Help – I’m in Email Group Hell

Lately, I’ve been struggling to figure out the best way to have expanding email groups. I’ve tried all the obvious stuff and nothing is satisfying to me.

Historically, I’ve just used Google Groups. That’s great for things like the Foundry Group CEO list, where we control the list, but then we have to host it at a domain.

For the Colorado CEO Jobs list, we were using Yahoo Groups for a while. Even with the new upgrade last year I find the UX to be terrible so I recently moved it over the Google+. Now I’m hearing complaints about not getting the emails which usually results from notifications being turned off, but you wouldn’t know that unless you were paying attention. And, if you don’t have a Google+ account, you can’t be on the list.

I tried Facebook Groups for another group – it had zero engagement.

What do you use? Any suggestions for me getting out of hell?

  • Preston Learning

    Have you tried ?

    • Yes. Useless for groups outside my domain.

      • rick gregory

        bwah? You can make it easier to signup with a domain email but it’s not required. Or am I misunderstanding you?

        • I have to have people sign up for a single instance – it’s just a pain to do multiple things / orgs using Slack.

          • Ryan Smith

            Brad, a solution like slack that may allow more management is – it allows us to have separate synchronous/asynchronous chats forums for different groups (solves the organization problem of slack). Also, it allows a lot of integrations to pull into each flow, for instance Flowdock would allow the CEO Jobs List to keep an open chat forum, have one-to-one private conversations, pull in RSS feeds that relevant to the group and forward emails that individual chat threads can then be engaged off of. As you scale, pay becomes an issue but I’m sure that’d be fine for the Foundry group – we get a lot of functionality out of it working with partners across the nation. Good luck and let me know if you find something else

  • I was going to suggest a return to the old standard, Listserv, until I saw the new pricing. Ouch!

  • knewter

    Tried discourse?

  • John Lowry

    If you are willing to host it yourself, or perhaps pay someone to do so, Mailman 3 is in beta and has a MUCH better UI.

    • I don’t want to host it myself.

      • williamhertling

        There’s a whole class of SaaS problems (vendor lockin, vulnerability to discontinuation of service, data privacy) that could be eliminated if we separated the concerns of hosting and developing: e.g. We need companies to develop solutions, and other companies (not the developer) to excel in hosting those solutions.


          DevStacks help with that. Features and functionality that everyone can use to create the apps they need. So if it’s an SaaS for email groups you provide various libraries that make it easy for anyone to add email group features to their company’s systems or to the own private cloud systems. That’s how you give people freedom to innovate in the software industry!

  • yesimahuman

    This company came out of YC W2014 to supposedly solve that problem:

    I’ve not really used it for a big list though.

    • Thx – I’ll check it out.

    • Thanks for bringing up Threadable. This is indeed the problem that they are out to solve.

      Disclosure: I’m an investor.

  • Dennis Dayman

    Try out Podio?

    • Net yet – will try.

    • I use podio for several group projects and love the activity feed instead of group emails. I’ve also built some small apps in it that save me from spreadsheet he’ll.

  • pauljfisher

    I feel your pain. I’ve used lots of Yahoo and Google Groups – terrible! They are solutions from two internets ago. And Google+, Facebook, LinkedIn aren’t optimised for high-quality discussion, and have lost users’ trust.

    So I’ve been building my own solution. It is not an incremental improvement on forums or mailing lists like Discourse or Threadable; I’ve approached the problem from the first principles.

    Give me a shout if you be interested in taking a peek?

    • Sure – happy to take a look.

  • josh franta

    vanillaforums is great, it’s based on an open source project but you can use their hosted commercial version for a small fee. this also gives you the option to host it yourself or modify it later if need be. bc of oss aspect it has large # of third party plugins and community forum support. it does both desktop and mobile well, has tons of features out of the box. supports all standard sign-in mechanisms and you can host many different forums with different users having access to different ones.

    • Yup – they went through Techstars Boulder – good folks. I hadn’t thought of it for this.

  • Ryan Smith

    Well I’d like to suggest you use our Colorado based startup as your solution (don’t want to post a link here to avoid it sounding like advertising), unfortunately we haven’t launched out of our Alpha just yet so it’s a little early to do that. If however you can spare 10 or 15 minutes at some point I”d love to chat with you about were the real pain points are so that it’s something we can maybe address before our Beta launch. I’ve gotten some great feedback from some local people like Jim Franklin but direct pain points would be great to hear.


      I can’t believe you passed up a chance to advertise your start up!

      • Ryan Smith

        I would always love to self-promote, however in this instance we’re not launched to the public yet and frankly I wanted to post a quick comment and reach out to Brad to hear his pain points and just didn’t have time to look into his policies on shameless self promotion on his blog. I’d rather not step over a line without having time to look into it first. 🙂


          “shameless self promotion”
          Also called the entrepreneurial spirit?!

          • Ryan Smith

            Don’t misunderstand my intent, I’m all for self-promotion when appropriate – I just like to be respectful of the blog and it’s policies.

  • Costas

    Hi Brad. Have you tries wiggio?

    • Nope – will take a look.


    I’m slowing moving away from email for anything but broadcasting information. Too much eves dropping and you never know who is *actually* on the other end responding! But I just can’t understand what problem you’re having. It was always easy to manage email groups when I was “on email”.

    • Managing the groups via the UI has been vexing. Yahoo seems like it should have been easy – but they have really botched up the UI. Google has weird constraints, although I can just use my own domain ( to get around it (but I don’t want to). And – the next gen stuff, like Google+, just doesn’t seem to do what I want it to do.


        Let me know if you want me to, in some way, help you. I’m squirming around like a worm in a hot skillet trying to find something awesome to get deep into but can’t find anything. Even though it’s summer, we keep getting rain, so I have some spare time. In fact I’ve emailed you about that and haven’t heard back. Maybe your email situation is worse than you think.

        • I thought I’ve responded to all your emails. I’m not sure which one you are referring to – email me again.

          Re: this situation – I’m now connected with the Google Groups folks and we’re exploring a half dozen products that have popped up on this thread.

  • I’ve dealt with this for years and tried a few packaged solutions but nothing worked completely. So finally gave up and had a tool built internally that works for us (we do use SendGrid as the email provider so no issues on delivery).

    • Glad you are using SendGrid for this.

  • Pat Sullivan

    Brad, I’m the creator of ACT! and SalesLogix. Been working on your (and everyone else’s) email/collaboration problem for the past 3 years. I believe you will discover Contatta will readily solve your problem. It is in beta, expected to GA in late summer. Would love to show it to you. Ok?

  • We built a very limited solution internally as we faced similar issues. Not sure it meets your needs but the UX has been kept minimal.

    • Neat – looking at it now.

  • Mark Phillips

    Brad, no need to reply to this comment, but would love to hear your thoughts after reviewing all of these options.