Freegle Tech Report 18-07-31

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Freegle Tech Report July 2018 Messages 25633-25815 Members 115


Edward’s work has been very focused on humanising our website lately. He is trying various things to endeavor to get moderators and members alike, to connect more on a personal level,and bring back the local community feel many think we are losing. He is also trying to find ways to cut down on the number of ‘No Shows’. He is constantly trying to find ways to stop our emails being blocked, and has enquired again about getting us whitelisted, but it seems it will come at a cost if at all.


We didn’t accept photos by email, because of concerns that they might contain inappropriate images (spam replies) or signature images (corporate footer logos). Now we have mostly got spam under control, and because one of the common reasons why chat messages pop up for review is people saying "The photos didn't get through, can you mail me direct at X", which is a pain, we have now added support for photos in emails - they should now get put into the chats.
To help with the signature images:
If the image is too small (less than 150px width or height) then we won't include it. This helps with typical logo footers.
If the aspect ratio of the image is less than 0.5 or more than 1.5, then we won't include it. Most photos are fairly close to square, so this helps spot banner images in emails.
Please let us know if you see any problems with images (in chat, chat review, in posts on the groups, member complaints).

Q. I saw a message in spam and it was the same message I had just read on my Chat. How can I have spam mail to check in modtools, if i already received and read the message in freegle chat
A. Because you're a mod you would see it even though it was held for review. It's the same code that grants you access to the message when you're looking to review it.
Q. I have received a spam message in my chat how do I report it?
A.There is an option to report a chat - inside the dropdown. There's a rash of spam at the moment which is including links without http: so I'll be doing something to try and spot those.
Q. A member tried to block a member. She selected the drop down and blocked them on the message page, but the person is now responding to her offer posts. The member is a little upset that she is not able to stop the other member from contacting her even though he is blocked. Can it be made so that once blocked, a person replying to a post won't get through?
A You can search Wanteds from the find option.


Code changes. Here are the more important ones which would affect members:

  • Add "About Me"
  • Speed up explore page, and prevent duplicate groups showing
  • Force login for "Unsubscribe completely"
  • If we send a push notification to an app when there is no work left to do (for example because you've done things on another device), and the app isn't running on the phone, then we can't clear out the notification text. So instead send a notification saying "Work cleared" or "Notifications cleared". This is a bit lame but the best we can seem to do.
  • Request and handle read receipts for chat notification emails so that we can sometimes show when a message sent by email has been read
  • Don't return notifications for newsfeed items or threads which have been deleted
  • If you click to post again, then switch away from the page, the message was lost
  • Mark individual emails with bounce time
  • Encourage new users to introduce themselves
  • When contacting group mods, handle bouncing email addresses
  • Allow notification for "About Me"
  • Change donation request email to new format and add a suggestion of sending a thanks to the person who gave an item
  • Rip out code for sharing to Facebook groups, which Facebook no longer allows
  • Add warning on pending messages to encourage groups to move away from Yahoo

..and here are the ones which are minor, or only affect volunteers in ModTools, or are internal changes that you wouldn't notice: Please Wait closing too soon for Fetch Groups Add app buttons to Help page (5 days ago) Allow notification for "About Me" Add Emoji logo doodle Can't approve members on MT Clarify that SMS alerts are free for the user Add contact email to Teams Tweak how we show chat messages have been read

  • If you go to the page for a single newsfeed item and it's been deleted, need to give a message to that effect(
  • Pause Mail on Settings broken
  • Show who requested removal of a spammer from the spammer list Ice cream day and Lollipop day logos
  • When a message is posted on a native group, there isn't a push notification so the MT app doesn't notice and tell you.
  • Add email address to team More stripping of own email footer from replies *If someone replies by email with some photos but no message then you get a blank chat message held for review
  • Misdirected read receipts are going for chat review
  • Improve quote stripping in case where someone puts a reply on the same line as "On .... wrote"
  • Improve algorithm used for "nearby" in Newsfeed
  • Speedup: better index use for Newsfeed Hide very short "about me" messages
  • Mark individual emails with bounce time
  • Encourage new users to introduce themselves
  • When contacting group mods, handle bouncing email addresses
  • Allow notification for "About Me"
  • Change donation request email to new format and add a suggestion of sending a thanks to the person who gave an item
  • Rip out code for sharing to Facebook groups, which Facebook no longer allows
  • Add warning on pending messages to encourage groups to move away from Yahoo

