The company I work at is matrix-managed, meaning there is both a product management structure and a functional management structure. You end up with a lot of people interested in similar things but not on the same project, and effective communication can be hard.

I would like software to allow folks to self-subscribe to self-managed topics lists.


Alice works on project Panda. Bob works on project Puppy. They essentially live in different worlds, but happen to work for the same external customer, Charlie.

Bob has an important conversation with Charlie that should be communicated to the rest of the organization. Though they are on different projects and rarely interact with each other, Bob remembers that Alice ultimately works for Charlie too, and includes her on an email detailing the results of the conversation with Charlie. Bob forgot that David also works for Charlie on yet another project, and David ends up not knowing anything about the important conversation that occurred until he hears it through the grapevine.

I want software that will help me manage email lists to overcome this type of issue. In this case, Alice, Bob, and David would all subscribe to the "Communications with Charlie" topic and get updates when someone thought the interaction was substantial enough to warrant sending a group email.

The software should (required):

  1. Have a web interface that allows creation and deletion of topics folks can subscribe to

  2. Have a web interface that allows individuals to subscribe to topics

  3. Allow administrator to subscribe/unsubscribe for others, set permissions, manage topics, etc.

  4. This intended to operate only within a company, but should have some sort of user authentication anyway. (The web page is not open to the world.)

The software could (optional):

  1. Allow for different types of subscriptions (e.g. decision-maker, responsible individual, FYI, just curious)

  2. Have a back end database to manage all this.

  3. While free is always good, this does not have to be free. Especially not of it's easy to use and good at what it does.

  4. Integrate with Outlook/Exchange. I want to be able to go to the web page and push the button for the "Panda Project" topic and have it pop up an Outlook email with the to field and the cc field already populated with the right folks based on the type of subscription they have.

Maybe Outlook already does this, but from what I've seen it's a top-down, heavy-handed single-point-of-failure list. I want something that individual folks can subscribe to and unsubscribe from whenever they want.

Does software like this exist? It may, but my Google vocabulary didn't reveal any. The most I found was for managing email contacts for sales leads, but it did not seem to fit right.

~~Bump~~ If this doesn't exist, I might just write it and sell it.

  • Does your company have an ECM or collaboration solution in place?
    – James
    Dec 10, 2014 at 15:20
  • @James The closest thing is a Confluence Wiki. You can kind of do this, but it's hard to manage.
    – kmort
    Dec 11, 2014 at 2:44
  • Some ECM and Collaboration solutions can support this. Essentially you create teams (or treat teams as functions). SharePoint for example could support this.
    – James
    Dec 11, 2014 at 20:59
  • It also has RSS integrated...so that's handy.
    – James
    Dec 11, 2014 at 21:04

1 Answer 1


There is a whole range of (SaaS) products and services available for these functional requirements. Only a few are fully open source; so free of charge and free to use and adapt to your wishes.

The main change of paradigm you need when you stick to your wishlist above: e-mail and auxiliary tools can be not the main driver here: It just won't work. Ever since e-mail communication has no status, no owner and no central access based on fine grained access rights, you need tools that add these important features to messaging. E-mail can be helpful though: as a notification system. So we leave e-mail as side issue, right?!

Many Teamwork- and Collaboration tools and suits are very well able to import e-mail messages in their databases based on rules and filter more or less directly in the right spot: as a comment to the related issue / subject.

I just name a few tools / products / services here that meet the should haves and want to haves to a certain extend; all web based:

(Saas)Tools: Basecamp, Redmine, Wrike, Jira, Asana, the list is endless

Integrated suits: Google Apps, Sharepoint, Zoho

In - open source (CMS) - framework solutions: E.g. OpenLucius, OpenAtrium2 in Drupal 7, but there must be good alternatives in Wordpress, Joomla, etc...

Many tools have mobile apps and/or responsive web front-ends that work on the same central database.

Most of these systems allow free individual subscription after (self)enrolment. It is a corporate choice, an administrators choice and/or owner's choice per group / subject. Many possibilities! Just explore them on free test accounts!

User authentication can often be done in a single sign in pool (e.g. bitium, azure, onelogin, okta,..) or via federation (Facebook, LinkedIn, ...) or directly via good ol' passwords.

Operate within a company. That wish can have several points of view:
1. Hosting inside and firewalls 'high up': Yes it can be done. Download open source collaboration tools or buy the on premises versions from the proprietary holders of closed source tools (e.g. Jira).
2. Operate as an intranet within a company: yes these tools operate technically as an extranet with web based user authentication, after the user is (self) enrolled.
3. Operate within a company connected to the all internal systems: hmm...no, that functionality consists in most collaboration / teamwork webtools of tailor made solutions.
4. Operate as a company: many tools have easy ways of enrolling fellow company workers to teams and give these people the appropriate user rights.

Apart from the ability to subscribe to new updates and cases / issues / subjects / ideas, in a teamwork / collaboration - tool as a user you are also able to plug into the whole history of subjects, the whole history of discussions in a timeline with optional attachments. Of course: If you are allowed to (user roles and rights) and interested in it (that is your choice).

Well that is my contribution. Hope it helps.

  • Thanks Henk. Jira/Confluence is probably the closest I've found so far. It's a fair sight better than nothing, but not quite what I was looking for. I'll check out the others you mention. :-)
    – kmort
    Jan 24, 2015 at 3:47

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