One of the social internet's healthiest and most innovative cultures is threatened because MSN Groups is dying.
You may not know any one who uses MSN Groups unless you know me, but members of Groups have created a unique social internet culture. To be a member of an MSN Group you do not have to write long elegant essays, be a glib creative writer, have a great technical understanding, or know the right people. Just look in the diretory. Find your interest and select one or more groups. Most managers admit any one who can state a half articulate reason for joining. MSN Groups encourage participation with ice-breaker posts. Managers build lush static pages within their group sites and graphicly inclined members create small graphics to sign their posts. These last are called siggies or sig-files. The world of MSN is egalitarian, accessible, and aesthetically pleasing.
And unfortunately, its days are numbered. MSN has made no official announcement, but in the past three months Groups has deteriorated markedly. Monday evening, many groups including my own emerged from a two day partial downage during which members could neither post nor reply on the message boards. This is the third partial downage this fall. During one downage, all my group's static pages vanished. During another downage, my boards became unusable as they were this weekend.
I have written to MSN Groups support. The inevitable reply is a boiler plate letter saying they are working on the problem. Clearly given the history of downages this fall, this is a lie.
It is a matter of time until users drift away due to stability issues. MSN has other more important projects such as Windows Live and Wallop. MSN Groups will die by malign neglect and with them one of the net's better social cultures.