Email Newsletters

I’ve been creating email newsletters either for myself or for clients for probably about 8 years.
I started designing these things back when I was heavily into promoting The Site at MANOVERBOARD and gathered steam with about 400 subscribers. I created simple HTML emails that would highlight the artist being exhibited on The Site and then I would send them out from my 14K or 56K modem 20 or 30 at a time until they were delivered. My ISP at the time (Interport, long live Interport) couldn’t handle more than 30 emails at a time.
The Site is now more or less kaput and has run out of steam on its own (my own?) accord. In any case, I’ve used a number of good to average online email marketing solutions to send emails for MANOVERBOARD and for many clients over the past 3 years. There has been mixed success. The statistics one can gain from tracking emails sent to your loyal followers is insanely detailed; what I mean is that an email sender typically knows a tremendous amount of information about the quality of the emails they are sending by looking at the “open” and “click-through” rates of those emails. Some server-side email software can also tell you what visitors clicked on what links, which is both scary and cool if you’re a senstive marketer like me.
Regardless, I’ve found a new email newsletter home at CampaignMonitor which seems to totally rock. I’ve had a few successes with it and I’m relaunching The Telegraph, a MANOVERBOARD newsletter that has sadly been in winter hibernation because of a project called Overload (see previous post). Long story long, Seth Godin wrote a short, cogent piece last week about email marketing and he’s spot on: good marketing takes time, knowing your audience, catering to their needs and whims, and being consistent. What more is there? I’m planning on re-applying this idea to all my newfound email projects with my new email newsletter application.
[For a future post: Commentary and explication of the dearth of solid, useful information on the Web about email marketing, email technologies, HTML vs text emails, email clients, and email delivery systems.]

The Project

Dear Readers:
My apologies for not writing to you earlier. I’ve been swamped trying to put the finishing touches on my latest project — a new stock photography website I’ve been developing with a few others over the past 8 months. We’re very close to launching, perhaps even a few days away.
The temporary site of The Art Bureau has been up for a while and you can sign up for launch information there, if you like.
I’ll be writing about websites, Larry Clark, Schiller’s Liquor Bar, and La Caverna shortly.
Thank you for your time, patience, and indulgence.

Everything Is New

I’m writing a post about the politics and social construction of websites. It’s taking a little while.
In the meantime, I thought I would mention a few sites that continue to astound me because of their intuitive design, organic information architecture, innovative interfaces, and unique use of typefaces. Many of these are using advanced CSS to push the boundaries of the experience. And these aren’t even in Flash, which I’m finding increasingly unnecessary for 98% of website projects at this point.
Enjoy…small to large:

The Individual

For the life of me, I can’t figure out why our great and powerful Government has lately turned to the insane, inane and profane for its legislative activities. Today, a Sunday, the Senate passed legislation that will keep a poor, completely damaged woman on life support. This is what Republicans mean by pro-life? A few days earlier, our vaunted Government found it very important to bring some of baseball’s most celebrated athletes to a select House committee to learn about steroid use among this self-selected group of wealthy individuals. And a few days before that the President decided to slap a bunch of multi-lateralists in the face with his selection of Paul Wolfowitz for leader of the World Bank and John Bolton to “help” the United Nations.
It’s as if our Government has decided to redefine the words “millions” and “billions” as being applicable to money and not to populations.

Matcho Peacho

There is a man in the forest who lives all by himself, in the West, and nobody ever built him a home. He has long, scratchy fingernails and is near the trees. His name is Matcho Peacho. Soon a man made his house and he’s fine now.
This comes from the brain of a three-year old girl. I find the story dangerously funny.
Tomorrow or the next day, I will post something of another nature — what websites hide.

The $100 Laptop

Not enough commentators and news organizations have picked up on what I consider a big story: the near possibility of a $100 laptop that would allow billions of poor schoolchildren around the world to connect to the Internet. Journalist Kevin Maney, of USA Today, pushed this story a few weeks ago, driven by the Davos Forum and Nicholas Negroponte a few weeks ago. Large companies have rightly signed on to push the technology forward; they include Google, AMD and possibly Samsung and Motorola.
Slashdot, BoingBoing, and many others have noted the story weakly. To me, it’s a fascinating construct and one that could be more than confabulatory if all of the positives really came out. The standard reasoning among many promoters is that the $100 laptop would allow potentially violent young insurgents to see how “cool” the West is and forgo their anger and hatred of all things Western (this myopia seems contingent upon the seductiveness of video games for some reason). Others see the pure economic benefits of, say, a Nigerian woman being able to sell her handmade items on eBay. Still others focus on the educational aspect of the $100 laptop, allowing students in developing countries to learn more deeply than they could have before.
It also seems that there are many micro-economic effects that the $100 laptop could have on our global culture and economy as well:

