This is an ongoing and new series devoted to the South African Secular Society (SASS) and South African secularism. The Past President, Jani Schoeman, and the Current President, Rick Raubenheimer, and the current Vice-President, Wynand Meijer, will be taking part in this series to illuminate these facets of South Africa culture to us. Wynand joins us.
Here we talk about internal communications.
Scott Douglas Jacobsen: Let’s talk about an area of expertise, within SASS, for you, which is the WhatsApp grouping, as well as the transition into Telegram. Why the transition from Whatsapp into Telegram? How does this work in terms of some of the internal communications, and the group chats?
Wynand Meijer: We initially started our chats in Whatsapp. Whatsapp is a very familiar platform that multiple people use. However, we did find limitations within Whatsapp self as we progressed and as we grew our different groups. One of the limitations within Whatsapp was the fact that we cannot really administer or moderate some of the content that gets posted to the group.
Should an unsavoury image, or totally irrelevant advertising person come in, and post details in there, we’ve got no control over removing it. This became a bit of a problem later, with very unsavoury content being posted into the groups by fly-by-night people just come in, drop something off, and then exit the channel.
Telegram offered us a much better control over our groups themselves, not only in terms of the size of the groups that we can use, which is extremely longer.
Also, the fact that once you join a group, you can also go back into the history of the group and see what all the discussions are about, giving you a much better idea, where with Whatsapp, you get into the group, and that’s where you start. You’ve got no background, or going back into the history of the group, or get a feel for what is being said.
Telegram also has a very nice feature called a broadcast, which allows you to only connect, and get messages that are being pushed, or broadcast, to you. There is no unnecessary chatter in those groups.
We are running quite several groups. We have various regional groups for the different provinces, or regions, where promotion is done for non-belief events happening there, like Sceptics events, or various other groups that we have come to know of.
The regional groups are not generally that busy. We also have our topic-specific groups. This would range from secular parenting, secular chatter, which is just a bunch of people chatting, a response channel, that informs other individuals, “Listen, there’s something happening on the radio that might be interesting for you to listen to, or to give your input into.”
We also have our Asking for a Friend channel, which is more open for somebody that’s got some questions, and maybe not sure of things, just asking for a friend.
That’s why, since we’ve got such a large array of groups that we do manage, as well as some of the limitations. At the same time, what Telegram also does, it has a very nice security feature, where your privacy is yours. You can hide your username or telephone number. It isn’t like Whatsapp that your details are now exposed to everybody who is in the channel.
Also, the group management in there allows us to have moderators. Not everybody’s an admin, but we can have more fine-grained control of what type of content can also be posted, and who may remove other people, or add other people. Then, the basics like the web client of Telegram is also extremely easy for us to work with.
There was a lot of consideration that went into this move-over. It did go smooth. One or two hiccups, or people that were not very happy with the transition, but the transition as a whole and what we’ve gained from what we had really was worth it to move over to Telegram.
Jacobsen: Let’s focus more on the convenience factor of Telegram. It provided more control, and therefore in a way, more convenience, through Telegram, rather than Whatsapp, are there other alternative programs that you looked at that might be more suitable to much larger organizations, or organizations that are much smaller, and simply starting out, if they’re secular, for instance.
Meijer: I reckon that’s going to be a look at what you need and decide from there. We did look at one of the other options being Viber. One of the other reasons that we’ve looked from a back-end side at Telegram is also that you can have bots. You can programmatically approach this, as well. If you do have the resources, the finances, or perhaps the extensive knowledge in making use of that, you can have this little thing doing all your maintenance for you or help assist in certain things.
The programming aspect of it was also a very big factor for us. As I did allude to, Viber was one of the other options that we also did have a look into, but one of the selling points for Telegram was also the privacy factor. Many times there are people that do come and have a look or are interested in coming out, but they really want to keep their privacy for themselves.
Some of these people, their communities where they are in could be financial suicide for them if they just come out, so we try to respect all types of privacy. Even if it’s just keeping your cell phone number for yourself, as privacy. We respect the privacy of our members and anybody who is interested.
Jacobsen: Thank you for the opportunity and your time, Wynand.
Meijer: Thank you.
Scott Douglas Jacobsen is the Founder of In-Sight: Independent Interview-Based Journal and In-Sight Publishing. He authored/co-authored some e-books, free or low-cost. If you want to contact Scott: Scott.D.Jacobsen@Gmail.com.
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