AGM 2015 Minutes
The first AGM of Freegle Ltd was opened on Monday 8 June (0001hrs) on Freegle UK Central
Under Rule 55 the initial Directors were all required to stand down at this AGM. The Returning Officers ran the election concurrently. Business was concluded on 22 June 2015 but the AGM remained open and the initial Board stayed in office until the election results were announced on 15 August 2015.
The Returning Officers ran a 24 hour poll of Members to establish a quorum. This was reached at 46 present. All Directors attended the AGM.
Apologies for Absence
Five non-attendees were noted.
Edward opened the AGM and welcomed all Members and Volunteers.
Directors’ Annual Report
Chris Cant thanked the Directors for a comprehensive and informative Report.and also to Jane and Edward for their help running the project within Freegle, Cumbria Action for Sustainability who have ably run the overall project and in particular thanks to the Penrith Action for Community Transition Ltd team for their help which has been crucial to making the project work.
The meeting sent thanks to CAFS and PACT for their help. The support they have given to Freegle is very much appreciated. Chris was also thanked for his hard work. Chris reported back that Caroline Turner thanked the wider Freegle for their support. Chris also thanked everyone in Freegle who help run the show including the outgoing reps and those who are re-using the baton (as it were) in the new structure. He noted that it’s pretty incredible that Freegle achieves so much - a stunning virtual reality.
Jacky Barrett and Jane Loveday responded to questions by explaining the reporting procedure used in order to fulfil the requirements of the CAFS Big Lottery grant. Chris will let us know if this is not acceptable.
Finance and Auditor's Report
The Chairman reported that the finance report was contained with the Directors’ Annual Report.
Freegle Limited accounts for Financial Year 14/15 will undergo an Independent Examination by an external qualified accountant, the results of which will be sent to Central when completed. However, most of the financial transactions to date have been done via the Freegle UK accounts which have already been through Independent examination, a summary of accounts with the results from the examiner can be found here:
The AGM was asked by the Board to disapply the requirement for audited accounts.
A poll was carried:
Dependency on Yahoo
Trevor Austin, Havant and Portsmouth Freegle proposed that Freegle take urgent action to become less reliant on Yahoo Groups.
Volunteers discussed the questions surrounding our dependence on Yahoo as a platform for hosting groups. A variety of points were made.
The options for change discussed were:
- Do nothing, stay as we are, i.e. Yahoo Groups with or without Freegle Direct ,Trash Nothing, Facebook page, Twitter, Snaply and Freegle App
- A system that allows flexibility to maintain the existing connection with Yahoo or be hosted directly quickly if Yahoo closes.
- Host groups directly on Freegle Direct with or without ModTools integration
- Groups run on a central server with a means to host groups externally
- Move to another email based group system, e.g. Google groups
- Host on TrashNothing
- Use Norfolk Freegle
Staying dependent on Yahoo
There were mixed views on the degree of risk associated with our dependency. Some felt the risk to Freegle of Yahoo closing with no or little notice was worth taking, particularly bearing in mind the cost and complexities of change. The fact that Yahoo has 113 million members, host 9 million groups in many countries, in different languages was considered to be a strong reason for not closing them down. Other volunteers felt that there is sufficient evidence to be concerned about Yahoo's lack of support and development for Groups. The evidence comes from the Group Managers Forum, Yahoo's annual report, a new CEO, a history of closing other services and anecdotal reports of problems of lack of support from Yahoo. We know that Yahoo Groups do not make a profit. We do not know whether Yahoo will give any notice if they do shut groups. If they do decide to update Groups then it is quite likely that it will break features we currently rely on and thus cause problems - this was narrowly avoided when they changed to Neo.
Change is costly and staying as we are or making small changes would be easier and less work.
Direct hosting on Freegle Direct
A rough estimate of the cost of enabling Freegle Direct to host groups independently of Yahoo was given. A rock bottom price would be £15k plus ongoing £100 per group per year. Commercial rates might be £1-200k. It was noted that Freecycle spent 90,000 US dollars on computer support last year.
Edward currently develops Freegle Direct but we cannot expect him to continue to do this voluntarily as well as paid employment. Ideally we need more people involved in order to reduce our dependence on one person. It requires expertise that few people have. It could be an opportunity to develop an open source system that could be used by others. Freegle Direct v2 has been developed in such a way that it could currently be partially taken over by others, however there is more work to be done on this. A proportion of groups do not use Freegle Direct so may not want to move over. Freegle Direct is necessary for the mobile app developed by Chris Cant.
This was suggested as a similar mailing list based service. It does not give us the functionality that we need for an up to date service. Evidence was given of Google's history of closing services.
We could host our groups directly on Trash Nothing. We would be dependent on Andrew Trusty who runs this and the advertising revenue that he relies on. A suggestion was made that we could consider using this platform (subject to agreement) and there may be a technology share option as in the development/code is shared but on separate platforms.
External Hosting on Central Server
It was suggested that a small, lightweight piece of code could be developed for one group. This could create problems in that it would be a bad experience for users unless done very well. Most groups would not have the expertise to be able to host themselves, so it would be necessary to have people sharing in any case Central resources would be needed to deal with the support load and complexities of multiple people hosting it and how updates are distributed which would be a significant problem in its own right.
Norfolk Freegle platform
John Heaser presented a paper on the development of Norfolk Freegle. Jacky Barrett explained that the Norfolk platform is able to be replicated elsewhere, but each community would need to secure domains, servers and tech help to run it. When they commissioned the site, the understanding was that it belonged to the committee of Norfolk Freegle and they are happy to share it free of charge to others who want the coding. Unfortunately, their tech people probably don't have the time to voluntarily help the whole of the UK.
Edward explained that, unlike Freegle Direct, Norfolk use Microsoft technologies and this may create problems for the existing geeks being unable/unwilling to work on such a system. Trash Nothing uses open source code but also different technologies. Freegle Direct is much bigger (in terms of amount of traffic) than Norfolk, so their system would probably require significant re-architecture to scale up to the levels we need.
Group autonomy is important to Volunteers. Choice is important although too much can cause fragmentation and a poor user experience. We would not want to force change on Volunteers but lack of take up of a new system would result in a confusing experience for users. We may lose significant numbers of members which could be a psychological blow although they may be predominantly inactive ones. If we change platforms we would need to decide what to do with the members on the other platforms. Trust is important as a platform that hosts group could theoretically deny groups access to their members, either deliberately or for other reasons.
Fundraising for a change
An action plan is essential and needs to be attractive to funders. One option could be for groups to be charged £100 annually which would raised by each individual group. Another option is for a crowdfunded to be organised. Edward presented a mock up video that could be used in such a promotion.
Volunteers discussed some of the non technical factors that need to be taken into account when making change.
Motivation of Volunteers
A suggestion was made of groups working regionally, rather than individually may help but it may also be that working in one's local community is a key motivator. Jacky explained that an unexpected consequence of moving from Yahoo was that reducing the need to moderate reduced the motivation to volunteer as a moderator. It was noted though that non Norfolk groups also struggle to get moderators.
Autonomy and Choice
This is important to Volunteers. It was felt though that too much choice can be counterproductive and lead to a poor user experience. The principle of being free to use by members should be maintained.
The effect of any change on media and volunteer support should be considered.
The Chairman conducted a straw poll -
"I think we should take urgent action to reduce our dependency on Yahoo." This was carried:
Volunteers who felt strongly about this decision were urged to stand for election to the new Board.
Close of Business
The Chairman thanked Members for their contributions. Business was closed on 22 June 2015.