This is a long post for a Saturday, but it's one I'm very excited to share with you and I hope you'll take the time to read completely.
The Coworking Google Group is a very special place for many people, myself included. By the numbers alone, this is one of the largest communities in the world for aspiring and current coworking operators, staff, researchers, and more with 8000+ registered users. This group’s archives contain over 6000 threads (and tens of thousands of comments) that contain over 13 years of coworking knowledge, history, friendships, stories, and successes.
When you think about the reach and power of this community, it’s awe-inspiring.
Soon, Google is making some changes to the the platform that powers this group. This particular round of changes aren’t a problem for us…but it does make me cautious about trusting Google to host our community in the long term. If they can make sweeping changes - or worse, shut down this free product - our community is at risk. And that’s saying nothing of the shortcomings of the tool itself.
So I’ve been doing a lot of research and testing. The biggest challenge is that I don’t just want to move to another “new” community platform - I wanted to move ALL of the historical content to something that is measurably better, and that we can control (so we don’t have to worry about a company changing their minds or direction with little warning). I also want to keep the platform email-based, which allows for much wider and easier participation.
And maybe, just maybe, one that doesn’t make money by harvesting all of our data?
Tall order, I know.
Well, I did it. I found an option that fits the bill, and makes it possible to IMPROVE the "google group" resource in several measurable ways, and amazingly we can do this without losing any functionality we're used to. It's an open source tool called Discourse.
And while it looks like a forum on the website, but I was able to adjust the settings to enable the email-based experience just like the Google Group.
Best of all - I was able to migrate the ENTIRE historical archive of discussions and comments to the new platform. 100% preserved (and with much better tools to search the archive!
Among it's unique strengths, Discourse includes the ability to set up categories and subcategories, keeping our conversations more organized and making it easier for new people to find the valuable threads they need. You
can even set your email preferences for SPECIFIC categories, muting the topics you care less about and subscribing to topics you're most interested in. Smart weekly digests can help you know what's going on without having to read every message.
These more nuanced opt-in/opt-out settings mean we can create NEW areas of discussion that this single-channel Google Group was never good for: eg. language-specific channels for communities that prefer to communicate in
their native languages, or specific channels where vendors can help people in our community without spamming everyone.
And honestly, this is just the beginning
I'm especially proud that this new site, like the Google Group and other Open Coworking resources, will always remain free and open. I'm working with the Open Coworking team (Tony and Jeannine) to figure out how to make
sure the nominal infrastructure costs will covered for the long term.
The Migration Plan
Over the next couple of months (maybe weeks? depends on how much help we get!) I am going to actively "mirror" all new google group activity to the new platform and getting it ready for open registration. So nothing needs
to change here - business as usual until we set a date to officially close the google group and redirect all traffic to the new site.
But to finish the move, I need some help from you.
Before we open registration to the public, I want to recruit ~50 or so pilot members who would like to help finish getting the new group platform
ready. There are settings to test, categories to organize, copywriting, etc.
Maybe most importantly, I'd like volunteers willing to help categorize and organize the 6000+ historical discussions. The process itself is fairly simple - I did around 100 threads in less than an hour myself, so many hands will make light work. We'll need to tweak categories and subcategories along the way, too.
Also, going forward I'm looking for volunteers to help with onboarding new members to the group + help me manage the group.
My goal is to make this entire process as seamless and transparent and inclusive as possible, so I'm going to start with this relatively small pilot group but we will work in a public channel of the new Discourse site, for anyone who wants to observe the process.
Depending on participation and progress, my goal is to invite more batches of people on a regular basis (probably weekly) and enable a fully open registration as soon as we've worked out the majority of the kinks.
Wanna get signed up early and help get things set up?
Fill out this quick form here: https://airtable.com/shrGJPE4ZRlNf131d
Note: the MOST important part is making sure that you put the correct email address in - this will help link your account on the new site to your past posts.
This early setup process is fairly manual, so please be patient while I process the applications. If you fill out the form, I promise you will hear from me (or someone on the team).
I'm sure you can tell, I'm extremely excited about this next chapter for the epic resource we are all a part of, and how this effort will enable/empower more coworking operators, staff, and of course thier coworking members to succeed.
Yours in community,