Thursday, March 08, 2007

Online frustrations: renting a room

After yesterday's praise for Freecycle, here's another good online community - though I have to say it's not quite working for me - EasyRoomMate.

Finding a lodger, or a room, is exactly the kind of thing that is perfect for an online site. Post your advert up, search the other adverts, and it should be pretty easy to find the going rate, and find a lodger.

The house-share sites have got sophisticated. They have tiered membership, so it's free to post an advert, but you can contact other people more easily, if you pay a small fee. EasyRoomMate makes it really clear: Basic members can only Premium members, Premium members can only contact Basic members.

They also take a lot of information (and I do trust them to take care of it!) , so it should be easy to find a match.

But it's not working well for us. We've posted an ad for the room shown here, upgraded to Permium, and contacted 160 possible housemates in the last month. We've had rejections from 16, and silence form the others.

I think we're outside their magic profile. the site is aimed at 20-30 something single professionals. The fields on the form are aimed at them, and other people don't quite fit in.

When we contact people, they can see on our profile that we are straight, they know we don't smoke, and they know we have pets. The profile doesn't tell them the single most striking factor about our house - three children - because there's nowhere on the form to mention it.

We put that up front in the advert, but it would save a lot of wastage if we could tell at a glance if someone will consider living with a family.

Wednesday, March 07, 2007

The Elves that came from FreeCycle

I like Freecycle. It's an online community to share unwanted stuff. Clear out your junk by offering it to other people. Check the list to see if someone else is offering something you want. It's got enough of a critical mass, that there's now a chapter for the borough of Lambeth, with about 250 postings a week.

I've had a coffee table and a bed from Freecycle, and I've passed on lots of computer bits, a desk and a greenhouse. On Monday, I got four volumes of a fantasy comic that was hugely popular in the 1980s. Elfquest is in the style of Tolkien - or closer to Andre Norton - and comic fans used to rave about it.

It's coming up fresh 25 years on. It's a big hit with Kitty, who's reading through it as fast as ever she can, with excited reports on the characters' doings: "Cutter and Leeta have children!"