Organizing Your Campaign Online, Part II: Alternatives

Organizing your campaign online is easy, especially using Yahoo! Groups, a free online discussion board offered as part of the Yahoo! search engine.

But for those who don’t want to use Groups — perhaps because of Yahoo’s notorious terms-of-use contracts (Yahoo’s terms of use includes language that leads some to believe that the company is trying to claim ownership of all content hosted on its site) there are other options.

The key feature to think about when looking for an online tool is the ability for everyone in your group to post and receive messages. Everything else — be it polls, databases, file storage or photo albums — is just gravy.

  • Blogger.com: Aside from my limited experience with UncleBear.com, I haven’t had much experience with Blogger (an RPG site I help out with). But I do know that it’s easy to set up, and the recent team effort to publish stories here shows what level of collaboration is possible with it. There are a lot of cool tools out there that make publishing easy. The only drawback I can see to it is that it doesn’t support e-mail posting but that’s easy to deal with — just e-mail your players letting them know when you updated the blog.
  • MSN Communities: MSN Communities is a good alternative to Yahoo! Groups, providing many of the same sorts of tools , including a message board, file section, photo album and links. It also allows more control over the looking of the community, and more formatting control for messages (if you’re using Internet Explorer).
  • Yahoo Clubs: Ok, this takes us back to Yahoo and its terms of use issues, but it is an alternative. It’s got a message, board, and photo gallery, and integrates nicely into Yahoo Chat. It’s biggest draw back is its clunky e-mail interface — you can get messages in your inbox, but to reply to them, you need to go back to the club. I’ve also noticed some very odd and long delays in getting messages from the club. We experimented with a club a while back, but quickly abandoned it.
  • The Old Fashioned Way: For those who’d rather do things their way, there’s always the old-fashioned approach: e-mail and web pages. Have everyone in your group create an e-mail list for your group, and then use that to send messages back and forth (two problems: not everyone is good about using “Reply to All” and some folks may not be able to get to their e-mail via the web). Then use a web page to post news and updates. Right now I’m doing a variation of this, posting archived material to a web site (http://www.nuketown.com/griff/) and using a service to provide the message board.

There are other options as well — some companies offer free Ć«web extras’ for web sites, including message boards, guestbooks, online polls and such. It requires a certain amount of work to pull everything together, but it is doable and — ultimately — well worth the effort.

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