Bob Anthony, leader of the Net Neutrality issue group, wrote Judson Vaughn about challenges surrounding communications tools within the group. Jud responded. Bob’s remarks are in black; Jud’s are in red

I couldn’t make the April 8th meeting, but I did go to your Simplenote Q&A on our communication strategy.  For a couple days, I’ve been trying to put my comments into a MSWord copy of the simplenote text but have finally decided to write this email instead.

You cover a lot of important topics in your note, but my most critical questions are not on the list and I’m lost in the compartments of the task at hand.  Let me explain and share how my mind works on the compartments.

That memo was a draft of some internal thoughts. I sent it to you in the hope that it would be useful. It wasn’t meant to be a finished tutorial. Please don’t forward it to anyone until we scrub it.  


  • A couple people I know have dropped out of HRI because they could not navigate the system and got too many email notices.  Others, who I’d like to invite to join, I can’t offer them simple instructions of how to link up with groups since even after joining HRI, the groups are not all visible on or in the website.

With a group this size, communications is going to be complex. However, the combination of Facebook and website accommodates the great majority. For leadership tasks, we are recommending Action Network because it has all the tools in one place. You may not need all of them. In my opinion, Action Network is not very intuitive so we all need some training. 

  • I may have subscribed to the HRI site more than once.  Does the site indicate that someone is already signed up?  Does it have me in there twice? 

Yes, you are in there twice with different e-mail addresses. Which e-mail address would you like to keep and we can delete the redundant one. 

  • Outside people looking to see what we are about cannot readily find a list of our interest groups along with their mission statements and means of connecting.  This is true on both the public Facebook page and the HRI website.

Agreed. This is on my TO DO list to provide a list of groups and their leadership. This would be on the website, not on Facebook. 

  • I suspect that Kathi set up an interest group “Net Neuter-FOP-Transp Group” on the google drive.  This is, I think, outside the HRI website?  Does my group have a site within the HRI site for just the members of the “Informed Public” subgroup members [and is it distinct from the “Net Neuter-FOP-Transp Group”?]?    If so, what is its address?  If it is in fact “Net Neuter-FOP-Transp Group,” why don’t I see a link to it from within the HRI website?

Your group(s) are not yet listed on the website. Please provide the name of the group or groups and I will create a page that you can edit. You can edit several pages if you request it. 

  • Other?

My thought is that we should develop a public web page for every group, so that non-members and new people can easily find welcome information. Then, if they are interested, we can encourage them to join the Action Network where they can get access to files and discussion. The Action Network is private so people can feel relatively safe here. 

In my opinion,  USING the Action Network is pretty straightforward. MANAGING it needs training to get the benefits. 


I’ll number these possible types of relationships for easy reference later:

  1. I’m assuming that all communication to/from/within the HRI website is between a person and a posting — either they are looking at the posting, making a posting, or commenting on a posting.  That is, I’m assuming there is no messaging capability within the HRI web structure.  The forms of communication are then a matter of who can see what and who can post or modify what.

Yes, for discussions, we should use the Action Network. Or e-mail to a group leader.  

  1. Members of an interest group, e.g., immigration, posting an item [can all interest group members post?] or reading a post from others [is editing an item supported?].  Members of the interest group communicate directly through ordinary email [or is there a more secure or private option within the website architecture?].  How could they otherwise carry on a discussion [by posting to a document that is shared?]?

The Action Network has a very lively discussion area. The Environment group is using this to good advantage. Plus the information stays put so that new members can go back and read past discussions. 

Regarding posting to the website, I recommend having one person from each interest group having editing privileges. The website can point to the discussion group and Facebook group.  

  1. Members of an interest group posting an item for HRI members inside the website but not members of the interest group to be able to see.

I recommend one person posting on behalf of each interest group. The website is for public information. Private information for the GROUP ONLY should be posted in the Action Network. 

  1. Group leaders [?] website manager [?] posts an item to the website so that outsiders [everyone on the Internet] can see it. This might include our overall mission statement, mission statements of each interest group  certainly an introduction to the group and a place to request to ask permission to be on the mailing list and have entry to the website.


  1. Members of mailing list within the HRI website can see the calendar [can they post to it or is this done upon request by a webmaster or subgroup leader?].  Who can post / see materials posted in the HRI website itself?  This might include POC information for someone in the HRI parent group to request to join a specific interest group.

Everyone can see the calendar, which is located on the website. We are recommending against using the FB events listings, although anyone can. The group is open. 

Everyone can see the website. 

  1. Who can post information on the website so that outsiders on the Internet can see that information?  This might be for important notices of events or actions.  Would interest group leaders have to request of a webmaster to post that information?   See 3 above.

Oops, I messed up the numbering. But No. 3 asked about members seeing information on the website. The rule of thumb is that the website is public. There is one exception: a group leader can password-protect the page so that only group members can access information there. We aren’ t recommending this, because we feel that is what Action Network is for.  

  1. Can individuals outside the HRI website post questions to the HRI group without becoming members?  This might be useful for encouraging people to join but might also invite some nasty commentary.  If outsiders can post questions, I’m assuming that other outsiders cannot see that information.  Who in HRI would be able to see those questions?  Would the questions or information be posted to a handful of webmasters or to individual interest group leaders?

Yes, anyone can write an e-mail to the central mailbox (, plus any FB user can ask a question of the leadership via the FB Messenger tool. 

Anyone can post a response to our blog but we moderate the responses (in other words, we must approve the comment before it goes public).

