Progress Report: Adieu, Yahoo
The long-sought replacement for Yahoo groups, for our Network discussion forum, is at hand.
The key elements are:
1) a forum where you can go create posts, read all the posts and comment
2) ability to subscribe to e-mail notifications of new posts at different intervals, and
3) ability to respond and send comments to the forum by email without actually having to visit the Web site
Making this work, all three components, has been something of a holy grail for Web site managers for years. There have long been listservs, but they don't have a searchable, archival forum. There have long been forums which will send notifications, but they don't allow you to simply reply by e-mail. To get all this you had to go through Yahoo or someone like Yahoo or Google, or spend a lot of money for such a program. Well, I think we are close to having one, thanks to the magic of Drupal - if we can just isolate the few components we need from the dozens and dozens which are bombarding us through the magic of Drupal.
Don't get me wrong: Yahoo was wonderful for us at the time. It just had this incredibly annoying tic whereby some people had membership problems and it limited participation in The Network. People would call me asking for help getting on or getting back on and often the best I could tell them was "try opening a new Yahoo account" which is never an attractive prospect.
Having it hosted on our site means there is a single sign-up and authentication, no need to remember multiple identities, and if there is a problem we can go right to the root of it and fix it and get our people signed in.
Frankly, I never understood why Yahoo made accessing their product such a "techie" endeavor. It's a great product once you are signed in but it's a constant adventure as to whether you will be. I for instance have not been able to send messages to The Network for years and I was supposedly the "owner" of the group. So out of ICCFA's thousands of members with e-mail we maxed out at around 130 on The Network with no more than a handful participating - probably because many had been, like me, stripped of their email privileges.
I saw a great Web presentation last year where the guy was explaining the ascendance of Google: He showed a screenshot of the yahoo.com front page, and then the google.com front page, and asked "which one would you feel more comfortable using to search for information?"
There is a lesson there. Currently I have to admit the new iccfa.com is annoyingly complicated for users - not very Google-like - but we are striving for, and getting closer to, simplicity throughout this construction phase. It is getting simpler with each passing day.
Soon, we will have a fairly straightforward set of "documentation" pages showing exactly how to do whatever you are inclined to do here, in particular how to participate in The Network. To all of our Yahoo veterans: I apologize for the delay in replicating that here, but it's not far off. We now have 1) the forum, 2) subscription and 3) posting by email, but the latter two are still a tad clunky. Streamlining is the current task.