Grouply Talk 2

February 18, 2008

[Posted here by permission of the author, who asked not to be identified.  Another part of a conversation between two moderators.]

… just some follow-up thoughts.

Almost certainly you have only a few Grouply users who might be affected if you use Grouply’s opt-out/disable access routine just released a couple days ago.  Even in massive groups with over 20k members they had less than one tenth of a percent Grouply users each, as of yesterday.  Most groups with 1k-3k members have only one or two Grouply users in them, so far, if any.

Grouply is still in beta, so it hasn’t caught fire yet … and they have enough problems that it may be some time before they do catch on, if ever.  They’re taking a bit of a beating from vocal opponents to their methods.

Meanwhile, I’m not thrilled about the fact that if even just one group member signs up with them, Grouply.com starts mirroring the group’s entire archive and keeps it indefinitely.  Even if you disable access, they still have not installed a means to purge what they had already captured of your archive.  I ran a test with a group that had only one message posted, and it did not get deleted after I disabled access.  They say they are still working on that.

Now I find also that even if a Y! group has its archive access set to mods-only or no access or even no archive at all, Grouply still starts mirroring postings as soon as one member joins them, and makes it available to any/all members of the same group within their site.  That’s an override of moderator control of access to their message archive.  The only way to stop it is for the moderator to use Grouply’s new disable access routine.

Without announcing it to the whole group, you could just quietly disable Grouply’s access, and send a private email to those few Grouply members saying that they can certainly continue as members of your group, just not with their grouply.com email address.

To find them, search for “grouply” in Management | Memberships.  As it stands now, every Grouply subscriber gets their email address for all their groups changed to @grouply.com when they first subscribe to Grouply.  They can change it back later for any group they want, or it will be changed for them by Grouply’s bot if they unsub from Grouply.com, but that search will tell you how many members at least tried it.  I’m sure it won’t be more than a handful in a group your size.

To block Grouply’s access to your group, see:

http://www.grouply.com/owner_controls.php

That also turns off their spam gun for your group (their “Tell Your Groups about Grouply” feature, which sends an advertisement to the group posting address).

Later, if Grouply turns out to be a safe product some day, and becomes popular among YG users (I doubt it), you can go to that link to re-enable access, too.
 

Advertisements

Trust me, please?

February 18, 2008
[Posted here by permission of the author.]
Let’s see, so far we have at least these major screw-ups:
– Putting a loaded spam gun into the hands of fans with the enticement of a recruitment contest awarding Nintendo Wii and iPod, and refusing to turn off the spam machine fun-gun, under the silly notion that spam only once per group is not still spam.
– Sending spam with the “tell-a-friend” feature that delivers a message with a corrupted return address.  The “friend” receives not just an advertisement for Grouply, with Grouply’s corporate logo in it, emphasizing that it is commercial email, but also a hotlink to “become my friend” in grouply.com, and the return address is truncated and contains data corruption that makes it unidentifiable and unusable as a valid email address.  I have proof of this happening, courtesy of an actual, real, true friend who received it.  So that spam doesn’t have an identifiable source as being from a “friend.”
– Granting message archive access to non-members while they sit in the pending member queue.  I remember when they “fixed” that security breach, people asked things like, “How do we know you haven’t or won’t create more problems like this with your back door access caused by an irresponsibly premature public beta release promoted by spam?”  Sure enough, there are more …
– Granting message archive access to members in groups where the archive is set to mods only or is even turned off altogether.

– Failing to immediately purge archives of groups that have used their wobbly trial release of an opt-out owner blocking scheme.  This has been verified as fact.  Even a tiny test group that had only ONE message in it did not get purged after the block was turned on.  This was verified by turning the block off and going back in to see what Grouply had in its archive.  A message deleted from the YG archive (the only message in that archive) eight days earlier still existed in Grouply’s mirror archive.  Grouply members in the group are able to edit the subject line of the old message inside Grouply’s archive, comment on it, and send it off to other people both inside and outside of Grouply’s system, even repost it back to the group if they wanted to.

– Rationalizing away the obvious intrusion perpetrated on owner control of their groups by saying it’s just an email aggregator providing members another way to see data they already had access to.

“Trust me, I have TrustE certification.”
“Trust me, my lawyer told me you could.”


Grouply Troubles Easy as 1-2-3

February 18, 2008

The blog comment writer cited below details three main areas of concern that he says he has not seen Grouply.com executives address adequately.  They are (in paraphrased summary):

1.  Impropriety of using private volunteer group activity archives for profit-making purposes.

2.  Risks of surrendering Yahoo! ID password, and possible liability of those who do it.

3.  Inability of Yahoo! to provide security of group archives that have been mirrored to the Grouply.com system in violation of YG Guideline #11 and TOS.

