How should we communicate?

We are a volunteer-driven project, and volunteer-driven projects live or die by their community. Thankfully, there’s a lot of interest in this project and we are frequently contacted by people who want to get involved.

At the moment, our main method of communication is e-mail via mailing list. This works for the current volunteers, but I’m worried it isn’t attractive or welcoming for newcomers.

It’s high-volume mailing list, and managing high volume  lists is a bit of a lost art. I’ve just taken a look at my “cs-history” mail folder, which goes back to 2015. I have 2,577 messages, totalling 462M of storage. So whenever I recommend to people that they subscribe to the mailing list, I also strongly suggest setting up mail filters to keep the list out of people’s inboxes.

So I’m wondering: should we be doing something else? Are you interested in taking part, but put off by the mailing list? Should we tweak its settings: perhaps open up the archives so non-subscribers can read them? Do you have a suggestion for something else we should try? Please either email (heh) me suggestions or leave a comment on this blog post.

5 thoughts on “How should we communicate?

  1. Well, the best – ever – means of group communication was Usenet News*. I am told that Google Groups — an imitator — is not too bad these days.

    The great benefit of Usenet News is that new threads (topics, discussions) can be introduced at random by anybody. If you are interested you join the discussion, or at least follow it. If you are not, you simply ignore it. You can filter threads (or authors) so that you never see them, or so that they are highllighted, but generally this isn’t necessary because the initial presentation of *all threads at a glance* enables fast skimming.
    So if Google Groups imitates Usenet News in these ways: that would be good.
    *Aside: Usenet News somehow got bypassed when the rest of the world discovered the InterWeb. It still exists, but is not used by many people under the age of .

  2. Thanks John. I have font memories of Usenet, but I haven’t much recent experience of Google Groups. I *think* it also supports mailing to/from groups, so could be the best of both worlds. But I’d love to have some input from some of the current potential student volunteers on this issue. I’m thinking of putting up a page “Volunteers Wanted” on this site which maps out some opportunities – including something along the lines of “social media management” to tackle this very point.

  3. I think it all depends how much time you have at your disposal as any communication method an be good if you’ve time to use it. I’m already having to use Teams and Skype and email for work so adding another option in would be okay but I tend to get all of my communications tools to send copies to my email inbox. I’m not going to have a news group open whilst I’m working, so can’t guarantee an instance response if we use that. If people want instant responses, the best option is to phone me or call in to the office 🙂 In truth though, the very best way to get my attention at the moment is using Instagram – and I do think we could really make good use of Instagram for this project – it’s a mobile blogging tool which would allow us to post pictures, write commentary and make back and forth comments. Easy to set up – can be linked easily to other social media options. I’m guessing (am sure!) this won’t be the most popular choice though so I’ll go with the flow. If you can just make sure that whatever you choose can be made to email me, I’ll be happy with whatever the majority come up with.

    • I agree with you about Instagram – I can see that it would be a great way to spread the word (or 1,000 words) but it’s a service I know very little about personally.

      I also feel the same way re email: Google Groups (as JAL mentioned) supports that, and hopefully any other candidates will do too.

      • (Just come back to the blog having been away [from the University] for about 6 weeks.)
        My suggestion re Usenet News (and Google Groups) wasn’t really serious (let dead horses lie, say I). But I did want to briefly list its main advantages, one of which is for detailed discussions to take place between an interested minority of the ‘members’, and everyone else to opt out of that discussion. Threads can develop into 00s of messages, sometimes with people at each others’ throats, but if you’ve opted out of that thread, you never have suffer any of that.
        I, for one, am open for trying Instagram (but can it develop into productive threads?) because it’s definitely “out there” these days. Or for trying Trello … though I can be forgiven for thinking that that might turn out to be simply the latest thing, soon to be superseded by the latest thing. J.

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