I really like email newsletters. It’s one of the best formats for delivering articles, tutorials, and other useful materials about specific topics. Unlike other types of emails, newsletters make you smile when you receive them in your mailbox.
Good newsletters are curated and published by passionate individuals who know their respective disciplines well. Those people usually consume a lot of relevant information on a weekly basis. That’s why putting handpicked links together and sharing them via email is a natural extension of their everyday activities.
One of the best things about newsletters is discreteness: publishers send them out on specific days while keeping the content laser focused. Subscribing and unsubscribing is always one click away and the delivery mechanism works through the channel that millions of people use every day.
Starting a weekly newsletter was on the list of challenges for me to tackle this year. On February 21 I threw down the gauntlet and published the first issue of ReadMe Weekly. Maintaining it will become another thing that demands discipline and consistency from me this year.
How did I pick a theme for this newsletter? Given my interest in multiple software-related topics, the general direction for the newsletter was pretty obvious. Out of functional programming, distributed systems, security, IoT, and serveless architectures I decided to focus on distributed systems and areas related to them such as operations, microservices, databases, and relevant academic theory.
Choosing the newsletter format came next. I decided to follow the Cooperpress style since it’s well-known among software engineers, web developers, and devops engineers. All of Cooperpress newsletters include several prominent links in the top part of every issue followed by more newsletter-specific sections. For now, ReadMe Weekly has just two sections in addition to featured links. The first one is called “Hands-on”—it includes links to tutorials, projects, and screencasts. The second one is called “Research and White Papers.” It features classic and recent papers from corporate and academic researchers.
Managing links and issues will be a big challenge. Even with a conservative estimate of 10 links per newsletter it could become unmanageable after 10-20 issues. I might need a custom CMS for links and issues in the future, but for now I’m just using Pocket to capture content from RSS subscriptions, Medium, and random browsing sessions on different devices. I tag potential newsletter links with “readmeweekly” and they automatically show up in a Google spreadsheet through a Zapier integration. In the spreadsheet, links are organized under title, URL, issue number, and date columns. Finally, I use MailChimp to organize, edit, and send weekly issues. This setup seems to work for now but let’s see if it scales to dozens of issues in a few months.
I’m really excited to curate a newsletter about a cool topic and build an audience at the same time. Share ReadMe Weekly with your friends or subscribe down below if you are interested.