How do I create a free discussion group online?

Here's my question: I'd like to create a group online where I can invite people to join and talk about shared interests. I don't want to use Facebook because I know they just sell my personal data to marketers and advertisers... and I can't afford to pay for it so Meetup is out.

What do you recommend?

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You're right about Facebook... it's heavily used by lots of people, but they are harvesting everything about you to feed their advertising revenue model.

Take a look at Community Scene's new group feature. They're new on the scene (no pun intended...lol) so there aren't many groups on their site yet, but groups are completely free and can be set to public or private.

Membership to Community Scene is also free, and they provide lots of local community-related resources including calendar events, for sale/wanted, school announcements - even free obituaries.

How to create a free group on Community Scene

1. First you'll need to create an account on Community Scene. It's free and they only ask you for your name, email and "home community"... which is basically the city you live in.

2. Create a group by visiting the group directory at http://community-scene.com/groups and clicking "Create a Group". It'll ask you for a group name and whether you want the group to be public or private. You can also upload a group picture and description, but that's optional.

3. Start a discussion in your new group. Once your group has been created, you'll see a "Create a Discussion" link at the top of you group. You can attach files to a discussion, and can include photos and videos.

4. Invite people to join your group. You can send people a link to your group by copying it from your web browser, or you can click on the "Members" tab of your group and send out invitations via email.

All of this is free and takes just a few minutes to be up and running.