Groups are different, so OnlineGroups.net supplies different types of listservs to support these different needs.
There are four different types of group supported by OnlineGroups.net: a discussion group, an announcement group, a support group, and a closed group. The different types of group mostly differ in who is allowed to post.
A discussion group is very much like a standard listserv: group members can post to the group, while everyone else is blocked from posting. As the name implies, they are normally used by the group members to hold conversations. An example of a discussion group is the OnlineGroups.net administrators group.
All groups with OnlineGroups.net get a unique email address, just like a listserv. When an email is sent to the address of the group, the email address of the sender is checked to see it belongs to a member of the group. If it does then the message is added to the archive, with a note about who made the post, as well as the email address of the sender. This is one of the ways that OnlineGroups.net is different from a normal listserv: we are focused on people rather than email addresses. A member of a group can have multiple email addresses, and they can change their email addresses, and we will still see them as the same person; with other systems there are no people, just email addresses!
Another difference is that the group members are able to post using the web: the archive allows people to add posts to conversation, and to start new topics.
A discussion group is also a little different from a listserv when sending the message out to the members of a group. Members can chose to receive a daily digest of topics, which summarises the daily activity in the group, rather than receive an email every time someone posts. Also, some members may chose to just read the posts using the excellent online archive, rather than receive any email. In both of these cases the member does not receive any message when a post is made.
For those that chose to receive an email for every post (which is typical) the message is modified a little. The email address where replies are sent is normally set to the address of a group, rather than the author of the message — though this can be changed. A link is also added to the online archive, which makes it easy for people to find and read the entire conversation.
An announcement group is used when a few people need to communicate with many people. Most members are unable to post to the group — just the posting members. Because of this there are two big differences between a discussion group and an announcement group.
- The email message that is sent from the group is modified so the author gets any replies. This means that any discussion that occurs happens directly between people.
- The archive is also different: the Topics tab is not shown on the group page, because conversations are rare in announcement groups. Instead a specialised Posts tab is shown, emphasising the individual announcements. You can see this in the GroupServer announcements group.
Anyone can post to a support group, even (and especially) people that are not members of the group. This is useful to provide help to people, hence the name of this type of group. Otherwise they are very similar to a normal discussion group. The support email-address for OnlineGroups.net, firstname.lastname@example.org, is actually a support group. Email us if you have any questions about it!
The last type of group may seem a bit strange: no one can post to a closed group. They are useful for two reasons.
- The group is yet to start. By closing the group you can add people to the group and then start with a big splash when it is time is right.
- The group has finished. Sometimes a group comes to the end, but you would like the excellent archive to remain, so people can refer to the posts and conversations. In this case a you would make a post telling everyone that the groups is closing, and then close the group.
Changing the group type
It is easy to change the type of group with OnlineGroups.net.
- Visit the page for your group. Sign in if necessary.
- Click Change the type, which is found in the This group section of the Admin area. The Change group type page will be shown.
- Select the new type of group and click the Change button. The type of group will be changed.