Going Passwordless

TL;DR; How we used passwordless authentication to give users a low friction way of accessing private data.


A popular feature on Gaggle Mail is the searchable message archive, this has always been available to group administrators but we wanted to make it available to group members.

Group administrators already have an account with us which they used to create their group but all we know about members is their email address. Requiring members to create an account to view the message archive seemed a little too heavy weight for something they probably wouldn’t do often. However making the full message archive available to anyone who had acquired a ’secret’ member link was far too open.

Giving It a Try

Passwordless authentication seemed like a great fit for what we needed and since we already had the standard ‘forgot password’ workflow adding it was quite straight forward. I won’t go into how passwordless authentication works here since there’s already some great articles out there explaining it. Now when a member goes to the message archive they see a note asking them to click a button to receive a link giving them access to the archive. Dialog to show message archive They immediately receive the email and on clicking the link they’re taken straight to the full message archive. After an hour the link will expire and clicking it will just redirect to the standard member page where if necessary they can request another time limited link.

View message archive email link

This feature was a real hit with our users, the convenience of having access to the message archive without creating an account is a big plus.

A concern with this sort of workflow can be the latency while waiting for the email to arrive, since email is a massive part of what we do we already have lots of infrastructure in place to get the link in their hands as quickly as possible.

Passwordless authentication was worked well for us here, it’s not going to be the best fit for all circumstances but when you want to give a level of secure access without burdening the user with creating a user account it works well – especially if you already have their email address.

How To Run a Successful Group Email List

Group email lists are used for everything from small family groups to keep everyone up to date with what’s happening to thousands of members spanning multiple time zones and countries.  At Gaggle Mail we see all of them and there’s a few things the successful ones all have in common.

Here’s our guide to what makes a successful group email list.

 

Know What You’re Talking About

The most important thing about running a group email list knowing what should and should not be discussed by the group.  If the list is just for a free-for-all chat about anything that’s fine, as along as everyone know that.  But if there’s a set topic or topics the group should be discussing you should make that clear.

It can be useful to use your group email list software to add message footer that reminds people what the purpose of the group is.

 

Take Time to Setup Your List

There can be lots of settings when creating your listserv but it’s worth taking the time to get everything setup correctly from the start.  As well as giving your group a suitable name deciding whether replies should go to the group by default or to the original sender is a key decision, this will affect how freely conversation flows but all how much email your members get.

 

Moderate in Moderation

Ideally all messages will be on topic and appropriate for your group but sometimes you need to step in as the list owner and moderate messages sent to the list.  This is great to maintain a high quality of messages on your group but can stifle discussions especially if messages take a while to moderate.

If you do need to enable moderation on your group consider adding a few trusted moderators so that there’s always someone do the needful.

 

Lead By Example

One of the very best ways to ensure good on-topic discussion on your group is to show people how it’s done.  Ask the sort of questions you want other people to ask and reply to others in the way you’d like others reply to you.

 

Running a group email list can be a rewarding and effective way to encourage high quality discussion amongst any amount of people on a topic.  Give Gaggle Mail a try to see if it will work for your group and if you have any suggestions to make running your group easier just let us know.

 

Group Email Moderation

Gaggle Mail has supported message moderation for a while but we’ve just made some enchantments to make it more flexible and powerful.  The first thing you will notice is that we’ve moved all moderation options into their own tab.

 

moderation-menu

 

In the new Moderation tab the first option is to switch moderation on or off.  Below that is a new section where you can specify who should the moderators for your group.  Previously the group moderators were just the administrators but now you can nominate people to be moderators without being an administrator.  However administrators are still moderators.

 

Group email select who should be subject to moderation

Next is a section where you can specify whose messages get moderated.  There are two options; “Everyone expect these people” and “Just these people”.  If you select “Everyone except these people” then everyone sending to the group will have their messages moderated apart from and names you add below.  Alternatively selecting “Just these people” will only moderate messages from the names listed below.  As was previously the case administrators (and now moderators) don’t have their messages moderated.

Finally at the bottom of the moderation tab is a new option “Notify sender when message held for moderation”. When enabled this option will send an email to anyone who’s message has been held for moderation to let them it has been held an will be sent to the group once someone has approved it.

