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Totnes main street

Totnes main street

I was recently turned onto the Transitions Network when a friend told me about the movement in Totnes in the UK.

It’s a worldwide initiate to fight the dual challenges of climate change and peak oil.  I consider this movement to be interesting in terms of how it is spreading, and important in terms of how people at the grass roots level (that’s you and me, folks!) can organize ourselves to begin to make a difference.

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WOW, we got a new member in Palmas-TO, Tocantins, Brazil (@Chrysippo)  and a new member in Cincinati Ohio (@Underklader).  Welcome along guys.

Spread that love peeps 🙂

So, www.GoodNewsForPolarBears.org has been public for a little over one week, and it’s amazing what a great response we’ve had.  Over 200 members as of last night, from all over the UK. And 66 items listed which people are GIVING AWAY to good homes including the following:

maclaren techno double buggy Haslemere,Surrey,UK
double bed and bedding, wicker chairs, settee etc Grantham,Midlands,UK
2 seater sofa Liss,Hampshire,UK
Desktop Pentium 4 PC (no hard discs, spares, or DIYer) Staines,Surrey,UK
Moderm Ikea standard lamp Staines,Surrey,UK
PIANO Raymond & Co of London surrey,worcester park,UK
Floppy disk cleaning kit Yateley,Hampshire,UK
CD/DVD protective travel case Yateley,Hampshire,UK
Telephone piggy bank Yateley,Hampshire,UK
Canon 32MB SD Flash card Yateley,Hampshire,UK

We’ve had some great celebrity support, including these here:

Kind words from The Earth Organization

Well, one can only ask 🙂

This says it all…

We certainly feel blessed to have had such a great reception.

What do people like about GoodNewsForPolarBears.org?

Well, if I had to hazzard a guess it’s the idea that they can somehow help someone else while de-cluttering their own life, whilst simultaneously helping the environment by NOT adding to landfill.

What else has happened this week

I’ve been asked how GoodNewsForPolarBears.org differs from Freecycle.org, after all, Freecycle.org was one of our inspirations, and if you’re interested to read my answers you can read them here:

The difference between Freecycle and GoodNewsForPolarBears

Why is it so complicated to list items on Freecycle.org

Newspapers and websites that have written about us

I’ve spoken to one or two journalists who’ve expressed an interest in what we’re doing, and a few have written about the community, here are a few you can check out:

Yorkshire Evening Post – New recycling site goes online in Leeds

Worcester News – If you don’t want it, someone else will

Chichester Observer – Go online to recycle unwanted goods

Somerset County Gazette – New website to boost recycling

(Who do YOU know who could help us spread the word? If so, please drop them a line and we’ll be very happy to talk to them)

And finally…

How can we spread the word abroad?

We built GoodNewsForPolarBears.org to be not limited by region; this means it doesn’t actually matter whether you are in Addis Ababa, London, Zaborozha, or anywhere; who do you know in other countries who could start to spread the word?

double bed and bedding, wicker chairs, settee etc

The Earth Organization

We’ve put a lot of effort into creating www.GoodNewsForPolarBears.org, so it’s enormously encouraging for us when someone from such an esteemed organization as The Earth Organization offers kind words like this:

“I just checked out http://www.GoodNewsForPolarBears.org, it is brilliant. I think that is an incredibly good idea. Well done for a very smart conservation effort.”
Yvette Taylor, Executive Director International, The Earth Organization

A bit more about The Earth Organization…

The stated purpose of The Earth Organization is:

1. To create a fundamental change in mankind’s awareness of, and relationship to, his environment and the plant and animal kingdoms, by example and education, thereby reversing the downward spiral of life on Earth.
2. To bridge the gap between mankind, industry, commerce and the environment through applicable environmentalism, workable tools, accurate data and a business and scientific approach to the field of the environment.
3. To raise ethical standards within the conservation movement.

Find out more about The Earth Organization here on Wikipedia or on their website here

Someone just asked me what’s the difference between Freecycle.org and GoodNewsForPolarBears? On the face of it I understand why the question is asked: they’re both places to give and get stuff for free, and they both therefore help people recycle more and reduce waste & landfill.  Please allow me, then, to elaborate a little on the similarities and differences

First thing to say is that Freecycle.org was one of the very important influences upon the creation of GoodNewsForPolarBears.org, the other was eBay.

