Yesterday in a series of email exchanges, Mike and Daryl and I discussed how we might modify what we are doing with the KnoxBloggers group so as to encourage more people to participate and at the same time place less demands on those with busy schedules. We came up with some ideas that we think might achieve those goals.
We’ve created a new Google group called, not-surprisingly, KnoxBloggers, and we sent out invitations to those of you who’ve either joined the KnoxBloggers group that met at Mike’s house last year or expressed an interest in it in the past. This new Google group is restricted, meaning that only members can post messages to it. So it isn’t quite like joining a Usenet group used to be in the past. Once you’ve joined it, you can set the options for your account to reflect how you want to receive messages that are posted there, including not receiving them at all if that’s what you want.
In any event, this Google group gives us a permanent repository of our exchanges with each other and opens up the discussions to all the members. One topic of discussion that I’ve been advocating for some time is one related to which subjects you want to cover in our meetings. This Google group will give us a way to have that discussion more openly and easily so all can have input and have their opinion heard. So if you haven’t yet accepted the invitation we sent you, please do so as soon as possible if you want to be included.
A second change we agreed to experiment with was to change the frequency of our meeting together physically. And I stress physically here because we’ve combined this change with a plan to meet together monthly in a Skypecast, which is something you can do from the comfort of your home. Please follow that link and learn about using it for Skypecasting.
Skype is a free multi-platform (Windows, OSX, and Linux) program for making calls through the Internet from computer to computer which I have used quite successfully for a couple of years now to make almost daily calls to my friend Paul who lives in Berlin. It costs nothing to make such calls. And with the Skypecasting ability of this program, we can all be on the same call at the same time (sort of like a moderated conference call with up to 100 other people) and have a presenter and then engage in an orderly discussion with others commenting or posing questions for the presenter or the group. Once you’ve used Skype, I think you’ll find it quite handy, and we’ll learn together about Skypecasting.
Unrelated to our changes for KnoxBloggers but on the subject of Skype, I want to alert you to the fact that you have until January 31st to avail yourself of a discounted offer to purchase a year’s worth of calls to any land line or cell phone in the U.S. or Canada for $14.95. See this description of that offer. If you miss the deadline, you can still purchase that ability, but the cost will be $29.95 — for a whole year, not per month — which is still a terrific bargain. I’ve used this ability many times to manage my cell phone minutes so that I didn’t go over my allotted allowance and I find it quite useful and the quality of the connection to be excellent.
Because we still value meeting face-to-face, though we find that doing that monthly has caused some conflict with family obligations, we’ve decided to experiment with a quarterly schedule for our face-to-face gatherings, perhaps to include a lunch or dinner with the presentation and discussion. That way, we’ll still have a chance to interact with each other in the flesh occasionally, but because it isn’t so frequent, we are hopeful that more people will be able to arrange their schedules so that they can attend.
We’ve chosen to use Skypecasting and Google Groups rather than recreating all the infrastructure on the KnoxBloggers website, just because we saw no need to reinvent the wheel and because our group, almost by definition, is already comfortable with interacting with the world over the Internet. It is still our hope to enlist others into our group, so if you know of anyone who might like to join us, tell them about our plans and invite them please.
As soon as we’ve gotten everything set up, we’ll announce the date and time of the first Skypecast on the Google group and at KnoxBloggers.com.