Grouply Evangelism

February 23, 2008

I guess this whole Grouply thing just means that now owners have two new responsibilities:

(1) constantly watching the group-related message boards for information about invading third party services and other risks, and

(2) educating all their co-owners and co-mods about it.

It’s not enough to just know how to use the Management settings in a group.  And Yahoo’s Moderator Central is weak in reporting things that many of us regard as problems and risks, though not useless.

You know how well that will work.  Many group owners and mods barely know how to use the service, much less become experts in third party issues.

Maybe someday Yahoo! will accommodate us by providing a firewall that by default blocks all third party access, and provide a checklist in Management settings where we can opt-in to third party services we want to offer our groups.

(One can dream, right?)

Otherwise, the whole notion of free online groups is going to go bad in a big way, and serious moderators of serious groups will have to sign up for a paid system that is truly secure.  It shouldn’t be expensive, though, given the continually decreasing costs of running a web service.

Did you know that there is a core team of GrouplyFans calling themselves Grouply EVANGELISTS?

http://finance.groups.yahoo.com/group/grouply_evangelist_program/

I enjoyed noticing that it’s in the FINANCE section of YG.  Should be in the religion category.

The home page says:

“The Grouply Evangelist Program is a select group of Grouply users who help define and select new Grouply features and who broadly communicate the benefits of Grouply in order to expand the Grouply user base.”

That “broadly communicate” thing?  Spammming.  Why don’t they realize that spamming as a promotional tool is self-defeating?  It just arouses the ire of group owners.

Their other tool: propaganda blogs and groups.  But they’re not the only ones who can play that game.

Evangelist?  Hmmm.  Not a bad word for it, really.  When you dig into what it’s all about, and its roots in the history of web-scouring hooking-up for commercial purposes, it does tend to feel sorta like a kind of religion … or like a cultish thing that can give you the willies.

How much ya wanna bet a dollar (as my cousin useta say when we were kids) that these evangelists would scream bloody murder if someone spammed their group and members’ personal email addresses with commmercial messages for a service they don’t want, don’t need, don’t like?  They’d declare something like a jihadist war.

Grouply Evangelist Program group:
Created 11/23/07
14 members
Fairly active, I guess …
Postings:
Nov 07 = 47
Dec 07 = 410 (!!! – no wonder Grouply became such a hot topic recently)
Jan 08 = 181
Feb 08 = 55

Now I guess they’ll move to some other cave.

Given that kind of activity, and Grouply’s spamming machine, and YGOG and EL-M and GrouplyImprovements mods defending and advocating for Grouply, and their activity in the blogosphere, there is a NEED for vocal activism to counter the Grouply propaganda, to protect our groups and members and what integrity is left in the whole idea of free online group services.  If we don’t take a stand now, as other third-party invaders come along YG will never be the same.

Eventually I hope to be able to point to some investigative reporting on the core people behind Grouplyfication of the web’s free groups services.  It’s not just Grouply.  As always, follow the money.  It leads right to their front door.

– UnGrouply Atheist
(no offense whatsoever desired or intended toward adherents of true religions serving the spiritual good)

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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.


Countering GrouplyFan Propaganda

February 18, 2008

These GrouplyFans yakking it up in the GrouplyImprovements group think that we have no right to “interfere” in Grouply’s business.  Well, Grouply is going to find out that as word continues getting out about what they are doing, there will be many more moderators blocking them and banning their users.  This is just the beginning.  Many people never heard of Grouply.  None of my co-moderators did until I told them about it.  None of my freecycling group members heard of it until I told them not to use it or they will be removed from the group.  As more people find out what it is (a scheme to make money off our private message traffic), many will not participate, and will tell their friends and groups to stay out of it.

Some of these GrouplyFans are not defending Grouply because they truly believe in the product.  I see many of them posting messages to groups every day without using Grouply to do it!  If they like Grouply so much, why aren’t they using it?

Some of them just see dollar signs.  They think that Grouply is going to be the “next big thing,” and they want to get in on the ground floor buying shares when Grouply issues an IPO (becomes a publicly traded company), if they survive that long.  I have seen three of the leading GrouplyFans say things like this.  They think they are going to be the next Google or Microsoft first shareholders.  Nonsense.  Grouply does not stand a chance of ever becoming big, because there is no need for their product.  They will be lucky to get 2% of Yahoo and Google Group users to subscribe, especially with the bad publicity they have caused for themselves.

