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Oct 1, 2013

RIP Yahoogroups :-(

No, the popular free Yahoogroups have not been eliminated. Yet.

However, the latest "improvements" introduced by the idiots at Yahoo responsible for such things may have killed the usefulness of this feature for many people.

Those who use or subscribe to these groups - which cover a range of subjects far beyond translation - will understand what I mean if they have occasion to use the web interface sometimes. The new web design introduced a few weeks ago is radically different and disorienting, and I must now resort to e-mail functions if I want to contribute to a discussion. Many others seem to have similar issues.

Note to designers and developers: if it ain't broke, maybe you should keep your hands off it. Something might look dated but still be far more serviceable than your "clever" new design ideas.

I see this all as part of a trend to undermine years of progress in human/computer interface design. In recent years, programmers have been moving close boxes on dialogs, perhaps to overcome well-trained user impulses to get rid of them before they are read. Often there is a commercial interest behind such a change. Or it might be pure, stupid ego. I am reminded of an arrogant SOB at a former employer of mine in Germany, a very intelligent software developer who had created an interesting document management module but decided one day that print functions belong under the Edit menu. WTF? He was completely deaf to all protests that the File menu was the standard, expected place for such things and felt that as a demigod he had the right to dictate to thousands of others that they must bow to his superior will.

This is not a useful way to work. We programmers are not gods, though at times I'm not sure thata ll of us are human. (Most are in the ways that count, fortunately.)

When I think of the great contributions these online groups have made to our translation profession, providing support communities for the software we use, for our discussions of language, the payment practices of clients and much more, I am very saddened to think that this might all be lost now because of the stupid redesign by Yahoo. But Yahoo is a troubled company and may be on the way out, so perhaps we need to think about ways of preserving these information archives if they are worth keeping and look to new fora for the future. Google+? Maybe. But despite all the enthusiasm of Guy Kawasaki and the interesting things I am discovering in that integrated platform, I do not yet see it as offering structured discussion groups in quite the same useful way. I hope I'm missing something obvious.

Apparently Yahoo is receiving many thousands of complaints, access to those with disabilities no longer work, and there are many new problems with technical features and spam. But why should that matter to demigods? "Neo", as the new mess is called, is here to stay according to Yahoo.

There are many discussions of the problem out there. Most I find depressing. Don't bother. 

Time to vote with our feet?

26 comments:

  1. I feel exactly the same way. Why won't Yahoo just get on with it and die.

    Sadly, I posted a rant or two in a few of my favourite lists, but was met only with fish-eyed stares. I suppose this might be because most of the old fogies are still using Thunderbird, and so haven't noticed how hard it is to do anything in the ‘neo’ online interface.

    Thanks god my favourite list, the CafeTran list, is using Google Groups. Google Groups might not be perfect either, but it is a hell of a lot better than Yahoo. I can even easily insert pictures in my posts (!!!), which is reason enough to ditch Yahoo and move them all over to G. Groups.

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  2. PS: Before Yahoo messed everything up, there was an easy way to archive the contents of an entire Yahoo Group: PG Offline (http://www.personalgroupware.com/). Yahoo didn't warn any of the developers who had built software around the old system, they just gave us neo, overnight, and so the developer of PG Offline is currently working overtime to get his program to work with the new system. Once he does, I suggest archiving all of them somewhere safe (and accessible) and jumping ship.

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    1. Sounds like a plan. I hope others will agree.

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  3. Careful who you call an old fogey, Michael. And besides, the fogiest of us use Eudora..... ;-)

    Google Groups? I'm embarrassed to say I don't know that ecosystem (yet). I'll have a look. FB is out of the question; the Groups there are really a mess. I deal with them as a way of keeping track of some discussions; after the implosion of Watercooler on Ning, many of the Germans moved to their own semi-functional discussion group ("NT = Networking Translators" which seems typically Denglisch to me and reminds me too much of that old Windows corporate OS) and Andrew re-incarnated some nice parts of the old group in a Watercooler group page, but... well, I don't want to start a rant about the evils of FB group structures. There are three or four or more "memoQ" groups on FB, none of them really headed in a useful direction.

