I am experimenting with a new delivery method for this newsletter. I would like to invite you to help test it and offer your comments and suggestions.
Delivering an e-newsletter via e-mail is becoming a very frustrating experience these days. Two years ago I could send lengthy e-mails containing the newsletters, and 99.9% of them would be delivered to the addressees. Sadly, that is no longer true in the year 2004. The reason is simple: spam.
Two years ago, spam mail was simply an annoyance. Since then, spam mail has mushroomed into a huge problem for people who maintain e-mail servers. I have seen estimates now that 80% or more of all e-mail sent is spam, or “unsolicited commercial e-mail” (UCE). Thousands of mail servers around the world have crashed because of the unplanned load that spam mail placed upon them.
Out of self-defense, almost all mail server administrators have installed some sort of filtering software in an attempt to identify and delete unwanted junk mail. Unfortunately, many of these mail filters also delete wanted e-mails, such as this newsletter. Several genealogy e-newsletters plus Harvard University, the New York Times, several stock market newsletters, the Disney Corporation, Yahoo, Macromedia, Amazon, and many others have reported similar difficulties with their e-publications.
In one controlled experiment, e-mail expert Fred Langa sent 10,000 e-newsletters to subscribers who had volunteered to participate in the test. Langa wrote a lengthy newsletter and used several “sensitive words” and phrases. The result? 40% of the newsletter messages were never delivered. You can read more about this experiment at http://www.eogn.com/archives/news0403.htm#UnreliableMailing.
So how can this problem be corrected? Luckily, there are two possible solutions.
First of all, it is easy to move the newsletter to the Web. In fact, I have done that. The Standard Edition of this newsletter has always been available online at http://www.eogn.com, and a few months ago I started placing the Plus Edition online as well. Publishing on a Web page avoids the spam filter problems, but it is less convenient for many readers. Instead of having each newsletter arrive automatically in e-mail, the subscriber has to remember to go online and read the newsletter on the Web site. I find that it is easy to forget such things.
The second solution is one that I like better: publish the newsletter as a blog, using XML data format. In this manner, it can be read by anyone using either a regular Web browser or one of the newsreader programs described in the previous article. Anyone who is willing to take a few minutes to install a blog newsreader will find that reading this and other blogs is as easy and convenient as reading e-mail: the newsletter articles will arrive automatically as long as the blog reader is running. In other words, it works in a similar fashion to e-mail. Even better, a blog is not subject to spam filters since it does not use any mail servers.
The Beta Test
As an experiment, I am now publishing the Standard Edition of this newsletter as a Web Log, or blog. It can be read with any Web browser, such as Internet Explorer, Netscape, Opera, or Safari. It can also be read with any XML/Atom-compatible newsreader, which gives the reader the advantages of speed and convenience described earlier.
I will try side-by-side publishing of both the e-mail version and the new blog version of this newsletter for a few weeks. I may switch to another brand of blog software, depending upon how the first tests progress. If the experiment is successful, I will probably replace the current online HTML version of the Standard Edition newsletter with the blog version. Remember that you will always be able to read it with any standard Web browser; you do not need any “special program” at all. If you wish, you may use a special newsreader program to add convenience.
Assuming that everything goes as planned, I will also convert the Plus Edition of the newsletter to a blog format in the near future.
If you would like to help test the new experiment and offer comments or suggestions, use any standard Web browser and go to http://blog.eogn.com (that address will probably change sometime in the future). Macintosh users are especially invited to join the beta test effort. If you also have an Atom/XML-capable reader, please feel free to use that also. Point it to http://eogn.typepad.com/eastmans_online_genealogy/atom.xml. However, use of specialized blog-reading software is not required. Your normal Web browser will suffice.
Please note that the new blog-format articles have a comments feature: after reading an article, you can immediately add your comments, criticisms, suggestions, or corrections online in a place for everyone to see. The comments section may replace this newsletter's Discussion Board. Please use the online comments for all beta test feedback.
As with all beta tests, things may change at any time. The results may or may not be moved into production. After all, that is the purpose of a beta test.
Thank you for your assistance.