From the Yahoo! Groups Blog …
February 12, 2008 @ 9:30 pm

[begin snippet]
Regardless of what Grouply executives Rich Reimer and Mark Robins say, here are the concerns about Grouply that I have not seen them address to my satisfaction in any of their dialog in the various groups addressing this topic: …
[end snippet]

Read the rest of the blog comment at:

<http://www.ygroupsblog.com/blog/2008/01/24/groups-tip-re-posting-content-from-a-group-without-the-original-poster%e2%80%99s-permission-is-a-violation-of-the-groups-guidelines/>

or

http://tinyurl.com/3cfzbx

(just search for the word grouply on this page to find the comments on Grouply.com)


Market Uber Alles

February 18, 2008
A friend wrote, quoting the moderator of a group for moderators who decided to shut down dialog about Grouply, “‘We (your List Owners) feel that at this point, there are no NEW points to discuss and any further discussion here would be beating the proverbial dead horse.’ … I am seeing a conspiracy here.”
[There have been many new points raised since then, including the discovery of new security holes, some rather severe.]
It is worse than a conspiracy, I think, or it is an effect of a much bigger one.  These consequences in these group manager discussion groups are the unwitting results of a deeper and broader social engineering conspiracy pursued for about a century now.

It is the conspiracy that designed and imposed the cultural paradigm saying that the pursuit of profit-making enterprise is the purpose of society.  Of course that’s not the true purpose or nature of society, but it is now the entrenched cultural paradigm we are forced to live with, and to live by, and to fight and die for in illegal and immoral wars, among other consequences we all suffer every day.

They have been drilling into our consciousness that it IS true for about 100 years now, making it just as good as real truth, for the purposes of those in power.  They will assassinate anyone who succeeds to any significantly large-scale degree toward changing the paradigm.

The social and political engineers in power in this culture are convinced that The Market Is The Means To All Good Ends.  That has been in place for so long now that even if they say and truly believe otherwise, most people go along with it, as though it were natural to do so, and defend it as if they believed in it.

They just don’t know anything else.  It is second-nature to us now.  Not enough of us have studied enough little books like Erich Fromm’s The Art of Loving, which explains much better what I’m summarizing now, i.e., how marketing mentality has become the dominant way of the culture, even in love.  And he said that in 1956, so it’s nothing new.

This Marketing Mentality is the basis for the existence of things like Grouply, whose goal is simply (and, to them and their fans, innocently) to turn a profit on the content of all our highly personal activity in group message archives, while attempting to dupe us into believing that in doing so they are “improving our experience of” what we already had, and in most cases were satisfied with.  (My experimenting as a Grouply subscriber revealed no advantage to me, no improvement of my experience of the Yahoo Groups environment.  But it did reveal some things to me about some of my fellow group members that I’m confident they’d rather I did not know.)

As is so often the case, the truth about the nature and effect of Grouply is found by just following the money.

Note that Grouply is not interested in the photos, files, databases, links, and calendars in our groups’ web resources.  Grouply CEO Mark Robins declared publicly that they have no intention of hosting those significant elements of our “experience of Yahoo Groups.”  So how can they call themselves a service that “improves our experience of Yahoo Groups?”

The answer is easy.  They want the message archives, because data-mining analysis of those archives will drive the design of selling targeted advertising to their human tools giving them their Yahoo passwords … um, I mean, their subscribers, GrouplyFans … and it only takes ONE such fan to give Grouply access to the message archives of many groups with great numbers of members posting massive quantities of messages bearing information about themselves highly useful to market advertisers.

Grouply fans say that my kind of perspective is just distrustfulness, cynicism, paranoia and fear of positive change.  Others say that I am full of socialistic crap.  Others say that Grouply has a right to make money on our groups’ internal private activities, because the entrenched paradigm dictates that if it is good for making money, then it is good in its essence, making Capitalizm the de-facto dominant religion of the culture.

The masses don’t know that they’ve been duped and used as tools of profiteers, but those engineering the deployment of the market-driving paradigm know exactly what they are doing, and the minds behind the creation of things like Grouply (and their investors footing the bill for its creation) are just tapping into the paradigm’s remunerative benefits to those clever enough to do so.

Regular people like us, often (usually) unable to get our heads around the day-to-day consequences of such a flawed (and corrupt) paradigm, when debates about such consequences arise, can’t manage the process, because we are dealing with circumstances and effects, not the underlying paradigm (our just being normal everyday human beings).  Only experts are competent to come up with a solution, and they can’t effect one even if they come up with one, because the only solution is a paradigm shift that the profiteering corporate powers owning the keys to socio-political-economic engineering machines won’t allow, and, worse, they have duped so many into thinking that what they do in the name of their God Money is Good For Us, because what is good for the Market is good for all.  Market Uber Alles.

