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About The Berkeley Parents Network

Berkeley Parents Network > Help & Frequently Asked Questions > About The Berkeley Parents Network


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What is the BPN?

Berkeley Parents Network operates a parent-run email forum for 33,930 parents who live in the San Francisco Bay Area. Parents are able to subscribe to the forum and post questions and answers on topics related to parenting using our website. Volunteers compile submissions from subscribers and mail out 7 different newsletters each week. Many of the discussions from the newsletters are later archived to the BPN website, which has more than 6,000 pages on different topics.

BPN gives busy parents an easy way to help and support each other by posting a message to one of the newsletters via the website. Members can ask questions about parenting, give advice to other parents, find out about local resources and community events, look for childcare, sell household items, and more.

Most people find us via our website, which includes an archive of selected discussions from the newsletters. See About the BPN Website for more information.

BPN, which recently formed a not-for-profit entity, is run entirely by volunteers. None of us is trying to make money off BPN, and no one wants to spin it into a business. We have built it to be a shared resource for the community. BPN is useful because thousands of busy parents have taken the time to enlighten and inform us with their suggestions, their wisdom, and their experience. It's a gift that we all benefit from. Please use it in this spirit!

The driving force behind the Berkeley Parents Network is an intense desire to make information available. We aim to help parents be better parents and better people, by giving them an easy way to take advantage of, and contribute to, the great pool of knowledge we posses when we all put our heads together.


How does it work?

Berkeley Parents Network publishes 7 different newsletter that are emailed to subscribers every week. See the List of the Newsletters for a list of the newsletters and when each newsletter is mailed out.

Each of the BPN newsletters is moderated by a volunteer. Members post a message or a question to one of the newsletters by filling out the webform on the BPN website for the newsletter they want to post to. See Which newsletter? for a list of topics and the newsletter they appear in. Filling out the webform sends your posting to the moderator for that newsletter, who saves the posting to include in an upcoming newsletter. After a newsletter is mailed out, subscribers can reply to postings by again filling out the webform for the appropriate newsletter.

Postings from some of the newsletters, such as Recommendations and Advice, are eventually archived to the website so they can be publicly available. The time-sensitive postings (childcare, for sale items, events and announcements) are not archived to the website and only appear in the email newsletters.

For more technical information, see How to Start a Resource like BPN


How many people are on the list?

As of today:

Who are the subscribers?

Most BPN subscribers have young children at home, and live in the East Bay, though all ages are represented on the list and members live in a variety of other cities in the San Francisco Bay Area.

Who creates the newsletters?

The newsletters are a digest of messages submitted by BPN subscribers. Newsletters are moderated by a group of volunteer parents. Here is a list of BPN Volunteers past and present.

How long has the list been around?

Since 1993

How did it start?

The Berkeley Parents Network was started in 1993 by Ginger Ogle, then a Computer Science graduate student at UC Berkeley and the mother of 2 school-aged children. The list was originally for student parents in Electrical Engineering and Computer Science (EECS). We were working on a proposal for parental and maternity leave for EECS grad student parents and we used the mailing list to "rally the forces". The EECS faculty accepted our proposal and we subsequently used the list to get an office for parents in Soda Hall, along with diaper changing tables in the men's and women's restrooms. Over the years, the list grew, most messages were beyond the scope of just the EECS department, so in 1995 we opened it up to all UC Berkeley campus parents. The list that started with 14 graduate students reached 250 members in March 1996 and doubled to 500 members in March 1997. It doubled again to reach 1000 members by late 1998. In that year, we opened the list to community members as the result of a collaboration with the Neighborhood Moms organization (later called Neighborhood Parents Network). In 1999, the newsletter was split into four parts to make it more manageable. Also in that year, a separate list for parents of teens was started by Sally Nasman, whose children attended King Middle School and Berkeley High School. Membership reached the 2,000 mark in 2000, and by the end of 2001 we had doubled to 4,000. The end of 2003 found our membership nearly doubled again, at 7,600. We reached 10,000 members in the Fall of 2004. Ten years later, BPN had more than 30,000 subscribers and continues to grow at the rate of about 100 new subscribers each week. Although new subscribers continue to tell us they hear about BPN by word of mouth, today most people are finding us through our website after doing an internet search for a particular topic.

