UW Today

May 1, 2012

Got extra stuff in good shape? Pass it forward with uSwap

News and Information

Michelle Martinez, help desk supervisor for Learning Technologies, said  servers her department offered on uSwap were 'snatched up right away.'

Michelle Martinez, help desk supervisor for Learning Technologies, said servers her department offered on uSwap were "snatched up right away."Peter Kelley

Got some extra equipment in your office that you’d like to part with in a way that’s sustainable and helps colleagues? The new campuswide online classified ad service uSwap is good for anything from paper clips on up.

On uSwap you can tell other departments and units about your extra equipment or request items from others. You can manage your posts as you go along and use an RSS feed to stay up to date. The program was set up by the Capital Projects Office, and most of the transactions are free. It’s open to anyone with a UW NetID.

“It’s basically a classified ad system for UW employees intended for interdepartmental transfer of equipment,” said Jeanna Vogt, the computer specialist in Capital Projects who put the system together. “It helps university departments save money by not having to buy new things.”

Vogt is quick to explain that the original idea for uSwap came from Chris Coyle, IT manager; and Brian Esemann, infrastructure/virtualization engineer, both with Capital Projects. When the original technical support listserv became flooded with notices of items available, uSwap was an idea whose time seemed right.

Vogt said Capital Projects folks started thinking about the need for such a service last May and she did a survey and some user testing. “I think we’re about ready to call it final — people have been using it for a few months now and there have been some minor changes, but it seems pretty much good to go.”

Two rules do apply, though. The uSwap system does not allow the trading of any item that was purchased on a grant award that’s still open, or any property that is “federally or agency titled,”meaning that the equipment is owned by the federal government or the sponsoring agency of the grant or contract.

The uSwap program already has served the needs of several campus users, among them Michelle Martinez, who supervises the help desk for Learning Technologies.

“We have a huge lab of over 400 computers, we’ve always got stuff cycling through,” she said. “What I posted were some servers that we’re no longer using. They were still relatively good and they were pretty much snatched up right away.”

Claudia Christensen, purchasing manager for Procurement Services and longtime recycling advocate, also has used uSwap and supports it as “a cool concept.” She said her department has had the concept in mind for a long time, and even had a similar, though smaller, program called Trading Post.

“We had a case full of paper clips — loose paper clips filling a case! — and I thought, ‘This is crazy, how do you get rid of these? What do you do with them?’” She sent clips to those in her own area who asked through Trading Post; now she’s continuing to unload paper clips via uSwap. “We all knew (the idea) needed to go campuswide,” she said.

Of uSwap, Christensen added: “I think adoption is going to take some time. People are historically used to cleaning out their offices, piling up things and sending them off to surplus.”

As an experienced user, Christensen offered a tip to new users: Make sure you get a photo. “Visual is important,” she said.

The uSwap program is for items that still have some campus life. For items that are at the end of their campus use but might be useable elsewhere, there is Facility Services’ surplus store. And for UW employees looking for a secure community to sell or trade their personal items, there is also UW Classifieds.

The nature of uSwap is also in keeping with the UW’s ongoing efforts at sustainability. Ruth Johnston, associate vice president, who heads the Environmental Stewardship & Sustainability, said, “The uSwap is a model for campus collaboration and it has a direct benefit for environmental stewardship.  Allowing departments to trade and swap is an efficient process for keeping our excess out of the landfill and complements our already strong waste diversion effort. “