 

Group email moderation notification option

How messages are handled once they’ve been held for moderation hasn’t changed and you can read about it here.  If you have any comments or thoughts on these changes we’ve made please don’t hesitate to let us know.

The History Of Group Email

Email got its start in the late 1970’s but it wasn’t until the mid-1980’s and the personal computer revolution that things really took off.  Software to manage email lists first appeared in 1986 when Eric Thomas created LISTSERV the first group email software.  At this time it ran on wardrobe size mainframe computers.  Eric developed LISTERV at CERN where Tim Berners-Lee was creating the world wide web.  Over the years LISTSERV was ported over to other operating systems eventually hitting Unix in 1994 and Windows in 1995.

As personal computers became more common place in homes and offices programs like Lotus Notes and Microsoft Office emerged with email and the ability to group email addresses together.  Even though this type of group email was limited to only grouping people within the same corporate email system its ease of use made it a huge boon to companies who created group email addresses for everything.  This was the first exposure to group email for many people.

In 1999 the GNU project created its own mailing list manager MailMan.  Developed by John Viega and Ken Manheimer this was a free software, open source alternative to LISTSERV matching many features which people came to expected from their group email system; searchable archives, moderators, privacy features, a web Interface, spam filters.

As the dot-com bubble grew and burst in the early 2000’s the number of email users and people exposed to group email grew exponentially from 10 million email users in 1995 to 500 million in 2000 and 1 billion in 2007.  By this time email was a part of everyone’s on-line life and using group email was just part of that.

Gmail arrived in 2007 and even though Blackberry had been putting email in people hands since 1999 it wasn’t until the iPhone and the smartphone revolution that made email truly mobile for huge numbers of people.  Indeed, the mobile revolution made email user number sky rocket even more hitting 2 billion by 2010 and 3 billion only one year later.

During all this time LISTSERV is still going strong being actively developed at L-Soft and running most the biggest and busiest email lists in the world.  Within offices and corporations emailing groups of people is second nature; a department, project or team doesn’t exist until it has its own email address!

With the ubiquity of cloud computing and the rise of SaaS (software as a service) businesses it was inevitable that group email would move with the times and reap the benefits of everything that widely distributed computing can offer.

So it is today that Gaggle Mail is further pushing the popularity of group email by not only allowing anyone to be part of a group email list but allowing anyone to setup and run their own group with the most easy to use group email system available.

New Simpler Pricing

We’ve just rolled out a new pricing structure which we think is simpler and fairer than what we had before.  Instead of fixed tiers for certain amounts of members we now have one price based solely on the number of members in your groups.  It seemed unfair that previously if you went from 500 members to 501 members your costs would double from $80 to $160 per year!

$0.40 per member per year

So now you pay just $0.40 per member/per year whether you have 50 or 1000 members.  You can still pay per month at $0.04 per member/per month but paying annually you effectively get two months free for a saving of %15!  All features are always included whatever you’re paying so there’s no need to worry about Standard vs. Mega Deluxe Gold plans.

We do have a minimum paid group size of 25 members simply because with transaction fees it’s really not worth us charging less than $1 per month or $10 per year.  If you have any questions about billing or anything else then please get in touch.

Replying To Messages

After introducing the ability to compose new messages last month we’re pleased to announce that you can now reply to messages directly from within Gaggle Mail. We’ve rearranged the layout of the message popup to now show ‘Reply to Group’ and ‘Reply’ buttons.

 

Buttons showing replying to message

 

As you can imagine clicking ‘Reply to Group’ will open the message for editing and pre-select your group address as the recipient. Likewise the ‘Reply’ button will open a reply going to the original sender of the message.

 

Full email message with reply buttons

 

The ability to reply to messages from within Gaggle Mail gives us the opportunity to fulfil a long term user request and that is the ability to reply to messages send in a daily digest. We now include a ‘Reply to Message’ button at the bottom of every message listed in digest emails. This now makes the Daily Digest feature a much more viable option when you want to remain part of the conversation but not get overwhelmed.

 

 

Daily digest message with reply buttons

As with many features we build this came about from a user suggestion so if you have any ideas of how we can improve Gaggle Mail or make it work better for you then we’d love to hear them.

