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Groups

Overview

Google Groups is a service for the members of a group to collaborate via email and the group's posting webpage.  This page contains Manager Guidelines for working with Google Groups.

These are some characteristics of Google Groups:

General Membership:
  • A group does NOT have a maximum number of members, it may exceed 500 members
  • Any email address can participate as a member of a Google Group (there is no requirement to use Gmail or a Google Account) so an existing list can be ported over ‘as is’.
  • Users can subscribe and unsubscribe to the group easily (using email or web URL) without requiring managers to perform any manual tasks (or if you like, new member subscription ‘join requests’ must be approved by a group owner/manager).
  • Nesting Groups - a group may be a sub-group of other groups.
Google Accounts:
  • People with Google Accounts will have additional access to Google Group features, such as delivery options and accessing group web pages that are private, and posting directly from the web page.
  • A Google Account is required for any individual that has a special role (i.e., owner or manager).
  • Permissions - an individual Google Account that is the member of a group is granted any permissions that have been granted to the group.  For example any private Google Sites, Calendars, Drive files that are shared with the group are shared with all the members of the group.
Group Roles and Permissions:
  • Several roles exist in a Google Group, and permissions are typically granted to roles rather than to specific individual accounts:
    • Owner - has full access to configure the group
    • Manager - can perform most management activities - such as managing posts and handling membership
    • Member - the standard participant
    • Public - it's possible to grant the public selected permissions such as accessing the site, and even to post
    • Custom - custom roles can also be defined for advanced purposes (we don't plan to use)
  • The group can have multiple ‘owners’ and ‘managers’ as necessary to handle setting up the group and posting messages.
  • Custom Permissions can be assigned to individual members as an override to the default role-based permissions when necessary for a few items (such as to prevent a nuisance member from posting messages, or requiring their posts to be moderated)
Posting Messages:
  • Posts are typically originated as the account creating the message (the email 'from' indicates the sender (i.e., VP-Communications@orgname.com), however may also be originated on behalf of the group (i.e., as ORG-Demo) by accounts granted this permission (typically owners and managers).  To post or reply on behalf of the group, the action must be performed from the Google Group webpage or embedded gadget, it cannot be done by sending an email to the group.
  • The permission to post messages can be setup as necessary, with posting restricted to just the owner and/or managers, or more openly allow all members to post (or even to allow non-members to post), and if necessary can be adjusted for individual members (to curtail problematic users...)
  • Email message subject lines can have a prefix, such as: ‘[ORG-Demo]’
  • Email messages can automatically append footer information, such as how to unsubscribe from the list or custom text
  • Reply messages have various settings to control whether replies go just to the owner/managers, are moderated, or directly to all members, are completely disabled, etc.
Groups Website:
  • Each Google group has a webpage, that provides member access to group information: posts, member list (optional), and provides access to features usable by each member.
  • A 'gadget' version of the group webpage can also be embedded into other web pages.  This way you can add the group information into an existing or new page on your website. View an example here: https://groups.google.com/forum/#!forum/demo-members 
  • Permission to access the group website can be restricted (i.e. to members only), or can be open to the public (such as a way to provide an archive of newsletters on the main website).
  • Information on appearing on the groups page can be adjusted (for example showing or hiding the members list).

ORG-specific

The organization (ORG) has deployed this service in the following specific manner to address our requirements.
  • follow our naming conventions
  • use an email subject prefix to identify group messages
  • use suitable email footer text

Prerequisites

If permissions for this service are restricted such that only specified individuals or groups can access the content, then you must have a Google Account and must be logged into the account to access the content.  Refer to User Help -> Accounts for help with account options.
  • Individuals that will be a group owner or manager must have a Google Account
  • If group resources are privately restricted to members, then a member must have a Google Account to access these resources.
Note: it is NOT required that all group members have Google Accounts, however members without Google accounts will be limited to receiving email and viewing publicly accessible resources.

Setting up a Group

The setup for Google Groups includes numerous setup fields across several provisioning categories.  At this time, Groups setup is being performed by the Google Apps System Administrator.

Initial steps for group owners/managers:
  1. Owners/managers must have google accounts, then are added as members with proper role (owner/manager) assigned.
  2. Owners/managers should get familiar with the group capabilities (review the site, try some test posts, review the 'Manage' area).
  3. At the end of orientation, clean up by deleting and test posts and test members.
  4. Add members (using one of the options listed below).
  5. The group is ready to use, send your first post.

