This is the information James Taris shared with LETS groups all over the world on his international LETS tours between 2002-2004.
by James Taris
the National LETS Conference, AUSTRALIA on 3rd Nov. 2001)
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Four weeks ago I started my research into LETS on the Internet I knew that some information existed on the Internet about LETS, but I didn't know how much, or what kind of information existed. Well, after totally immersing myself into this project (taking about 250 hours!), I'm pleased to inform you that there is so much information there, that you couldn't possibly read it all, let alone learn it all!
But the good news is, you can certainly try! Because in my efforts to uncover everything about LETS, I created a website with links to every LETS group and every LETS article I could find on the web. And thanks to the unbelievable support from LETS people all over the globe, it is now one of the most informative LETS websites on the Internet
How much information is on LETS-linkup?
LETS-linkup is an international LETS directory offering FREE listings for LETS groups from anywhere in the world. It already has over 1,000 LETS groups listed from more than 20 countries worldwide. It also has links to over 50 websites with information about LETS, or LETS related topics. But in reality, there's probably hundreds of links to websites, because many of these websites have links to dozens of other LETS related websites as well.
How accessible is the Internet to people
all over the world?
The marvelous thing about the Internet is that you can find the answers to literally any question you want by just searching for it! With one and half billion websites listed with the search engines, you could safely say that your access to information is pretty much unlimited.
So let's hit you with an array of Facts & Figures.
Firstly, as far as Internet Users are concerned, here are the figures for the countries which have groups listed in LETS-linkup so far:
Are all the groups called LETS?
Not at all. In fact some of these groups found it difficult to accept that they should be listed alongside groups called LETS. My approach was simply to register all systems worldwide that participated in local or community exchange trading. That is, without the use of money. I guess a rose by any other name is still a rose!
So here's what some of the groups in LETS-linkup choose to call their systems:
But just to keep things simple, when I talk about LETS, LETSystems or LETS Groups, understand that I'm referring to all of the above Community Exchange Systems.
How many LETS groups are there? And in which countries?
I don't have those figures. All I can tell you is how many LETS groups have registered in LETS-linkup from each country:
I have seen claims that at least 45 countries use LETSystems (or similar) and I don't doubt this at all. LETS-linkup is so new (just over 3 weeks old), that it's presumptuous to assume that everyone's heard of it already. But once it becomes known to more countries, especially in North America, the number of groups listed will climb to around 2,000 or even more.
But enough of Facts & Figures.
Here's are lovely little tip I picked up from Ed Haggerty of LETS-Niagara in Canada.
Ed has written to me on several occasions. His initial contact was to let me know that he was forming LETS-Niagara, but that it wouldn't be launched until January next year. Well I'm pleased to say that as of last week, LETS-Niagara started operation. Now I'm not sure exactly what sped up the launch date. And I'd love to think that LETS-linkup had something to do with it. But I think the real reason should be credited to his signature.
That is, his email signature.
Every email that Ed has sent me has ended in exactly the same way �
I'm sure that he's been able to generate a huge amount of interest simply by publicising LETS-Niagara to everyone he sends an email to. And he may be getting the other LETS group founders to do the same thing. Good idea? You betcha! Why keep it a secret!!!
This is one the simplest ideas I've come across as far as growing your LETS group is concerned. But what excites me most is the fact that I came across it because I communicated with someone on the other side of the world.
That's exactly what LETS-linkup is all about. Bringing LETS people together from all over the planet, in order to broaden our knowledge and understanding of LETS.
Is the Internet strictly for international use by LETS?
I guess it's hard to talk about the Internet without talking internationally. But don't let this scare you. Just as we all have the ability to phone anyone in the world, but choose to make 99.99% of our calls locally, using the Internet can be equally moulded to suit our needs.
What is the local trading option?
Do you want to restrict information, such as member details, list of goods and services offered or wanted, and trading events, so they can only be accessed by your own LETS group members?
You can do that on the Internet In fact, most groups with a website are doing just that.
