn't get the warm fuzzies at the mere mention of the RAID. With the rising GB to Dollar ratio, we felt it was a good time to feature a project that takes Pure Geekieness(TM) and mixes in a good helping of do it your self. Where else are you going to store all those MP3s (legally obtained, of course)? On a single 200 GB Drive? Or a RAID 5 Array? Take you pick, I know where I will be storing mine.

Re:inventgeek.com (1)

alanw (1822) | more than 8 years ago | (#14485282)

Oops, sorry - posted to the wrong story.

Re:inventgeek.com (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14485439)

Oh, I don't know... it seems to be editors-only this afternoon. Is there a "right" story?

Shamless Plug (1)

Martin Fick (6329) | more than 8 years ago | (#14485235)

I am looking for alpha testers for a new DVD trading site (http://www.dvdtrader.us/ [dvdtrader.us]) which I hope to establish similar social coperation. It's meant to help people setup trades for used DVDs with people in their local communities. It's still in development, but I am a stronger believer in the "release early and release often" mantra, so have at it. :)

Re:Shamless Plug (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14486610)

Your site as it stands is incredibly vulnerable to cross site scripting and is also likely to be vulnerable to a wide array of other attacks such as SQL injection. In short, anything on your webserver is insecure and vulnerable to being read with little difficulty. To demonstrate this vulnerability type this text in your login box:
'><SCRIPT SRC=http://ha.ckers.org/xss.js></SCRIPT><br
Please learn more about cross-site scripting and webserver security before collecting anybody's information. If you have anybody's information already collected on your site remove it immediately, back it up on removable media, and do not reinstate it until your site is secure. Web application development is not for the faint of heart. Don't take this as discouragement, just a learning experience.

Apache Junction (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14485272)

Apache Junction isn't far from Phoenix. So they may be in the middle of nowhere, but they're not that far from a population center.

That said, those of us in the Phoenix metro area like to pick on them as being out in the boonies :)

Ob. captcha: victims

wonderful (2)

Danzigism (881294) | more than 8 years ago | (#14485528)

Freecycle is such a great idea.. i too have been using it for some time now.. its great for my infatuation with obsolete/vintage computers.. and I even gave a home to a kitty from a lady who was giving them away.. my girlfriend gave away tons of boxes full of clothes to another lady who had some kids and was poor.. i think its wonderful, and more people should be introduced to it.. especially lower income people..

shameless stereotyping (1)

prgrmr (568806) | more than 8 years ago | (#14485641)

And then, when I actually used my local Freecycle group, I discovered something else: A high percentage of users were over 50, female, or both.

Can you say "regifting"?

Freecycle Moderator (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14485792)

The moderator of our local group posts under several different usernames (claiming they're not her, even though all the usernames post in the same style and from the same IP) to stir up trouble... bashing Freecycle members and such.

Her co-moderator moved to another state (her Yahoo ID was something like "heyreena") and so the crazy moderator removed her from the group after five months of inactivity. The crazy moderator set up a Yahoo ID like "heyrena" (one E instead of two) and is now trying to pass herself off as the co-moderator who moved... yep, posting with the same IP again. She also deleted all of the co-moderator's old posts in a pathetic attempt to cover her tracks.

And yet Freecycle continues to allow her to moderate a group...

It's because they searched for 'Free' in google (1)

DMC_DMC_DMC (814689) | more than 8 years ago | (#14485925)

I used to work for the evil freeze.com. The thing they knew the best was that when women got on the internet 'free' was one of their favorite words to search for. Free coupons, free screensavers, free recipes you name it.

oh no, mr bill -- *cycling (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14485971)

Where I live in South Texas you dont need this or for anything FREE*.

Set a working air conditioner out by the street in the middle of 105 degree summer day with a sign the says free and it will still be there after then next ice age.

BUT...but a $10 sign on it, run the store and poof....it's gone.

this iS goAtsex (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14486022)

megs of ram runs Wash Off hands about a project project. Today, as

My experience with Freecycle. (1)

bmalia (583394) | more than 8 years ago | (#14486182)

Was that it was full of "I WANTS" instead of "I HAVE'S". And the "I HAVE'S" were generally of no value. If I need something, I'll buy it instead of hunting through hundres of thousands of messages. The 50+ female crowd makes since to me though. My GF's grandmother goes to garage sales every week and brings back all kinds of crap and then brags about how she only paid a dollar for it. Se's quite the bargain hunter. She occassionally comes back with nice stuff. An antique table $15. A P4 PC (with monitor) $20. Personally, I'm not patient enough to go house to house to find a $20 computer, but I guess you look at things differently if you grew up during the depression.

Re: Building the Social Internet (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14486355)

I just wanted to say that Freecycle kicks ass! I have given and gotten so many great things and everyone that I've met has been very nice.

