The LETSaholic Twist
- Everything you always wanted to know about LETS
... but didn't know who to ask.

About the book

This is the information James Taris shared with LETS groups all over the world on his international LETS tours between 2002-2004.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Home / All About LETS / LETS Favours / LETS Online
World / Africa / Asia / Oceanea / Europe / Nth America / Sth America

LETS Online
- An observation of LETS and its presence on the Internet -

by James Taris
LETS-linkup
web: http://www.lets-linkup.com

(presented at the National LETS Conference, AUSTRALIA on 3rd Nov. 2001)

You can help support LETS-Linkup.com (and James) by purchasing a copy of his book, The LETSaholic Twist, now available in hardcover, softcover and ebook.

Why not buy a printed copy and rotate it amongst your LETS members?

CLICK HERE for more information about The LETSaholic Twist.


How much research went into this presentation?

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?
LETS-linkup - world
web: http://www.lets-linkup.com/099-World.htm

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:

World: 407.1 million (2000 est.)

Australia (Oceania)

Australia:
7.77 million (2000) - 41% of the pop'n
New Zealand:
1.34 million (2000) - 35% of the pop'n

Europe

Belgium:
2.7 million (2000) - 27% of the pop'n
Czech Republic:

900,000 (2000) - 9% of the pop'n
Finland:

2.27 million (2000) - 44% of the pop'n
France:

9 million (2000) - 15% of the pop'n
Germany:

18 million (2000) - 22% of the pop'n
Hungary:

650,000 (2000) - 7% of the pop'n
Ireland:

1 million (2001) - 27% of the pop'n
Netherlands:

6.8 million (2000) - 43% of the pop'n
Norway:

2.36 million (October 2000) - 53% of the pop'n
Slovakia:

700,000 (2000) - 13% of the pop'n
Sweden:

4.5 million (2000) - 51% of the pop'n
Switzerland:

2.4 million (2000) - 32% of the pop'n
United Kingdom:

19.47 million (2000) - 33% of the pop'n

North America

Canada:
13.28 million (1999) - 43% of the pop'n
El Salvador:

40,000 (2000) - 0.06% of the pop'n
United States:

148 million (2000) - 53% of the pop'n

Asia

India:
4.5 million (2000) - 0.04% of the pop'n
Indonesia:
400,000 (2000) - 0.02% of the pop'n
Thailand:
1 million (2000) - 2% of the pop'n

Africa

South Africa:
1.82 million (2000) - 0.05% of the pop'n

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:

Australia (Oceania)

Australia: LETS
New Zealand: LETS

Europe

Finland: LETS
France:
SEL (Systeme d'Echange Local) - i.e. Local Exchange System
Germany:
Tauschringe
Hungary:
LETS
Ireland:
LETS
Netherlands:
Ruilkring
Norway:
Byttering
Poland: LETS
Sweden:
Bytesring
United Kingdom:
LETS

North America

Canada: LETS
El Salvador:
Barter Exchange
United States:
Hours or Time Dollars

Asia

India: Trade in Agro-base products and tribal handicrafts.

Indonesia: Community Currency Systems
Thailand: Community Currency 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:

Total: 1,076 (22 countries)

Australia (Oceania)

Australia: 93
New Zealand: 30

Europe

Czech Republic: 2
Finland:
1
France:
378
Germany:
226
Hungary:
5
Ireland:
10
Netherlands:
8
Norway:
18
Poland: 1
Slovakia:
1
Sweden:
4
Switzerland:
2
United Kingdom:
281

North America

Canada: 4
El Salvador:
1
United States:
7

Asia

India: 1
Indonesia: 1
Thailand: 1

Africa

South Africa: 1

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.

Signatures
LETS-Niagara (Canada/Ontario)
email: eigg12@cogeco.ca
web: http://people.becon.org/~letsniagara

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 �

Ed Haggerty
Get what you need without spending hard earned cash.
LETS-Niagara can help you.
Contact us today on 905-734-3773.
email:
eigg12@cogeco.ca
web:
http://people.becon.org/~letsniagara

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.

Closed LETS Directory
Borderlands LETS - Australia/Victoria
email: lets@borderlands.org.au
web: http://www.borderlands.org.au/LETS/

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.

Open LETS Directory
Falmouth LETS - UK/South West
e-mail: Falmouth-lets@letsf.co.uk
web: http://www.letsf.co.uk

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:

Tips For Traders
Directory
(by category and by member)
Rules
(6 pages!)
Tax & Benefits
Contacts
(to 7 neighbouring LETS groups)
Newsletter
(to view online or download)
How To Join
(along with a printable LETS Application Form)
Members Area
(password protected)

They even link to a LETS Forum. But more on that later.

