I am Nightowl >8# aka @FeatheredLeader
I’m the owner of the Mods and Members Yahoo Group that was involved in stopping the 2010 Remodel of our Classic Groups.
You may have heard that Yahoo has now changed our beloved groups into the chaos that they call Neo. This is far worse than in 2010.
In 2010, we had warning. We had notice and time to rescue data “in case” We were better able to cope when the change happened, but it still failed to function for most Classic Groups. You see, Yahoo just doesn’t get what a treasure that they had with that feature.
Our Classic Groups were created with love, customized, and maintained, some for many, many years. They were so much more than social networks. In fact, they were, in many cases, our homes or our special places, and they served such a diverse group of people by having so many different ways they could be used.
Yes, they were so much more than places to get together and chat. There were the education sites, where people tutored one another, teachers exchanged, and students did homework together.
There were the support sites, for everything from Alzheimers to suicide – places where people depended on one another to stay calm, sane, and healthy. Many bedridden people were able to access the outside world only through their support groups.
There were medical sites where people exchanged health information and doctors communicated directly with homebound patients. Nurses could click and have the information for the doctors just like that.
There were military sites and veteran’s sites – places where veterans of all wars could stay in touch with each other, communicate, and share stories and history. Archives of messages and photos created a timeline back to their past.
There were the memorial sites set up for loved ones who had died or where the owner died and someone inherited the group and maintained it to preserve their memory. I am actually a member of such a site; we lost our owner, but the site lived on.
There were research sites where scientific communities worked, shared ideas, and brainstormed. They used the tools there to assist them: data bases, files, and links. They compiled data and created huge archives of information.
There were genealogy sites with links to the past for so many families, and there were family sites where relatives could stay in touch. There was a calendar tool they could use for birthdays and other events. They could share photos, memories, and love.
There were the skilled craft sites covering a wide range of everything from egg art to quilting. They shared their techniques, their crafts, and their photos. They had events, shows, and workshops.
There were the hobbyists from automobile clubs to shortwave radio enthusiasts – a place to get together and enjoy something they all cared about, making friends in the process.
There were the entertainment and movie groups for everything from Animal House to Star Wars. People could keep their favorite movies alive there forever. My favorite movie is James Cameron’s Titanic. 😉
There were the sports groups where people followed their favorite teams whether they were the NHL Anaheim Ducks or the New York Yankees! Personally, I’m a hockey owl. My favorite teams are the Penguins, Sharks, Ducks, Coyotes, and Blues!
There were the various music groups from jazz to rock and roll, both about playing it and about listening to it. Church choir groups and rock band groups all had a place to come and share info.
There were the technical and computer groups that offered free tech support to anyone who needed it, learning, growing, and upgrading together.
There were the service groups from adoptees’ parent searches to veterans’ assistance. They played a role as people used them, bringing people together and finding them help in their various quests.
There were animal and pet groups for everything from dogs to turtles – groups where veterinarians gave advice online and people learned how to care for pets or helped rescue dogs get adopted.
I could go on and on and on, and I would have to in order to truly show the world exactly what these Classic Groups really were and what they meant to us. Classic Groups were not just a type of social network. They were whole communities, each with its own purpose.
So why do I say, “they WERE?”
Because, like a thief in the night, Yahoo’s Neo came and destroyed them. The broken, buggy interface called Neo was sprung upon unsuspecting users with no warning, no notice. This time we didn’t have a chance. Everything was instant chaos.
The first wave happened overnight, and the next morning users discovered the devastation. Home page photos and decor were gone, replaced by canned pictures, some actually offensive to the groups where they were displayed. Messages were now in a long endless scrolling stream. Moderation tools were hidden and even when found, didn’t work. Colors so lovingly created and custom pages were all reduced to gray writing on white with glaring purple edges.
In a flash, some users lost everything. Archives were decimated or unreachable. Photos were removed from albums that were now in complete disarray. Even some whole groups were completely missing. Links were broken, databases didn’t function, and moderation was even a failure in many cases. Some personal and private information was even accidentally made public to 19,000 users in the Freecycle groups.
It was as if someone had come and set fire to our “homes” and watched them burn as we scrambled out…then bulldozed the remains flat. Worst of all, though, was the impact it had on the disabled and elderly.
Disabled users discovered that they couldn’t stop the glaring, flashing ads now being displayed on the pages. They began to have seizures, headaches, and vertigo. Those with sight problems found that their screen readers and tools didn’t work with the Neo interface.
Those with motor skill deficiencies, especially in their hands, found they could not manage the “manic mouse shuffle,” as many called it, to click on things. They also found that they couldn’t tolerate the endless scrolling, and the voice programs some used also failed to work.
To give an example of that, there was one group that had 150,000 messages, and since we could no longer page back a page at a time, they had to scroll endlessly to get to them since at first, all new posts in many groups were appearing at the bottom.
The elderly found they also couldn’t use it. They were suddenly cut off from the outside world, unable to communicate with their WWI groups, their bridge groups, or their families. Many experienced confusion, depression, and high blood pressure.
Neo was sleek, yes; it was new, yes. But it never had a chance to replace Classic. It simply doesn’t function in the ways most groups need.
Users have been cut off from their support groups, their friends, their families, and in some cases (such as the bedridden), their connection to the outside world because although it was made to work on mobile devices, it doesn’t. It’s a failure.
Thousands and thousands of complaints and pleas to return to Classic Groups and let us rescue out archives and our memories have been largely ignored by Yahoo. Canned replies of “We care” or “We’re working on it” are all we get. No one in the Groups community believes they care. I don’t believe it anymore.
But “I” care. And when I went to the uservoice Feedback area, a place I like to call the “Feedback Trench,” on August 31, 2013, and saw the despondency, the sorrow, the heartbreak and confusion, and the chaos Neo had caused millions of loyal users, I felt their pain. I felt their heartbreak, and I vowed to help them.
So here we are again: a new CEO, a new Interface, and a new Crusade. And I intend to see it through, because if we allow Yahoo to get away with such cruel and disrespectful treatment of people, including the disabled and elderly, other companies will do the same.
We deserve respect. We deserve accommodation. We deserve our groups back. We certainly do not deserve this.
And I’m going to fight until we win or until every last Groups user flees the sinking Yatanic for safer shores.
If you would like to see the documentation for this post, send me an e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org and I’ll provide the links to you.
And anyone may repost this anywhere they choose.