the accidental stupidity of good intentions

For some years now I have used what used to be the freecycle system to dispose of unwanted, but otherwise useful items from my home. In return I have sometimes used the same mechanism to get hold of things like books which someone else wishes to get rid of. A couple of years or so ago, the UK freecycle organisation split from the US parent and was renamed “freegle”. Naming and politics aside (and there was some nasty politicing going on) the purpose and intentions of the UK freegle organisation continued to be honourable and useful. A lot of goods and material that would otherwise have ended up in landfill has been successfully recycled.

To date, UK freegle has been based on yahoo groups. Members subscribe to a freegle group covering their area and then send/receive email alerts about items offered or wanted. But yahoo groups is not an ideal mechanism for an organisation such as freegle, so alternatives are popping up – usually web based and often bespoke. My local group recently received lottery funding to help it establish just such a website.

Following an email from the group’s moderators about the intended change (and imminent closure of the old yahoo group) I signed up to the new system. Having done so I then set about editing my preferences and settings. One of the settings required is “postcode”, which the system uses with (an editable) radial distance in miles to determine which offers/requests to email to you. Alongside the required postcode, is the option to include your full address. Entering your full address will obviate the need to add it later when giving details to other freeglers about how to get to your location to pick up offers. Address details are apparently necessary because all interaction between freeglers now takes place (and is moderated) via the website address. Unlike the old system whereby freegler’s email addresses were exposed, users of the new system only see the freegle group address. (This, incidentally, is a “good thing” (TM)). However, one of the other settings on the preferences page is a checkbox marked “On holiday”.

Forgive me for thinking that this might not be a good idea.

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    • Peter on 2012/07/23 at 12:58 pm

    But Mick, if you drive a car you won’t have to.

    The BBC is all enthusiastic about the bright glowing future of cars that communicate and surely this is one of the most trivial things to implement. Add to the that Android by Google’s own admission spies on WiFi and you have all you need to make sure your local burglar knows he doesn’t need to worry too much.

    I can see this become a Government supported scheme soon – after all, it stops prisons getting any fuller and it stimulates the economy because you will have to buy new stuff.


    Actually, the above article is a gem anyway – apparently the lack of security is not an issue because Apps have been adopted without the right mechanisms in place (I paraphrase here) – yes, but a dodgy App doesn’t get you killed.. I am also positive that these efforts will receive mucho $$$ from the likes of Facebook and Google (“likes” being an unintentional pun, sorry) because they would *love* to get their mitts on that juicy chunk of private life your car journeys represent.

    • Mick on 2012/07/23 at 7:37 pm


    I’m not sure how we got from freegle to IP connected cars, but never mind. I think your point must be that burglars could figure out when you are out by tracking your car (or your android phone).

    And unfortunately, that BBC URL you posted is unreachable from the UK (unless, (smugly) like me, you use TOR to get around the geo-location lock).


    • Peter on 2012/07/27 at 6:23 am

    Yes, it’s the continuing trend to make life safer for burglars that I was referring to :).

    As for the link, I’m puzzled. Both from abroad as well as from the UK it came up OK. Weird..

    • Mick on 2012/07/27 at 2:34 pm


    I get a BBC “help” page which says: “We’re sorry but this site is not accessible from the UK as it is part of our international service and is not funded by the licence fee. It is run commercially by BBC Worldwide, a wholly-owned subsidiary of the BBC, the profits made from it go back to BBC programme-makers to help fund great new BBC programmes.”


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