Is it a publication of the University of California?

No. But BPN would not exist without the University of California. We use UC Berkeley resources to mail out the newsletters, and the BPN website runs on the UC Berkeley web server. But we are independently run by community volunteers. For many years the BPN website ran on a computer in the UC Berkeley Computer Science Division. In January 2006, we moved the BPN website to a computer used by UC Berkeley to run campus websites, thanks to the generosity of the Information Services and Technology group on campus.

However, BPN is entirely parent-run for the sole benefit of parents in the community. The website and newsletters are administered by a group of volunteer parents, many of whom are affiliated with UC Berkeley, but we also have community member volunteers. We post this notice on every web page and in the welcome letter to new members:

The opinions and statements expressed on the Berkeley Parents Network mailing list and web site are those of parents who belong to the mailing list and should not be taken as a position of or endorsement by the University of California, Berkeley.
We appreciate and acknowledge the use of campus resources to keep the BPN up and running, and wish to thank Information Services and Technology (IST) and CalWeb Consulting, in particular Tom Cline, for supporting the BPN website on campus computers.

Special acknowledgement goes to system administrators in Electrical Engineering and Computer Sciences at UC Berkeley for both official and unofficial support through the years. From 1993 till 2006, these guys kept our server updated and patched, advised us on security issues, and solved technical problems for us when they arose. Many thanks to Jon Forrest, Jeff Anderson-Lee, Alex Brown, Mark Kraitchman, Jon Kuroda, Phil Loarie, and Lars Rohrbach. Thanks also goes to Professor Robert Wilensky for allowing the BPN website to run on a machine used for his Computer Science research project from 1995 - 2005.


Is there a resource like this in my city?

We don't know of any other mailing lists that operate like the Berkeley Parents Network on the same scale as ours, but there are lots of other mailing lists for parents. For groups and lists that we know about, see Parent Groups in the San Francisco Bay Area and Networks like BPN in Other Cities.

Here are other places to look for parenting groups:

  • Craigslist a bulletin-board-like resource for cities that includes childcare, for sale, more
  • ParentSoup a popular commercial website with advice, chat rooms, etc.
  • BabyCenter another popular commercial website that focuses on babies

    Also check at your local childcare referral organization such as Bananas in Alameda County and Parents' Place in San Francisco.

    See also: How to start a resource like BPN


    Why don't you automatically archive newsletters to the website?

    Many web resources such as yelp, yahoogroups and craigslist automatically archive messages to a public website. BPN doesn't. BPN is a members-only, moderated email list. The only newsletter postings we put on our public website are selected reviews and advice from the newsletters. Before we archive these discussions, we remove personal information from the post such as last names, email addresses, and phone numbers. Each post is reviewed again to make sure it meets BPN's policies. For example, in the email newsletters, we accept self-recommendations from business owners in response to a question, but we only archive recommendations from people who have first-hand experience using the service or product, not promotional postings.

    Why don't you use wiki/blog software instead of sending out email newsletters?

    BPN was created before there were wikis, blogs, yahoogroups, or social networking. Our newsletters and website were coded by hand to function exactly as we wanted, and then improved over the years to accommodate a growing membership. Until recently, there wasn't easy-to-deploy software that had the functionality we needed. For example, yahoogroups could handle moderated newsletters but it didn't allow total anonymity and it came with advertising. The upside is that our system is totally customized for our exact needs. The downside is that BPN cannot be easily replicated in other cities, and requires a person with technical skills to stay up and running.

    Things have changed now, with the advent of blogging software like WordPress and content management systems like Drupal, and BPN is now investigating using these tools for the future.


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    this page was last updated: Feb 12, 2014


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