What is a usergroup?
At the most basic level the usergroups allow an individual member of E2 to send identical messages to a number of other E2 members. It works as you might expect. When you send a message to the usergroup, it gets forwarded to all members of the group.
There are many active usergroups available on E2 - you can find a list at Usergroup Lineup. Each caters to a group of members who have something in common. The common factor ranges from interests such as movies or role-playing games, to geographical location. In practice, usergroups can be set up for any reasonable purpose.
Why should I be interested?
More for fun than profit. E2 is a diverse community, and can be a bit overwhelming. The usergroups can help members to make friends within the community and to chat with like-minded people. They can also be a good way to get more feedback on your writing from people with a special interest in the area.
Who can join?
Some usergroups are open to anyone while others are strictly by invitation only. Still others are set up just for an established group of friends to discuss their own private business, and remain private or semi-private. Each group's page contains more information.
To join a group you need to send a /msg to the group leader or to a designated deputy. In principle any member of e2gods can add or remove any name from most of the groups, but usually this is reserved for group leaders in practice. The simple usergroup editor is used for this purpose.
Do I, like, get special powers and stuff?
In general, membership of a usergroup does not give you any special powers or privileges, except that members can send a message to all other members, while non-members can only /msg the group leader.
Many of the more content-oriented usergroups, such as E2science and E2medicine, allow their members to add writeups to their usergroup and the Usergroup Picks page, using '*ify!' command. These writeups will also appear in the Notifications nodelet. Usually the purpose is to bring relevant writeups to the attention of other members of the group.
Some groups also allow members to access the usergroup message archive for that group, while others don't. There are no universal rules, but once on a list you can ask advice from other members, or just keep an eye out for how things are done.
Finally, several lists such as E2verse and E2prose have private pages where members can post new submissions and get feedback from other group members outside the maelstrom that is the full E2 community. These pages are only accessible to group members.
But I want real power. Which groups make me special?
There are (at least) three particular usergroups which are special, and give their members some real privileges.
Members of each of these groups get special powers and privileges. They also get a special symbol by their name in the other users nodelet, although the (%) given to members of edev is only visible to other members.
gods (@) and Content Editors ($) constitute the volunteer staff of the site, are strictly by invitation only. See The Power Structure of Everything2 for more information.
edev (%) (the 'Everything development' group) by contrast is open to anyone. The only real power gained by joining edev is access to much of the code underlying the site. Originally it was established as a way to share the workload associated with maintaining the code upon which the site is based. Now, however, there are many people on edev who do not know Perl especially well, but choose to join in order to give them access to the increased information available to edevites. Anyone interested in the Everything engine, and the development of Everything2, should consider becoming a member of edev.
Are there any rules for behavior on these lists?
Not really, beyond the normal rules of behavior. Different groups have very different tones, according to their subject matter and membership. You'll have to work that one out for yourself. However, in general, it's best not to flood the group with messages, especially in the early days before you have worked out what is considered acceptable.
Some groups, for example, find relevant nodevertising acceptable, while in others it is frowned upon.
In the heavy traffic groups, there is another option which users can employ to reduce the amount of traffic. In these high traffic groups more considerate users will often use the form /msg? usergroup blah blah blah instead of the more usual /msg usergroup blah blah blah. This ? modifier sends the message only to those members who are on-line at the time,and prefixes the message with ONO (online only). This saves other members from logging on to find their inbox full of messages relating to a discussion which took place hours ago, and has since been resolved. Gluttons for punishment can opt to see all messages, including those sent as ONO. To do this, check the box near usergroup messages in User settings
My inbox is filling up with messages from usergroups. What can I do about it?
If you want to leave the usergroup, then you can ask the group leader (or a god) to do remove you. However, some people find they just need some time out, but don't want to leave the group entirely. If this applies to you, then you can temporarily block all messages coming in from any particular news group thus. Go to Preferences under your "Epicenter"; scroll down to the Private message filter heading and add the usergroup's name in the white field there, then click on submit. When you want to accept messages again, simply delete the group name from that same box.
But there isn't a group for X...
Well, seems like you are either the only one on E2 interesting in whatever, or no-one has thought of forming a group.
If you know there are other like-minded souls, get together with them - ask them if they'd join a group. Any member of e2gods can sort it out, and also give you the ability to add and remove people from the list, using the simple usergroup editor. If you ask nicely, they will add a blurb to the usergroup node and possibly even a picture. Collaboration nodes and dedicated rooms are also available if required. Discuss these matters with your chosen administrator.