Thursday, September 17, 2009

Just say no to Yahoo!

If you want to discuss a specific aspect or product related to ham radio, the chances are there is a Yahoo! group about it. In fact, for certain subjects there are likely to be several, due to some people's habit of starting a group before looking to see if one already existed for that topic.

Why are Yahoo! groups so popular with the ham fraternity? I hate them! First of all, I hate Yahoo! as a company, for reasons that I won't go into. Second of all, Yahoo! groups are essentially mailing lists, a technology from the early days of the internet before search engines and forums were invented. When my mail client shows I have new messages, I tend to interrupt what I'm doing to see who has replied to me. I don't want to be disturbed by someone's contribution to a thread I haven't participated in and may not even be interested in. Consequently I read Yahoo! groups on the web. And compared to 21st century forum software, Google Groups or the free forum platform Nabble, Yahoo!'s web interface is slow, cumbersome and just plain sucks.

The third, and really major reason why I deplore the use of Yahoo! for ham radio discussion groups is that they tend to be moderated by despotic paranoid individuals who make them private and then apply their own idiosyncratic rules as to what is or is not admissable. The problem with making them private is you have to join to see what is being said, because none of the content can be found using Google (or Yahoo! Search, for that matter) which would add to the openly available knowledge on that subject. Personally I like to see what the tone of a forum is before subscribing. But often I just have a casual interest in what is being said about a particular transceiver or whatever and have no desire to join and participate.

It wouldn't be so bad if joining was simply a matter of clicking a few buttons and you're in. But the despotic paranoids who run some of these groups make you jump through hoops before they'll even accept you. You have to wait until a moderator reads your request to join, and if he doesn't think your reasons are convincing enough he won't admit you.

One Yahoo! group - about magnetic loops, if I recall correctly - had some rule to keep out "lurkers" that you were expected to post 4 times in a fortnight after joining. The group didn't like what I posted as I was raising concerns about RF exposure levels from magnetic loops, so I was kicked out. Another group, recently started to discuss an as yet unavailable new transceiver, includes the following condition: "Application for membership waives any "free speech" rights, and implies that the applicant is willing to submit to the rules set by the group moderators and owners." I'm afraid I find that unacceptable.

Can't we make more use of open discussion platforms like Google Groups or Nabble for specialized ham radio forums, and do moderators need to act like Stalin?

3 comments:

Paul said...

Hello Julian, I join the Miracle Whip and EH antenna Yahoo forum. Though I didn't post much, so I am a lurker, but they didn't throw me out. Hi. I was curious about the MW antenna, and the EH antenna as well. But most of the time it is blah blah... I don't like Yahoo either. Many years ago I manage a email at Yahoo because I like the online calendar function. Now in years the calendar is full of appointments, birthdays etc etc. so I am a little bit Yahoo dependent. And I am too lazy to start a calendar somewhere else. I am stuck to Yahoo. I don't use Flickr because you need to make a Yahoo account, and I don't wanna make a new account. 73, Paul

Steve GW7AAV said...

Hi Julian, I am a member of numerous Yahoo Groups and have never had any problems other than the odd troll or lack of moderation leading to someone spamming the forum. I opted out of receiving posts via email along time ago and only read them on-line for the reasons you mention. I certainly don't have you reservations but I agree that a more open system where search engines can find useful information in the groups would be good. As a former Usenet user I still see Yahoo Groups as an improvment if somewhat past their sell by date.

Regards Steve GW7AAV editor of CQHQ.co.uk & gw7aav.co.uk

M0PZT said...

'ello,
I am a member of a number of these Yahoo groups - until recently, most of these were set to e-mail me each message but after many daft/pointless messages I set them all to "web-only". The web interface has been static for as long as I can remember and you're right - it's awful.

Private groups - Granted there is always the issue of robotic posts offering "medial enhancements" and such but I can't see any valid reason for a discussion about a hobby to be private - some of them require moderator approval for your first couple of posts which seems fair enough.

Without upsetting our neighbours across the pond, it's generally the groups run by the chaps in the USA that seem to "go large" with the rules and policies :(

Personally, I prefer a web-based forum (with an easily navigatable template!) over e-mail lists.