For some of our clients – particularly our association clients – we recommend PairList
if they are looking for a many-to-many email discussion list (sometimes known as a listserv).
PairList isn’t fancy, and some may say it is “computerish”. The web interface came from the late 90s and looks like it. But if you have a server lease on Pair, you likely have use of at least one and probably more lists for free, and on the email side, they can do the job well for email discussions.
Email is the original online social media, and software like PairList, which allows anyone actually on the email list to email everyone on the list, is really what makes it social. PairList comes in either individual email or digest format, determined for each email address. It allows for attachments, or not attachments – that is an administrator’s choice. Other items the administrator(s) can choose:
Whether emails sent to list must be approved by administrator or not before going. This can be done on a global basis, or if there are certain “sticky” members of the list, just for individual email addresses.
Whether archives can be seen at all, just by logged in members, or by the public.
Providing “add on” messages to every email that goes through the list – such as a reminder to check web site for conference news, etc.
And a lot more, but you get the idea.
We get clients that want to do online, web-based forums, but eventually they want those forums to email out and accept email in for posts, and there’s a reason for that – people prefer this to be easy. Email is way easier than going to the web site, and unless your content is very sticky or very long-term resource oriented, they’ll rather use email, or perhaps Facebook or Twitter. We’ve had 20 years now to see this in practice and that’s just the reality, in general.
The one thing we should caution is that subscription isn’t automated – and it shouldn’t be. PairList doesn’t come with spam email address detectors so if you provided a public sign up form that wasn’t administered by a human being, the list would quickly become junk. But that’s the point of PairList: it is for select groups, such as memberships or committees or other types of online communities, and it needs to be managed for appropriate inclusion, because the members will be able to email every other member through the PairList email address very easily But if your organization is a “set it and forget it” kind of group, PairList isn’t for you.
Bottom line: if your organization is looking for an email only forum, and is willing to assign somebody to administer it, you should take a look at PairList.