Moderator Manual:Mod dos

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Do's and Don'ts for Freecycle Moderators

Congratulations on becoming a Freecycle Moderator!

Since The Freecycle Network began in Tucson, Arizona in May 2003 the movement has circled the earth, and as of the 15th of March 2016, there are 9,178,773 members in more than 5,283 Freecycle groups - WOW!

Freecycle groups are running incredibly smoothly, peacefully, and successfully - keeping some 40 tons a day out of the landfills, thanks to you and to the many mods who have been working hard on Freecycle all along. Naturally, though, questions have been raised, problems encountered, and solutions found.

We're all part of an evolving organization, and THE best way to keep track of what's going on is to join moderator discussion groups, where moderators of Freecycle groups help each other solve problems, debate policies as well as posts, and contend with issues as they arise. (We joke around from time to time, too!)


Do keep it free, legal and appropriate for all ages

This means, for example, no pornography, alcohol, tobacco, drugs (legal or otherwise), firearms or other weapons. Two strikes and you're out of the group. This is our main Freecycle rule to live by and it's a pretty easy one at that.

Do require that resellers announce their intention to do so

This means, for example, when responding to an Offer or directly in a Wanted posting. This applies to all groups and is required as a basic minimum of all groups. If not stated in the local group guidelines, the minimum requirement noted here may be referenced.

In addition, some groups may choose to not allow reselling at all. This extended guideline --much like some groups choose not to allow pet postings-- is up to the local group to establish or not.

Required minimum guideline (reseller must note intent):

Resellers must announce their intent to resell an item in responses to Offers and directly in Wanted postings.

Alternative wording, minimum guideline (reseller must note intent):

If you are an EBay seller, thrift store owner, or a reseller of any kind, FULL DISCLOSURE OF YOUR INTENTION TO SELL ITEMS RECEIVED FROM FREECYCLE MEMBERS IS REQUIRED UP FRONT. You MUST disclose your intent to sell either in your original Wanted post or when responding so the gifter can make an informed decision with all the details and facts. Members have the right to inquire as to the intended use of any item they offer.

Extended potential guideline (no resale permitted):

Resale of items is not permitted. Items gifted are intended solely for reuse, not resale.

Do keep the Guidelines and Disclaimer in your files section and send it to members when they join your group

Do stick to the moderator oath of honor and Freecycle etiquette (encouraging members to do likewise)

*** DO STICK TO THE Moderator Oath OF HONOR AND FREECYCLE ETIQUETTE. ENCOURAGE MEMBERS TO DO LIKEWISE: "Be nice." As moderators, you want to want to encourage good manners in terms of scheduling pickups, and being punctual. (Leaving someone hanging is never a nice thing.)

Remember your pledge to be a really nice and patient person when moderating your new Freecycle group. You promised to use the Freecycle name only for your noncommercial Yahoo group. You agreed to remain open to input from members or the occasional democratic polling of your members, but to make the tough calls and decisions in order to spare the rest the long debates.

With great honor, you pledged to keep spam, ads and moneymakers out of your group with the "two strikes, you're out" rule. And, finally, you promised to come clean of your pack-rat ways and clean out your own garage before asking the same of others.

Do live where your group is located

We ask that all moderators live in the area that is served by the group. You then know best the local recycling facilities, local Earth Day dates, local meet-up sites, local recycling nonprofit groups, etc.

Moderators may own (or be the lead moderator on) only one group. Moderators may be back-up moderators on other groups if necessary. A back-up moderator is one who is on a group simply for emergencies. The back-up moderator does not participate in the day to day running of the group and has limited privileges to approve members and messages in case of an emergency.

However, we encourage all groups to find enough local moderators so that a back up is not necessary.


Don't allow politics, proselytizing, spam, money, personal attacks or rudeness

Freecycle policy is 'two strikes & you're out', i.e. moderators are expected to unsubscribe members after two inappropriate postings.

Don't allow the advertising of 'For Sale' or other money related sites in your group

Once someone starts planting the 'try to sell it first' seed locally, it really changes the paradigm of what we are about. We are not for or against selling items. Instead, we simply have no ties whatsoever to it - be it mentioning other sites or asking for money or offering money.

We don't strive for personal gain first through encouraging people to try to sell items. We only encourage magnanimous giving with absolutely no strings attached. You may however choose to encourage members to go to local nonprofit trading or bartering organizations as an alternative - we tend to find that local barter groups are kindred spirits and, while not directly gifting, they are doing lots of good in their own way.