Calendar Group Auto-Reminders

It's helpful to have a calendar send automatic reminders to a Group. It can be setup, however it is not a standard feature of Google Group or Google Calendar. Setting this up requires a Google Account with Gmail, it can be the account the activity manager is using. Here's a summary of operation: an account that can access both the calendar and the group subscribes to the calendar and sets the calendar to provide email notifications (to that account's gmail). The Gmail has a filter configured to forward the calendar notifications to the Google Group. If desired, multiple reminders can be sent at selected lead times.

Here are the setup steps:
  • Starting in the account that will be doing the forwarding. 
  • Check that the calendar is already listed in the account's calendar.google.com page, or add it. 
  • In the left sidebar, identify the calendar, click the right drop-down and select 'Reminders and Notifications'. 
  • On the settings page, Reminders are up top. Select 'Add Reminder' , choose email and the desired lead time (you can create multiple if desired). Click Save. 
  • Add a test event to the calendar just far enough in the future that you're receive a reminder email soon. 
  • Open Gmail, mail.google.com. Here you need to setup two things. First forwarding so your account can forward email to the Google Group; and second the filter to sense the calendar reminders in your inbox and forward them o the group. 
  • In Gmail, open settings, and select the 'Forwarding and POP/IMAP' tab. 
  • In 'Forwarding' near the top, click the 'Add a forwarding address' button. Enter the email address for the Google Group and follow the instructions to confirm the address (this will send an email message to the group, which you should open and click and click the verify link. That activates the group address as a valid forwarding destination for your account. Refresh the Gmail settings tab to verify it. 
  • Now look for the Calendar Reminder email message, perhaps it has already arrived, or perhaps you need to wait. Once it arrives... 
  • In Gmail, open the Calendar Reminder email. Then select the 'More' drop-down button and select 'Filter messages like these'. In part 1 of the dialog box, review the field settings. If you receive notifications from more than one calendar, make sure the 'Subject' or 'Has the words' fields include the name of the calendar you want to forward.  Also if you want reminders only for special events and not regularly scheduled items (like standard Class/Rehearsals), then use a keyword such as 'Rehearsal' in the standard recurring events, and add those words to the 'Doesn't have' list. Then click the 'Create filter' link at the bottom. 
  • In part 2 of the dialog box, check 'Forward it' and select the Google Groups email address. Depending on your personal email management style, you may also want to check other boxes too, but they are optional. Finally click 'Create filter'. 
  • To test, create a new test event in the calendar. Wait until the calendar reminder occurs. Observer that it was received by the account, then go to the Google Group to verify that the group has a new post (candler reminder). DONE. The setup is a little involved, but it works well. 
Note: individual members are able to set their own calendar reminders and notifications within their own accounts, however this group calendar notification is usually viewed very favorably. 

Managing a Group

As an Activity Manager, here are some of the key tasks:
  • Managing Members - inviting/direct adding/join requests, removing, changing delivery options
  • Handling Messages - pending messages in moderated groups, delete (inappropriate) posts, reply (same as any user)
  • Managing Roles - designating Owners and Managers
  • Other Setup Changes

Managing Members

The most important role for the group managers is maintaining the group's membership list.  First getting people signed up as group members, subsequently deleting members (if the email addresses are invalid), and perhaps adjusting member's delivery settings (if they got themselves messed up).

Adding Members

There are several ways to add members to a group: 
  • invite members - the manager inputs an address (or list), an invitation email the addresses, and then the users must read the email and accept the invitation to become a member.
  • direct add members - the manager inputs an address (or list), these users are immediately added to the group, and the users receive an email regarding their new group membership(and they can choose to unsubscribe).
  • individuals request to join - individuals can initiate a join request (via email or Google Groups online), typically this sends a message to the group owner/manager (as well as they receive a confirmation message), then the manager reviews the request and admits them into the group (user's don't get an admitted message, but they will get a rejected message).
For owner/manager initiated membership activities, starting from the group's webpage, click the 'manage button to enter the management area.  The top section is 'Members' with several subsections:  All Members (a list), Invite members, Direct add members, Outstanding invites, and Join requests.

