Georgetown’s neighborhood Yahoo group and listserv, moderated by the Citizens Association of Georgetown, long a popular forum for community discussion, will move to a new host site, Groups.io, on Oct. 28.
Forums across Washington, D.C., are doing the same in response to Yahoo’s decision to scale back its Yahoo Groups service. D.C.’s neighborhood forums date back to the nineties and were brought under the Yahoo Groups umbrella after the service began in 2001. The forums are public message boards that allow users to post text and photos and respond to one another.
On Oct. 28, the group’s over 3,000 users will no longer be able to post content to the site, and Dec. 14 all content will be permanently removed. Users can still save their uploads or download their data before that date and have the opportunity to join the new forum on Groups.io, but the GeorgetownForum and others are already closed to the public.
The forum is a valuable way for people in Georgetown to stay connected to one another, according to CAG Program Administrator Nancy Carpenter.
“We’re just always looking for a way — like a forum — to connect our community and share information, and people really depend on it in a way,” Carpenter said in an interview with The Hoya. “I think when it goes away, they’re really going to miss it, and then they’re going to wonder where the new one is.”
She said that CAG’s main task right now is getting people to sign up for the new forum, although it can be difficult to spread the news.
“It really is just a logistic issue of getting people to join a new forum as opposed to remaining on the one that’s going to close, and it’s easier said than done because you have to reach everybody and motivate everybody and provide signage and reminders, and they still have questions,” Carpenter said. “It’s unfortunate that it’s happening so quickly.”
For as long as they’ve been operational, neighborhood forums in D.C. have accomplished an important public good, according to local Advisory Neighborhood Commission 2E Commissioner Kishan Putta.
“I’ve been a member of Yahoo Groups listservs since the 90s,” Putta wrote in an email to The Hoya. “They have been extremely important and beneficial both to me and my neighbors/constituents. They truly are a form of recorded history of our neighborhoods and neighbors’ lives.”
The forum has served him in more practical ways as a neighborhood commissioner, too.
“As a Commissioner, I have often looked back to see what has been said or done before on local issues,” he wrote. “They say that those who don’t learn from history are destined to repeat it, so I have always tried to look back and learn from the past.”
D.C.’s Metropolitan Police Department also operates crime-specific listservs, which email crime reports to residents, and forums for community discussion using Yahoo for different city districts, including District 2, which includes Georgetown. MPD said in a statement Oct. 17 that it will create nine new Google Groups in response to Yahoo’s changes.
Moving to Google will improve functionality, according to the Oct. 17 MPD statement. Posts will be publicly visible to any site visitor, and users can sign up with any email rather than needing a Yahoo email to access the old groups.
“The MPD police discussion groups were originally created in Yahoo over 15 years ago to virtually share public safety information and strengthen our police-community relationships using technology,” the statement said. “This format should provide better quality of service than Yahoo groups, which have been faltering for some time.”
The university’s Office of Community Engagement subscribes to the GeorgetownForum to keep up to date with neighborhood news and to share information about the university, according to Engagement Coordinator Karen Salmeron.
“Our office engages the community regularly, so we think it’s important for us to stay up to date on what’s going on in and around the neighborhoods,” Salmeron wrote in an email to The Hoya. “Our office also will post on these neighborhood listservs. We have a weekly publication called, ‘Georgetown University Neighborhood News,’ which shares information regarding University and community happenings for our local neighbors.”
To join the new forum, email [email protected] Georgetown students can benefit by joining, according to Carpenter.
“You would find out about community events, you would find about maybe crime that’s happening,” she said. “People post things that are for sale, people post so many things — a lot of information.”