When is a Google group not a Google group?

Okay, change is hard. And “software as a service” leaves you open to change at the whim of the service provider. I suppose I’ll get used to it one of these days.

As background, I spend a lot of my time setting up support for virtual offices. This usually means crafting e-mail alias lists for addresses like “info@something.org” where it’s a really good idea to have more than one person monitoring the e-mail. [You then do need a protocol for who answers the mail, but that’s another discussion.]

As more background, most of the sites I work on are hosted at Dreamhost, a very large, but still quirky, hosting company. As an ex UNIX sysadmin, I love the way they offer a select group of software installs that often give me just what I need without the effort of sorting through the myriad of options that are available. They do, however, have a less than stellar reputation for hosting e-mail. So when they started offering Google Apps for Domains hosted with them, I jumped at the chance to move my domain’s mail service to Google.

Anyway, for the first few sites, I was merrily creating my “info@xxx.org” addresses using the “e-mail address” function.

Sometime last month, that just “went away”. It wasn’t possible to set up an address that pointed to more than one external address.

But wait! There’s a new option “group”.  Oh, I guess that’s good — having a Google Group “attached” to the domain. But the overhead of setting up a whole Google group just to get quick alias list?  [Yes, I’ve been known to use Mailman for a 3-person list when there was no other easy way to edit the alias. But I’m reformed.]

So today I finally tried it, and it turns out their “group” really is just a list of addresses — with minimal Google group functionality. [You can limit who can post to the address, but there’s no footer, no subscription page, no files attached to the thing.]

So… What looked like a change really wasn’t much of one. Probably would have been obvious to most of you…

Any lessons here?

Going back to tab navigation in iGoogle

I’ve been recommending iGoogle for awhile — particular using iGoogle to display RSS feeds. It’s my default home page — showing AAUW headlines from a few sites, general news from a few sites, the weather here and at Mother’s, a clock, a couple of stock tickers, a few “fun” widgets, etc.

I’ve also set up a tab to access my Google docs –makes sense not to have that cluttering the main page since I think of it as a completely separate application.

A week or so ago, the tab navigation (at the top) changed to links on a left-hand sidebar. This apparently has something to do with Google’s earlier announcement of Open Social and their desire to reserve some screen real estate for updates like those that Facebook displays on your home page. But for me at the moment, the whole left-hand sidebar has just two links — a silly waste of space.

In the notice about the change, the unofficial Google blog says:

If you have the new version, but you prefer the previous interface, go to the settings page and select English (UK) from the list of languages. Please note that this is just a temporary fix.

Works for me, for now.

I guess the question is “When will the grand convergence come, and how will it fit on my 1400×1050 screen and my 1949-model brain?” For now, when I want to see updates from my contacts, I go to Facebook (not twitter, not friendfeed, not Google). When I want a quick overview of the world around me, I go to iGoogle (not Facebook).

When “real world” applications and “applications affecting contacts” start to run on the same platform, what will the UI look like to keep those different classes of applications both displayed in a way that makes sense?  Will my screen or my head explode first?

Google groups?

Yahoo! groups have, of course, been around for years, and many AAUW communities use them for mailing lists and some use their file storage and general web site features. Indeed, nearly 50 AAUW-related communities are listed in the directory.
Somewhat newer is Google groups. On a quick look today, I found two AAUW related groups — one for International Fellows and another labeled “AAUWbookgroup” that seems to have been an experiment that isn’t going very far. Note that Google also indexes Usenet newsgroups like alt.feminism (full list matching aauw).