Freegle Tech Report 16-12-31

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Freegle Tech Report December 2016
Posts 20826-21321
Members 113


A really busy month for Edward and Chris as they got the new mobile app and an app for Modtools introduced and working successfully.
Edward has also done stuff to encourage members to Freegle more, some proving productive and some causing heated discussion.
We can also now take advantage of Google's free ads for Non Profits and some volunteers have been working through the lists to ensure all groups who are able to now use them.
Support are now receiving very few queries, and those from members who are not receiving our emails have virtually stopped thanks to us getting Whitelisted with AOL and finally Edwards efforts with BT being rewarded
. A few more groups have dropped Yahoo and gone Native without any hitches and few queries from members.


A moderator asked if she could have somewhere for her members to have a bit of a discussion as most members no longer join the Cafe group.
Edward thought a solution would be to add a chat feature to groups for members to use (similar to the mods chats that exist for mods). A test group was started on Tech and also on one of the Freegle groups and they seem to be working successfully. These may be rolled out for all group members eventually so that they can take the place of the now defunct Cafe groups.
If so, there will be per-group and per-user settings to turn them off and a few moderation features. At some point images will be allowed.

Q. I found my moderator chats to a member was showing on the same stream as a reply to a post I made from same member. I like to keep my moderator email separate as I have had issues in the past with this and other members , Is there a workaround or fix for this?
A.Not yet, but it's coming. Some preparatory work for it. You will then be able to merge and split users, and flag them as not being mergeable.


  • Changes

Once you have marked something as taken/received/withdrawn, it disappeared from My Posts. There is now a button to allow you to bring old posts back.
The maximum age of a post we'll display has gone up from 30 to 90 days. You should mark them as taken or withdrawn as appropriate.
Reminder emails have been changed to encourage members to click on buttons and not just reply to a no reply address.
‘Any of these take your fancy emails have been introduced’ Members can turn these off, from their settings or using their email address. Moderators can turn them off for their groups.

So far, across all groups, 57 people have turned them off, and 1651 people have clicked on a link in them to view a message. That suggests that people are finding them significantly more useful than not. There was a problem with some moderators annoyed at posts seeming to be sent from the group owners email when they are being done centrally. It was decided to make it clear who they are from and send instead from email addresses on FD (, which may also have the benefit of improving our email delivery further.

  • Mapping

The way local groups could map their areas did not work well for all so there is now an option in ModTools/ Group Settings which will suppress the area name in posts from FD. This means posts will just have the first part of the postcode.
Showing the little map thumbnails next to posts was going to cost us a few hundred dollars a month, which we don't want. It’s now been changed so the map only appears when you click to expand a post, this should reduce the cost substantially.
Regions (which we used to have in the old site) are back. Each group has a region, which mods can change from ModTools->Settings->Group Settings. Please check yours is right. The explore page now has links which take you to a region. The map shrinks to fit - which means that the area of a region is effectively defined by the groups that are in it.
This helps people searching for a group in a general area. Some of the regions we had on the old site were wrong; we've corrected the most obvious ones, but if you spot any which are in the wrong area, please Edward know offlist. You can see this on

  • Search Engine Optimisation

There has been quite a lot of work to try to improve our Google search rankings, and therefore the number of people who find us. Most of this is about how we structure our web pages so that Google can understand them better, and isn’t very visible to members. This is showing quite a lot of promise, but there is still work to do, particularly when searching for “placename freegle”. There will be more on this.

  • Statistics

Essex County Council's reuse campaign wanted some Stats so he did some work on them. As they aren't very interesting to members, they're not very prominent and they are linked in a fairly subtle "More stats" link from the group description. You can also see them by putting your group shortname (e.g. Yahoo group name) into an URL like this:
Weight estimation is also back and will use better statistics.

  • Q & A

Q. Sometimes the mapping on my group is putting in individual locations for a member which is incorrect.
A. Go to ModTools->Settings->Group Settings->Mapping Settings for this Group), and search on the postcode or name delete the triangle with the placename in and any others you don’t want. You can then pull an adjacent triangle to cover it or set up a new one which the correct place name.
Q. I was told by a member that our site iS very difficult for screen readers and he had some suggestions.
A. We have tried to get help with this but without success. If you can get specific examples then I will try and find ways to improve them. Q. I have emails set for 2 hours but it has recently started including "missed posts" that are upto 2 months old, does this mean that the posts are still active?
A.It will be people who've responded to the chaseups saying that their post from a while ago has been taken.
Q. I have set an account on YG to Special Notices. Will FD honour that?
A. All FD accounts are set to No Email on Yahoo. Yahoo group settings only apply to posts sent from the Yahoo group.
Q. Is it possible to set an account to Special Notices on FD? If so how?
A.Yes In settings there are seven options, Never will just send out Admins. Moderators can now change both Yahoo and Direct settings on Modtools.
Q. I am posting from one Gmail account and my email is on a different membership I have.
A.This is because of a bug in Google's code. When you have multiple Google accounts, and are signed in with one but choose to change to another, Google will not pick up on the change and tells us that you're logged in with the original. This bug is mentioned here, and it looks unlikely to be fixed. You need to check your settings before posting and change it if it is showing the wrong account.