    As the experience years ago with Atril and "The Beast" showed, it's not easy to change old habits, and what may seem backward and in need of change may simply be the best functional compromise available for the parties needed to communicate. It's not easy to build a community online, and what's built and last for years can be destroyed quickly for unexpected reasons. Think CompuServe, UseNet groups and FIFO. I wasn't part of that, but many colleagues still talk about it years after the meltdown. When I heard that I start getting flashbacks to BBS days and the "network" days before that, and I start looking for a coffin propped in a corner, waiting.

    I hope we can find an effective new paradigm soon with a minimum of commercial gimmicks.

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  4. To give you an idea of a good Google Groups list, have a look at the CafeTranslators group: https://groups.google.com/forum/?fromgroups=#!forum/cafetranslators

    The ability to insert images in your posts might seem trivial, but once you have done it, you will soon realise how useful it really is.

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    1. Trivial? No. Many times in the past decade I've wanted to put screenshot excerpts in a forum post with an explanation.

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    2. Just had a look... my first impression is that it's easy to find information in the Google Groups structure. It may have potential.

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  5. Yeah, I am quite impressed so far with the new Google Groups interface. That is, Google revamped their interface too recently, but, unlike Yahoo, they know what they are doing.

    You can also change the interface a little, using:

    Settings > Display density > Auto, Comfortable, Cozy or Compact
    Settings > Themes

    I wonder if there is a way to migrate old Yahoo data to Google Groups, or to any other system for that matter, so that all the old posts are still searchable in the new interface. Otherwise it shouldn't be too hard to archive them somewhere, unless this is forbidden by Yahoo.

    The problem, however, will be getting people to change. I tried a while back, when I suggested we move the memoQ list to a forum. Remember how that went down?

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    1. I think if you could offer some of the same key features of Yahoogroups people would change. They include being able to moderator groups or individual members, access by invitation from the moderators only, participating via email and not just online, being able to get digests/no mail and proper searchable archives plus being able to upload files. As far as I'm aware Google groups only offers some of those features,

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    2. Exactly, Erika. When I was writing the post, I had a look to see just how far on the fringe my opinion of the change might be, and the most insightful discussions of the problem I found often mentioned these points about moderation and mail options and their integrations with the web interface.

      I hope some good solution will be found. My private needs are taken care of very nicely with a small, private forum of serious professionals, but I need easily accessible public venues to which I can refer anyone for help and occasionally contribute something, knowing that it will fend off endless redundant support requests and that people will probably find a lot of good ideas I might never have known or thought of. Yahoogroups have been a good place to send people for answers for years. (This was also one of my main reasons for starting to write and distribute technical SOPs for translation tool interoperability a dozen years ago and later share the same sort of information in PrAdZ forums and later on this blog and others. We need good publicly accessible information sources that are not controlled by commercial interests. I need other people to have these so I can enjoy a quieter life.)

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  6. I have long entertained the idea of opening a hub consisting of forums and sub-forums based on one unified (and preferably Open Source) forum platform that will be maintained by the community with a focus on content, accessibility and functionality.
    However, few issues come to mind:
    1) A traditional forum platform is not exactly a user group. If offers more in some areas and less in others. However, maybe a satisfying technical solution could be find?
    2) Transferring all the existing content that is probably scattered all over the place and incompatible to begin with is a big issue.
    3) Administration - if this will get off the ground there are associated costs with running the infrastructure of such a forum. Also there is the question of different levels of moderation, etc. (because someone will have to take the lead).

    LinkedIn groups are nice but lacking too many basic features. Google groups are OK I guess, but personally I grow slightly tired of all-things-Google especially in light of their history with discontinuing services. Maybe it is time to think outside of the box; maybe like with other aspects of our work and life we should take the imitative and control over our online communities? I really don't have the answer, this is just a thought.

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    1. Someone pointed out that real advantage of the old Yahoogroups format was the way it managed to find some harmony between web-based fora and e-mail lists. That probably is why they were so successful for so long.

      LinkedIn drives me nuts. Since those "skill endorsements" were introduced, I cringe nearly each time I log in and try to find information. I follow discussions there or on Xing occasionally, but not consistently and never for long.