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.

Sharing LETS Group Directories
Yeovil LETS - UK/South West
email: J.D.Lefeuvre@tesco.net

I received this email from Yeovil LETS in South West UK.

James, here's some details about our group, Yeovil LETS.

Located in England, county of Somerset (which is in the South West region), about 120 miles from London.

� We've been going for six years now, membership around 70 people.

If you want to open the attachment, it's a word document with images, and is our last month's newsletter. It gives you a flavour of some of the things going on. You'll see mentioned in the newsletter South Somerset LETS (120 ish members), and they are an immediate neighbouring group with whom we have trading arrangements. They also give us copies of their directory which we put out to our membership, and likewise, we do the same for them. Our neighbouring system on the other side is Sherbourne Barter. (60 ish members) Again, we have reciprocal trading/directory swaps with them, though they are not such an active system.

The area the three groups cover is about 15 miles by 15 miles. Hope this is the sort of thing that will be of interest to your conference delegates,

Jim

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:

VicLETS - Victorian LETS in Australia.
web: http://www.borderlands.org.au/viclets/

QLETS - Queensland LETS in Australia.
email: qlets@hotmail.com

SALETS - South Australia LETS in Australia.
email: salets@olis.net.au

The LETS Review - LETS in New Zealand.
email: review@ihug.co.nz
web: http://homepages.ihug.co.nz/~cave

Information-SEL - SEL groups in France.
email: informations-SEL@egroups.fr

Sel'idaire - SEL groups in France.
web: http://www.selidaire.org/pgacc.html)

Tauschringe-Berlin - Tauschringe groups in Germany.
email: Kreuzberger.Tauschring@gmx.de
web: http://www.tauschringe-berlin.de/

Nesodden Byttering - Byttering groups in Norway.
web: http://www.nesodden-byttering.org/

LETS-Connect - LETS in the UK.
web: http://www.gmlets.u-net.com/contacts/uk/home.html

South West Regional Directory - South West LETS in the UK.
email: benbarker@lineone.net

LETSLINK Scotland - LETS in Scotland/UK.
email: DavidRobertson@bigfoot.com

Global Online UniLETS (John Turmel) - LETS worldwide
web: http://www.cyberclass.net/turmel/urlsnat.htm

These organisations have an important role to play, which can include:
- keeping up-to-date details for each group
- notifying them of relevant LETS information or events
- directing LETS enquiries to the group nearest to them
- organising annual conferences (such as this one) so all participants can learn from sharing information amongst themselves.

My experience has shown that regions represented by Regional LETS organisations, are the healthiest systems in operation.

LETS Forum
web: http://www.letsf.co.uk/bbs/index.htm

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.

LETS Forum BBS (Bulletin Board System) was started in 1995 as a free to use amateur grassroots community resource, and is still running 24hrs a day. It can be accessed by any computer with a modem by dialing direct from a Terminal Program (e.g. HyperTerminal, which comes as part of Windows 95/98)

The BBS is based near Falmouth, Cornwall, UK and runs on an Atari Falcon Computer. The main focus of the BBS is information about LETS and other community initiatives, but files available for download also include many shareware and public domain files for the Atari ST and Falcon computers, along with a fair number of files for the PC and a few for Apple Macs and Amigas.

LETS Forum also participates in 2 amateur mail networks. Fidonet (a general interest worldwide network), and LETSnet (dedicated to Local Exchange Trading Schemes, and started by myself and Allen Coates of Cider County BBS in Bristol).

New callers are always welcome to use the BBS by dialing up the number given below using a Terminal program.

Rob Follett - (SysOp)
The LETS Forum BBS, Falmouth, Cornwall
Tel. number (modem only): +44 (0)1326 378 717, 24hrs
LETSnet 567:443/1, Fidonet 2:255/126

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.

Swap Shop
LETS-linkup - G&S Offered
web: http://www.lets-linkup.com/0001-SwapShop-G&Soffered.htm
LETS-linkup - G&S Wanted
web: http://www.lets-linkup.com/0002-SwapShop-G&Swanted.htm

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.

Another option:

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:

Global Village Bank (GVB)
- The Virtual bank for the Virtual Community
web: http://www.gvb.org/intro/page8.html

GVB explains it like this.

"The GVB is a virtual bank for netizens like you."

