GreySheeters Anonymous

History of GreyNet

GreyNet is an internet forum for GreySheeters. It grew out of an email list begun in 1994 by a GSer who was looking for additional, economical ways to connect with other GSers. This GSer was an "outpost," i.e., there were no other GSers with whom to have GS meetings within an hour's drive. In 1994, long distance telephone calls were still quite expensive and cell phones were rare. This GSer was a student with access to free email at the university so she began to collect the names and email addresses of other GSers.

There were no services that automated this kind of group. Every time the GSer went to a GS meeting in another town, every time she attended a GS retreat or roundup, every time she made a GS phone call to a new person, she asked people for their email address and explained the list to them - "you can connect with a growing group of GSers all over the world via email if I add your name to my list and send you a copy of the list."

The GSer simply created a list of email addresses and sent the list to each new person when they provided their email address. They would then copy and paste the whole list into the To: line of their email service to send a message to the rest of the group.

In the beginning, there were very few GSers who used email but over the first two years, the list grew by a few names each month. In 1998, the original GSer started announcing the service at Round Ups and Retreats and referring to it as GreyNet.

Each time a new person wanted to join, the original GSer would send an email to everyone else announcing the new member. Eventually it got to be about 50 names and it was increasingly complicated to maintain the list as people changed email accounts, left the GS, or didn't update their version of the list and started leaving people off when they sent messages. There were a lot of emails back and forth pointing out to each other that we had sent an email to an older version of the list and left out people! People also got tired of receiving automated "bounced mail" messages from email services when someone switched services or left the GS and didn't tell us. This led some people to remove themselves from the list.

In early 1998, another university-based GSer offered to migrate the hand-maintained list to an automated distribution list called a ListServ at her university. This second GSer managed the list by adding and removing people as they requested. Removing people was quite as important as adding them. With the hand-managed list, when someone no longer wanted to receive the group emails, they would notify the first GSer who would then ask everyone to remove that person's email from their version of the list or to copy and paste the new version of the list. Many people on the list would not follow the request and the messages would still arrive in the departed person's in-box - which would annoy them no end.

The group began to grow exponentially at this point and the two originators saw the need for guidelines as various problems arose. For example, people would hit "reply" to post a response to someone's email; this would send their message *and* every other message before it out to the entire list - who were now receiving the messages for the second time. People would email someone a personal message but send it to the entire group. People would give advice to each other or ask each other rather than their sponsor what was and wasn't abstinent. So as each situation arose that appeared to either violate an AA Tradition, a tradition of the GS community, or an aspect of email etiquette, a Guideline was added.

When the second GSer left her university, the ListServ was no longer available and we migrated GreyNet to eGroups in early 1999. eGroups was a free online service that required someone to start the group - what they called the "owner" and someone to manage the group - what they called the "moderator." The 1994 originator of the email list started the eGroup and become the "owner" and the 1998 originator of the ListServ became the "moderator." In 2000, Yahoo bought eGroups and the GreyNet became a Yahoo Group where we have been ever since.

A series of people volunteered to moderate the group over the years and each brought increasingly sophisticated management strategies that made the work of the moderator easier. A committee of long-time users who had many years of abstinence functioned as an ad hoc advisory board for the moderators. The moderators dealt with routine issues. The moderator would discuss less clear issues with the owner. Some issues that were potentially controversial were discussed with the entire committee.

In parallel with the development of the GreyNet, the GS community as a whole has grown and developed. GSers started new meetings. They launched the phone bridge in 2000 and members add meetings all the time. People have held AWOLs on the phone bridge and GS writing groups via the internet. GS communities in the UK, Iceland, California, Austin, and Tennessee held annual retreats in addition to the original Chicago retreat. Los Angeles held a Round Up while New York City has continued its annual Round Ups. Cambridge has held a variety of GS gatherings over the years.

In 1998, a group of GSers founded the GreySheeters Anonymous World Service. Since 2005, some regions of the world, such as the UK, Iceland, and New York, have developed Intergroups to coordinate services to their meetings. In 2008-2009, the Board of Trustees of the GSA fellowship began planning the first conference for delegates from all Intergroups of the world to come together in Chicago in August 2010 to determine policy for the fellowship as a whole.

The GreyNet has flourished during this time, connecting GSers from Taiwan to Johannesburg, Oregon to Australia across time zones 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. Thousands of GSers have come and gone - at one point the membership list was over 5000 members. People use the GN to make GS-related announcements, to find sponsors and volunteers to do service, and to share their Experience, Strength, and Hope with each other that they may stay abstinent and help another compulsive eater achieve abstinence. It is a safe space where we protect the AA and GS traditions so that people can feel comfortable in sharing.

In December 2014, we held a Group Conscience with the membership of the GreyNet on the questions, "Should the GreyNet continue?" and, if so, "What can we do to make the GreyNet a valuable service?" because participation had dropped. 52 of the 2500 members responded that the GreyNet should continue and many suggested that the Guidelines and Moderation process be improved. A committee of volunteers reviewed these and simplified the Guidelines and replaced being put on moderation status with remainder emails from the moderator. 

If you have any questions, please email (Revised November 2016)