Regular people like us can endlessly debate the particulars of a given incarnation of The Clever Lunatic Money God, but that’s like arguing what color band-aid to put on a mortal wound.  So we have people doing what these moderators have called “beating a dead horse” because they are focused on endless debate about minutia instead of the big picture, the paradigms and principles involved.  (But the horse is not dead! and is not a horse at all, but a pink elephant in the middle of the room!)  Most people understandably aren’t articulate enough, or informed enough, or have leisure time enough to do much of that deeper discussion.  This is not a condemnation of them, or calling them stupid.  They just don’t have what it takes.  Regular people need rules to live by, and those making the rules aren’t competent to be rule-givers, or ARE competent, and choose only self-serving rules.

It has been my experience that in many such cases of debate, when it finally reaches the point where people start cogently making cases about paradigms and principles, that’s when the gag orders and free-speech squelching imposition starts, because that’s when the discussion transcends the narrow minds of the moderators, or scares them that they may be just dupes and tools of the status quo powers-that-be, or just makes their jobs too hard for them to handle.

The tragedy of these discussion group moderators imposing a shutdown of the dialog, instead of letting it exhaust itself on its own, is that there are some very insightful and articulate people out there with the time and the ability to help open eyes to things we need to understand.  It takes a long time for voices like that to be heard by enough people to make a difference, and great persistence.  That time and persistence is thwarted by shutdown of the dialog.

Now there is one less venue for those few who occasionally glimpse (as we all do now and then) a truer light beyond the veil.  One less opportunity for someone to share their insight to help raise awareness and open pinholes for others to get a glimpse, too.  One less chance for the masses to hear that lone voice that suddenly captures the attention and imagination of regular people, leading to an “Aha!” moment for everyone.

It took only one Columbus to persist in finding a way westward from Europe to Asia (and to discover a new world in the process, with riches beyond prior imagination).  Most of the world said it was impossible.  Now we all know it is possible, and that one man’s inspiration (and that of the few who supported him) changed the course of global history and the lives of every human being forever, as did the work of the guy who invented HTML and WWW.

Shutting down the dialog reduces the possibility for that kind of enlightenment to happen.  It is sad beyond sad.

In simpler terms, the moderators just can’t handle it.  The questions involved are too big for them.  They have to shut it down for their purposes.  It has nothing to do with what is right or good for the group, or for anyone.  It’s about power to control debate over consequences they can’t handle, caused by a cultural paradigm they can’t see.  It’s about the unmanageableness of “fruitless debate” about particulars of consequences rather than about root causes of those consequences.  But sometimes it would not be fruitless if allowed to run its course.  Sometimes one fruit-bearer coming along can change the entire scope and nature of the dialog.

Grouply.com is only one small example of the way of the world now.  I doubt it will change until humanity destroys itself.


Non-Member Access Granted by Grouply

February 18, 2008
Reportedly Grouply has “fixed this,” but given their sloppy work in having allowed it in the first place, how can we trust them as they keep saying we should do just because they have “TrustE Certification” (as if that is any guarantee of safety).Posted here by permission of the original author:
————————————————-Through testing I have found that when a member pending approval in a Y! Group joins Grouply.com, that person shows up by default in Grouply as if they were already a member of the Y! Group, and is thereby able to see a list of other Grouply users in that Y! Group.

In fact, even before the pending member was approved, Grouply.com changed its email address to @ grouply.com as displayed in the Pending Member queue.  In the testing I did, that change was accompanied by a change of the test member’s email delivery mode from Web-Only/No Email to Individual Emails.

The email address originally reported to the groups’ moderators as that of a pending member changed before the moderators approved it.  I understand that this is indirectly caused by a volitional act of the pending member, but there is too much likelihood that the member will not understand what is happening, and some group moderators will understandably reject the member on certain grounds when they do something like that.  It seems untoward at best that Grouply would do anything to interfere in moderators’ processes for evaluating and approving new members.  That Pending Member queue is private and confidential.  Grouply.com should not be altering it in any manner whatsoever.

I understand that it can be argued that Grouply acted on behalf of the pending member, with their permission, but it is something like a “back door” type of activity that Yahoo! should not allow, and Grouply.com should not pursue.  It is a step in the direction of exposing Yahoo! Group moderator control of their group to
interference by parties unknown to them.

In my testing, the member pending approval was not able to see group messages yet, but I did not stick around long to wait to see if they eventually would (I know that Grouply says they cannot if they are not an approved member), as I feel that my testing activity may be further exposing the group to compromise of security and privacy.