I'm a member of Borderlands LETS in Hawthorn (Melbourne/Victoria/AUSTRALIA) which has an excellent website for its LETS members. The LETS Directory is password protected, therefore protecting the privacy of every one of its members. Rumour has it that giving the password out to non-members is punishable by death! Fortunately, we haven't lost any members � yet.
On the other hand, Falmouth LETS have chosen to display their Directory to anyone who visits their site. I guess their attitude is that if somebody's in there, they must be interested in trading or else they're interested in joining. And what better way to encourage new members to join, than to display all the goods and services they can get access to by joining. But even though the Directory is in full view, they've still managed to keep their privacy by having a password protected members area, which, I'd imagine (coz I can't get in!), gives contact details for each member. I must admit that this is the very best LETS site that I've come across so far. It looks professionally designed, and it has lots of relevant information for people interested in joining, for new members and for existing members as well.
These are their page headings:
They even link to a LETS Forum. But more on that
I highly recommend the Falmouth LETS website as a model for other LETS websites.
What is the regional trading option?
Do you want to share information and trading details, with several other LETS groups in your region, or countrywide, or even worldwide?
You can do that on the Internet as well. I've come across a few interesting examples of this.
LETS Group Directories
I received this email from Yeovil LETS in South West UK.
James, here's some details about our group, Yeovil LETS.
Even though Yeovil LETS haven't put their Directories on the Internet yet, setting up a website with a password protected entry to their Directories, would be an ideal option for them.
Regional LETS Registries
But the most common use of Regional, National and International use of LETS information is by LETS Registries. In fact these are the organisations which were most helpful in the compiling of the LETS-linkup directory. And I suppose this is the best time to specifically identify and thank these organisations:
These organisations have an important role to play, which
My experience has shown that regions represented by Regional LETS organisations, are the healthiest systems in operation.
I mentioned the LETS Forum that Falmouth LETS linked to from their site. It's a bulletin board (meaning a place to post messages to). This is an ideal tool to connect members from several LETS groups. In fact the more that are on it, the more effective it is. Here's what comes up when you click on the link to the LETS Forum from the Falmouth LETS website.
Isn't that a great idea! And my experience with forums is that you get responses within a day, and sometimes within a few hours or even minutes! And the most intriguing part is that you don't even know who'll be getting back to you regarding your problem, or the trade you want to make. And it doesn't matter!
How to get your LETS Group on the Internet
Now for those of you who are saying, "Yeah, yeah. This is all good and well for others. But our LETS group doesn't have a computer. Or, we've got a computer, but we don't know how to design a website. Or even if we did, we wouldn't be able to do it very well.
Well, that's what LETS is all about! Getting access to goods and services you don't have.
1) Get a computer
First of all, if you don't have a computer. Get one. I'm sure you can find someone who's just upgraded their system and has a spare computer floating around that can now be traded. Or otherwise, hire the use of someone else's computer (for LETS points, of course).
2) Hire a Webpage Designer
Next, you need a website designed. And he'll let you know all the other things you'll need, like: Internet access, a domain name, a host for your website, etc.
If you look within your own LETS group, you'll find someone who has enough knowledge about webpage design to at least make a start. And once they get started, they'll learn just enough to get the job done. Pay? LETS points again! And if you don't have someone in your group? That's when intertrading with a neighbouring group comes in really handy. No luck? Find out which group has someone who can do the job for you. And you know what? With computer related work like webpage design, they can be from anywhere in the world!
Yes, they can be from anywhere in the world!
Advertising Goods and Services
Obviously you're not going to be able to attract much attention outside your own LETS group unless you can advertise your needs elsewhere. This is where LETS-linkup comes to the rescue.
You can advertise your Offerings and yours Wants for FREE in Swap Shop, which is the LETS-linkup marketplace. There's already dozens of items listed for exchange, and trading has already taken place ... only days after it came to being.
The immediacy of the Internet is unrivalled by any other means. Because there is no cash cost involved with making changes to your website. The normal methods usually cost money for postage, phone calls, etc. But with the Internet, amendments can be made quickly without any financial outlay.