With Freecycle, though, there are no strings attached. Folks just give stuff away!

Don't 'forbid' WANTED postings as a category from your board for ANY period of time

be it a day or a weekend, etc...

WANTEDs serve a valuable purpose, one that becomes clear when you meet the first appreciative recipient whose WANTED post you fulfilled. They remind potential givers of things they might be ready to let go of, and they *really* help local nonprofit groups ask for what they need rather than having to take what they get.

So reinforce how great OFFERs are, and instill in your members the importance of paying forward, but never put down WANTEDs. That's the juggling act we all have. If you do this you'll find that with as your group grows, it will have as many or more Offers as WANTEDs - it's the nature of the beast. We bipeds are basically caring and giving individuals, with just a teensy bit of *positive* reinforcement.

That's what we mods inject into the formula -- positive stuff. "Inject negative karma into the group and ye shall receive unto yourself negative karma." (Someone famous said this at some point, or surely at least thought it). The beauty of our job is that it forces us to always respond in a non-confrontational, non-accusatory, positive, and respectful way. It's good training for the non e-World, too. And it's a great karma boost to boot.

You may find that it helps to limit the frequency of individual member WANTED posts, however, as well as the frequency with which members can post the same WANTED, say once a month or once every couple of weeks.

Don't require that members MUST make an OFFER post as their first act of membership

People react better to asking them rather than telling them if you feel it is a good philosophical issue.

So, you could ask them: "Please consider getting the ball rolling by first making an offer to the local group. It's good fun and no offer is too small!" We can't require new members make a gift first as it endangers our charitable status.

Don't fully moderate your group

Full moderation of all posts is not allowed. Moderation of new member posts is fine - just remember to take the folks off moderation within a week or two so that these don't pile up. Important: The moderation of troublemakers is highly advised.

Freecycle works best without full moderation. Empower your members to give directly to another biped without moderator intervention, quickly, easily and enjoyably. Trust and empower the members directly as much as humanly possible and it'll pay out (forgive the metaphor) in spades when your group gets really big. Why? Because when that time comes, all members will know how to use the rules correctly.

You have taught them how to fish rather than giving them fish for a day, right? This is why we don't allow FULL moderation. It's like "Freecycle Lite." It tastes kind of like The Freecycle Network, but doesn't pack that caffeinated punch, is slower, and more controlled. Be bold, trust, and educate members unless individuals give you a reason not to and moderate those individuals. If you feel the need to moderate, then just have new members moderated for a week or two which gives you a chance to:

-- Weed out spammers.

-- Share a pointer or two about how to post, extravagant WANTEDs, etc.

-- Tell folks that there's a Freecycle group closer to where they live.

Often moderators have started by having their group set to "New Member Moderation" but then don't unmod the members until they have a couple of accurate posts (rather than just unmodding all within a week or two -- spammers not willing to wait that long so that gets them weeded out). This method was more necessary in Yahoo Groups, but with most groups on site, this generally leads to near full moderation because people only generally make a couple posts and when they are slow or don't appear in a timely manner they give up and go elsewhere. You may ask your GOA what percentage of your group is moderated and you may also ask them to initiate a group unmodding whereby all members are unmodded centrally for you, at once. Generally an older group may end of up with thousands of unnecessarily modded members. It's quite tedious to unmod so many members manually.

How to Fully Unmoderate Group

Don't ask for personal information when approving members

This includes full names, addresses, phone numbers, social security number, etc. It is an invasion of our members' privacy and is more than is needed to keep a local group running smoothly. If you limit your group by geographic area, it's enough to ask for cross streets and/or postal codes.

We also don't ask for this information as it exposes local volunteers and the organization overall to the risk of having and maintaining such information. If we don't have such information, we don't risk it being accessed and something happening (robbery, stalking, you name it).

Sharing such personal information also makes potential members uneasy : why does Freecycle need this info? Unfortunately, in today's world, we have to be extremely careful about personal info.

Don't moderate a group with competing aims to Freecycle

Yes, please don't moderate a group with competing aims while moderating with The Freecycle Network. This can lead to conflicts of interest.

Don't be a dictator

If we mods act like dictators, we can only lose. Members will be less energized. Old members we ticked off flame the group, etc. It's really a lesson in life: Be nice under all circumstances or you've already lost.

Even if you just act nice in e-mails, after a while, you'll see everyone being nice in the group, and you'll start really genuinely being nice yourself as a result. Meanies get flamed and their groups don't flourish.