Jeremy Smith's blog

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Too Many Newsletters Probably Means Alternate Communication Paths Need to be Employed

From Gregory Szorc's blog: Too Many Newsletters:

I hate information being pushed at me. If I want to be informed of something, I should subscribe to an e-mail list or syndicated feed.

I, too, hate information that is pushed at me — interrupting information.

But, even in the up-and-coming redesign of the mass email systems, it won't be opt-out-able. We could turn the complexity knob on the system and click it up from normal complexity past ridiculous level to ludicrous complexity by developing a layer atop Sympa that after the LDAP dynamic groups synchronizations processes runs a separate thing-a-mum-bobber removing persons who went to a custom web page and "opted-out."

Of course, there is a balance. With opt-out's, people will complain that they never heard registration was rescheduled. They never got the email. Why... oh why didn't they get the email? (Because they opted-out 3 years ago.) With no opt-out's, on the other hand, people will complain that they get too many emails.

I think a better strategy is some kind of feedback loop from the receivers of the emails to the Communications Divisions of the University. Tell them that about the reception of too many newsletters. Try to get them to rethink their strategy about how and when they communicate. Notify them of alternate channels of information flow (XML Feeds) that can be used instead of mass emails for certain types of communication. The types of information flow that is voluntary versus "critical" information that should go through the mass email system.

For example, the ITS homepage has XML feeds. People can voluntarily subscribe to that information. In addition to that (for users still not on the Aggregator bandwagon), you can subscribe to the page via email to get notifications when/if there is any new information. (The ITS homepage is powered by the Blog@Case system which makes all of these wonderful things possible.) On top of that, ITS does send out a monthly (or bimonthly(?)) news letter filled with some of the more critical pieces of information.

I think that it isn't a case of opting-out of the mass email lists moreso it is a case that alternate channels of communication should be more widely leveraged.


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    I don't want to opt out of mass email lists, since the mail sent to them might be important. I do want the use of email to be restricted to critical information that I must read - an impending deadline to register for classes, for example - and for personal communication. I have my mail client set up to GET MY ATTENTION when I have new email because email should be used for things that require immediate reading or action.

    I'd much rather see the non-critical information, upcoming event notices, student group flyers, weekly crime bulletins, etc. as RSS feeds so I can subscribe to the ones I want. I check my newsreader a couple of times a day which is more than enough to keep on top of the non-critical stream of information. The more specific these feeds are, the better, so I can subscribe to only the ones that interest me. However, there should be a Web site which lists all the Case RSS feeds that are available so I know I'm not missing any that I might be interested in. Already, lots of departments and organizations have feeds or Web sites that contain information which might be interesting to me, but that is hard to find.

    Finally, event notice emails would be less important if there was a way to subscribe to an iCalendar for campus events. iCalendar is even better than RSS for publishing information about events since desktop calendar applications can subscibe to iCalendar files on the Web, and the information is presented in the order the events are happening (in a traditional calendar format) rather than the order the news was posted.