For the past couple days a group of old friends, now spread across the country, have exchanged views about global climate change, Al Gore’s movie, and the like. These are dear friends who I don’t really have a chance to connect with anymore, so the exchange was welcomed… even if the topic is a tough one.
Then Margie wrote “does anyone mind if I set up a Yahoo Group for us?” To which I replied “I’ll join, but I’ll bet dollar to donuts that this move will kill the conversation.” “Why?” she asked.
Good question, but I know it’s not uncommon. What is it about Yahoo Groups that seems so appealing when first suggested to help some people communicate, but then often sees the group and it’s postings dry up into an online ghost town? What percentage of Yahoo Groups are dead or dying? How much opportunity is lost?
Another friend in our little crew, Naomi, chimed in “I can’t deal with anything complicated I have to sign up for.” Well that covers a big part of it… Yahoo Groups is not user friendly. Keep in mind that Naomi’s been using a computer most every day for the past 15 years that I’ve known her.
Some folks ask about Front Porch Forum… isn’t it just Yahoo Groups for neighborhoods? No. Not really. It’s simpler, easier to use for the average neighbor, and designed to fulfill our mission… to help neighbors connect and foster community within neighborhoods. Yahoo Groups seems to be designed to be all things to all people… an impressive feat of engineering, but not the best tool if you’re looking to make your neighborhood a great place to live.
Kind of like a Swiss Army knife vs. a screw driver. Need an all-in-one tool that can get the job done in lots of settings? Swiss Army/Yahoo Groups makes sense. Or, do you have a specialized task in mind… driving 100 screws or connecting with your neighbors and fostering community? Then you want the dedicated tool… Front Porch Forum (or the screw driver… you pick).
On second thought, make that a Swiss Army knife that capable folks like Naomi find too hard to pry open.