Automatic for the people

Those of you who read the blog regularly might know that it started in my university days in 1990, with a twice-weekly email called the “Toxic Custard Workshop Files“. You can still subscribe to it, via YahooGroups — it’s got about 650 members.

I never quite imagined when I sent the first edition that it would still be going 24 years later.

These days the email is mostly a compilation of my blog posts. But it’s been increasingly harder to find the time to compile it — as it includes pulling the posts off the web site and adapting them into something readable in plain text. The emails have become very sporadic.

I’ve got a solution to the email problem. Computers these days are smart, so I thought there must be a service out there that will compile an email from a blog via an RSS feed. And there is.

So, from next week, I’ll be trialling a service called MailChimp. It can compile an email from a blog’s RSS feed, which I’ll then perhaps fiddle with just a little, and forward to the mailing list via YahooGroups.

In the future I may change it to be fully automated, but that would involve moving the mailing list from YahooGroups to MailChimp. We’ll see.

The biggest visible change will be that from next week, the emails will come through weekly, and will be in HTML format. (Can everybody read that nowadays?) A link is included to a web copy if the email gets munged. Here’s what it looks like. I wouldn’t say it’s beautiful, but it’s readable.

Sample Toxic Custard email via MailChimp

Theoretically a plain text version is included, though indications are from what I’ve seen is that it’s not very readable. I’ll see what can be done about that if a large number of people need it.

Feedback very welcome — leave a comment below.

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2 thoughts on “Automatic for the people

  1. It’s the way to go Daniel. Back in my DVD Plaza days the monthly newsletter was the bane of my existence – I had enough monthly duties to deal with on top of the daily workload without having to write an entire newsletter.

    So in the latter years I got smart – rewrote my news software to have a tick box for inclusion in the newsletter and then wrote a program that automatically compiled items from the past month that had that option turned on into a single email and then send a copy to each member that had the subscription turned on. Suddenly I never I had to write a newsletter again – just had to be sure to tick the newsletter option for any of my daily news that seemed newsletter worthy!

  2. @Chris, that’s a really good idea actually – I could easily set up a post category for posts to go in the automatic newsletter, as it runs off an RSS feed, which (I think) can be customised to an individual category.

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