  • Because the proposed systems would be open source based (to save costs and ongoing fees), programmers in any country could join the front in creating reliable, strong, and usable software.
  • Small high-tech firms could reproduce the product within their countries, providing jobs and social structures in small communities.
  • Innovation would be pushed open across the board. Rather than one set of hard-drive technologies being focused upon consistently, for instance, other kinds of memory devices and systems could be explored.
  • The need for new phone systems (mobile or landline) could essentially be eliminated in small, hard-to-reach areas as VOIP could be used among the poorest to communicate.
  • Medical facillities and other information-critical organizations would be greatly assisted with the advance of ready-to-use technical assistance provided online.
  • Whole economies could tie into the Web, providing new communities and financial bases for products and goods where there were none before.

The logic of this is so clear, so pure, that it’s hard to believe an NGO or major multinational hasn’t already been started to push this project deeply. Western and Asian businesses would of course reap huge benefits with new subscribers and new audiences — as would local news organizations and academic institutions. For a foundation or major corporation, $100 million dollars towards this project would go a long, long way.

The Beauty of Night

There have been a lot of relatively smart (and high quality) productions of late, both fictive and non-fiction about the frightening present and future. A lot of these draw on the raging paraonoia going on the blogosphere (both right and left) but it takes a pound of reality to make an ounce of real fear. Without further editorial, here are a few of the more interesting ones:
Epic: The Web in 2014
Anti-Semitism in today’s Arab Media
The Office promo from “NBC”
Mapping the Global Future: Report of the National Intelligence Council’s 2020 Project


I’m suffering from a massive cold and in the spirit of unfriendliness and overall dissatisfaction with my recently becoming late 30s guy I have the following news:
I am now old.
Here’s why:

  • I can’t understand the appeal of ringtones.
  • I don’t know why little girls love pink and purple and why companies take no risk when they market to girls with those colors.
  • My head feels just a little bit smaller and more congested than it ever has before and I’m sure it’s because earlier practices are now paying off unkindly.
  • My upper torso is shape shifting all by itself.
  • Very soon I will ask the barber if he can just shave my head to 2 mm of stubble. This will make balding less an issue, they tell me.
  • I have lately worn slippers.
  • For my birthday a year ago, I was given a fanny-pack by my parents.
  • For this birthday, I was given gift cards to nice online clothiers. My understanding is that the family no longer can predict my shirt size.
  • I visit the Web for news and information.

Rearranging Deckchairs on The Titanic

I’m working, slowly, on Version 3.0 of Deckchairs on the Titanic. I want the site to have the following characteristics:

  • Iconography should be funnier
  • Colors should be less garish even if they are less historically representational
  • Site should probably be centered
  • Text should be even more legible and more white/beige space should exist
  • The color black should be prominent
  • It probably shouldn’t be called a “monologue” anymore

Your thoughts, suggestions, and recommendations are welcome. And no, I won’t be providing iPods, cash entitlements, favors, lovesongs or other somesuch for help in the matter.

Google Icons

If you have ever accidentally (or purposefully) clicked on Google’s more link at the top of its pages, you’ll be confronted with something called “Google Services.” This has to be one of the least finely designed pages I’ve seen by a company of this size. It’s as if Google, forever cutified by its occasionally changing holiday logos, came up with a few unrelated stock illustrations to represent some of their very powerful services such as “Answers” and “Scholar” and “Alerts.” A few of the icons on this page are designed well but it’s always suprised me how little research Google does regarding icon design.
Hey Google: check out a few of these guys.
Related: Right now, Google appears to be in some hot water with a lot of folks regarding its new autolink feature in its new (beta only) toolbar. Zeldman covers it: essentially it seems that Google can somehow create new links within your site without your permission. Google does a lot of things right but it’s still only one click away from those influencing and designing the Web.
Also related: I’m starting to try my hand at high-end icon design and am excited about it.