Googlegroups Goo

Something happened to me the other day that made me wonder how many other people have had the same experience, and how many could use a little advice if it does happen to them.

I have a google account, and it’s signed up to a few google groups. I was automatically subscribed to a group without having a chance to confirm that I wanted to be on the list. the group name didn’t look familiar, so I was suspicious. I didn’t say anything, even though I was tempted to ask why I was subscribed to the list. I soon found out why I was subscribed. Spam started to flow.

But that wasn’t all that started to flow. Messages from other people screaming to be unsubscribed, unsuscribed, unsuscrubed, unscribed, and taken off this damn list, as well as auto-replies and someone’s email program screaming demands that it stop being bounced by firewalls or something began to arrive in droves. I quickly went to my google account, reported the group as being a spammer and unsubscribed myself.

Then I was looking through my settings under manage memberships and found one that should be checked by default. It said do not allow group managers to add you directly. Whaaat? Why is that ever a good idea? It’s not that hard for a user to click a confirm link or reply to an email. If the person doesn’t get the confirm, they should check their spam folder. Giving managers the ability to add folks directly opens the door to spamming.

so, everybody with a google groups account, disable the ability to be directly added to groups by manager. And if you find yourself in a group you didn’t agree to join, for pete’s sake don’t write a message to it. That only confirms to the spammer that you’re alive so they’ll ramp up the spamming. report the group and unsubscribe through that same manage memberships area.

On the other side of the coin, if you’re getting a newsletter that is set up as a Google Ggroup and you no longer want it, that is not an excuse to use the report as spam button. We know what hell that can unleash. Simply unsubscribe through your manage memberships area.

Either way, it’s never a good idea to send “please take me off this list messages” to any list. Messages you send to a list go to everyone on the list, and most of those folks have no power to help you. There are always unsubscribe instructions that you receive when you join a list. If you lost them, email the list owner for help. But never write to the list.

I joined a list years ago whose service explained this whole thing beautifully. I managed to find the exact message I received when I subscribed.

To send a message to all the people currently subscribed to the list, just send mail to (insert list address here). This is called “sending mail to the list,” because you send mail to a single address and LISTSERV makes copies for all the people who have subscribed. This address (insert list address here) is also called the “list address.” You must never try to send any command to that address, as it would be distributed to all the people who have subscribed. All commands must be sent to the “LISTSERV address,” (insert list admin address here). It is very important to understand the difference between the two, but fortunately it is not complicated. The LISTSERV address is like a FAX number that connects you to a machine, whereas the list address is like a normal voice line connecting you to a person. If you make a mistake and dial the FAX number when you wanted to talk to someone on the phone, you will quickly realize that you used the wrong number and call again. No harm will have been done. If on the other hand you accidentally make your FAX call someone’s voice line, the person receiving the call will be inconvenienced, especially if your FAX then re-dials every 5 minutes. The fact that most people will eventually connect the FAX machine to the voice line to allow the FAX to go through and make the calls stop does not mean that you should continue to send FAXes to the voice number. People would just get mad at you. It works pretty much the same way with mailing lists, with the difference that you are calling hundreds or thousands of people at the same time, and consequently you can expect a lot of people to get upset if you consistently send commands to the list address.

More instructions need to be written that clearly.

So that’s my computer tip for the day. I just thought it might help someone.

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