An observation of LETS
and its presence on the Internet
by James Taris
JCT: Who could ask for more. James Taris firstname.lastname@example.org did a
solid month research on LETS around the world and this is his report.
Lots of new, some small errors, overall good news. My comments are
prefaced with JCT: and indented.
Presentation to Australia National LETS Conference, Nov 3 2001
LETS Online -
An observation of LETS and its presence on the Internet
by James Taris
LETS-linkup web: <http://www.lets-linkup.com>
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
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:
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
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
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
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
South Africa: 1.82 million (2000) - 0.05% of the pop'n
JCT: I'm not quite sure how useful this is but if you're studying
the chance of applying it to only the internet-connected world, sure.
My point is that as long as any villager in Africa has an internet
connection, he can act as the International exchanger for the whole
village while the village gets by for all local exchanges with their
local paper or shell currency.
There are many countries with millions of people who could access
international trading out of their local employment-trading systems as
long as only one in the group is connected!
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:
JCT: A more precise way of lumping them together is to point out
that they all have the same Laplace Transform system equation 1/s.
They might be called tokens, credits, greendollars, timedollars,
bananas, acorns, they all obey the same system equation 1/s.
And of course, I call it Local Employment-Trading rather than
Exchange Trading which is kind of redundant but he says that as long
as they effect exchange trading, they're LETS, and I says that as long
as they effect Employment-Trading, they're LETS.
And then it's without the use of interest-bearing federal money.
LETS creates its own money so one can't say that we effect employment-
trading without money. We use local money to effect employment-trading
when there isn't enough federal money to allow employment-trading by
But they might be called Fords, Chryslers, Fiats, Hondas,
whatever, they're all the same underlying engineering design according
to the same underlying engineering equation.
France: SEL (Systeme d'Echange Local) - i.e. Local Exchange System
Germany: Tauschringe Hungary: LETS
Ireland: LETS Netherlands: Ruilkring
LETS North America
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:
JCT: And of course, my international list of internet connections
at http://www.cyberclass.net/turmel/urlsnat.htm now claims over 50 and
did claim 45 for a long time. I don't understand how it could be a
question of doubt. All the countries are listed and all their systems
are listed. But these are only those systems that accepted his
invitation to register so it's a pretty good score.
Total: 1,076 (22 countries)
JCT: Good for him. I used to have only 58 but have added his
finds. He did good work creating a list larger than mine. But I took a
quick search and added another quick 16 that I didn't have before so
that now I have 109 after adding new ones from James's list.
The difference between James and me is that he scored his
thousand connections by invitation. Lovely netiquette. I just brutally
cemented them to the network if they advertised themselves as a
connection to a LETS in that town in any way.
And let's never forget that my home page mentions that the
Australian Parliament was the first Parliament in the world to
specifically enact legislation to support LETS. Keep in mind though
that many U.S. state legislatures managed to convince the Internal
Revenue Service to exempt timedollar transactions from taxation, a
very similar protection.
Why they haven't coordinated a central registry like the Germans
and the French may have to do with their earlier genesis in days when
many false notions of the "small-is-beautiful" utility of being
"local" were more cherished.
New Zealand: 30
JCT: Here too, I've never been able to find that many. They never
got organized like France and Germany did.
Czech Republic: 2
United Kingdom: 281
El Salvador: 1
United States: 7
South Africa: 1
I have seen claims that at least 45 countries use LETSystems
similar) and I don't doubt this at all.
JCT: I don't see how doubt can come into the picture when I'm up
to 53 nations for 2600 LETS. I have an advantage. But I've got all the
xenophobic systems listed despite their objections. James can't.
I've got all the small "LETS is Local" groups listed anyway even
if they fought tooth and nail against joining any international
trading networks in the false belief that the stability of their own
little system is because of its localness when it's really in its
general interest-freeness. People have written to ask me to take their
names off the list and I've refused unless they have another to
replace the lead to the LETS movement of their area. Once they are a
connection to their hometown LETS, I'm not letting them go. It takes
just one profitable or enjoyable international trade for that person
to be appeased and won over to the utility of international options.
Remember, no one has to use it for international trading.
But anybody contacting some who has been nasty to me about being
included or not doesn't know. So what is a nasty supposed to do when a
polite foreigner writes to ask if accommodations could be bartered
between them and not nasty John Turmel but nice LETSers in Norway or
Japan or Argentina?
One wonderful girl a few years back offered to pay for her
accommodations by doing the cooking of great meals for her hosts.
What's a nasty who loves mutton her kind of cooking supposed to say
when she wants to go come a visiting? I don't have to break the ice.