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?
LETS-linkup - All About LETS
web: http://www.lets-linkup.com/080-All%20About%20LETS.htm

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
LETS-linkup
web: http://www.lets-linkup.com

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.

LETS Auctions
HiLETS - UK/South East
email: com.cafe@btclick.com
web: http://www.hillingdon.org
(please put HiLETS in the subject line and follow links to HiLETS in alphabetical index)

This idea is a real gem. HiLETS gives a very real account of how to run a LETS Auction. Just listen to this:

The Auctioneer opened the auction,"I want everyone to remember that you are bidding in pounds but paying in LETS money. No cash will change hands.

"Lot 1, a tray of 12 healthy looking seedlings. Lot 2 is identical and the buyer of lot 1 can take lot 2 for the same price if they wish."

One of the Auction Assistants holds up the item for sale so that everyone can clearly see what it is.

"Do I hear �1?"

Two members raise their cards at the same time. "Do I hear �2?" One of the cards stays up.

Another card goes up elsewhere in the room, "�3 bid by member 42"

Member 7 raises their card "I have �4 bid by member 7"

The Auctioneer looks around the room "Do I hear �5?"

Number 42 raises their card again "�5 bid by number 42 for this tray of seedlings. Do I hear six? Anyone bid 6? Going, going, gone to member 42. �5 for a tray of twelve seedlings. Do you want to take the next, identical lot for the same price?"

"Yes please."

"Ok bidder 42 also buys lot 2 for another �5."

"Lot 3, a garden rake do I hear...

Then it goes on to show you what's necessary to organise such an exciting event.

LETS Cheques Online
Forest of Dean LETS - UK/South West
e-mail: letsgo@fodlets.co.uk
web: http://www.fodlets.co.uk/

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.

What On Earth Is That?
Crediton LETS - UK/South West
e-mail: info@crediton-lets.freeserve.co.uk
web: http://www.crediton-lets.freeserve.co.uk

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 on earth is that?

A new series of articles allowing members to tell you a little about some of the more unusual offers in the directory.

This one comes from Lucy MacKeith, about the work of a Humanist.

Namings, weddings, funerals and other rituals ...

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.

LETS for Musicians
Umbrella - UK/South West
e-mail: Kieran@kieran98.fsbusiness.co.uk
web: http://www.musicmelts.com

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:

We at Umbrella believe that musicians are under valued.
We exist to empower musicians.

We aim to provide a communications network for musicians involved in every aspect of the music industry, rehearsals,recording, management, marketing, publicity and contacts. By helping musicians to help themselves and each other we can enable the music industry to grow.

We regard anyone who contributes towards the making of music as a musician: [i.e play musical instrument, sing, song write, DJ, scratch, produce, promote, program, record, or engineer music etc].

Umbrella also aims to help the social economy through promoting the Lets scheme using the music industry as an example of its practical application. This will be done using the MELTS concept of trading in music oriented skilled time.

Another great idea.

Charity Projects
Fair Shares - UK/South West
e-mail: fairshares@cableinet.co.uk
web: http://www.fairshares.org.uk

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:

Projects
Over 300 people signed up as participants first 3 years.
Between them they have already contributed over 10,000 hours of help.
Six communities in Gloucestershire are using time money to reward participation and rebuild community.

Fair Shares Newent
... The project has its own shop in Newent, that is staffed by participants 5 mornings a week, for which they earn credits ...

Fair Shares Stonehouse
... The project works across a wide age range, 14 to 88 years, and like the other Fair Shares schemes, includes people of all abilities ...

Fair Shares Whaddon
... This project is growing fast with 62 participants amassing a range of 90 different services. These include the much needed shopping and giving lifts, but proving popular are hairdressing and cycle repairs ...

Fair Shares in Gloucester City
... There are now 98 participants offering a range of 72 different services. Participants can elect to work only in their own areas but most people prefer to work across the whole Gloucester City Project area ...
Potsmead
... Participants now number 47 and the range of services is growing daily. Gardening and giving lifts are every popular, as is the services of our Fair Shares hairdresser. As well as the one to one exchanges, yoga classes and web site design training classes are offered in exchange for Fair Shares ...
White City
... Gardening and lift giving are again very popular but lots of interest has been shown in the more unusual tarot card reading ...

So as you can see, LETS can be very powerful when it comes to achieving grand results. And if you have any doubt that Fair Shares is a fair-dinkum LETS group, just listen to this. It's 'The Story of Fair Shares' which appears as an excellent cartoon on their website.


cartoons by Dylan Thomas
artwork by The Graphics Studio

Now if that's not LETS, then I'll eat my hat!


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