      The reservations you and so many others have about the Googloctopus swallowing all information and its venues are certainly valid and largely shared by me. I have no idea now where we should go and where we might be in 5 years or in 10. Ten years ago some of us thought ProZ had potential as a professional venue, and high-caliber colleagues (in my language pair) like Ralf Lemster, Steffen Walter, Marc Prior and Vic Dewsbery and so many others made enormous contributions from which I learned much of my foundational knowledge in the technical aspects of translation and many less technical professional things. They're all banned now or at least strongly muzzled or just gone. Who would have thought that platform would devolve into the junta-controlled mass of submediocity that we find now, largely a playground for commoditizers and Fourth World Linguistic Sausage Producers? (Some did see that ages ago, but plenty of smart people were not that far-sighted.) Life is full of surprises, and some of these are even good, so maybe there is the right surprise waiting for all of us, right under our noses, and we just don't see it yet. Whatever the case, we'll muddle through somehow.

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    2. Google is probably not the best option for the long-term anyway. Even if putting aside the issues of what information will be gathered and what it will be used for, they are notorious for discontinuing products, and even more concerning, implementing UI changes. I can't remember the amount of UI overhauls that YouTube went just in this past year for example, which kind of defeating the purpose of leaving Yahoogroups for this same reason.

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  7. I agree. If it ain't broken, don't fix it. Or like a friend of mine always likes to say: It's the KISS principle. Keep It Simple, Stupid.

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  8. Looks like a business opportunity, if you ask me.

    There are quite a few CAT tool, translation, and language related mailing lists, and all of them are in need of a good place to live. I think a new mailing list platform, with all of the features we need, geared towards CAT tools/translation/language stuff (for a small fee) might just work.

    For example, I am subscribed to: euralex, WordSmith Tools, CafeTranslators, Lexicografie en woordenboeken, sci.lang.translation, vertalers, TW_users, memoQ, tr_jobs, help_, dejavu-l, indent, lexicographylist, dtSearch, MacLingua, IntelliWebSearch-l, belgian_translators, MacSwitch, termxchange, okapitools, OmegaT, multitrans, FineReader, linuxfortranslators, DUTCH-ENGLISH-STUDY-GROUP, term, boekvertalers, GroupManagersForum, wwwsift, wordfast, WF_PRO, sdlx, swordfish_support, prtransl, catmt, Rosetta-L, Blogger Users, Lifestyle Issues for Translators: LIFT.

    It would also be nice to have them all in one place. A cool central hub could also be created, etc. etc. etc.

    OK, any developers out there with a little cash to spare? Anyone friends with a venture capitalist?

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    1. I can't see this as a business opportunity, really. Certainly there is money which could be extracted in some way from meeting the need, but it's not like an of us are really short of ways to make money if we need to or want to. I think of this more like a public library. We desperately need those, and I don't think viewing them as direct commercial ventures with paying customers and profit centers is useful in any way at all - indeed, I think that is actively harmful to public interests. Where would a boy like young Ray Bradbury feed his hungry mind with empty pockets if not in such a place? Where can people with good potential and limited finances get the information they need to build stable lives and careers with the fewest expensive mistakes possible? Libraries. Real and virtual are an important part of that. Certainly not the only way, but one of the most important. If I want to put a price on something and sell it I can; I'm certainly not shy about that, and others are free to judge whether the price is worth it. But I've found the greatest returns much of the time casting my stale bread on waters like the DV mailing list, where colleagues like Danilo Nogueira sent back many a feast, a debt I should be paying back to the next two generations.

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  9. When I envisioned this hub I didn't think of it as a commercial venue (a little on that in a minute) but more of an Open Source type of a community. Just a platform by the community for the community. We already know that the community exists, albeit scattered, and it is just a matter of providing it with an efficient platform.
    It could be a commercial opportunity, but whenever money is to be made out of something, it automatically shift the focus or just hover in the back of the mind.
    I think that every business-run community that I have ever been a member of has underwent this process. Starting small, gaining reputation by merit, selling out (to a bigger business or just selling out the values to directly profit from said reputation and traffic), abusing the reputation, position and the community to make even more money while mostly losing relevancy.

    Sure, running such hub is a complicated task. Even if it will attract fraction of the traffic Yahoogroups did, the costs of infrastructure are significant.
    The best solution probably is for someone with the capability and resources to maintain the infrastructure will volunteer it, and allow the community to run its platform. In case anything changes the platform could be easily migrated to another sever - something like Yahoo!, Google, Microsoft, etc. offering just the It infrastructure without forcing and shackling the users to their propriety platform.