All you need to do is work out how to make the trade.
Some ideas for trading outside of your LETS group
Intertrading between 2 groups
Can you expect to be able to trade equitably between both group? Is there accommodation being offered which may be taken up? Maybe not immediately, but some time in the future? Can other computer related skills be traded? The beauty of emails is that skills such as word processing, proof-reading, editing, desktop publishing, webpage design, computer support, tuition, information, etc. can all be traded successfully overseas.
This is something I've recently come across which records each individual's commitment to each LETS group they trade with. I won't go into it now, but I have some information I can show anyone who's interested. Otherwise you'll find the information at http://ccdev.lets.net/materials/letsreg.html . If you're thinking that's too hard to remember, well you don't need to. Just click on it! It's the Internet way of doing things!
But by far the most exciting option I've come across is:
Village Bank (GVB)
GVB explains it like this.
Netizens being Internet citizens. You can register (like I did) and become a member within minutes. And it keeps record of all trades that takes place, and your LETS balance, much like your own LETS group does. Members and their skills are listed world wide. So it's just a matter of making contact and � problem solved!
Well, not exactly.
You see, the Global Village Bank was a great idea around 1995. And was almost launched a couple of times in the following couple of years. But it never got off the ground. But I figure that if there's enough interest from LETS people worldwide, they just might get the support they need to make it become reality.
I've gone through the entire site. Everything's in good working order � except it's not allowing anyone to make contact with anyone else. I believe that if someone takes on the job of getting some sort of petition together, with names of members who'll actually join the GVB when it becomes operational, then it just may come to life. Because it seems like it could be the best solution for enabling LETS trades to take place, regionally, nationally and internationally.
Do you want to find LETS information
from all over the world?
Using the Internet is best way of getting LETS information from all over the world. The bulk of the articles dealing with local or community trading use the Internet to do exactly that. You'll find most of them listed in LETS-linkup. Go through the links. You'll find an amazing variety of topics covered.
What I found though, was that many articles related more to one particular country or type of system. So in order to better categorise these articles, I listed them under the country they related to best. The ones that have managed to stay fairly general are all grouped under the 'All About LETS' page.
Learn from other LETS groups
I'm a strong believer that 'LETS is of no use to anyone unless trading takes place'. So promoting trade amongst its members should be the focus of every group's endeavours.
Check out the websites belonging to other LETS groups from all over the world. Find out how they make trading easy � how they make trading enjoyable � how they make trading beneficial to all parties involved. Put those ideas into action, and you'll see your group grow and thrive like you never thought possible.
But just before I close my presentation, I'd like to share with you some of the great ideas that await you when you go into LETS-linkup.
This idea is a real gem. HiLETS gives a very real account of how to run a LETS Auction. Just listen to this:
Then it goes on to show you what's necessary to organise such an exciting event.
Isn't it a nuisance when you're about to make a trade and you realise you've run out of LETS cheques? No problem for our friends in Forest of Dean LETS. They simply print them off the group's website. You get 4 cheques per page, and you can print as many as you like.
Crediton LETS. Don't you just love that name? Credit - on - LETS. It says it all, doesn't it?
Anyway, they have this great little feature page called, What on earth is that? And it says,
What a great idea for introducing the less understood skills offered in your LETS directory. Anything to increase the possibility of trading should be encouraged.
I haven't noticed this concept before, but it seems to have a lot of merit. Setting up a LETS group to cater for one specialised area. In this case for musicians. Here's what you get when you go the Umbrella site:
Another great idea.
Fair Shares is a Registered Charity. It says so on line 5 of the homepage, so they obviously feel it's an important point to make up front. Now I haven't gone into the nitty-gritty of how or why they've done this, but their site is very detailed, and I'm sure you'll find the answer to it there. But what caught my attention were the Community Projects that it's undertaken. Again, not specifically what they're doing, but the amount of support they're getting from their membership.
Listen to these facts and figures:
Fair Shares Stonehouse
Now if that's not LETS, then I'll eat my hat!
Other James Taris web sites