They’ll get lots of spammers and miscreants to join, because it’s a great tool for spamming and spying on group members.  Stalkers and pedophiles will just love it.  That will just generate more bad publicity for them.

It is not “good business” to barge in and demand that people surrender their private data so some stranger can use it to generate advertising revenue by mining their data to target advertising dollars.  Grouply has only ONE goal: making money.  Their propaganda about “improving your experience of Yahoo! Groups” is nonsense.  If that was their goal, they would include support of all features of Y! Groups, not just aggregation and mining of the message archives.

They don’t care what we think, but they will find out that many good people believe there is more to life than making money, and they don’t believe (as Shal and Srihari and TexasCritter other GrouplyFans do) that Grouply has some “right” to make money on our message traffic.

Grouply shot themselves in the foot when they gave spamming tools to their subscribers.  All it did was raise alarm bells, not generate good publicity for them.  I see it as conspiracy to violate the U.S. CAN SPAM Act of 2003, and the Federal Trade Commission needs to receive lots of complaints about it to get them to act on it.  We need to flood the FTC with email and postal mail about it.

Yahoo management and the public and the Federal Trade Commission are the people we need to be talking to, not groups run by GrouplyFans who suppress opposition to Grouply.

We need to stick to the fundamental principles involved:

(1)  It is dangerous and foolish to give up your password to a stranger.

(2)  Nobody has a “right” to take our private group message traffic and make money by generating advertising revenue with it.

(3)  Yahoo should provide group owners with the ability to block third party “aggregators” from this kind of activity, and to block external domain names from accessing our group content.

(4) The Yahoo! TOS prohibits transmitting group content to another web site.

I think it’s time for Yahoo to give us firewall-style tools to prevent access to our groups by DOMAIN NAME.  In other words, the ability to block any outside web site from accessing our group site, or any email address with a given domain name from joining.  Hotmail allows its users to block not just email addresses, but entire domains.  In my hotmail account, I can block @grouply.com, not just individual email addresses.  Yahoo should allow us to do that, too.  But blocking email addresses with a given domain name is not enough.  We need a firewall-style blocking that prevents external web sites from directly accessing our message archives via web connection (not just harvesting via Individual Emails member settings), even if they do have a member’s password to do it.

But I note with interest that people are not flocking in droves to sign up for Grouply, either.  Less than one percent of the EL-M group are Grouply subscribers.  Only about a dozen of the GrouplyImprovements members are Grouply subscribers, and at least two of them are Grouply staff, and two of them are GrouplyFan moderators.  Grouply hardly has any serious beta testers (which is why they have so many bugs and problems), and very few fans.

It’s a pretty lame product anyway.  I explored it pretty seriously, and found nothing about it that “improved my experience of Yahoo Groups.”

Grouply may end up just dying of natural causes and self-inflicted wounds.  I hope so.


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.


I Should Care About Grouply’s Survival?

February 18, 2008

——————–
In http://tech.groups.yahoo.com/group/GrouplyImprovements/message/195
Shal said:
On a purely business level, you may as well ask them to turn out the lights and close the doors.
——————–

So?

In this sentence, and in the overall thrust of his post, Shal seems to refer to some sort of necessity that we take into account Grouply’s business interests.  I do not see any necessity for telling a group owner that they must now accept a new paradigm for their group’s experience just because someone’s business interests are at
stake.

Many (if not most) YG owners are volunteers running non-profit civic types of groups where nobody has a business interest except Yahoo!, who deserves to make money on the service they are providing to us for free, and does it in a way that costs group owners nothing but the sweat of their brows to make a good thing happen for their group members.  If Grouply offered those group owners an option (a true OPTION, not an imposed thing they must opt-out of), then perhaps they might also deserve a piece of the business pie, if what they offered had value in the opinion of the group owner.

How this massive movement of volunteers in online communities should be deemed NECESSARILY open to companies like Grouply making money off of our painstaking work for our group communities (I refer to Shal’s phrase, “on a purely business level”), against our will, is beyond me.

