Good Old Email

I’m a big fan of email. Say what you will, it’s still pretty darn useful. There was news this week about Google wanting to use AMP with email. I ignored this, since I don’t use Gmail anymore, and it didn’t seem like a big thing, on the surface. But there’s a post on the FastMail blog today titled Email is your electronic memory that’s pretty interesting. (FastMail is my current email provider.) They talk about how email should be “immutable.” (Apparently, the AMP thing is more about making email interactive rather than making it faster.) I haven’t thought about it too much, but the immutable nature of email is one of the most useful things about it. The web, in general, is very mutable. Web sites and web pages come and go. URLs change. But, if I’ve got an email in my mailbox, then the text (at least) of that email is fixed. I can search for it and find it and do stuff with it.

I subscribe to a bunch of email newsletters. One of the things I notice in these newsletters is whether they contain actual content, or just links to content. In general, newsletters that actually contain content are more useful than those that are just link collections. Warren Ellis’ newsletter is a good example. He includes a lot of text content within the body of the newsletter. He also includes links out to other stuff, which is unavoidable, but the main content of the newsletter is actually in the newsletter, as text. The newsletter for Tor.com goes the other way. It’s mostly just a list of recent articles on the site, with short text summaries and links out to the articles. The annoying thing about that newsletter is that the links expire. They use a link redirection service that, I assume, gives them analytics about how many times the links are clicked and stuff like that. But the links expire after a month or two. And I’m usually a month or two behind in reading those emails. So, if I click any of the links, they just go to an error page. To find the article I wanted to read, I have to search for it. That actually discourages me from reading most of the articles. I have to really want to read it to bother copying and pasting the title into DuckDuckGo or Google.

I also subscribe to a bunch of newsletters from the NY Times. Those are somewhere in between; there’s usually some content right in the newsletter, but also short article summaries and links out to the Times site for the full articles. One of the best newsletters they have is the one for The Interpreter. It generally contains a good well-written article in the body of the email, plus links out to related articles at the Times site and other sites.

And I use an alert service from the Times to get email notifications when new articles are published on certain subjects that I’m interested in. I have alerts set up for articles about comic books, sci-fi books & movies, and a couple of my favorite museums. These are really useful, since they frequently surface articles that I wouldn’t have stumbled across otherwise. But I was disappointed to see today that they have apparently discontinued that service. I haven’t seen an announcement about it, but there’s no longer a link to the alerts page from the account settings, and if you go directly to the alerts page, it’s now a static page that says “The New York Times has discontinued the My Alerts feature.” So that sucks.

Prior to setting up the alerts through the NY Times site itself, I had them set up through IFTTT. They were useful, but sometimes they’d stop working for no discernible reason, and they weren’t nearly as good as the official NY Times alerts at finding relevant articles. But I guess I might have to go back to IFTTT now. We’ll see. There’s probably some other fancy way for me to get alerts about NY Times articles, through a different third-party service, but I haven’t done any research into that yet.

Anyway, this was originally going to be a short post about how I need to catch up with my newsletters and news alerts, since I’m three or four months behind now. I only just read an article about how great the Michelangelo exhibit at the Met is, and it ended two days ago, and I didn’t get a chance to see it. Oh well.

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