Important Tip:  When inviting (or direct adding) members, be sure to use an expanded address format that includes the person's name as well as their email address (example:  Susan Ford <susie54321@anywhere.com> , this way their name will appear in the contact list (otherwise the contact name is the first part of the email address, "susie54321").  Valid formats (when listing more than 1 person, individuals must be separated by a comma):
    • Susan Ford <susie54321@anywhere.com>,
    • "Thomas Jefferson" <tom1776@authors.com>,

Invite Members
To add members via the invitation process do the following:
  1. select 'Members' -> 'Invite members'
  2. complete the form entering 1 or several email addresses (see restriction below). Per the above 'Important Tip', use the format:  Susan Ford <susie54321@anywhere.com>,   Include an invitation message (note Google Groups includes boilerplate too (including the group description...). Click 'Send invite'. Then you'll have to complete a 'caption matching' dialog box.
  3. these addresses will be added to the  'Members' -> 'Outstanding invites' list (unless there was something wrong such as: bad email address, already a member, or an outstanding join request).
  4. the invitees will receive an email message inviting each to join the group, with a link then can click to join.  When they click they become a member of the group (TBD and are at a page where they can choose a delivery option).
  5. Note: invitations expire in 1 week if the invitee does not accept it.  If it expires, the manager will need to re-invite the person using the 'Outstanding invites' page (or they can utilize the 'join' method).
Direct Add Members
To add members via the 'Direct Add' method do the following:
  1. select 'Members' -> 'Direct add members'
  2. complete the form entering 1 or several email addresses (see restriction below).  Per the above 'Important Tip', use the format:   Susan Ford <susie54321@anywhere.com>,  Include an invitation message (note Google Groups includes boilerplate too (including the group description...). Select an email delivery option (in most cases this should be 'All Mail') and click 'Send invite'. Then you'll have to complete a 'caption matching' dialog box.
  3. these addresses will be added as members, you can check on the  'Members' -> 'All members' list (unless there was something wrong such as: bad email address, already a member, or an outstanding join request).
  4. the new 'direct add' members will receive an email message informing each it has been added to the group, with a link they can click to unsubscribe or report spam (so you want to be sure you have willing members so your account doesn't get labeled as a spammer).
Restriction Notes: Google has taken measures mitigate the ability for spammers to use Google Groups, and since 'Direct add' is a way to include an email address as a group member without their permission, using this feature receives additional scrutiny.
  • Google limits you to adding them in batches of 10 per screen, so you may need to repeat the process several times (Google does this to deter spammers).
  • Maximum Number of Direct Adds Daily: a group is limited to adding 100 addresses using 'direct add' during any day (24 hour period). (whether done from one or multiple manager accounts).
  • If you have a large list (for instance you are porting a large list from another email list service), you will need to break the list into several chunks of 100 and allocate several days to complete the process of transferring the list into the new Google Group.
Individuals Join
A group manager can share information with their group via non-group means (newsletter or website, activity handouts...) and provide instructions for how individuals can join the group.  There are two ways a member can join a group, by sending an email, and using a signup URL while logged into their Google Account.  These are the user instructions (as manager you should substitute your specific group's information into the generic instructions which follow.
  1. Join via email
    • Using your email account that you want to be in the group (n.b. you will have access to more services if this email is associated with a Google Account, but it's not mandatory), 
    • Send email to <group-name>+join@orgname.com inserting the particular group name for <group-name>. You’ll receive an email that you made this request, and the manager of the group will receive your request. 
    • When the manager accepts you into the group, you’ll receive an email. 
  2. Join via website (This method is available only to people with Google Accounts).
    • Login to your Google account.
    • Go to this URL:  https://groups.google.com/a/orgname.com/group/group-name/subscribe?note=1&noredirect=true (substitute correct orgname and group-name) inserting the particular group name for <group-name>.
    • Complete the form and click 'Apply to this group'.
    • You’ll receive an email that you made this request, and the manager of the group will receive your request. 
    • When the manager accepts you into the group, you’ll receive an email. 
Note:  if you have one of the organization's Google Apps accounts you can search our directory of groups at this URL:  https://groups.google.com/a/orgname.com/forum/#!forumsearch/ (substitute correct orgname)

Bouncing Members

Inevitably, sooner or later, messages to some email addresses will bounce.  And addresses which persistently bounce will need to be pruned from the list to avoid the list getting labeled as a spammer by ISPs.  In Google Groups here is how you can address this:
  • When a Post has any email addresses bounce (undeliverable mail), TBD
  • Also the members list 'Members'->'All members' has a 'Delivery' column, which usually shows the members preferred delivery option, however will display 'Bouncing' if delivery is failing.  To see just the bouncing members, click the 'Bouncing' button at the top.
  • If you would like to delete a bouncing members, the check the checkbox next to their name (or the top checkbox to select all) and then 'Action' drop-down list: 'Remove from group'.