Some group pages still need the old app removing and the new button linking to Direct. Also a lot of pages appear to need relinking to modtools so that the publicity stuff gets published. If you need help with this then email Jean at

  • Google ads

A team of volunteers have been taking advantage of the free Google ads we have been allowed for Freegle. Nearly all groups have now been done, you can check here to see if yours has.


The website now has a notice at the top of the screen on iOS and Android to promote the Freegle app.

  • It's better for us and them if people install the app:
  • It's quicker for them
  • It means less load on our servers
  • They get notifications, which are more convenient (good for them) and will help people who don't read/receive email (good for us)

On some devices (usually Apple ones) on the web you get directed to a "please enable local storage" page. This puts off some members. Hopefully a way round that, is now on and . It would be good if this could be tested a bit, to see whether anything is obviously broken and check it works.

Modtools app.

The app is now working and any moderator with a fairly recent Android or Apple device should be able to use it to fully moderate their group. All groups with Direct attached do need to use either the app or a computer daily to keep their group memberships in synch and get any changes they have made carried from one to the other.
Moderators will not receive notification by email of every post, but they will soon be showing on the apps. Probably there will be some sort of notification sent to groups periodically with tasks outstanding as well.

Q. I'm struggling to keep track of auto-reposts as they don't appear on Modtools in 'logs' or 'Offer' or Wanteds' or even 'Posts'. This is making it difficult to see if the auto-reposts are taking people's over the limit on Wanteds.
A. I will put a log on modtools to show this.
Q. My tablet/phone eats up gigabytes when using the app.
A. Android apps can do work in the background - but iOS apps don't seem to, so it uses more on iPhones/tablets. One option is to stop the app when not using it. You will still get notifications which will show when you have work to do as the app can detect when it goes into the background and back into the foreground.
It would be good if the member and message sync ran every day - so ensure that this happens and we will work on reducing the load some more.


For those interested, there is a page on how to do this if you want to see what's involved or do it yourself. There is no requirement for groups to do this - we've voted that Yahoo + FD is a viable platform so only if you want to get rid of Yahoo. There is als0 a FAQ at , which will be added to as necessary

Q. What is the best way to switch current members from Yahoo to FD
A.Tell them to go to and click on the Yahoo login button or you can add them using Modtools
Q. I have been deleting their Yahoo account from Yahoo if they ask to switch so they have to use FD although in the past when I deleted a yahoo Id from FD it also deleted the FD one
A.It is unnecessary once you turn off Yahoo support.
Q. Will Modtools still be used to approve/sort out problems with messages. I have Moderators who do not use Modtools, they use Yahoo to moderate. I assume they will need Modtools in the future ?
A.Yes there will be no links between Direct and Yahoo so Modtools will be the only way to moderate.
Q. How would we promote new moderators? Will we get some sort of control that allows us to set mod or owner privileges?
A. You have two levels. but only people with owner status can promote. This is, currently, the only thing which is specific to owners rather than moderators. Stuff will be added , but we don’t want it as complicated as Yahoo as that leads to confusion.
Q. Will we get notifications?
A. ModTools has Chrome notifications and the ModTools mobile app also generates notifications. There will be a general "There's some mod stuff you should look at" type chaseup mail at some point, but not individual messages in the way as Yahoo does.
Q. How secure and or reliable is our back up for stuff like this as if we lose our membership lists . A. We back up our database to a separate server, where we restore it each day to check that it works. We also send it to Google storage to have something entirely separate from Bytemark.
For the actual servers themselves (all the installed software, configuration on them, and so on). we have a couple of each type, and instructions on how to install them

Viable Platforms.

Lots of discussion was had on what was felt to be a viable platform as requested at the AGM. We ended with a vote and decided that: Norfolk, FD + TN, FD only, Yahoo + FD + TN, Yahoo + FD are now viable because they would be transferrable so still be able to work if Yahoo Groups was to because unusable. The following are not viable platforms: Yahoo + TN, Yahoo only,TN only,Google Groups, or Facebook This issue has now gone to Development for them to create a procedure for contacting groups which are using non viable platforms and encouraging them to add Direct.

Tech also needs to discuss and vote on a preferred platform.


It was noticed that some days some posts were not getting onto the Yahoo groups but remained in pending. They were all Direct members mails and had been modded and gone on Direct. The moderators had been modding regularly using modtools.
It is probable that there were such long delays in Yahoo registering the posts that Modtools had stopped checking for them. Most of them were three or four days old. There have been other shorter delays since.

Other Stuff.

Business cards were discussed. You can get business cards by emailing
Once Ollie or Paul did some automated magic to produce PDF posters for each group. If anyone has the skills and time to do these for all groups as a nice stand-alone task it would be nice?

Tech Report
December 2016

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