Because I haven't the technical skills needed to create and manage a forum (also termed discussion group, community or bulletin board), I'm using Google Groups to house and power a site called "CSTN Friends in Travel." Following are some how-to tips and answers to questions that arose during testing.
Diane: For technical superiority and handling of privacy issues, I trust Google more than other companies that provide messaging solutions. Google is our watchdog for spammers and other unscrupulous characters that misuse the Internet.
Diane: Google Groups consist of a worldwide Internet community of organizations all using Google's messaging system yet separate one from the other by interest and how the group owner uses the technology. The purpose of our group, CSTN Friends in Travel, is to extend communication between members of Connecting: Solo Travel Network – with a focus on matters specific to solo travelers. Other groups cover an A-Z gamut of interests.
Diane: Because of my concerns about privacy and security, I have, for the present, elected to make CSTN Friends in Travel a semi-private group – only bona fide members of Connecting: Solo Travel Network may participate – people whose name, address, and traceable payment information have been duly recorded.
I will list the group in the Google directory which will allow interested persons to find the site and view postings then, hopefully, be inspired to join.
Diane: First, I will add members' e-mail addresses to the group list, and everyone will receive an invitation to participate. That e-mail will include a URL (address) link to the CSTN Friends in Travel site.
Diane: Yes. As Google powers the service, you must have a Google account and password to be allowed access to any Google Group, including CSTN Friends in Travel.
Diane: You can try, but it may not be accepted by Google.
Diane: I expect CSTN Friends in Travel to replace the Adviser, Host, and travel companion aspects of Connecting: Solo Travel Network, but Solo Travel News will still be published and posted on my website – cstn.org. The format may change over time as inspiration dictates.
Diane: Google Groups masks your e-mail address on the web to prevent automated computer programs from harvesting it for spamming purposes. When you see an e-mail address on the CSTN Friends in Travel site, it will look something like this: add...@example.com instead of firstname.lastname@example.org.
Please note, this masking only occurs on the web. If your message leaves CSTN Friends in Travel (or any Google Group), your e-mail address will be visible. Messages leave Google Groups in two ways:
From Jo S: I have been hesitant to put my phone number up there because of confidentiality.
Diane: It is not recommended that you include your telephone number on messages you post on CSTN Friends in Travel website (message board) as the whole world can view it. But the board allows private email conversations between a poster and interested members via the "Reply to Author" function.
From Jo S: Can we get advertisements from tours that waive, or significantly reduce the single occupancy prices?
Diane: When and if you see ads on CSTN Friends in Travel, they are from Google's sponsors. Google provides the messaging technology free to group owners and in return Google posts their sponsored links, quite unobtrusively. Ads are supposed to be relevant to each topic, so should a single-friendly travel company choose to become a Google advertiser, there is every possibility its link would appear on the CSTN Friends in Travel website. Note: Certainly, I will be posting messages about any single-friendly specials as I find them, and all CSTNers are urged to post good deals as well – that's what it's all about.