Everyone uses email because everyone uses email

Who was the brave person who bought the first fax machine? Were they brave or just stupid to buy it when there was no-one else to send or receive faxes with? It turned out to be a smart move. Someone else bought one so there were two possible lines of communication. When there were twelve fax machines there were 66 possible lines of communication.

Communication tools get more useful as more people use them. Continue reading

Everybody e-mails everybody – you know how cumbersome that becomes!

Today I received an email describing the following problem:

I am a volunteer for my community organization, and would like to set up this kind of communications tool for us. Right now, everybody e-mails everybody and copies everybody with their response you know how cumbersome that becomes!

I can hardly think of a better description of the problem we solve at OnlineGroups.net. Continue reading

A new look for OnlineGroups.net

Today I am delighted to introduce the new design for OnlineGroups.net is which is now on all existing and new sites. You can take a tour of the new site design at http://onlinegroups.net and for a closer look, start a site of your own.

OnlineGroups.net makes email work for groups. It does that by giving a group the two things that make email work for individuals: an email address and an inbox. Email the group address and the group emails the members. The emails always go to the right people. You can read and post messages from your inbox.

But your inbox contains all sorts of emails, making it hard to focus on a particular area of work. The group inbox lets you focus on the work of a group. OnlineGroups.net provides an online inbox for a group where you can read, search and post group messages and files. And that inbox just got a lot nicer. Continue reading

Migrate your Mailing List from Mailman to OnlineGroups.net

If you have a mailing list running on GNU Mailman, and you’d like to get the benefits of OnlineGroups.net, we would be happy to migrate your mailing list.

OnlineGroups.net is a great way for your group members to collaborate using email. It provides an email address and an inbox for a group, just as email provides those for individuals. Tools that do this are called Mailing List Managers. OnlineGroups.net is not the only Mailing List Manager. Others include Yahoo! Groups, Google Groups and the old faithful GNU Mailman. Continue reading

Collaboration: Give before you Receive

Building collaboration is difficult. It involves helping others before they help you. To do that, you have to trust that the others are likely to help you. That trust grows when they help you. Once this positive feedback loop established is hard. Someone has to take the risk of beginning it. Taking that risk is a leap of faith: of faith in the possibility of collaboration.

Here is a story that helps to maintain my faith in the possibility of collaboration. Continue reading

Nine Reasons Ditching Email is Not the Way to Go

Lee Timmins of Management Today lists ten reasons that he thinks ditching email is the way to go.

I heartily agree with one of the problems that Lee points out. Email by itself is not great for group collaboration. Lee’s other nine reasons are almost the exact opposite of what I believe is the case. Here is why nine of Lee’s reasons are actually reasons that ditching email is not the way to go. Then one about how email is poor for group collaboration, and how to solve that problem. Continue reading

Use a Simple Tool like Email Groups to start Successful Online Collaboration

Whatever technology you use, your main challenge in getting collaboration started is going to be social. So you may as well start using simple technology and work on the social factors.

Building Collaboration is a Social Problem not a Technical One

Collaboration one of the holy grails of organisations. Everything will go so much better if we collaborate. But in practice, collaboration is hard. It is hard to do and hard to get others to do. It is not hard because of poor technology. There is plenty of great collaboration technology. It is hard because of people and the environments that we work in. Continue reading

You are the Customer, not the Product

You may have heard the line “If you are not paying for it, you are the product.” Evidently, it originated in Metafilter. It has been discussed on Lifehacker, Computerworld and Forbes. The statement is a reference to the older idea of “user generated content” or UGC. UGC has long been a holy grail of websites. You get visitors to your website to create content that attracts more visitors to do the same — and view ads. The site is free, so more and more people join. Revenue comes from advertising.

So if the custocartoon of pigs ashowing the free modelmers are the advertisers, what does that make you? As the story goes, you are the product. As you are likely to view the ads, that is true. But as the producer of the content that attracts visitors, you are more akin to some kind of animal domesticated to produce the product. Continue reading

Directly Adding Group Members — Does It Actually Help?

Recently Google removed the feature that enabled a group administrator add members directly to a GoogleGroup, without the need for the new member to take any action. Instead, the group administrator must invite new members, who must accept the invitation before joining the group. At OnlineGroups.Net, we made a similar decision a couple of years ago. In both cases, the decision has been controversial.

The decision is so controversial, that for specific circumstances, we are working on implementing a system to just-add group members, while getting around some of its problems.

In the meantime, OnlineGroups.Net can offer a couple of options to group administrators who require just-add straight away Continue reading