Grouply CLAIMS to be improving the members’ experience.  Some members may agree with that, and that’s their prerogative, of course.  Group OWNERS also have rights and prerogatives.  Those owners who do not agree with their Grouply-fan members should not be subjected to having the groups that they OWN “opted-into” a third party service that they find contrary to their groups’ interests, regardless of what anyone else thinks of those owners’ opinions about what is good or bad for their groups, especially when they are “opted-into” it by a tiny minority of members (or even JUST ONE member!) who have no right to unilaterally change the paradigm on which the owner built and manages the group.

Nobody is obligated to take into account another party’s business interests unless they are contractually committed to do so, or obligated to do so under some provision of law or morality.  I have no legal or moral obligation to take into account any business interest of Grouply in my groups’ existence.

————-
Shal said:
If each new subscriber finds that they can access nothing until they go and pester the owners of all their groups into each giving them the ok — well the would-be subscribers will just walk away.
———–

Yes, Grouply’s would-be subscribers may well just walk away from Grouply if they have a strong interest in a Yahoo Group that opts out of Grouply involvement.

Shal has been known to say, as he does in this thread (and I agree), “Your group, your rules.”  So yes, if my group members want me to change those rules, they will have to consult with me about it, lobby for it (“pester” me, in Shal’s words).  And if they don’t like the rules established by the owner for the sake of the good of the whole group (not just a few Grouply fans, or just one seeking to opt the group into Grouplyfication), then indeed, they can and maybe should “just walk away,” and I would bid them a farewell with best wishes, if I had opted-out my group from Grouply.

But clearly group owners who prefer not to have to deal with the behaviors of Grouply, or don’t like it, do not have that option to just walk away from Grouply, or will not have such an option until Grouply grants it to them through an opt-out procedure to reverse the decision of one group member who opted-in the group’s archive … a procedure offered to us only after many of us “pestered” Grouply for it.  Such group owners, unlike members of our groups “pestering” us for changes (which, by the way, almost never happens in the groups I own, because I usually consult the members BEFORE imposing significant changes on the environment they joined), never voluntarily joined Grouply the way our “pestering” members voluntarily joined our groups and accepted the rules as they were upon joining.  But Grouply subscribers decide to redirect our archives to Grouply’s web site, at Grouply’s profit, and we are left with only “pestering” Grouply to stop their interfering, if we deem it to be interference, an opinion which is our right to hold as the grantors of the keys to our groups’ archives.

Is it truly interference?  That is a subjective matter, and nobody has a right to tell a group owner what their subjective experience should be of something they own, and built with their own hard labor and the support of their members.

What happened to “my group, my rules?”  If my rules were to now say, “No Grouply,” Shal’s statements seem to say that he would oppose it “on a purely business level,” based on a notion that I should have some sympathy for Grouply’s business interests.  My degree of concern for Grouply’s business interest is entirely dependent upon the quality of their concern for me, and my realization of some benefit derived from their business activity, a benefit I have yet to see.

Treat me in an honorably businesslike fashion, and I will be happy to reply in kind.  Barge into my house and say, “New rules, folks!” and I may be rather defensive and intolerant of such a presence.  My group, my rules.

I didn’t create and run my groups for the past several years so that Grouply could come along and reap a profit off my  labor.  I already know that my biggest group’s co-owners, moderators, and leading members object strongly to the idea, simply on principle that our volunteer labors should not be used by anyone, anywhere, to turn a profit.

Recently I kicked another corporate entity out of one of my groups because they were found to be using a trojanesque member account to redirect postings to an external web site to generate revenue off them with Google context-sensitive ads (and Yahoo finally shut down that operation, I was glad to see, after an outcry by group owners  and members, one similar to what we are seeing about Grouply, and for similar reasons).  I also work to prevent thievish “sploggers” from doing the same.  I enjoy the use of alert services continually crawling the web to notify me of such activity, among other measures I take to prevent profiteering on my group’s non-profit volunteer activity.

My group expects me to practice such measures.  They are not happy with the Grouply situation.  They expect me to do something about it.

————–
Shal said:
Yes, eventually enough groups may have approved that a subscriber’s initial experience would be more positive, but with 7+ million groups out there that day would probably be too far off for Grouply’s survival.
————

“Grouply’s survival” is not a concern of mine, especially if I do not agree that their product is an improvement on the experience of my group, and doubly especially if I find it detrimental to my group.

