I’ve used Freecycle/Freegle to pass on quite a few unwanted items. Freecycle is the original network, but in 2009 a number of Freecycle groups migrated to Yahoo and elsewhere and renamed themselves ‘Freegle’, in protest at restrictions imposed on them. New moderators were found for the groups on the Freecycle site, so now there are two systems running in parallel. I haven’t done a detailed comparison of Freecycle and Freegle but they seem to work in a very similar way, even down to the syntax of the messages and the wording of the disclaimers. One advantage of the Freecycle site is that you can withdraw an item which has been claimed; on Freegle you have to send a second message after the first and hope the membership (and the moderators!) connect the two.
It seems that users are showing a preference for the original Freecycle site. As I posted another offer today, I noticed that usage in the Bath Freegle Yahoo group has declined. When it split off in 2009, it was running at over 2500 messages a month. But through 2010 activity declined, and it is now about 1200 messages a month – still a considerable amount. Meanwhile Bath Freecycle has 4,000 more members than Bath Freegle and while I can’t find message stats, if today is typical it has significantly more messages. My experience of using both today is that moderators on Bath Freecycle are quicker to act – my message was moderated and put up within the hour (and the item then claimed), while no message has appeared on Bath Freegle for over 12 hours.
A quick check on the South Gloucestershire equivalent groups shows a similar pattern. The Bristol Freegle group exists but has never really taken off.
These sites are a real window on the sort of stuff people feel a need to offload and I often wonder at the story behind some items. Sadly but rather predictably, the literacy levels of the messages claiming items are often appalling.
I have one beef about the way Freecycle works. I have successfully posted offers in the Bath, West Wilts and South Gloucestershire groups (Bath is near the meeting point of these three counties). But when I tried offering something via the Bristol group I was told I couldn’t because I didn’t live in Bristol. Never mind that I work there and declared that a handover in the city centre or Clifton Triangle area could easily be arranged. This seems perverse and smacks of officious moderators liking to throw their weight around. I think it must have been Freecycle and not Freegle where this happened, for the reason given above.
But the situation remains that having two almost identical networks running in parallel doesn’t really benefit anyone. Whatever the restrictions which caused Freegle to spring up, they are less of a nuisance than the need for users to offer or place a wanted request in two separate places. I’d like to see a merger of the two, and if the current trends continue that will eventually happen.