How to have a coherent group email conversation?
October 27, 2009 6:29 AM   Subscribe

Recomendations needed for a good way to keep group email communications clear and unmuddled, you know emails zooming back and forth, people messing up addresses, cross talking etc. If you were about to embark on a email conversation with five people with much back and forth, one fraught with high emotions and perhaps family type dynamics, how would you make this work? Would you set agreed upon ground rules and/or would you use a tech solution. Is there a excellent ( hopefully free) software solution to this problem?
posted by flummox to Human Relations (14 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
Google Wave?

(you'll need to procure an invite from a current user)
posted by chalbe at 6:34 AM on October 27, 2009

Wave, when it opens to the public, will absolutely be a good tech solution for this.
posted by sjuhawk31 at 6:36 AM on October 27, 2009

Get on the phone and have a conference call, for starters. If the issue is fraught with high emotions, email is an incredibly poor medium. Use ground rules -- have everyone agree on them in the first 15 minutes, and preferably have a neutral facilitator to enforce them.
posted by bfranklin at 6:36 AM on October 27, 2009 [1 favorite]

Seconding not doing emotionally fraught conversation via text communications. Too many ways it can melt down.
posted by flabdablet at 6:44 AM on October 27, 2009

But if you're going to ignore that advice, and you can't get a Wave invite, there are various free mailing lists available. Use one.
posted by flabdablet at 6:46 AM on October 27, 2009

Besides "too many ways it can melt down," having high-intensity conversations via email can take up huge amounts of time. Free conference call lines.
posted by salvia at 6:50 AM on October 27, 2009

Response by poster: Sometimes conference calls don't work all that good either.... bad connections, cross talk, interruptions, too much shading of meanings. Perhaps a hybrid is the solution.

The idea of using Wave sounds good. Will non tech savvy users be able to cope? Where does one get a invite?
posted by flummox at 6:54 AM on October 27, 2009

If this is actually a family discussion, give up on the idea of control. You cannot prevent off-line discussions passing information not through your chosen forum. The best you can hope for is someone calm enough to summarize things occasionally, asking others for confirmation that the summary agrees with their understanding of the current situation.

There are lots of reasons why family discussions are more complicated than work ones. The things at stake may matter much more. Be aware that siblings' different life experiences may well lead them to think different solutions are the obvious way to go -- they are not definitely "wrong" if they don't see it your way.
posted by Idcoytco at 7:01 AM on October 27, 2009

I second Google Wave but until then you can use this which server your purpose.
posted by london302 at 7:18 AM on October 27, 2009

opps *serves
posted by london302 at 7:18 AM on October 27, 2009

Will non tech savvy users be able to cope?

Definitely. Google Wave is no more difficult to use than standard email, though like anything new it takes a little getting used to. At the moment it is still very much a work in progress though and probably won't be a genuine solution to your problem in the short term. Also, everyone in the conversation will need to have an invite to join Wave - it does not link with email.

Another alternative which my old school friends and I have used for the last 6 years or so is a private forum. This will allow you to organise the conversation into demarcated threads and keep things more organised. Try or any one of a number of similar platforms.
posted by jonnyploy at 7:47 AM on October 27, 2009

Something that is very similar to Wave, but has actually been available for a while is Zenbe Shareflow (they must have been appalled when Google announced Wave). Might take a look at that.
posted by adamrice at 8:38 AM on October 27, 2009

The best you can hope for with email/online collaboration is that you feel like you're in control of the conversation, your chance of consensus is almost nil if there is any emotional fraughtness.

Really, get on the phone if you care about consensus rather than control.
posted by abulafa at 8:53 AM on October 27, 2009

There's a think called which I think might work for you - you can have all your conversation in one place and go back to it. Free to use. Tell them I sent you there!
posted by LyzzyBee at 1:49 PM on October 27, 2009

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