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Discussion Groups Influence Lives

Discussion Groups:  How They Influence Our Lives
   by Roz Fruchtman (originally written 2003)

Discussion groups have played such a large part in my life, both on- and off-line, that the only way I know how to tell you about it is to start from the beginning.In my opinion, the Email-based discussion group is the single most effective Internet tool available for sharing information, learning, teaching, networking, meeting people, finding clients, and discussing just about every imaginable subject – and then some!With discussion list communities popping up all over the Web, one can find a group for just about any topic. If not… within five minutes you can start your own, promote it, and lo and behold… you have formed your own discussion list community. Keep in mind… It’s easy to start it, but no walk in the park to run it! Unless you are willing to give the time, lots of energy, and understanding, you should just save yourself the heartache, and join someone elses group! Dealing with hundreds or thousands of human beings from every walk of life – each having their own opinions – I sometimes feel like a Discussion List Police Person!

Benefits of Discussion Groups 

  • Most groups are international, therefore, providing 24/7 support due to different time zones
  • Most people join because they really want to help, or learn, and are dedicated to the cause
  • With a large group you learn different ways to reach the same end
  • Those that learn, eventually wind up helping the next generation of list newbies
  • Lifelong friendships and alliances are formed

My Internet career started approximately nine years ago with an on-line help forum created by the old WordPerfect Corporation

WordPerfect was probably one of the first companies to use an on-line community to replace their unlimited toll-free technical support. The forum lasted – two years – just long enough to give its members a taste of the future and what would soon come to be known as the norm in day-to-day on-line living and learning.

With the demise of the WordPerfect forum, everyone went his or her separate ways in search of suitable Internet providers. Coming from a free 24/7 forum, going to providers that offered 5-hour monthly packages for $9.95, and huge hourly rates for each additional hour, we had to learn much discipline – log-on long enough to collect mail, read off-line, and count minutes. It almost seems like another lifetime!

Finally, after what seemed like forever, one-by-one, on-line providers sprung up all over offering unlimited discounted packages. No more rationing time on-line! No more watching the clock! From there, as they say… It is history!

Having more time on-line I was able to investigate and learn more about this new phenomena… discussion groups. I remember thinking… The Internet was this cold empty place! I had no clue how to travel around, and forget about, knowing how to search for anything. Nothing made sense, and there was no one to help. I remember one of the techs as CompuServe saying… We do not teach you how to use the Internet, we just provide it! Imagine that! Being persistent to a fault, I did not stay frustrated for long. I learned early on that because of my enthusiasm and inquisitive nature people would help me. I used this newfound knowledge to get what I needed – Information!

Once I learned how to navigate around, I soon found a replacement community for WordPerfect’s on-line forum – WPWIN- L! Here I met the most fantastic people, and lifelong friendships were formed. I could always count on being given a gentle shove in the right direction when I was on a new learning mission. My Internet voyage had begun!

I discovered that I enjoyed helping people, and that by helping I was learning more than I could have ever imagined – about the subject and myself. Some found my helpfulness annoying, so eventually I started my own on-line help community for web development. I combined what I learned on other lists with my own ideas, and formed what has become one of the most successful email based web development communities – HTML-Haven Discussion Group. ( Once everything was tested, I opened the virtual doors of my new group and put the word out. Knowing lots of people from other lists I had been on, the group grew on my name alone. As time progressed through word-of-mouth the list began to grow and today it has almost 1400 members and grows daily. Always being a member and never running a group, I had no clue how much work was involved.

This is not a biography of my life… but more to demonstrate how discussion groups have paved the way for me to progress, and how they can do the same for you. Another interest of mine that came from discussion group membership is my love of creating Judaic graphics. This was a fluke. I had never considered myself artistic in a graphic sort of way. However, I needed a Judaic graphic and could not find anything suitable. Finally I came upon a graphic that I liked and then did not know what to do with it. A discussion group friend met me online and showed me how to create my very first left border background. She then convinced me to join the Paint Shop Pro Usersgroup. ( From there I met someone completely new to me, who took me under her wing for on-line sessions to learn how to use Paint Shop Pro and Alien Skin’s Eye Candy. From there I moved on to another adventure. So you see… discussion groups are invaluable resources.

For those that don’t have a clue what I am talking about, let me try this another way. Here are five questions and answers that should do the trick.

  • What is a Discussion Group? A Discussion Group is a group of people, with similar interests, gathering together for the sake of learning and sharing knowledge.
  • Why would I want to belong to a Discussion Group? While frustrating at times, belonging to a discussion group could be one of the most rewarding experiences, both for giving and receiving information. The caring, sharing, camaraderie, and loyalty in a successful group are beyond anything I have ever experienced before.Also, with so many people experiencing similar problems, there is always more than one way to reach the same end. Lots can be learned by just observing, which is called “lurking” in discussion group lingo.
  • Why would I want to run and/or own a Discussion Group? Well this can be a loaded question. For me… Owning a discussion group came when I could not find one that suited my needs. I love to share information. It was not always easy for me to learn, and when I did, I was grateful enough to not want others to have to suffer as I did. I wanted to make it easier for others, while ensuring that I had a place to go for help as well. There is nothing more fulfilling than providing such a service, and nothing more thankless and frustrating. Most members have no clue what it takes to keep a large group running smoothly and disciplined. This is the part of discussion group ownership that I detest. One must wear many hats, including Discussion Group Police Person.
  • What if I can’t find a discussion group that meets my needs? Start your own. But remember… It IS hard work! Be prepared and go in with a full heart.
  • Why would I want to run a discussion group of my own? To form the kind of community that you want to belong to. The kind of community that you feel would best benefit yourself and your members. Discussion groups come in every shape and form. Discussion groups are not democracies; they are run by the list owner’s rules and whims. Just be reasonable and you will succeed.

In ending… I will say… There is nothing better than an on- line email discussion community. Even schools, both on- and off-line have taken to having companion lists so that the students can share and learn together as a group. Where else would you find people who know exactly what you are going through, because they have been there before you! On the other hand my solutions will prevent others from having the same problems. 

I have been fortunate to meet some of the nicest, selfless people that have given so much of their time and their skills to help me progress, and realize my potential. On-line, there is no such thing as I can’t! If you put in the time, there is always someone there to help you!

On-line there is not the competitiveness that one finds in their everyday off-line lives. I remember when I was growing up, my mother used to say… Never show someone what you know, because they will take your job from you! I thought she was nuts, but she was right. On-line, there is not that competitiveness because the world is a big place and there is enough for everyone, or should be. (Of course, there are the exceptions!)

Most people belong to at least one email discussion group community — as members or owners. If not… Here is a gentle push in the right direction for you to start your own. Some of the top free hosts are:

NOTE:  Before you start promoting your list, and/or sending out invitations, test and retest, to make sure the list host is offering the features you need and/or want. Start the group, invite a few colleagues for testing purposes, and send messages back and forth and tweak to your own specifications. In this manner, you will quickly find out what is missing, or what groovy features are there that you had not even considered. (If you think we need a follow up article on running a discussion list let me know. Send email to:

Last, but not least… Even an owner/manager needs a place to go for help. Join one of the Manager’s List available at  At the moment I do not have one to recommend.

So what are you waiting for! Join and/or start your own list!

Posted by Roz /