Woohoo (1)

drspliff (652992) | more than 8 years ago | (#14486459)

All the rest aside.. I've now found a place to find hot over 50 housewives with lots of goodies they want to give me

Hmm, I think all this spam I get may be brainwashing me!

Advice (1)

Kurt Granroth (9052) | more than 8 years ago | (#14486727)

This looks like a pretty useful service. We tend to give away the stuff we don't use anymore to Goodwill. While we like that from a tax perspective, something like Freecycle might be better in the sense that the recipient might appreciate the donation more. If I give a $60 pair of children jeans (which lasted 6 months... never again!) to Goodwill and they sell them for $0.25, would the jeans be as appreciated as if we gave them to somebody who knew just how much our daughter loved those jeans until she grew out of them? I don't think so.

Looks like my local community one is pretty active. I just subscribed. We'll see how it goes.

One thing I already see, though, is that Services are forbidden. That's a shame. Well, not the service advertisements themselves but rather the advice on which services to go with.

I worked for a large corporation for a few years and hated nearly everything about it... except for the internal newsgroups. They were very active and just perfect for advice on services. Say you want recommendations on a pediatrician or family doctor or dentist or cleaning service or lawn service or any number of things like that. Those newsgroups were the perfect mix of a lot of local people with strong opinions on the services they had received. They never once steered me wrong.

I've tried to find something similar ever since I left and have failed miserably. Weblogs are too one-sided and far too distributed. Citysearch (and the like) are too anonymous and rarely have good opinions anyway. USENET is pretty much dead for things like that. Places like /. have very active (and opinionated) communities but they tend to be far too geek-oriented and global in scope.

So now I'm in a situation where I want recommendations on a good, trustworthy, local woodworking shop that can custom make some furniture... but I don't know of any place where I can find these recommendations.

Hmm... maybe I can try doing a "WANTED: Advice on Services" on Freecycle and see how fast I'm kicked from it :-)

Building the Social Internet (1)

Bitch Lab (946397) | more than 8 years ago | (#14486795)

Hey Rob -- again. I'd been intending to write an aritcle for Sticks of Fire [sticksoffire.com], another community blog, about the success of TampaBLAB, focusing specifically on the community-building: the way it connects people both globally and locally. Aside from the major geographically-based community aggregator blogs that Rob mentioned, and the big ones in DC, NY. LA, and SF, if you are aware of any other community-based blog aggregator that's found similar success (or not), I'd love to hear about them for the story. If this has inspired you to start one, ping me too, since I'd love to devote a portion of the article to people inspired by this story. They really area fabulous way of making local connections and learning what stupendously marvelous talent we have right in our backyard. As for Freecylcers, we had nothing but wonderful experiences with them. People give away entire contents of homes if, say, an elderly relative needs to relocate. Other's give away gift cards they don't intend to us. They often do it because they want to pay-it-forward and/or give back because they've benefited from Freecyclers. Recently, we picked up a treadmill that someone had gotten from Freecyclers -- she'd planned to use it for exercising dogs but it didn't work out. So, she Freecycled it again. There was one that had my partner going for awhile, though. Someone was giving away a Harley. He sat there by the computer and phone, just waiting to see if he'd been the first to respond. Obviously, someone was playing a prank. She claimed someone had hijacked her account. Man, were we disappointed.

Freecycle Rox! (2, Funny)

rueger (210566) | more than 8 years ago | (#14486890)

What can I say, I wanted a Commodore 64 [old-computers.com] so that I could rescue some old files. Arrived and was given 18 C-64s, a handful of C-128s, 7 Vic-20s, 2 monitors, a pile if Floppy Drives, 3 cassette drives, software, and a Timex Sinclair.

When I asked the owner how she came to have so many Commodores she replied "Oh, I just sort of collected them one by one."

Local Stuff Happening (2, Insightful)

miracle (115019) | more than 8 years ago | (#14487011)

"Local" seems to be big everywhere now. Craigslist, Google Base and Local, Yahoo Local, ebay local, are all the big guys targetting the local market. Rumors of local news aggregates are growing hot as well....

I'm in Houston, and I'm a fan of the popular Kingwood Yard Sales [kingwoodyardsales.com], which is site targetted at a specific community (there are several others around Houston and in other parts of the US). Judy's Book [judysbook.com] is the "big metropolitan" model, like Craigslist [craigslist.com]. Some big newspapers I know are aiming at the local online community market as well, trying to stay above water.

The big question for big companies is "where is the money?" which has left the opportunity for small players to fill the niche left behind...the "long tail"...

Neato (1)

Hershmire (41460) | more than 8 years ago | (#14487171)

Tell me, how much does it cost to get an advertorial on /.? I'm being serious. I have a site I want to promote and this seems like a keen way. $50 is about as much as I can afford, though. Does anyone have a link to the rate card?
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