Yahoo Groups are great. Can't remember what it was like before them. They were called something else before Yahoo Groups, and I can't remember what that was.
Any how I'm a bit of an addict. Whenever I start a new period or get a new set of rules I search Yahoo Groups, find any relevant ones and join them. Bit like rushing out and buying the Osprey when you want to do a new period as well. Currenlty I'm on 15 groups, having done a recent cull.
And once I join I have to post. Never did get the hang of lurking.
Of course there are draw backs. Some of them do mutate. I joined one about Patrick O'Brien's "Jack Aubrey" novels and it was just people posting their own excruciating extra stories, parodies or poetry. No one seemed to want to discuss the actual novels. Left that one in a hurry. Other groups just overwhelm you with too many posts. The Munchkins group is impossible to keep up with unless you devote your life to it.
Those supporting rule systems are generally really helpful, especially if the rule's author(s) are members. Alas that isn't always the case. The Armati group is a case in point. So much of the angst and garbage spilled out on that group would have been cut short if only Arty Conliffe had just showed up and answered a few simple questions. The same goes for Neil Thomas' "Ancient & Medieval Wargaming". At least Martin Goddard pops up on the RFCM group to explain things from time to time (although I remember one post where he admitted he couldn't work out what he meant. In fairness to him he has currently got 17 sets in publication at the moment, and I can think of two or three others that he's written you can't get any more).
Yahoo Groups provide a lot of great information. The Russian Civil War group has some really, really good contributors, notably Tom Hillman and Mark Plant (who does the excellent "Pygmy Wars" website). Those guys really know their stuff and love to help.
The most irritating thing can often be the inability of groups to deal with the question you ask or to discuss a given topic. This is particularly true if the group has a resident "wit". Post a question and if he's the first to read it you'll get a "witty" reply. Once this has happened there's no chance of getting back on topic as the spiral of "amusing" response feed off each other. And if you repose the question you get the "didn't we just deal with this" response. It makes you want to scream. It's almost a type of vandalism. Then there's the person who has to answer the question regardless of whether they have any relevant information. These exchanges typically go along the lines of:
First Person: "Has anyone seen the new Mega Miniature T34"
Second Person: "I get my T-34s from Micro blobs, they're really good."
First Person (again): "Yes, but what about the one from Mega Miniatures?"
Second Person (again): "Mega miniatures make a good B52"
Third Person "You can get B52s from Value Castings, as well, and also WTG models"
Fourth Person: "I always thought the B52 was overrated"
Third Person (again): "The B52 had the best payload of the war and the longest range, and the WTG model has detachable wings"
First Person: "Yes, but what about the Mega Miniatures T-34"
Everyone else: "Didn't we just answer that?"
Of course Yahoo Groups shouldn't be a substitute for reading books, but sometimes it feels like that's what they're becoming. I have a friend who likes to pose questions like "I'm just starting to game WW2, can someone tell me who took part and when it was" and see who replies.
My, how we laughed.