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  10. Yeah, a paid solution probably isn’t the way to go. I'm curious what the open source community has to offer. Stuff like GNU Mailman (http://www.gnu.org/software/mailman/index.html), (http://www.phplist.com/), etc. I'll have a look when I have a moment.

    One thing though – I think we should try and get our hands on all the data, ASAP, before Yahoo/Google, etc., either lose it or lock it down. For example, I keep running into developers of small tools complaining that the Yahoo! Groups data is no longer accessible since the advent of the neo system. Sounds a little suspect to me.

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  11. I noticed in the recent digest I receive for the memoQ group in English that the character mapping is now screwed up. "Istv€ ¦án Lengyel" is the new CEO of Kilgray. Way to go, Yahoo. The others are probably messed up too, but it's been a busy week and I haven't been reading most of the digests for a while.

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  12. A very good article came to my attention via Twitter, which summarizes problems like this quite well: "Users don't hate change, they hate you!"

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  13. Here's another good commentary on the insanity of crap redesigns, applies just as well to software tools as it does to web sites of course: uxdesign.smashingmagazine.com/2012/05/16/stop-redesigning-start-tuning-your-site/

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  14. Hi Kevin,

    Yes, there is definitely something wrong with how Yahoo Gloops is handling encoding.

    I just wrote this in the help_ list, e.g.:

    'Is anyone else getting constant encoding %$#*-ups in these messages in Gmail?

    For example, Dominique's message just now read:

    I personally don't see much difference between the 'Review' toolbar in Word 2003 and the 'Review' tab in Word 2010.

    I assume this should read: ​​

    I personally don't see much difference between the 'Review' toolbar in Word 2003 and the 'Review' tab in Word 2010.

    What is going on here? A lot of people's messages contain so many character encoding mistakes that it is becoming a pain in the a$$ just to read them without getting angry.

    (...)

    As far as I can tell from the various lists I follow, this Yahoo nonsense is really starting to have an effect on how engaged people are with these lists. I myself find that I am reading them less and less because dealing with them is such a chore. I am always extremely relieved to be back in a Google Groups list, which is where I suggest we move this list post-haste.

    Michael​​

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    1. Here's an excerpt from one group digest I receive:

      "wirst Du diese Software alleine benutzen oder sollen auch Kollegen es tun,
      jetzt oder in Zukunft? Das Problem is, dass das, was in der Memory
      gespeichert ist, v€ ¢Ã¶llig € ¢Ã¼berpr€ ¢Ã¼ft sein muss...

      Gru€ ¢Ã’¿ "


      Appalling. Every message I receive in German from Yahoogroups is garbled since the advent of NEO. I just send the digests straight to the Delete folder now most of the time - unread.

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  15. Yes, the recent redesigning trend is the web equivalent of corporate reorganization and increasing efficiency. With the distention between a website and App getting blurred by the day, many just give attention to how things look. They are after "cool" and "trendy", and the functionality taking the best seat (this reminds me a lot of what is happening in the transition world with the obsession with technology replacing essence consideration and merits). Don't get me wrong, I love a visual appealing interface, but as long as it contributes to the user experience. Indeed, design is subjective and someone somewhere will always be a critic, but most of these redesigns also change the user experience, and usually to the worse. Redesigns are especially an issue in community based platform, such as newsgroups, in which the content and functionality are probably more important to the community then in a typical brochure type of a website.

    This discussion really reignited for me the idea of taking matters into our own hand and starting an open community to replace many of the discussion going on third-party forums and/or groups that are not the ideal platform for them. The first and main obstacle is the platform. I did look around a bit in the last couple of days, and my conclusion is that a "traditional" forum is probably the best alternative. It is not as convenient for working with emails, but maybe a solution could be found.

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  16. Not everyone is choosing to jump ship. there is a group that is trying to convince yahoo to go back to the old format until NEO is fixed. Led by Owl much of the group participated in convincing Yahoo back in 2010 to roll back the changes made. If you're interested in trying to help join us at: http://tech.groups.yahoo.com/group/modsandmembers/

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  17. Regarding open source alternatives, Elgg (http://elgg.org/) has been around for a while. You could integrate there all different translation-related groups just by importing their RSS feeds. Of course, establishing "write" permissions is a totally different story. And all this makes sense if the goal is to provide the public with a summary of the activities. Otherwise, each individual user can accomplish pretty much the same with any feed aggregator (such as feedly).

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