BPA List move to Google/Yahoo Groups: Issues
My background/experience (context for advice/comments)
- Google Groups: I am currently managing Google Groups for small lists
(about 50 addresses each, very low activity levels).
- Yahoo Groups: so out-of-date as to be irrelevant (3 years ago)
Inclination: Google over Yahoo
- Google provides a cleaner (less busy) interface
My experience as an administrator/tech-support for two groups
using Google Groups is that the user interface
is difficult for casual/infrequent users to navigate,
especially those who are secondary (or backup) administrators.
(Aside: the UI of the current BPA mailing list management software is much worse).
However, a quick look at the Yahoo Group's interface suggests
that such users would have similar problems.
When you export the membership list, Google includes full names,
Yahoo provides only email address and profile name (often less
helpful than the email address). The absence of full names makes
it very hard to try to reconcile against the membership database.
Yahoo provides some additional features - such as polling - that isn't
available directly from inside Google groups. However, I haven't
heard people talking of this as an important differentiator.
Note: this seems to be a significant differentiator
- Yahoo advantage?:
Non-trivial management of a group subscription requires that
the user have an account with Google/Yahoo.
A significant portion of the BPA list members already have Yahoo accounts,
either directly (yahoo.com) or
via their DSL accounts (pacbell.net, sbcglobal.net, att.net),
thus saving them the step of setting up an account.
However, the majority of the list members do not have email
at either Google or Yahoo, so they would need to set up an account
at whichever the Groups provider is chosen.
Setting up a Google acount was quick and trivial - my recollection of setting up
a Yahoo account was that it was easy but required me to go
through more steps.
Hence, my judgement is that this is not a Yahoo advantage.
- My experience with Google Groups is that there are a variety of bugs,
misdocumented features, ... and absolutely no support beyond a minimal
FAQ (so I don't even bother to note the problems, much less try to
Google/Yahoo Groups over other alternatives
Since most users will rarely use the mailing list management software,
our choice should be something they are likely to be able to navigate
successfully without additional documentation.
Typically this means it has something very similar to the look-and-feel
of other software they might be using.
Warning: My sense is that a large proportion of the membership
of the BPA email lists are not subscribers to
any similar style lists.
The advantage of using a mailing list management package hosted on
the BPA mail server is that the mailing list names need
be unique only within the BPAonline.org domain,
whereas, within Google and Yahoo Groups,
we can only use group names that haven't already been taken.
For example, the following names are not available
on at least one of G/Y Groups:
bpa, bpa-board, and strawberryhill.
The Mailman package provides an interface and capabilities
similar to that of G/Y Groups
(all flow from similar inspiration and experience).
However, software development seems to be all-but-abandoned
and the documentation hasn't been fully updated to the current version.
Hence, my recommendation against it.
Similarly, the other alternatives for small sites all seem to be dying/dead.
With both Yahoo and Google groups, I have seen cases where messages
were never sent, or delayed for many hours. The sender and list
administrator get no notification of these problems.
One of the big advantages of hosting the email lists on the BPA server
has been that I _do_ get such notifications and have easy access to logs
for debugging problems that are belatedly reported.
However, I judge such problems with G/Y Groups to be tolerable because they are far less
than the problems from erroneous blacklist'ing.
Coordination of email list membership with BPA membership database
Although I have long been dissatisified with the mailing list manager
currently being used with the BPA email lists, it was somewhat easier
to coordinate with our membership database. Again, if anyone has
experience in this issue, I would appreciate a chance to talk to you.