Group Circle, using Ecircles.com and Egroups.com

Group Circle 
By Walter Ang
May 4, 2000
Philippine Daily Inquirer

As everyone graduates from school, a common note in yearbooks and grad pics is "Keep in Touch". In this day of answering machines, voice mail, pagers, cellular phones, and email, a simple idea such as "keeping in touch" shouldn't seem like a Herculean task. Unfortunately, it still seems to be. Interestingly enough, the internet offers possible solutions to this dilemma.

My high school batch keeps an Ecircle (http://www.ecircles.com), while my high school alumni association has an Egroup (http://www.egroups.com). Ecircles and Egroups are free internet mailing lists that anyone can avail of to disseminate information and maintain a network of names and contact information. Both services offer basically the same features, members can send email to everyone subscribed to the group, upload files for sharing, and even chat with each other.

Groupings
Egroups offers a more text based service and keeps an archive of all messages posted to the group. A member can see how many messages have been posted in a month when logging in to the site. Egroups also offers a calendar where members can post events, options to maintain polls or surveys, and links to other sites.

Best of all, Egroups has a feature wherein messages posted to the group may either be viewed on the website or received as emails. The members make the choice. For persons who would much rather receive information via email, they can opt to receive emails instead of checking the site. There are members, however, who feel a need to update themselves only on occasion and may choose to not to receive emails. Instead, they can just visit the site whenever they feel like it.

An appealing bonus to Egroups is that once you are a member or owner of one egroup, you can subscribe to any number of other existing egroups. With health news groups to rock star fans groups, one Egroup I'm subscribed to is the Zentertainment Egroup, which sends entertainment news at least once a week. 2bU's correspondents have their own Egroup, too. There's even an Egroup called Filipino Food Lovers, whose members include Inquirer writer Nancy Lumen Reyes.

Circle of friends
Ecircles, on the other hand, has a penchant for graphics and images. First off, members choose picture icons to represent themselves in the site. These icons range from cutie pie smiley faces to, well, cutie pie monsters. It's main edge over egroups is its photo album section where members can post photos and add captions. Other members can add comments and start discussions about the posted photos.

Ecircles seems to target a younger market as it offers more interactivity with its games, text and voice chatting, and even a music section where members can download and upload music files. Its calendar has a feature that automatically adds members' birthdays. It can even send birthday reminders to the circle. A possible downside to Ecircles is that many of its features can only be accessed through its site, which may not interest people who are less inclined or have no time to surf the web.

While Ecircles has no archives of emails posted to the group, it has discussion boards that are open and visible to all members of a particular ecircle. The only catch with Ecircles is that one must log on to the site to send any email to the entire group. At Egroups, the service provides members with an email address they can send messages to, without logging on to the site each time.

Management
The plus factor for Egroups is that more than one person can be made group moderator. The group moderator manages and maintains the Egroup. Moderators can approve subscriptions, provide guidelines for members, and delete old messages and file. With several moderators, one can take over for another or share responsibilities, thus ensuring the Egroup is properly maintained.

The downside to Ecircles is that it grants moderator privileges only to the Ecircle owner, usually the person who starts the Ecircle. This may be a problem if the Ecircle owner is unable to visit the site for a certain amount of time to address any questions posted by the members. Old announcements and files could also pile up if the owner doesn't delete them, resulting in a cluttered site.

Each service has its own unique options that one can consider in choosing what's best for a group's needs. The internet is only a few mouse clicks away, which ever service a group decides to use, it has only advantages to gain.