Jul 222014
UKHPHL discussion group temporarily on hold.
Update: 23/07/2014. 5quidhost support has done wonders and we’re back in action!

Yahoo, AOL, Hotmail, MSNand Live have been tightening up their spam settings, which causes problems for legitimate groups like ours. I had a mountain of bounce messages from them yesterday. I think it means that group messages haven’t got through to anyone with these addresses since a message at about 8:25 yesterday morning. This happened a month ago and my web provider was able to change settings, so I’m getting back to them today. But I don’t know if it’s going to work. Or if it does work, whether it will keep happening.

In the meantime, I think it’s best not to send messages please as they won’t get through to a little under half the group. Thanks.

And especially as we’re in the middle of a good discussion, I don’t want people to miss out. I’ll try to sort out resending the messages that haven’t got through once we’ve got somewhere with the settings.

In the meantime, this is an opportunity to discuss alternatives to a mailing group. Use the comments box below.

And I’ll let everyone know when the group settings have been changed and we can try again.

What I like about email discussion groups

Right from the outset and often since then, I’ve considered things like web forums, Facebook, using comment sections on the website. The reason I’ve stuck with an email group is my experience of how much I gained from the (now sadly defunct) email group NOISE when I was first trying to find out how to practice as a deaf doctor. NOISE was the email group that later became the Association of Medical Professionals with Hearing Losses, mainly in the USA.

As far as I can see, there are a couple of ways of using a web forum, Facebook or other web setup. Either you have a specific question and go there to search for a relevant post. Or you deliberately go to the website and browse, reading threads that catch your eye. And replying to any of those or none.

With an email discussion group, messages are automatically sent to everyone. You can read every message or scan the titles and flip past them. You can set up an email rule so messages are sent automatically to another folder and don’t clutter your inbox. But overall what happens is that many more people see the messages than would deliberately go to a web forum or similar every day or week.

Two benefits from this:

  1. I found I learned an enormous amount from reading the messages. I wouldn’t have gone to a web forum each day/week. But I did quickly scan the emails. And gained hugely from information and tips people were sharing. Such as answers to questions I wouldn’t have thought of asking, but that actually have been very relevant and helpful.
  2. More people contribute to the discussion, so we learn a lot more from each other. People who don’t have the time or inclination to go to a web forum deliberately, find their eye caught by a particular email in their inbox and do reply. So when someone posts a question, they (and the rest of us) gain from a wider range of responses.

So that’s why I’ve stuck with an email group so far. An important feature of that is that the group is set up so that, although people can deliberately choose to reply to someone privately, off-list, the default is that it replies to the whole group. Which generates the helpful type of discussion we’re in the middle of now. But that’s what upsets spam filters and gets our emails suspended.

What are the options?

My ideal would be something that combined web forum with email group. So everyone sees messages and can reply. And it’s easy to browse and to search for previous discussions on a topic. At the moment messages are saved in an archive and you can browse them – see the FAQ  – but the archive isn’t searchable. It can’t remain private and be searchable. I look for ways to solve this periodically but so far haven’t found anything. And so far I haven’t found a web forum setup that makes it easy for the default to be that everyone gets a note of messages when they’re posted. Or where it’s easy to reply by email for those who prefer that.

We could move totally to a web forum which is what AMPHL did when they launched and NOISE, the email group, folded. But there was a huge drop in discussion. NOISE had a strong community and lots of people would chip in. But  a question in the AMPHL forum might get very few or no replies.

Those are some of my thoughts and enough to read for now. Please do let me know what you think. How would you like to use the group? If we keep getting kyboshed by spam settings, we may have no choice but to move. So can you point me to examples of different types of setup that will work for us, so I can see what software, system or service they are using?



  One Response to “What are the alternatives to an email discussion group?”

  1. I absolutely agree with Clare. My hearing loss is mild, and I mostly manage with occasional use of hearing aid in noisy environments. But I know it could – and probably will – get worse. I find it very interesting to read the comments, and I save any threads which I think may become relevant to me. I have only actually contributed a couple of times over the years. However, I greatly value the sense of connection, but Clare is right, I would be unlikely to check in on a website forum, which would be likely – most of the time – to generate little return, and, overall, to take more time than it takes at present to dump any emails which are not relevant to me.
    Hope you sort something out, Clare, and I want to take this opportunity to send my appreciation to you – and all other regular contributors – for all the effort you put in to this.

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