Freecycle update

Stuff has been occurring since my last post on freecycling and an update is somewhat overdue.

Firstly, the genius ethical-social-media guys at Dharmafly have put together OpenFreecycle at Yahoo’s OpenHackLondon to win the top two prizes. This massive Yahoo! endorsement is great stuff and very encouraging for my own little project.

I’ve now open-sourced this hacky swing at it with the carefully non-trademark-infringing name: freelist2web. There’s also a demo installation. Sadly, if you go there you’ll notice the most recent posts are starting to age. This is because I was banned last week from the Birmingham Freecycle Group (also from the Birmingham Freecycle Cafe Group). I queried it to hear that a member had complained after finding his posting on it. I’ve offered to limit post information to group members and hope when the Group owners get a chance to confer we’ll find a way that benefits everyone.

The obstacle is disappointing since I’d taken care to obscure e-mail addresses and assumed that Freecycle posters wanted their message to reach as many people as possible. I’ve tried to make my case on the OpenFreecycle blog post which I recommend as a place to carry on discussion about moving Freecycle on from a closed mailing list.

I’m still passionate about the principle of freecycling, if not the current dominant implementation. I think local community building through resource sharing is a fundamental social instinct that hasn’t yet found an online platform. I’m still bookmarking interesting sites like vSkips, GoodNewsForPolarBears and JustForTheLoveOfIt.

Without a critical density of users it’s an uphill struggle though. Maybe Facebook could be a cable car with a well-integrated app? The Facebook marketplace – now powered by Oodle – is already a reasonable service that allows you to give stuff away, support a cause or request stuff within a radius of your location.

In case any data junkies want to get a snapshot of freecycling activity in Birmingham over the last few months, I’ve made the post metadata available. Would love to see some cool data visualisation or mining insights.

4 thoughts on “Freecycle update

  1. Hi

    Feel free to email me as I am a freecycle mod and apart from breaking Yahoo TOS by republishing content there are several other issues around this

    One being sometimes our members post personal info like phone nos and may not wish them to be posted elsewhere

    And I do applaud attempts to get the word out but because Freecycle is actually run from USA the local mods are restricted in what they can allow and who they cam work with so you may find mods agree with you but can not allow posts to reproduced or they will have their Franchise removed

    Cheers David

    (Freecycle Groups are a type of Franchise of TFN in USA)

  2. Thanks for the moderator’s perspective, David.

    I understand that you guys have to work within the rules set by The Freecycle Network which includes protection for user privacy and observance of Yahoo ToS.

    Phone numbers are easy enough to strip out and I think the Yahoo issue is not so great in practice given Yahoo’s approval of OpenFreecycle and the specific reference to ‘commercial’ services in the ToS (item 10 of ).

    However, this may all be moot as it seems The Freecycle Network also plans to move over to a web-based model with their new site Maybe I should be developing freelist2web as a migration tool? I really don’t have any ego about this and will happily code wherever it has the best effect.

  3. Hi Simon

    Thanks for the mention of

    If you wanted to see a comparison of the differences between Freecycle and GNFPB there is some stuff I put on our blog (

    Plus if you’d like any more info on GNFPB, why we started it, what we’re aiming to achieve, etc, say for a more in depth piece or whatever, I’d be happy to chat. By all means please drop me a line.

    Best regards, and thanks for a great read

  4. A note to commented David (if I may)…
    Hi, this is Ben from, its interesting to hear you say about mods having franchises removed, I’d be very interested to chat more about this. Any chance you’d be happy to speak with me, I’m naturally very interested in the whole Freecycle franchise model, powers, restrictions, etc, and I’m wondering if mods don’t want a little more autonomy. Any chance of a chat.

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