Truth is, I found some big limitations and frustrations in using Freecycle.org, for example:

– I got snowed under with loads of emails (sometimes as many as 200 a day) about items being ‘offered’, ‘wanted’, and ‘taken’. At first it was great because I got to see items being offered that I didn’t even think I wanted until, that is, I saw them offered.  That’s great because it allows you to discover things opportunistically which I think is a great benefit (indeed we built a similar OPTIONAL alerts feature in GoodNewsForPolarBears.org)…

– … but, after a few days the volume of email started to bug me.  I’m busy, and I don’t have time to scan through so many emails, so I looked for ways to manage them.  What I found was that I could create a ‘sub-folder’ in my email account, and using a ‘filter’ send all the Freecycle emails into that inbox (it started to sound complicated).  That way I thought I’d be able to manage the problem, so I was happy for a few more days.  Problem now, of course, was I didn’t look at that mail folder enough, so I missed all the best stuff. In the end I simply unsubscribed from the emails, so I effectively became a non-user. (you can read more about this one in a previous post here)

– Searching for stuff on Freecycle is OK, but I felt it wasn’t as natural as searching for stuff on eBay.  I guess the problem is that the search simply finds all those emails that I still had to wade through to find anything I wanted.  Then, half the emails were simply people saying they ‘wanted’ or had ‘taken’ something.  Yeah, i just found it a little frustrating.

– Then there’s the question of photos.  When I was using Freecycle (and maybe they’ve hcanged it now) you couldn’t easily add photos to your posts.  Sure, you could upload your photos to Flickr or Photobucket or some other service, and then create a link in my post, but it just got so complicated.

– I recently moved from one area to another, so I joined a new Freecycle group naturally.  But the problem that created for me was I now had TWICE as many of those damned emails; the problem just got twice as big.  I think its great that Freecycle is area specific, but when some of the items (eg computer memory cards) are mere pennies to post why shouldn’t I have the option of a wider market of ‘wanters’ and ‘offerers’?  No, I like the idea of local communities, but I don’t believe it should be an enforced locality limitation.  Take a look at a non-free market for a moment, eBay for example, does’t work that way does it, I just search for stuff I want to buy (or list stuff I want to sell) then I can refine my search by distance IF I CHOOSE.

I guess what I’m trying to say is that all this got me to a point where I wished I had something that was a CROSS BETWEEN FREECYLE AND EBAY, and that’s what we created with www.GoodNewsForPolarBears.org

So what are the key points about GoodNewsForPolarBears?

For offerers For wanters
  • It’s like a free version of eBay, where you can list any items you want to give away
  • You list items in categories (up to two) to help people browse and more easily find what you’re giving away and what they want
  • It’s really easy to list items (much easier than eBay); it takes about 60 seconds (there’s no need for complicated guides that explain how you do it)
  • It’s simple to include photos with listings (up to four at present)
  • You get to manage your listed items in your ‘My GNFPB’
  • You can keep your contact deatils private until the point at which you want to do a deal, and people can ask you questions without you having to reveal anything
  • You can allow multiple people to ‘bid’ (ask) for your item, then decide on merit who you’d like to give it to
  • You can easily relist items that don’t go, with two clicks
  • It’s easy to search for items, wherever they may be (then decide for yourself how far you are willing to travel of if the item can be posted)
  • It tells you how far away items are (when you join (free)) it calculates how far away items are AND displays a map so you can see)
  • It lets you search outside of your immediate area (so small items that can be posted are also available to you), or refine search results to your immediate vicinity
  • You can set two types of email alerts: 1) keyword alerts to email you when someone is offering particular things you need, 2) an ‘in my town’ alert to get alerted to EVERY item listed in your town (this gives you the opportunistic view that we thought Freecycle did so well, but its optional)
  • You can ‘watch’ items (just like in Ebay), so you don’t miss a thing
  • Members can leave and get feedback for and from other members so you get to develop and see a sense of ‘reputation’ of others in the community
  • You don’t have to put up with Yahoo! advertising banners all over the site, like you do with Freecycle.org

Find out more about how it works here

Don’t get me wrong, I think Freecycle is brilliant, and it certainly has the advantage of volume of members at this stage, but it suffers from a number of limitations (by virtue of the fact that its based on an email group/list system [Yahoo Groups]) that can’t easily be addressed.  What I and others wanted was a cross between eBay and Freecycle – taking the best of each and leaving the less good stuff – and that’s what we’ve created with www.GoodNewsForPolarBears.org.