Emails When someone sends a chat message which is read on the web or in the app, we can show that it's been read by the green tick in chat. When the message is sent out by email, we don't know if it's been read. There are various ways we can try to spot whether emails have been read. Some are sneaky, and used by marketeers or spammers, and could cause more of our mail getting trapped. "Read receipts" (aka MDN). Generally nowadays your email client/provider will tell you that the sender has asked for a read report and then you can choose whether to send them. I've made our chat notification emails request read receipts, and then handle them by marking the message as seen (with the green tick). I am not optimistic about what proportion of people will choose to send these, but it can't hurt. I'm talking to ReturnPath. These people have a near-monopoly on working with the big email providers to ensure mails are delivered properly. If we can get certified by ReturnPath then posts are much more likely to appear in the Inbox . I have tried talking to them before but it was unaffordable for us, just checking whether the situation has changed, or if we can find anything cheaper.
. Humanising. Focus has been on making our website easily maintainable, but has resulted in one which could be considered a bit “dry" and transactional. The consequences of that can be that members are now aware they are dealing with human beings. If members do feel this at an emotional level then, they're more likely to be nice. That can feed into things like no shows. It also makes freegling more enjoyable, so likely people will use it more. We will be doing a variety of things to humanise the site. First of these is a bit of a revamp of some of the About pages. The links are to the dev site as it's not live yet. . I've put a bit more structure on this so that it's less of a long page of text, and revamped the "Who Are We" section. . This is the same as the "Who Are We" section, but it's useful to be able to send a link when we're talking about volunteering. . This is useful when Board members are making contact with other organisations, or vice versa.
To make it easier for people to see that there's another real person at the other side of the screen you can now write a little bit about yourself in your settings. When you do this it will appear in the Newsfeed. Once you've written this, it will appear when you reply to an offer/wanted post too. One we have already received says "I am a full-time carer so sometimes I will be slow to respond to messages." which is ideal if anyone is offering to them.

Some general points brought up about this were that we Moderators have many options to make our groups more human which we don’t all take. We can personalise any messages we send out to our members. Make sure our names are on, and that of the member if you have it. We have our own website pages which can be personalised with a message and moderators names. Automating everything and relying on say pre written messages can in theory take away the personal touch. Too many bells and whistles may discourage some members as much as too many guidelines and or rules In our view it is up to us as volunteers to do what we can to build up a good relationship with members by "nudging" members into what we consider helps everyone like saying please and thank you etc. So put out some admins encouraging good practice and good manners and use auto messages as hints rather than rules to advise members on stuff like : putting a clear description or using the new appointment tool to discourage no shows In response to a moderator who though Chat had cut down on the Chattiness which emails provided it was found that For messages sent on the website the median length was 99 characters, and by email was 98 characters. So across the whole system there's no significant difference. A few other things:
The default newsfeed settings mean this will only show to people nearby, where "nearby" is partly determined by how busy the newsfeed is. Still, it's possible that this might swamp the newsfeed if lots of people do it. If so then that's a nice problem to have and I'll do something, e.g. "Edward and 5 others introduced themselves...". The green button on the right of the newsfeed item allows/encourages other people to do it. This wouldn't ever be compulsory. Some groups might not be keen on this, for example if they don't like personal information in the OFFER/WANTED posts because it feels like a sob story. However this doesn't go in the OFFER/WANTED posts, and there isn't anything here that you couldn't already do, by putting it in your reply to a post. Indeed, some people do this kind of thing already. Will be live shortly; we'll see if members take to this or not. On the subject of the Newsfeed I have been thinking whether to alert local mods when people in their area post on it. Sometimes they are requests for help, some are interesting to see, and it is an opportunity for volunteers to engage with our members. The fact that we have real people is a big plus for us, and we know that a) our members appreciate it when it happens and b) they often don't realise it. There are probably also volunteers who either haven't noticed the Newsfeed section, or don't look at it regularly, but who would want to engage in this way. I will probably add an alert to group volunteers (not backup ones). There might be some volunteers who for whatever reason don't want to receive these, so there would be a setting to turn them off. No Shows These are the bugbear of those giving stuff away, and the main cause of disillusionment with Freegle.
Edward has been thinking about what use the data we have could help fight this.
We get some info from the Promise/unpromise function though not everyone uses this.
Analyzing the length of first replies shows those later unpromised were a third shorter than the successful transactions, so suggests people who give short replies are less likely to be reliable. I will dig a bit deeper to see if this info could be use to identify as leading to less successful outcomes.
We know that after a while people learn by experience, but only if they stick with us - what some people will learn if their first experience is a no show is to give up.
This has been discussed this with some tech ethics people. The consensus is that we should be transparent, i.e. flag this in some way to the person making the reply as well as to the offerer/wanter and we should give them a chance to resolve this (but not unlimited chances).
Therefore we will be adding some prediction which does this.

