Sunday, 8 June 2008

No money changes hands

There are few activities made possible by the internet which are without question salutary; many of the things we can do on line are, or can become, corrupting, addictive, expensive, dangerous, mind-rotting or just a complete waste of time.

However, it is difficult to see any downside in a website which helps us to give away things we no longer want to people who can make some use of them. Groups such as Free-Cycle encourage this and make it easy; this concept originated in Tucson, Arizona; there are now 459 groups in the UK, moderated by volunteers, with over a million members.

You just register with your local group, choosing an ID and a password (or using a Yahoo! one) and giving a few details, none of which are published. Then you offer things you want to get rid of or ask for things you want; anyone interested in an entry is put in touch with you and then it is up to you to tell them where and when they can collect what you offered, or arrange to go and pick up what they have.

I have made use of my local Free-Cycle group six times in recent weeks, offering a 14" TV, a laser printer, a cast iron firebasket, a scanner, a 19" CRT monitor and four years' back numbers of Private Eye. In every case someone contacted me within a few hours, then called and went away away cheerfully lugging their acquisition. It's nice to give people pleasure while at the same time getting rid of things you no longer need.

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