If the SWG Yahoo! discussion group changes to a public message archive, what does that mean for us?

Recently, a question was raised about our message archive on Yahoo! Groups. When I initially set up the group, I set the message archive to Members Only, expecting that we would use the group for workshopping stories and members would not want to post works in progress or accept critiques in a public environment. However, our group has never been used as a workshop, and we've recently considered whether we want to continue keeping the message archive for members only or allow it to be viewed by the public.

What does this mean? Currently, if you are not a member of SWG on Yahoo! Groups or if you are logged out of your account, then if you visit our Yahoo! Groups page, you will not be able to view any messages posted to the group. If the message archive was viewable by the public, then anyone would be able to view the messages sent to the group and messages would begin appearing in search engine results.

What are the benefits of "going public"? The main benefits are twofold. For one, it allows discussions and research shared on our list to be beneficial to a broader audience. Email lists with public archives can be a wonderful research tool, and, given the level of discussion that we've had on our list in the past and the impressive knowledge base of many of our members, I think the SWG Yahoo! group would be valuable for people seeking to learn more about The Silmarillion. Furthermore, by opening our archives to the public, we also give potential members more of an idea of what our group is about so that they can join with confidence that they will be comfortable and happy during their time with us.

The SWG moderators have selected 1 June 2008 as the date that we will convert our message archive from members-only to public.

When we go public, I offer the following assurances to the members of the SWG Yahoo! group:

Finally, some concerns have been raised repeatedly that I think deserve to be addressed as something of a "mini FAQ."

Will opening the message archive to the public mean that spambots can troll our old messages for our email addresses and use them to spam us?

Yahoo! Groups has employed measures to protect message archives that are open to the public from being crawled by spam spiders. Yahoo's own FAQ on the subject is available here. In short, the following protections are put into place:

But I see people's email addresses in the messages that I receive in my email from the group all of the time. Are you sure that email addresses are being stripped?

If you send messages to the group from your email account, then your email will be viewable in the email messages that your groupmates receive. Your email will not display fully in the message archive and only members who receive group emails will be able to see it.

This is simply the nature of email and is true whether the message archive is public or private. If you send an email to another person or a list like ours, then that email has to show that it comes from you. This will not change if the message archive is public.

Should I be worried that anybody can read my messages?

In truth, anybody can read your messages now. While the message archive is private, then anyone can join the SWG Yahoo! group. Until recently, membership did not need to be approved by a moderator, and we are not selective now over which Tolkien fans we allow to join our list, so someone who wants to read our archives currently could join long enough to find what s/he needs and then leave the group again. All that making the message archives public does is remove that extra step for people who want to use our messages for research purposes or find out if our list is the sort they'd like to join. There have been instances in the past where a person has quit the group before I even get the notification that they've joined! So, clearly, this does happen.

And, always, on the Internet, it is best to assume that everything you send is publicly available. Accidentally (or carelessly) forwarded messages intended for a private audience can become public at the click of a mouse. Always assume a public audience and you need never worry.

Won't opening the group to the public unleash a flood of posts from non-members that might not conform to our group's rules or might be spam?

No, it will not, and the reason is simple: You still must become a member in order to post to the SWG Yahoo! group!

All this change will do is allow non-members to read the message archive and reply privately to individual members through private message, if they have a Yahoo! account attached to a valid email address.

Won't it make it almost meaningless to be a member of the Yahoo! group if anyone and everyone can read the message archive?

That is really a judgment call for each person to make. Again, if the message archive is made public, then the public can only read the posts to the group but cannot post. In other words, the most important part of what makes our group a fun place to be is cut out: communication!

What will be the point of becoming a member of the Yahoo! group if this change is made?

Only members will be able to post to the group and reply to group messages, so anyone desiring conversation or wanting to ask a question, promote a story, or start a discussion would benefit greatly from membership, whether the message archive is public or not.

However, I suspect that having the message archive public will entice people to become members of the group. As it is now, potential members have no way of judging the level of conversation that goes on in the group. A person could love The Silmarillion and write fan fiction and yet not feel particularly comfortable in our group. As a member of several email lists myself, I always find it slightly daunting to join a group without first knowing the sort of conversation that is normal for that group. Are posts thoughtful or is it a lot of "lol me 2!!1!"? Do a lot of people contribute or does it seem like a close-knit group of friends who started the group to keep in touch? Do the people seem nice and welcoming of new members or is rudeness and drama more the order of the day?

I have, in the past, chosen to join one group over another because two groups on the same subject were available, and one had public message archives and one did not. I chose the group with the public message archives because I could see what I was getting into. I am proud of our group and think we are a home for many wonderful people, and I dislike the notion of someone not joining us because that's not readily apparent!

Again, please remember that the date of change is 1 June 2008. If you think that you might want some of your messages deleted, then we encourage you to review your messages before that date.

How to Review Your Yahoo! Group Posts

In order to review all of the messages that you have posted to the SWG Yahoo! group, please log in and use Advanced Search. Enter your email address or Yahoo! ID in the Author field to display all messages posted to the group under that ID. Please remember that if you have used multiple addresses or IDs on the group, then you will need to check each one individually.

When your messages display, the message number is to the left of the subject heading of the message. Please refer to any messages that you would like deleted by message number.

If you are no longer a member of the SWG Yahoo! group, then you will not be able to access the message archive at this time. If you would like to view your messages before 1 June 2008, please either join the group again temporarily to review the message archive or contact our moderators to collect your messages for you.

We understand that this can seem like a daunting task, especially for our most active contributors. Our moderators are happy to help you in any way to make this transition as easy on our members as possible. Please contact us if we can provide any sort of assistance or if you have any questions. We can be reached at

Last updated 20 April 2008.

Return to FAQ