————-
Shal said:
Granted that from a moderator’s point of view I often say “your group, your rules”, but from the point of view of a group member, the requirement of an owner opt-in is unworkable and unfair. It is likely to be at least as unpopular with group members as are those moderators that choose to mess with members’ email delivery settings.
—————

Shal is certainly entitled to an opinion of what is “workable and fair,” and so am I.  Under the terms and conditions of the Yahoo agreement under which my group exists, and to which I and the group members are accountable, Yahoo and I define what is workable and fair for my group, not the members.  (Though I do take their opinions into account, I don’t let any one of them change the handling of my group archive unilaterally, yet that does not abrogate my right as owner to change the group rules unilaterally, within the Yahoo TOS).

Shal’s opinion of what may or may not be “unpopular with group members” is as valid as mine, but I own my group’s site in the YG system and I have been granted owner-level rights and responsibilities by Yahoo for that group resource.  Shal does not own it, nor does Grouply, and neither of them are party to my contract with Yahoo.  That makes my opinions about usage of my group archive take precedence over Shal’s and the company whose business interests he appears to defend.

—————-
Shal said:
Before Grouply accesses any group there has been a positive opt-in — by the member.
—————-

On principle if nothing else, I am not comfortable with the idea that Grouply has enabled any single member of my group to choose unilaterally to grant Grouply an opportunity to forever make untold sums money on my group’s existence, its history of activity, its future activity, and its non-profit volunteer labors without my explicitly opted-in consent (and that of all other members of the group, as I would prefer).  People tend to be touchy about others using their volunteer group work to make money without something in return that they actually want or need and that serves the mission of their group.

Under the Yahoo TOS, members do not have the right to redirect group content to another web site.  They don’t own the group content.  They only own the content of their individual postings that they wrote.  They can send their own postings anywhere they like.  But they don’t have a right to “opt-in” all their groups’ entire message archives, past, present and future, to an external profit-making environment that the owner of the group opposes and the members were not given an opportunity to consult on.  (However, I will not mind if Grouply can find a way to make a few pennies on THIS post, and I won’t even ask for a royalty.  LOL.  Just kidding.)

Shal’s assertion that a SINGLE member’s decision to opt-in a group to Grouply.com seems to clearly imply that he thinks individual member rights are greater than owner rights, and greater than the majority of members’ rights, as any such rights may affect changes to the way the group archive is used.

Do you detect that I disagree?

———————-
Shal said:
To the extent that Grouply makes good on its promise to safeguard message access, mirroring the access afforded by Yahoo, I’d argue that Group owner opt-in is unnecessary.
———————-

That mirroring access Shal mentions is not being accorded to Grouply BY YAHOO, as he mistakenly asserts here.  It is done by individual members giving their Yahoo account IDs and passwords to Grouply, and, in all cases, by JUST ONE member initiating a relationship between Grouply and affected groups.

Opt-in by owner is the right way to go.
 


We don’t need your stinking pictures

February 18, 2008

At:
http://tech.groups.yahoo.com/group/GrouplyImprovements/message/275
 … Grouply CEO Mark Robins said that Grouply has “no intention” of hosting, sharing or displaying within the Grouply system any of the content of the “web tools” areas of Yahoo! Groups other than the message archive.  Files, photos, links, database, calendar, and member list are of no interest to Grouply.  They only want to scrape the message archives.

And I bet I know why!  There’s no serious money to be made from context-sensitive ads (e.g. Google AdSense, etc.) on anything but text!  And you can’t target inline message ads to people based on their pictures.

And you can’t collect information on the posting content, habits, interests, topics, and group interests of people as well from their photos and databases as you can from the things they write in messages, whom they write to, when, how often, which messages they reply to, etc.

“Aggregation” and analysis of posting activity provides the aggregator with lots of information about the victims … um, I mean, users … of the aggregator’s system.

If it were really true that Grouply is all about improving members’ experience of Yahoo! Groups, then that experience would include functionality for things other than message posting activity, things that have long been standard parts of Yahoo! Groups member experience.  But message posts are the richest source of context-sensitive ad generation and posting trend analysis from among those things that can be scraped from Yahoo! Groups.