For the offerer/wanter, add some text similar to "Warning - replies like this one sometimes indicate that things won't work out smoothly. Please take extra care in making very clear arrangements. Read more..." For the replier, add some text similar to: "Warning - replies like this one sometimes don't lead to things working out." They'll have a few chances to improve the reply, and then we'll send it as is (so they can't keep trying).

At the moment this is being trained on slightly indirect methods (i.e. whether someone is unpromised), and then using that to predict. It will now give a chance to give a thumbs up / thumbs down to another freegler. This leads to a "rating" system, which people often ask for. I've avoided having that mostly because it's hard to get people to use it enough for it to be useful. But adding a predictive element would mean that we can use the ratings that people give to train the system to identify other people who reply in similar ways, which makes it much more useful.
Some of this will start to appear this week. It'll doubtless change - it's an experiment.


Q. What I don’t like about giving on Freegle, is the fact that you have to go through 6 pages/next buttons/pop-ups to complete one 'offered' item. TN is all on one page, so much easier and quicker.
A.I think this is necessary with new members, but it probably can skip some steps once a member has used it and been joined to a group. I will look at it.
Q. I have just placed three items on the Group list. One of the items has two images. I went to check on My Posts and I thought only one image had arrived. I left the web page open and a little while later the other image appeared! Could I suggest that it states somewhere in the posting that more than one image is present?
A. On my to do list now.
Q. A member just wants to check wanted posts but says she can’t.
A. She needs to click on the Find button and she can put a keyword in or select Wanteds and scroll through.
Q. I put a postcode into the search to find the location, popped it into the Location box and it sent me to a different group.

A. If you are logged in, then it shows the last group you used by default.  If you use an incognito tab then it is a better  reflection of what a user would see.   

Q. The text in your Stories email is far too small to read on my iPad mini. Please could you make it larger?
A. The Stories mail hasn't yet moved over to the new format, so it will improve when that is done.


Facebook are sending out messages to check your group settings. They have changed the format, but if you click on the three dots next to Share settings under the photo, then on Edit page info you can change the Yahoo owner address to the new volunteer one. I am changing some as and when I get a message when I have some time . Jean


We have been testing SMS messaging. Having asked people for a few days, 11% of people provide a phone number (about 600 so far). From that we're sending around 400 texts per day, which would cost 400 * $0.03, which is pushing £300 (right now there's no cost as we're within our free allowance). This will rise over time as more people provide the number, so it isn't looking affordable. Some users are getting a lot of texts (37 is the max so far), because they'll be chatting back and forth. I'll change it so that we only send one text per day (and say so). I'll see how that affects the usage.

The current MobileFreegle mobile app is 1.3.16 Chris Mobile app hat Q. On the main website there doesn't seem to be any link at all to the mobile apps. Can we have one please? A. If you visit the site logged out (i.e. first time) there are buttons for the app. There is also a link that you can use to refer someone specifically to mobile:


Q. Our groups run a rota where we all have our own day and a rota for the weekends, it would be very useful being able to have the rota on modtools.

         A.  I can see the benefit of this for some groups, but I'm a bit reluctant to introduce extra mechanisms.  Is there some way that we could handle this by using  the group mod chat?  .

Q. Is it possible to add a hold button to Volunteer ops, and events too if they don’t have one either.

         A. On my to do list.

Q. I keep seeing a lot of numbers showing against my Chat button but I have read them all.

         A.  You have to mark them as all read before coming out. It is to prevent them being wiped from other moderators feeds just because you have read them.

Tech Chat.

An incredibly quiet month.


It looks like Yahoo have discontinued the old pre neo urls. Support tools with links to Yahoo groups are all turning up 404 not found, but if you change the url to the neo one it works. Edward has changed the short links . 319 groups have now moved off Yahoo which still leaves nearly 100 which we are in danger of losing if they do not move or contact someone to help them soon.

Jean Freegle Tech Report July 2018

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