[NOTE:  ANOTHER MODERATOR FOUND THAT INDEED A PENDING, NON-APPROVED MEMBER **WAS** GRANTED ACCESS TO THEIR MESSAGE ARCHIVE BY GROUPLY, AND GROUPLY CEO MARK ROBINS PUBLICLY ADMITTED IT AND SAYS IT HAS BEEN FIXED.  BUT KNOWING THEY MADE SUCH A GRIEVOUS ERROR, HOW CAN WE TRUST THEM TO NOT DO IT AGAIN, OR TO NOT DO EVEN WORSE THINGS?]

It is entirely unsatisfactory and highly disconcerting that Grouply’s activity compels concerned group owners to have to use the Grouply service to find out how it may be interacting with private, restricted group activity.

In my testing, the member pending approval was able to see the identities (full names, photos, personal data and private, non-grouply.com email addresses) of other members already in the group who are Grouply users.  I have not verified this for certain, but it appears that those existing members using Grouply probably can also see the new pending member as if they were already a member.

In my view, this constitutes unauthorized access and usage of the group’s Member List and Pending Member queue.  It is a breach of security and privacy.  I intend to file an abuse report with Yahoo! about it, and write separately to Yahoo! executives and managers about it, though I will wait a bit to see if Mr. Robins will stop this behavior first, and prevent it from happening again.

The Pending Member queue is confidential between group membership applicants, Yahoo! and the group owners/moderators.  Pending Members also must not be allowed to see any content of the Member List of a group that restricts view of the Member List.  That Member List is confidential data.  For Grouply to make any portion or derivative of that content available to NON-MEMBERS (such as ones pending approval) is abuse.  It is especially disturbing that Grouply displays to a pending Y! Group member not just a Yahoo ID (which Grouply does not display), but personal names, photos, email addresses and other personal data of and about the group’s members who use Grouply.

I understand that Grouply members can restrict view of their information within the Grouply system, but the fact is that most of them do not, from what I saw in my testing, and I feel strongly that Grouply.com has no right to inform a pending group member of ANYTHING about the presence of any content on the group’s Member List, even if it is NOT set for restricted view, because if it is to be viewable at all, it should only be via the Yahoo! Groups service.I see no honor at all in any person or service scraping data from Yahoo! Groups Member Lists, for any purpose at all.  Legal or not, it is wrong, and I find it easily construed as a Yahoo! TOS violation.

Feeding Grouply

February 18, 2008

I’m sitting here wondering if there might soon be dozens or hundreds of new “anyone can post without joining” listed and unrestricted (i.e., spam-collector) YG groups (maybe created in Nigeria?) called something like ungrouply1, 2, 3, etc., where people who don’t like Grouply.com, but are Grouply.com registered users, each holding two ungrouply group accounts, one set for Individual Emails with an @ grouply.com address, the other with some other domain but with an auto-responder or auto-forwarder on that second account replying to every posting with a full copy of the original going back to all the ungrouply groups, and they sign their group address up for every kind of spam they can get, or some other even more clever looping-flooding arrangement (I have not thought this through carefully, because I’m not criminally inclined to do something like this), and fire up another ungrouply group (or ten) every day, to keep Grouply.com chasing them around the web with a cyberbroomstick, and so forth.  Surely there’s some unhappy spammer out there thinking about such things.

I seem to recall a few freecyclers unhappy with Finder talking about feeding Finder a very fattening diet.


Worse Than Freecycle’s Finder Scheme

February 18, 2008

Someone wrote, “What if, instead of passing your yahoo ID to grouply, you just set up a grouply account with a grouply email then as a user MANUALLY went to your yahoo account and made the grouply addy the default account address for whatever group you wanted.”

That would work just fine.  It worked great for FreecycleFinder.org.  I remember during the FcFinder ruckus some people saying things like, “This is just the beginning.  Now that this concept has been brought to light, every huckster will be looking to make a buck on YG posting activity.”  Sure enough, we saw the event of sploggers planting an account in a group and redirecting its postings to a blog with AdSense context-sensitive ads ringing the cash register for the blogger.

But the FcFinder approach you propose, which is elegantly simple, would not grant access to the entire archive, only to future postings.  Data-mining and context/content analysis of long-term member activity and archive content would not be as richly endowed that way, making targeting of advertising less keen.  (We have to consider Grouply’s business interests, its survival as a company, and all the money waiting to be made, according to Shal and Srihari.)

And, the current Grouply arrangement makes it easy for their subscribers to endow Grouply with the archives of ALL the groups where they hold membership, in a few simple clicks, as opposed to the member having to go open the back door to every one of their groups one by one.  Mass aggregation is a very sophisticated business.  Reportedly a couple million dollars are riding on this instance of it.