Google Groups has been an amazing asset to me for the last several years. I use it, as I’m sure many do, as an archived listserv for various groups I participate in. What’s great is you can setup the group as invite only, but allow anyone to post. People outside the group send email in, but only members of the group can read it.
Incredibly common, incredibly useful, but recently on Google Groups, incredibly broken.
This mode of operation is great for any kind of customer or community support, or whenever you want an email address that anyone can drop a message for a specific group of people to read, without having to build a ‘Contact’ form, or host your own email server.
Another trick I’ve used is to create an email address on a domain, like email@example.com, and forward all emails from there to the Google Group address. A lot of times this is easier than trying to get the support alias to forward the emails to multiple people directly, and you get the added benefit of the central Groups archive. Definitely better than multiple people logging into the same email account… when it works.
The problem I’m having lately is with Google’s spam filter, which you can’t turn off even if you wanted to:
See something missing there? Where the heck is the ‘Deliver it anyway’ option?
If you search Google Groups support forums, you find out pretty quickly they are having a bit of an identity crisis. With all the ‘fairly recent’ changes to the interface the forums are overrun with outdated and incorrect documentation. While I’m a fan of the new layout for the Settings page (thank you left-handed tree view) Google should have made a clean break from the old support forums so at least we could find relevant help documents.
When you do finally find a relevant support discussion on disabling spam filters, what you get are gems like this:
It’s almost funny watching the poor user almost losing his mind trying to get the support rep to just admit you can no longer disable the filter. The reason they give?
“As is, we currently don’t provide the option to turn this off – when the option was previously available, spammers were using this as a way to bypass our spam filters. (This setting is however available if you’re on an Apps domain.) We realize that this is less than ideal, but is the best alternative at the present time to protect our users from unwanted spam. We’re actively working to improve our spam infrastructure to alleviate this problem.”
Wait, let me get this straight… so spammers were logging into private Google Groups and disabling the spam filter so that they could bypass the spam filter? Hmm…
The problem is only compounded by the fact that Google doesn’t actually send a notification to moderators whenever a new message enters the queue, but it can actually take up to 2 days before you’re notified of that mis-flagged email that’s been withering in your moderation queue.
I guess the moral of the story is you get what you pay for. Maybe readers can suggest alternatives back on Hacker News for a drop-in replacement. I’m looking for a service with the following features / configurable options:
- Email can come into the list from any address
- Email is forwarded onward only to members of the list
- Reply-To address is set to be the list, not the original sender
- Emails sent to the list from a member of the list are forwarded to all members, including the sender
- List server keeps an archive of all messages and attachments, accessible and searchable to members via a web interface