Removing Members

Removing a member is a straight forward, starting at the Members' -> 'All members' list, check the checkbox for the member(s) you want to delete, then select 'Actions' drop-down list: 'Remove from group'.

Other Adjustments

There are other member settings including: their delivery options, role and posting permissions, which you may adjust for individual members (or selected sets).
  • Delivery Options:  how the member receives posts:  All email (every message sent immediately to member), Digest (several posts are aggregated into a single email), Abridged (a single daily email aggregating all posts), No mail (the member does not get email, they need to go to a Google Group webpage to access the posts).
  • Role: in addition to being a member, standard roles are: 'Owner' and 'Manager', plus a group may create custom roles.
  • Posting: the group has permission settings that are applied based on roles (so a group may be limited so only the owner and/or managers can post, or it may allow all members to post (moderated or unmoderated).  By default members are assigned permission based upon their role, however setting this field can override the defaults to allow or disallow posting permissions.
  • Display Name: only the member can change their display name, not a manager/owner.  (If you really want to try to change a name, you would have to delete then add them back into the group using 'Invite' or "Direct Add' and include their name as part of the mail address "John Doe <john@tractor.com>"

Handling Posts

The owners/managers have these additional tools (beyond that of a normal member) for managing the stream of posted messages.  Depending on the group, normal members may be able to post and/or reply as themselves.  You must be at the group site (or gadget) to perform these tasks.

On Behalf of Group

Authorized managers can create posts and reply to posts 'on behalf of the group' meaning the message is sent 'from' the group, not 'from' the individual person.  This is helpful when making posts such as weekly announcements to the group.
  • To post on behalf of group: when creating or replying to a post, use the 'By' field at the top that's set to 'me' by default, chick it for a drop-down and select the 'Post on behalf of <group> choice.

Deleting Posts

The authorized managers can delete posts or replies that they consider inappropriate. Note if a post was already distributed to members via email, deleting the post will NOT delete any already delivered email.  But it does clean up the list of posts that are available on the group page.

To delete:
  • when reading a post or reply, select the drop-down arrow in the top right (near 'post reply') and choose 'Delete'.
  • from the post summary list, check the checkbox to the left of the post, then select the 'Actions' drop-down and select 'Delete'.

Moderated Posts

Some groups may utilize the 'Moderated Post' capabilities.  When active, a new post arrives into a Moderated Post list found in 'Manage'- > 'Messages' -> 'Pending messages', and the designated accounts (typically owners/managers) will receive an email alerting them to the pending post.  The manager may then review the message and TBD  The manager does not have to publish the post, (Can they edit the post first before posting?)
TBD

Permissions

Sharing permissions for various Google Apps (Calendar, Drive, Sites, etc.) can be shared with groups in a similar manner as sharing with an individual account.  To share with a group, when clicking the 'Share' button just enter the group email address rather than an individual's email address.  The group will receive the same type of message that an individual would receive indicating that something has been shared with them.

The sharing permissions will now be granted to all members in the group, including any sub-groups and sub-grop members.

However, there are some differences in how items appear in a user's Google Account pages (Calendars, Drive, etc.) when shared to a group vs shared to the individual:
  • Calendar - a user must manually add the calendar to their Google Calendar page using the link provided (for individual sharing a calendar is automatically added)
  • Drive - a user must access the Drive folder from a link (one reason why we are providing activities Google Sites that include links to Drive folders). (for individual sharing, a drive folder appears on a user's Drive page under 'Shared with me'.  But once a group member is viewing a folder, the user can select 'Add to My Drive' so the folder is visible in the future.
  • Sites - a site shared with a group does NOT appear on a group member's sites.google.com page that lists the user's sites.  The only way sites appear on the sites intro page is for a user account to have individual permissions to the site. Note the group member still has access to the site per the group's permissions.
  • Photos - TBD

Calendar Invitations to Groups

There's information on how Google Groups works with Calendar event invitations on the User-Help/Groups page.

Link to User Help

The user help for groups is available on the User Help/Groups page.

Learn More

Here are some links to Google Help and Learning for this service:

Additional Google Apps help and learning resources are listed on our Google Apps Help page.