To Charlie Rose

Attention Charlie Rose:

My name is Brenda (last name removed) otherwise known as Nightowl >8#, and I’m writing you on behalf of thousands and thousands of Yahoo Groups users. I am writing you now because of your plans to interview Marissa Mayer on September 24. We the users are uniting our voices, in hopes you will bring up some of the issues that follow to get her viewpoint and make her aware of their impact on us.

Sometime between July and August, Yahoo decided to select random users of Classic Groups and with no notice or warning, put them into a test interface called Neo. Neo was rolled out with no beta testing and no guidelines for how it worked, and suddenly users found themselves in a largely non-functional interface.

Many were stuck in this mess for a month, before I discovered what was going on. Since I was one of the people heading up the similar protest in 2010 that won back our Classic Groups, people came to me, and we started up the movement to stop Neo. This time however, has been so much more serious than the remodel of 2010. This interface is actually causing real harm to users, in so many ways.

We need to get the message out to the public that the reason we are against Neo has nothing to do with being afraid of change. We are against the Neo interface because it is not a suitable substitute platform for Classic Groups, and that’s in addition to the fact that it does not work.

The impact on the Groups community has been devastating. Since Neo is random, sometimes half the members see it and half see Classic. Moderators can’t always communicate with their members, and even members can’t always communicate with one another. The usability of the site has become a nightmare, with multiple clicks now needed to get to “hidden” buttons that used to be in plain sight. And even when you find them, sometimes they don’t work either.

In addition to this, archives are in some cases, decimated. Years and years of research, homework files, adoption record files, historical records,  and genealogy files, are simply missing or not accessible. Messages are now one long continuous scroll box, which is difficult for some to use, and old messages are often threaded in with new. The archives are an important part of Groups, and it was easier to look through them one page at a time.

There are also security issues. The Freecycle groups discovered that when they were sending private contact information to one another about where to meet and pick things up, it was going out to the Group of 19,000 people and made public. Yahoo claims to have fixed this, but just yesterday there was a post about it happening in another Group.

People with arthritis or other mobility issues have found that they can’t handle scrolling a mouse that long. It used to be simpler, click to change each page of 30 messages, and they were threaded and searchable. Disabled people who used voice recognition software so they didn’t have to mouse or type are finding that it is not working with Neo, and they are in pain now whenever they have make a physical effort to reach their groups or interact there.

Vision impaired people have found it will not work with a screen reader, and that the flashing ads that can not be turned off, are causing some of them to have seizures, nausea, and bad headaches. The colorful Group interface has been replaced with grey writing on a white background, or sometimes white writing on a black background. This is difficult to read even by non-vision impaired people.

People who depended on these Groups for their only outside contact, such as the elderly, or  crippled or bedridden, are finding that not only is it harder to use, it doesn’t even work on mobile platforms. Many elderly people are experiencing disorientation, confusion, and depression because they cannot get to their Groups. Some are even having high blood pressure and other stress symptoms due to this mess.

Suicide and depression groups are unable to connect to support one another, and many people have grown despondent, and some have started actually contemplating suicide. This is especially bad on those who were bedridden or ill, and have lost their daily support group.

Sites set up to assist the seriously ill, or support them through their worst days, are now unusable by the people who depended on them for information about medications, treatments, etc. Some doctors even utilized them to communicate with their homebound patients, and now they cannot.

People who ran adoption Groups, both for people and pets, can not access their extensive databases, and their information appears to be lost. Students and teachers who exchanged materials via a Group can no longer do that. One of the largest Groups that left was Cory’s House, a network of 120,000 high school students that assisted one another with tutoring and homework. The Neo platform simply did not meet their needs anymore.

Neo isn’t just broken, it’s a platform that does not fit the blueprint of Classic Groups. The best of both worlds with Classic Groups combined an e-mail mailing list with a simple web interface, and photos, files, links, calendar, and database tools. They have removed some of these things from the version called Neo, and some Groups were absolutely dependent on features that are now gone.

For years the world has completely misunderstood what Yahoo Groups are. Even Yahoo themselves, don’t really understand it. If they understood what Groups were, they would never try to force a Classic Group content into a Neo Interface. Like pushing the square peg into the round hole, you carve off some of the corners and destroy parts of the square peg.

In 2010, about 40,000 people left before we could win. In 2013, nearly a million have already left and deleted their groups, within the space of a few weeks, with more planning to follow unless we get this stopped. Yahoo doesn’t understand, we created and cultivated these Groups with love, decorated them with the colors provided, and made them our homes. Neo came and bulldozed them flat.

Yahoo claims to care about its users. In the Feedback thread, there are thousands and thousands of comments, all begging them to just stop Neo and give back Classic.  There are currently 47,846 votes against Neo in just the top thread, and only about 100 votes for it in another one. Yahoo has largely ignored them, other than to say that “We care” and “are working on the problems.” But they don’t care. If they cared, when they read the stories from what I call the “Feedback Trench”, they would  see all the suffering, and stop this madness, and restore the Classic format, at least until the issues can be properly addressed.

Groups are unique. They are made for the users and by the users, and Classic Groups users were one of the most loyal member bases that Yahoo ever had. Groups are better because they are not like Facebook. If Yahoo wants a Facebook style area, fine, develop it. But if they think we can force the Classic Groups square peg into that round hole, they are mistaken. The end result is that it will destroy Groups, and they will no longer have eyeballs there for their advertisers.

We ask that you please bring up to Marissa Mayer that the Groups community is crying out for help. Please tell her our request to stop this needless suffering that so many people are going through, and take these users out of this test immediately. Because some can still see the Classic interface, we know it is still there.

Please help me get these people out of Neo hell? Help me rescue the disabled and elderly and confused and sad Yahoo Group Community from this nightmare. I can back up everything I said here with facts, just ask me, and I have included some links for you to check out yourself, and a page or so of stories from the Feedback Trench.

We are reaching out to you in desperation, because it seems no one is listening to us. We are standing up for those who cannot stand up for themselves, and how badly everyone is being treated. Since you are an advocate for the disabled and elderly, we hope you understand.

Sincerely,

Brenda (last name removed)

Come check out my group at:
http://tech.groups.yahoo.com/group/modsandmembers/

These links are Impact Stories:

http://tech.groups.yahoo.com/group/modsandmembers/message/3613 &
http://tech.groups.yahoo.com/group/modsandmembers/message/3681

And you can find the Feedback Area at:
http://yahoo.uservoice.com/forums/209451

Back to other Letters from Owl

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