Ghost of Midnight

… about neighbors, community and Front Porch Forum

Yahoo Groups and Swiss Army Knives

Posted on Tuesday, January 9, 2007 by 2 comments

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.

Posted in: Community Building, Front Porch Forum, Local Online


  1. Anna says:

    > It’s simpler, easier to use for the average neighbor

    why/how is it simpler, than Yahoo Groups or Google Groups?

    (my neighborhood is gelling, and we just started a Google Group for it, but if you can tell me why/how FPF would be a better fit…)

    FYI, one concern from a neighbor, that kept her from joining the e-group, was “if I join, I’ll just get even more political emails etc”, and it’s true that people here often do send political emails indiscriminately to their email lists. How do you address this concern/behavior?

    I think it’s wonderful that you’re doing this, btw. But tell us please, with specific examples, how it’s better than the alternatives.

  2. Michael says:

    Hi Anna and thanks for your interest. Lots of small points that I can discuss with you, and a few big ones. I’m leery to go into too much detail in this open medium at this point, given some recent events.

    If you live in our initial service region (Chittenden Co., VT), then we can talk specifics. If you’re outside of that area, the point is moot for awhile, as we’re loathe to expand until it makes better sense for us. Feel free to email me directly at contact_AT_frontporchforum_DOT_com

    Cheers! -Michael

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