- Email vs. Web
- Content Moderation
- Group Hierarchy
- Invitation-Only Groups
Email vs. Web
Dgroups is an easy collaboration tool designed to help globally disparate teams communicate quickly and effectively, and without the need to acquire new skills. The central technology of Dgroups is email – a tool all participants in international development know, and the only electronic communication medium that every Dgroups participant in the world uses on a daily basis.
Email is the most effective way to contribute content to Dgroups. Accessing the web site at http://dgroups.org is mostly useful for searching the archives, and potentially sharing information about a group or an upcoming discussion through group public pages.
Email is what makes Dgroups so successful: only one in a thousand contributions in made through the web – all the rest comes through email. This help guide focuses almost exclusively on the Dgroups web site: another proof that we don’t need extra help or training in using email! If you want to create a successful and thriving group, urge your users to contribute through email.
A group holds together members and content within Dgroups. Only members of a group have access to a group’s content.
A group has a unique internet address (for example
http://dgroups.org/group1) and a unique email address (for example
firstname.lastname@example.org). In addition, one can give a human friendly group title.
A group name – the last segment of the URL – is often also used as the email address of the group, and as a prefix of subjects of all messages sent from the group. The name is often referred to as short name of a group. In the above example,
group1 is the short name of a group Group 1.
When you create a new group, its email address will be the same name you chose.
A group can either accept contribution from any member and make it immediately visible to all other members, or it might require approval from a group administrator before content is accepted and made visible to all. A group that requires administrator approval for content is said to be moderated, and the one that doesn’t is said to be non-moderated.
It is possible to set up a group such that only invitations to new members suggested by other members are moderated – thus allowing the group administrator to control the membership growth – while other content is not.
It is also possible to set up moderation requirement only for each member’s first contribution. Once one contribution from a specific member is approved, future contributions from that member will not require approval, and will immediately be visible to all other members.
Groups can have parent groups and sub-groups, forming a group hierarchy. Hierarchical relationship between groups is formed through group URLs: a sub-group will always include parent’s group in it’s URL.
For example, if group1 had sub-group sub1, then sub1’s URL will be:
http://dgroups.org/group1/sub1. If sub1 then had sub-groups of its own, those would comprise of sub1’s URL plus own name.
In addition to URL organization, group hierarchy has some other desirable properties: all members of a sub-group are automatically members of all group’s parents. This is very practical for specialization of topics: a top-level group can reach all members of all sub-groups, and deeper levels of sub-groups can serve increasingly specialized topics. One needs only add member to the lowest level of hierarchy, and the membership will automatically extend to all parent groups.
Conversely, all group administrators can automatically administer all sub-groups of that group. This is very practical if a single person wants to oversee a number of specialized topics. Inheritance also promotes accountability – a administrator can create new sub-groups and delegate administratorship to others, but will always remain able to visit and manage those sub-groups.
An Dgroups user is any person able to log in into Dgroups, and has a profile defined in Dgroups. A user does not necessarily have to be linked with any group, although most users are.
The only way to become an Dgroups user is via membership in one of the groups. After a user stops being a member of any group, her or she will still have a profile on Dgroups and can join other groups in the future.
A user can delete own profile and thus terminate membership in Dgroups – this action is not reversible: once the profile is deleted, one needs to create a new profile through registration in a group.
A user with access to a group is said to be a member of that group. Members can initiate discussions, contribute documents and other content, and can invite other members to join a group. In moderated groups, members' contributions will require administrator’s approval.
If a group has one or more parent groups, member’s membership automatically extends to all of group’s parent groups.
A group administrator has full control of a group. Administrator can invite or remove members, promote other members into administrators, can contribute content to a group, and in a moderated group can also decide whether to accept or reject content suggested by members. Finally, administrator can change group settings, turn a non-moderated group into a moderated one, make it read-only, change its name, or delete it. A group can have more than one administrator.
In a group hierarchy, a administrator of a group is automatically a administrator of all of its sub-groups.
To contact the group administrator of any group, send an email to
A group can be set to allow only invited members to join (as opposed to also allowing users to request membership). An invitaiton-only group is invisible to anyone except its members and invited users.
Dgroups web servers and databases are kep to the highest standard of the information technology profession. The servers are hosted in a data center with biometric security, in the same room where Swiss private banks keep their servers. Physical data security, as well as brute force attacks where a bad person accesses user data like in the movies is not an issue for Dgroups and for most modern web sites.
Almost all security breaches publicized in the press, as well as those that are not published, come from something popularly known as social engineering: an attacker focuses on specific users to obtain their user passwords, and then simply accesses web sites impersonating those users. A group on Dgroups is as protected from these types of attacks as much as its users are aware of possibilities of someone stealing their passwords through attacking their personal computers, laptops and phones. As with human health, basic computer hygiene will go a long way to reduce the security risks.
In the specific case of Dgroups, the only valuable content an attacker might want to get from Dgroups servers are user email addresses, mostly for the purposes of spamming. All other content is already on users' computers, distributed by email through discussions. It is enough that one group member’s laptop is stolen or compromised for someone to obtain the group content without ever accessing Dgroups!
Please keep this in mind when using Dgroups, or any other hosted web collaboration solution: as soon as content is produced in electronic format and distributed, it is easy to get hold of through any of the recipients. All military-grade protection of the servers won’t help if one of the recipients decides to forward content further.