What's Up (or Down) at Freecycle?

Rob Hof

Check out these mostly critical comments on the Freecycle Network. That's the widely praised Tucson-based group that helps people create local Web sites where they can give away and get stuff that might otherwise end up in a landfill. Sounds like there's a fair amount of strife at the (apparently) loose-knit group. Says one commenter: "They're in the midst of a great upheaval, groups right and left are leaving them and starting independent groups of their own. The founder hasn't gotten it through his head yet, that you can't "own" this concept, and the control he tries to impose is too much for many of us who just want a grassroots movement."

This is the first I had heard of any problems at the network, which seems a pretty innovative and worthwhile endeavor. Maybe I just wasn't paying real close attention. One story outlines some philosophical differences among Freecyclers, especially over a grant to Freecycle from Waste Management, to which founder and executive director Deron Beal responded rather testily. And a Technorati search reveals some hints of strife here and there in the blogosphere. Even one defender who posted a comment seems to concede some Freecycle groups are splitting off.

UPDATE: On further research and response from "freecyclers," it appears folks are also angered by Beal's seeking a trademark on the Freecycle name and taking what some view as a heavy-handed approach to managing Freecycle discussion groups. That has caused at least some to start separate organizations. There's more back-and-forth in the Comments below and in the previous post.

I haven't yet been able to reach Beal to ask him about the fuss. I'll let you know what I hear. Meantime, any other folks in Freecycle-land care to add their two cents?

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