using google groups for discussions via email is so darn convenient, specially for devotees who have been using PAMHO and are not very interested in internet technology and how to use it efficiently.
with PAMHO as well as google groups one receives all posts via email, and can reply to them in the same way, by replying to one of these messages. no need to worry about user accounts, finding a particular message in a sub-forum or particular discussion thread.
this leads to a messed-up forum page, people replying to unrelated messages, adding To or CC receivers indiscreminately, often leading to complaints from those added to a thread without good reason.
nevertheless, this is a proven and convenient way to engage group members with no knowledge or interest in more sophisticated online discussions.
the advantage of creating a different solution would be to have more fine-grained control over user permissions, who can read or reply to what, which groups are private, semi-private, or even secret.
the challenge is to create an equally convenient way for non-geeks to participate. there are several forums around that manage threads, user groups, and permissions quite well. they all fail in reliable and easily configurable email options, unfortunately.
with a little difficulty it's possible to configure them to send email notifications for users who sign up for them, but allowing them to post by sending email is where it gets tricky. that's where google groups shine: email is one of google's main features and they're really good at it: authentication, spam control, getting posts to show up where they belong.
i've created (non-public) workgroups which are meant to fulfill a similar purpose, but probably because of the hassle to log into a website, then follow links, etc., those who wanted to use them couldn't be bothered yet.
i still think they may be useful, for smaller groups of devotees working on particular issues, and i should be able to add email notifications at least. don't want to try email-in facility because these workgroups are meant to be mostly private, with very strict access permissions.
once i get more comfortable with how django handles emails i'll work on larger groups including email notifications and email-in (posting by email). once there, users will be able to subscribe to certain emails only, by thread or topic, or to the whole group they are member of.
this should also provide a better way of sharing mayapur's yellow pages and update them continuously, not every few months, including user comments to certain listings.
let's see how far i get, how long it takes...