I have looked at the HRI website to try to answer my own questions and for the most part failed.  Would you double check that my registration is there?

Yes. See the response above. You are listed twice under two different e-mail addresses.  

If the HRI website is the tool we choose, the group needs to work together to make this complete and transparent as this might be key to recruiting others to join and help our causes.

Agreed. Most members of the leadership core not retired, so we are balancing work and Indivisible. We need more volunteers who want to get in elbow deep. Please bear with us as we build the organization. 

My 3 year experience with advocacy on other issues taught a general lesson: most people and quite a few activists who are part timers or elderly have problems with email and opening pdf attachments.  I fear we risk losing many of the folk with the most time and talent to help our causes unless we make our communication system and tools and postings VERY simple.  I think FB would be a challenge for many especially those who haven’t mastered FB to connect with grandchildren.  Email and a well organized website might be easier for most people.  

I am afraid you may be right. That’s why we are trying to running FB and the website in tandem. 

Interest group leaders would be willing to invest the time to learn, but their using a different site somewhat separated them from their group members and the large HRI group.

I hope that the leadership meetings and training will help us do this. 

That said, here are my questions about the other sites and tools.


I’m a bit lost on this guidance as well.  Your note recommends different sites and tools for different purposes but my lack of familiarity leaves me with many questions.

Facebook Group: I imagine that similar relationships arise for the FB “group” but only some of the relationships apply to the FB “Page.”  Experienced FB users probably know the answers to most of these questions in that context based on its common practices.  But I for one have shied away from FB for security reasons and do not know these conventions very well.  Does FB group have a feature that can be turned on to send email to every group member when there is an update [otherwise, how do I get so many notices of FB updates?]?

We are demoting the public FB Page in favor of a “closed” FB group. In the future, the FB Page’s only purpose will be to point you to the group and ask you to join. It will not contain content. 

Mailchimp: Who has the permission to post a Mailchimp message to the entire group?  How is this done whether directly or indirectly by asking someone with the authority to do it?

Currently, only a handful of us are able to use Mailchimp, which is connected to the membership list. Those who want to send a message to the entire membership list or to a portion of the list should contact Carrie, Anne, Kathi, Heidi or me and we’ll make it happen. This does not preclude a group leader from sending a mass mailing to their group members via Action Network. 

Doodle: I assume that we are using Doodle for scheduling for those using the HRI website or Facebook.  I recollect you saying that Action Network has a scheduling tool?  I have asked others to help with the scheduling because I haven’t found the time to master this tool as yet.

This is not something you need. It is an optional software app to help people find each other for the purpose of car pooling.  

Action Network: Is the Action Network a viable tool?  Your comments were not very encouraging during the April 5 meeting.  Your notes recommend it for communication within a group.  Does it provide secure communication? Is its internal communication tool easy to use?

Sorry if I sounded negative. My opinion is that Action Network is not perfect, but it is the only game in town. It does so many things in one place that it is worth our attention and training. Two years from now, there may be better tools, but not today.

When we started the group, I was envisioning creating a menagerie of disparate tools that would do what Action Network does. Thank goodness we didn’t have to create it. 

The group leaders who are using FB as their communication tool will likely come to see the deficits of that tool for that purpose. We are always on the lookout for other tools.  

Would you send me a link to the Action Network site so I can look at it?

Go to and join it as an individual. 

Also, let me know the official name of your groups and I can start an interest group in Action Network for you to manage. 

Facebook Page: You recommend this for public communication, yet isn’t this just asking HRI members to look at yet another place?

Perhaps. So we’ll demote the FB Page in favor of the FB group. That will eliminate one of the options.  

Well, this is my sorry state of knowledge and list of questions.  My naiveté might be a help for the moment because it prompts me to ask the dumb questions that I might forget as I learn more.  

I agree. Your questions are surely being asked by others. Thank you for asking these questions. 

I wanted to answer this in full so that we could post this on the website. Please give me any feedback that would help make this Q&A better.  

Overall, do you believe we need all six systems you have mentioned?  Just as a placeholder for feedback, here they are in a list:

  • HRI website 
  • FB Group
  • Mail chimp
  • Doodle
  • Action Network
  • FB Page
  • HRI website – YES, the public face of our group
  • FB Group – YES, the closed membership touchpoint 
  • Mail chimp – YES, max mailing tool only for bigger notices, such as meeting notices (also, Action Network can be used for mass mailings)
  • Doodle – NO, this is not part of the suite
  • Action Network – YES, this is the place for nuanced interest group information (although some of using FB groups and Google docs)
  • FB Page – NO, we are demoting this tool and promoting the website. 

Given your advice on which tools to use and who would use them for what, revisiting the above seven relationship items offers a way to structure a description of how to do things we need to do.  

  • Is the list complete?  No. New software is being developed every week. We didn’t mention Slack, Trello, Airtable, Powerpoint, Google Hangout, or dozens of other tools. 
  • Which systems would be required for each if the numbered items?  Would some items require more than one system, and might other numbered items be inserted to simplify the description? A member who just joined only needs FB and the website.
  • Does the leadership team need time to try the systems and tools to determine whether our initial thoughts need revision? My thought is that we need training more than R&D.
  • Who might document the procedures for the HRI group at large?  This is a bit tedious, but it would help bring people on board and sort out confusion — plus it offers a place to insert revisions as we find reasons to make changes. 

You are feeling the frustration of pulling a community group together with little expertise and no money. We’ve been feeling this for awhile. 

Does this help? 

Yes, you have helped many who didn’t know how to ask these questions. Thanks for your patience.