Compose New Messages Within Gaggle Mail

Sending a message to your group has just got even easier; you can now compose and send messages directly for the Gaggle Mail web interface.  The full functional text editor allows you format your message with ease.  Adding links, lists or images is a breeze using the toolbar actions.  You can even directly edit the HTML generated for your message to give you even more control.

This feature works great on desktop or mobile and is easily accessed from the Compose button on the top left (desktop) or slide-out menu (mobile).

compose new message popup

As with all features we add to Gaggle Mail we’re really tried to keep things as simple as possible, you just type in your message and hit send – that’s it!

We are also planning to add the ability to reply to messages directly from our web interface which will be especially useful to people using the Daily Digest option – so watch this space.

How to Create an Email Discussion List

Gaggle Mail is all about making group email as easy to use as possible.  With that in mind we’ve just released an update which makes setting up your group even easier. Now when you create a new group with Gaggle Mail we show you a quick setup up wizard that walks you through the main customizations that are made to groups.  These few steps explain what each setting does and how it affects messages being sent across your group. Gaggle Mail -Simple group email discussion list This setup process is totally optional, you can quit it at any time and go back and change any of the settings later at any point. We have always been about making group email discussion lists as easy as possible to use and opening them up to an audience that would have previously been put off creating one.  With this new step-by-step approach to getting your list up and running we think we’ve made things even easier. As we’ve previously said “If you can use email, you can use Gaggle Mail” this is now truer than ever.

Alternative to Google Groups

Google Groups has been around for over 15 years (launched in 2001) and is very popular with small clubs and groups. Like most of Google services Google Groups is free with Google making it pay by showing ads and analyzing your groups data to better target more ads at you.

Google Groups logo

Google Groups has not had a major update for years, it’s in maintenance mode, they’re keeping it running for existing users but it doesn’t get updated or improved.  Google does have a history of shutting down services that that it no longer considers strategic and Groups would appear to be in that category.

If this makes you worried and you need a modern, secure, reliable way to share news and messages with a group of people why not try an email group with Gaggle Mail.  All you need to participate in an email group is an email address and everyone has one of those.  With Gaggle Mail there’s no need to have a specific email account (I’m looking at you Google and Yahoo!) just use whatever email address you already have.

All groups on Gaggle Mail have a fully searchable message archive, customized subject lines and email footers, web group sign-up, incognito mode for enhanced member privacy and may more features.  Your members will love the simplicity and flexibility of using a modern dedicated group email solution.

If you use Google Groups to run a group discussion list and you’re worried about data privacy or it’s longer term future then give Gaggle Mail a try.

See why thousands of groups have moved to Gaggle Mail with a 30 day free trial.

Alternative to Wiggio

Wiggio is a popular all-singing, all-dancing group membership site.  You can hold virtual meetings, take polls, manage events, share files and create to-do lists.  But by far it’s most popular feature is group communication or put simply – group email. Wiggio logo Group email is something that Gaggle Mail focuses on exclusively, you won’t find all those other group features here but group email is something we do really rather well. By focusing on this one thing we can offer the simplest, most reliable, full featured and best value for money group email solution on the web.

Gaggle Mail archives all messages sent over it and makes them instantly searchable to the group administrators and optionally group members.  You can also enable moderation for groups which means only messages that have been approved by a group administrator gets sent on to the group. Gaggle Mail logoWith customized email footers, a choice of delivery options (reply to group, reply to sender) and full delivery reports, you can see why thousands of groups – large and small - appreciate what a dedicated group email platform can deliver.

However beyond features the thing that separates us from other offerings is the easy and simplicity with which anyone can get started and run a group on Gaggle Mail.

Our motto is “If you can use email, you can use Gaggle Mail” and it’s something we really stand by, creating a group, adding members, sending message and checking the health of the group are all thing’s we’ve put huge effort into making as simple as possible.

So if you want a dedicated group email provider which just works - is full featured but takes ease and simplicity really seriously then take a look at Gaggle Mail.  With a 30 day free trial (no credit card required) and groups from as little as $10 per year you have nothing to loose!