Saturday, March 24, 2018

Gmail Turns its Back on Me

I spent a great deal of the week in an email crisis. It's very hard for me to conduct union meetings, because we're all on staggered schedules. To be available to all staff I'd probably have to be around for four periods. My best way of regular communication with staff is via email. For nine years I've been sending out a weekly, and gmail has been pretty good about it.

That changed last week. I started to get every single one of 400-plus emails sent back with a little red-light icon. Cute though it was, after seeing it thirty or forty times it grew tiresome. Deleting hundreds of messages so I could be closer to recent ones was no fun either. I tried Gmail's paid service called G Suite. You get a two-week trial and then it's five bucks a month. Also you have to buy a domain, so I now own

G Suite worked exactly once, and then it started bouncing back again. The first person from Google told me that gmail wasn't made for mass emailing, and that I should use Google Groups. That didn't sound very good to me. Many people who write me don't really want every single person on staff to know their issues. I was pretty sure someone would write to the whole group not realizing it wasn't private. I decided to check it out anyway but I couldn't even reach the site on DOE wifi. Maybe it's blocked. Who knows? Anyway, that wasn't gonna work.

The second person from G Suite spent an hour on the phone trying to diagnose the situation. He decided my domain purchase hadn't gone through. When I checked, we got disconnected. I thought he was wrong because I was able to send out one email successfully. It turned out he was. I spent a good 45 minutes trying to figure out how to cancel G Suite and save my five bucks a month for other things. 

I went through various web searches looking for a good solution. Finally I found an outfit called Mailchimp that offered me a free service, and a pretty good one too. It would let me send up to 2,000 emails on a list more times than I ever would, and I didn't have to pay unless I went over. It also tells me how many people actually read the email. It lets me know how many people click the links. So far most people read but don't click. I had no idea about that.

I had a hell of a time finding a format, but there was a plain text option. Most of their emails are for glitzy stuff like you'd get from a company. I spent hours looking for something ordinary. Then it took me forever to get rid of the message, "Start writing your email." I'm still not sure how I did that, and I'm pretty sure I'll have the same issue next time.

So now my email looks a little fancier. It has a Mailchimp icon on the bottom, a physical return address, and an option to opt out of the list. The problem is that if people opt out, in September when I get a bunch of new members and renew the list from gmail, they'll be opted in again. I guess I'll cross that bridge later on.

I inquired to UFT for help, but was fortunate enough to figure it out within 24 hours. If I were UFT leadership, I'd give UFT emails to chapter leaders. I'm actually happier controlling my own email, but I'm always getting requests from UFT to share my lists, which I never do. After all, no one helped me write in each and every one of those 458 members. No one handed the list to me, and no one sorted it by department and function.

But had they started that way, they'd have access to all that work. You'd think that would be a desirable thing, particularly in these times. I'm not at all sure I'd take advantage of that service, but it would be smart of them to make it available.
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