Re: Looking for a communications tool
From: Sharon Villines (sharonsharonvillines.com)
Date: Wed, 21 Apr 2021 09:36:59 -0700 (PDT)
I highly recommend Groups.io. Mark Fletcher started OneList in 1998. The name 
was changed to eGroups and Yahoo bought it. He went on to other things and came 
back a few years ago to develop Groups.io. He says, "Yahoo Groups and Google 
Groups both exude the dank air of benign neglect.” So he came back to develop 
the best group email service.

His business plan is to develop a service robust enough for large businesses 
and organizations to use as a primary communications and information storage 
method. It is much more developed than YahooGroups or Google Groups. And much 
easier to use. It has a fast Boolean search engine. 

We have heavily used email since 1999, beginning ironically on eGroups, and 
still have all those messages. They were transferred to Groups.io. Years ago we 
had a big disagreement about a topic — what was true and what happened when. 
Because those messages had been automatically saved when no one thought they 
would be of any use, I was able to compiled the relevant messages in 
chronological order. One of the words in question was “alley” which had been 
creatively spelled as aly, ally, aley, etc. The messages were on the main 
community list and 3 team lists. I had to search each list for all the 
spellings. It was work but not tenth as much as you might think.

And what I learned was invaluable. For each person the truth was based on what 
had been discussed in their presence — on their team or with their immediate 
friends. Some information had never gotten to Admin and Admin had no idea about 
conversations between the neighbor in question, members of the board, and the 
Facilities team. But the history from everyone’s point of view had been 
recorded automatically.

I’ve used the archives to sort out history because that is what forms our 
current opinions, attachments, and resentments. When you have a dated and time 
stamped message, it is much easier to convince people that this did happen this 
way. 

I once insisted we had never discussed a topic on membership meetings — it had 
been on at least six meeting agendas but never discussed. I was totally wrong. 
According to the email archives we had had a series of three full-membership 
conversations preliminary to a decision meeting.

I forget topics that don’t interest me or topics for which I think the answer 
is perfectly clear and not worth discussing. Thus what I remember is that it 
never happened, and I’m quite clear about the matter. 

Groups.io transferred all our messages when we transferred. It has hashtags and 
threaded message so those who want to just read about a certain topic can. You 
can mute a topic or a person so you won’t receive those messages. 

We have a history of people being sick and unable to walk or feed their dogs. 
Since I decided years ago that I had toilet trained the last child, I’m totally 
unlikely to pick up after a dog. I mute the topic of dog walking as soon as it 
begins.

Groups.io also has a number of other features — database, wiki, files, photos, 
chats, polls, directory, calendar, etc. It is very well designed because the 
intention is for professional use. (The new word is “enterprise” level.) The 
free level is more rudimentary but you can always upgrade to a paid account and 
have more features. Including customized design so it looks like your 
community’s list.

We have a main members group and anyone subscribed to that group can easily 
join or be added to any one of about 10 subgroups. The Board and the three 
major teams plus various interest areas and working groups — Exercise Room, 
Parents, Pea Pod (vegetable gardens), book discussion group, Bylaws working 
group — any cluster of interests or a project can set up their own sublist and 
everyone on the main list can easily join — to lurk or to participate. 

Email groups have become sadly discounted as old and primitive. Well, making 
pottery bowls is as about as primitive as you can get, but if you want to eat 
soup you need a bowl. If you want to communicate inclusively, you need email. 
If you want to check on history, you need archives. There is no easier decision 
about what to keep than “everything.” Search engines make that possible.

Mark didn’t come back to design the  perfect email list after years at big 
companies for nothing. No one was doing it well and he enjoyed email groups. 
There are several Groups.io information pages:

Help resources — https://groups.io/helpcenter
Features — https://groups.io/static/features
History — https://groups.io/g/updates/messages?expanded=1
3 premium levels — https://groups.io/static/pricing
Compare plans — https://groups.io/static/compare

Email is also good for subconsciously maintaining a broad sense of what is 
happening in the community. Cohousing isn’t a place where you can live and 
limit your engagement. You can skim messages and remember the topic later if 
you need to read more carefully. It’s like playing French language tapes when 
you are asleep.

Sharon
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Sharon Villines
Takoma Village Cohousing, Washington DC
http://www.takomavillage.org




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