Groups feature - more about how they work and how to post

Posted 06/07/2009 - 16:47 by ng

See also Changes to Forums/Groups.

[second update: 16/7/09]

Group forums now exist, and making new posts into legacy forum areas is discouraged (and will eventually be prevented.) The concept of Group topic and Forum topic are now combined, as all new forum topics should be within a group.

Just to illustrate my point about spam. There might easily be 100 new posts per day (topics plus comments.) There are 2500+ members many of whom have a variety of subscription options set. If they were all set to receive all posts as single emails (the "as soon as possible" notification option, the server would send out more than a quarter of a million emails per day. That activity level makes us look suspicious as a potential spam source, and that in turn could result in our outgoing communications getting blocked. The solution is to reduce the quantity of email by members choosing sensible subscription options, but that in turn can only be done if information is suitably structured by Group etc.

[update: 16/7/09]

The majority of posts are still being made in the All members group. This is quite possibly a bad thing. The reason is that as many members are subscribed (for email updates) to All members - too many posts in All members results in something similar to spam from the perspective of those who are primarily interested in receiving only summary news and updates of significant events.

I suggest the following general approach:

  • Post in All members anything that you are sure will be of interest to All members. Don't be a spammer nor an attention seeker! If you want to simply have your say, as opposed to start a discussion, post a blog entry instead.

  • Create a project for anything which is, effectively, a project. Examples might be: production of a viral video, organising direct action, organising production of car stickers.

  • Promote your project group by posting in All members, but only once.

  • Report significant news coming out of your project group in All members, but only once.

  • Please remember, many DAG members are in the background, receiving email updates of whatever gets posted into All members. If they receive too much junk mail via that route, they will probably switch off their subscription to all members - that would not be in the DAG's best interests.

  • Use the All members group for what it was intended for - a way of contacting all members, not spamming them! Use a more suitable group otherwise.

[original post...]

More about Groups

A recent change has meant that members are able to create their own Groups on here. More information.

  • Groups are groups of site users. Most groups are open membership so anyone can join. That means that just because Joe is a member of the morris dancers group does not necessarily mean that Joe in fact is is a morris dancer. Even if membership to the group is restricted, there is only so much checking that the group administrators can do in order to decide who should be allowed access. So, Joe may have joined the morris dancers group because he is a morris dancer or is generally interested in morris dancing. On the other hand, he may have joined because he hates all morris dancers and is trying to identify them in order to put them out of business by stealing their sticks and crushing their jingly bits. Be warned!

  • Currently any registered user can start a project group. So please try not to duplicate existing project groups.

  • Because members can set their subscriptions options to include notification by email for all posts and comments into specific groups, the groups feature is effectively a way to communicate (via email) with groups of people, without knowing their email address.

Why post into a specific group rather than into All members?

  • If you post into the all members group, then that will be emailed out to all members who have their subscription settings suitably configured. So, if your post is not really relevant to all members than the result will be something similar to spam - incoming email which is of no interest. Please consider whether you are such a spammer before posting into forums or all-members

Why post into a specific group as well as into all-members?

  • Why might you want to post a "general interest" post into one or more specific groups? Think about peoples subscription settings. Some people may have disabled subscriptions for all members in order to avoid receiving too much mail (spam!) via notifications. So, if you post additionally into, say, the Direct Action group, anybody who is in that group and has subscriptions set up for that group will receive the email notification. Most group members would normally enable subscriptions for groups, so it works a bit like an email distribution list in this way.

How to post correctly

  • Find and join groups from the Groups link on the top menu.

  • Choose one of your joined groups from the My Groups list in the left side-bar.

  • When entering a new post, there is a GROUPS section on the page which allows you to select which groups your post will be visible in. Only those groups which you have joined are listed, and the current group (where you were viewing at the time) is selected as the default.

  • In general, do not set the public tickbox when posting. It will apply not only to your post but the entire thread (to all comments). Threads which are set public are visible to all site users, even those who are not registered nor logged in. For the same reasons, such threads will also show up on Google. This behaviour could be changed, but the current configuration is deliberate.

  • Are you an attention-seeker?! If you spam people by posting unnecessarily into all-members then you may annoy people, and perhaps cause them to disable subscriptions for those areas. Probably not a good result. In any case you reduce the effectiveness of the subscriptions feature by doing so - it becomes more difficult for people to set subscriptions effectively so as to receive by email only what information they want.

Spam or not?

Our server has been "tagged" as a spam source on more than one occasion, and I suspect that's related to the notifications feature, probably because people don't bother to set it up properly, but instead move the incoming messages or tell their email system to automatically treat the messages as spam or junk. This is not in our best interests, as being flagged as spam may reduce the effectiveness of communication between members.

The correct way to deal with the problem of "too many" incoming emails is to set your subscriptions options accordingly. But it will also help a lot if people target their posts more effectively via suitable groups.

Comments enabled here for any directly related questions.

See also Changes to Forums/Groups.

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