We have a big challenge ahead of us, and that is simply attracting members, but we hope that we can grow into a mighty oak with the support of those willing to try something new and wanting to do good.

GoodNewsForPolarBears.org is entirely FREE, voluntary, non-profit, and generates zero-revenue (we don’t even allow paid ads).  We’ll thrive only with membes’ genuine desire to do good and try a new way of working, and we hope there are enough of you to do this, and of course to tell others.

It doesn’t matter of you are in London England, or New York New York, you can use it now and spread the word.

I like freecycle.org, but this illustrates one of the reasons we created www.GoodNewsForPolarBears.org.

Here’s an email I just received from my Freecycle group administrator today (please note, this is totally unedited by me other than to remove the administrator’s name.  The bold text is mine to highlight a few of the things I’ve been saying for a while):

We moderators got together recently to chat about improving the group.

We decided one of the main problems was the amount of emails we all get.  It seems to be the biggest reason for someone leaving the group.  We currently have over 5000 members now and over 1400 messages a month so we came up with these rule changes in an effort to reduce the number of emails.

TAKEN and RECEIVED messages are no longer necessary

Indeed not everyone uses them anyway but last month there were 258 TAKENs and 26 RECEIVEDs. We suggest that where possible you reply to all members that respond to your message instead of a global message to the group. It is an easy way to quickly reduce numbers.

A TAKEN message should only be used when the item on offer is so popular that you already have lots of replies from which to decide on a recipient and you want to stop any more coming in.

The location is required in all WANTED as well as OFFERED messages

WANTED messages are still very welcome but we want people from areas that have groups of their own to try these groups first. If no joy you would still be able to post here.

Details of how to format your messages correctly can be found in the guides I have created which can be found

http://groups.yahoo.com/group/freecyclewinchester/files/Guides/

<http://groups.yahoo.com/group/freecyclewinchester/files/Guides/&gt; .

But here is a summary:

OFFER: [Description of item] – [Location]

WANTED: [Description of item] – [Location]

The guides will also show you how to filter your emails in your email application (such as outlook) or change your delivery method to the daily digest.

Merge multiple emails as much as possible

By this I mean if you have a list of Videos or books to give away please advertise them in one email rather than individually. This goes for grouping similar items, like garden tools, toys and so on.

We hope you agree with these changes because we want as many people as possible to take part in the group.

Thanks

Freecycle.org is very popular which I think is a great indication of people’s willingness to recycle things by passing them on to others who need them.  But something is wrong when you need an email like this to explain how to post an item, and somehow I believe that you shouldn’t need a ‘guide’ to explain how to structure a listing.  http://www.GoodNewsForPolarBears.org is FAR behind Freecycle.org in members and listings, but then we’re only a few days old, though it does provide a far simpler, more intuitive and better way to enable people to recycle in this way.

Please help us spread the word and grow the community.  It’s entirely free and it’s a non-profit voluntary project; if you have suggestions of how to help the community flourish please email me at BigBear[at]GoodNewsForPolarBears.org

I grabbed this nifty little gadget to keep a track of the Pagerank of http://www.GoodNewsForPolarBears.org.

Free PageRank Checker

We’re young today, so it’s zero right now, but you can help us increase this by linking to http://www.GoodNewsForPolarBears.org from your site, blog, or forum. Here’s teh code you need, just copy and paste it into your page:
>www.GoodNewsForPolarBears.org – give and get stuff for free in your community

Letter from Sir David Attenborough

Letter from Sir David Attenborough (click pic to enbiggen)

We recently wrote to Sir David Attenborough -( here’s why) –   to ask is he’d like to support www.GoodNewsForPolarBears.org, and we were pleasantly surprised to get a very courteous (and prompt) reply.

He says:

“Your new website service sounds a great idea. I wish you luck with it”

Here’s the letter of reply we received (we’ve masked out some details to protect individuals’ privacy).

However, Sir David is unfortunately unable to support our cause further for the reasons he’s stated in the letter, but it does rather replenish one’s faith when someone so famous and clearly busy takes the time to personally reply. We do sincerely thank you, Sir David, for taking the time to reply and for your kind words.