E-mail Feed Retiring

After careful consideration, I’ve decided to remove this blog’s e-mail feed. That means that those of you who read new postings via e-mail will no longer receive them via this medium.

There are a few reasons behind this decision.

Firstly, the feed has only seven subscribers, and two of those are Sarah and me.

Secondly, and most significantly, the feed has an unacceptable lag. Feedburner sends out daily digests, which are configured to go out between 21:00 and 23:00 CET. This effectively means that a new blog entry posted at 23:01 won’t be sent to e-mail subscribers until it is a day old, by which time it is often largely irrelevant. This is one of the primary reasons that newspapers’ are seeing their circulation figures plummet. On-line news is not only bang up-to-date, but gratis to boot. Add the ability to comment, and it becomes interactive, too.

To summarise the previous paragraph, daily e-mail digests are out of step with today’s information age, in which almost everyone has a laptop, a tablet or a smart-phone with them at any time. In a world accustomed to the reality of instantaneous updates, a day is an eterniy.

Thirdly, e-mail digests present a read-only medium for blog consumption. One of the great things about blogs is their readers’ ability to comment on postings, which increases the participation and thereby also the sense of involvement of the reader. For the author of the original posting and other readers, comments provide useful feedback on the article at hand, as well as an enrichment of the subject matter. Reading by e-mail detracts from this and encourages passive consumption. By abandoning the e-mail feed, I hope to encourage participation.

Fourthly, the plain text (i.e. non-HTML) form of Feedburner e-mail strips almost all punctuation from the posting, rendering it unpleasant to read. It also strips out the URLs, reducing the usefulness of the posting (which, OK, is arguably non-existent to start with).

Finally, there are many better forms of notification and blog consumption these days than there used to be.

Firstly, there’s the blog’s RSS feed, which can be plugged into any reader, local or Web-based, such as Google’s excellent Reader.

Secondly, there are services like Twitter, which exist to aggregate brief messages of interest, posted in real time by people across the world, and present them to the reader in a unified feed. Twitter’s dubious social value notwithstanding, its short message medium is useful as a real-time notification service and Twitter clients exist for all modern computing platforms, including iOS (iPhone) and Android. As such, notifications of each new posting will now also be sent to Twitter, where they can be found in my feed. You can think of Twitter as a kind of on-line SMS aggregator.

In the case of postings made by Sarah, these receive the additional distribution of automatic crossposting to the accursed Facebook, introduced as a compromise on my part to get her to post here instead of there, thereby assuring continued public access to her words.

In short, the retirement of the e-mail notification service shouldn’t see you return to the bad old days of hitting Refresh on the blog site. If you’re one of those people who permanently have the same dozen Web sites loaded in as many tabs and regularly hit Refresh to check for updates, you’re doing it wrong. It’s no longer 2005. You should find yourself heading to the actual blog only to either post a comment or when redirected by Twitter.

Anyway, now to test whether the automatic Twitter update actually works. Today’s e-mail digest will still be sent this evening, but the service will be switched off afterwards.

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