That will happen naturally. I just have to hard-wire their connections
whether they like it or not. Some might manage to break through to
induce trade from normally reticent groups and then the whole of the
LETS movement benefits when travelers from the reticent group visit
back and the reticence eventually dies out.
I know I have been overly blunt in violating all Netiquette in
simply signing people up to what I think is turning into a major life-
support network. I can't ask all the LETS connections on my list to
intertrade as I bid but at least the option mechanism exists to permit
immediate effect if they should ever so desire. So inviting them is
nice and James has had a wonderful result. I can't imagine the great
breakthroughs when the other 30 nations get connected.
But I'll keep adding all of James's LETS volunteered internet
connections to my list of non-volunteered connections and unless James
is willing to drag them in like I've been dragging them in, then I
guess my list of possible (probability never 0%) places to trade will
always contain the most internet connections than his.
Regardless, http://www.cyberclass.net/turmel/urlsnat.htm serves
as the only gateway to every possible connection in the world because
of that uncouth no-Netiquette boor John "The Engineer" Turmel who
didn't ask anyone's permission before hardwiring the international
UNILETS network in anticipation of the U.N. taking over cashiership.
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.
JCT: I've already crossed 2600 and if Austria, New Zealand,
Finnland, etc, compile their master lists, it will be much bigger. I'm
sure the non-internet number of systems is much larger, especially in
the Third World where paper community currency is king. The latest
article about Argentina is that they're up to 1200 branches now, not
just the 500 I report!
But enough of Facts & Figures.
Signatures LETS-Niagara (Canada/Ontario) email: email@example.com
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
Ed Haggerty Get what you need without spending hard earned cash.
LETS-Niagara can help you. Contact us today on 905-734-3773. email:
firstname.lastname@example.org <mailto:email@example.com> web:
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
JCT: That's what I was saying about only needing one guy in the
village to have the international connection. But they'll all using
the local connections LETS can offer anyway. But it only takes one
computer for one person to act as the branch manager and effect all
trades for anyone in the group.
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.
JCT: And that's too bad. Since they all have to always fall back
in the unit as the hour of labor, their community currencies are
always compatible. I know that many system have an Hour worth 1 hour.
It's also worth $10 greendollars U.S., 6 greenpounds U.K. 20
greenmarks German, 60 greenfrancs French, 12 Greendollars Canadian,
and for some reason, they all happened to come close to the world
exchange rates! Could be a link between time and minimum wages!
Closed LETS Directory
Borderlands LETS - Australia/Victoria email: firstname.lastname@example.org
mailto:email@example.com web: http://www.borderlands.org.au/LETS
I'm a member of Borderlands LETS in Camberwell
(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: Falmouthfirstname.lastname@example.org
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
JCT: Good job Rob Follett. I visited with Rob in Falmouth on the
Cornwall coast on an earlier British LETS tour and I'm glad to see
he's winning prizes.
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
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
JCT: Notice that they're adding their directories together. So
it's like having all the choices offered by one directory but having
to often look through two or three to find something. One big
directory certainly makes searching easier. One world directory should
benefit of the same efficiency.
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:
QLETS - Queensland LETS in Australia. email: email@example.com
SALETS - South Australia LETS in Australia. email: firstname.lastname@example.org
The LETS Review - LETS in New Zealand. email: email@example.com
email: firstname.lastname@example.org web: http://homepages.ihug.co.nz/~cave
Information-SEL - SEL groups in France.
Sel'idaire - SEL groups in France.
Tauschringe-Berlin - Tauschringe groups in Germany.
Nesodden Byttering - Byttering groups in Norway.
LETS-Connect - LETS in the UK.
South West Regional Directory - South West LETS in the UK.
LETSLINK Scotland - LETS in Scotland/UK.
Global Online UniLETS (John Turmel) - LETS worldwide
JCT: Whoa! If he had my Global UNILETS page with the contacts
for the other 30 nations, I wonder why he didn't include them?
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
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!
JCT: But he needs the common standard for trading and the only
common standard now used by all 1/s systems is the Time Standard so
they'd better get ready to convert.
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.
LETS-linkup - G&S Offered
LETS-linkup - G&S Wanted
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.
JCT: There's nothing to work out once both accept the Time
Standard of Money.
John C. "The Banking Systems Engineer" Turmel, Author of the UNILETS
interest-free time-based currency United Nations C6 recommendation to
Governments in the http://www.un.org/millennium/declaration.htm
http://www.cyberclass.net/turmel / http://www.medpot.net 613.632.2334
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