I started a little newsletter back in late April 2020 as a way of sharing little links and good things I found each week in various places on the internet. I’m not quite sure how I came up with the idea but I think I’d seen someone mention the TinyLetter service previously, maybe Iso? It’s a bare bones email newsletter platform which is also free and now owned by MailChimp.
I think starting this was partly inspired by lockdown and having more time sat at home thinking about the world perhaps. I’m not quite sure what series of thoughts led to starting one but I came up with a name and a format and then pushed it out to anyone I could on Instagram, Twitter and LinkedIn. The usual, hey follow this please request to all and sundry. To my surprise and joy 55 people signed up to the first one and then off we went.
Much like podcasts, does the world really need another email newsletter by a middle aged white guy right now?
Probably not but it’s something to entertain myself with and share with people. Here is the first
I mucked up the formatting a bit with the first one as TinyLetter has some odd little quirks but others appear to have been more successful and I also managed to keep a bit of a handle on typos. The one’s you only see when you’ve hit the proper send not the draft send to yourself.
As with all these things I try and make rules or constraints for what is and isn’t allowed as a topic for the newsletter each week and as to how I imagine it should be formatted. Here’s a rough run down of my thoughts:
No self promotion in the links. It’s fine to talk about yourself a bit in the intro but no linking to my own work or activities. It should be about sharing links not telling the world what photos or building you worked on this week or some stupid bike ride you went on. There may be a very rare exception to this rule such as when I link to this blog post.
No politics. The world has enough of that and we’re swamped with it as it is.
Nothing negative and shitty. No one needs to feel bad on their Sat morning after you send them a link to The Guardian about the end of the world.
Be largely positive, uplifting and thoughtful with occasional use of amusing cute animals.
Nothing too mean or making fun of individuals. A fine line with comedy sometimes but worth trying to avoid belittling people.
Be engaging and humorous.
A brief intro then ten links only. But allowed a few extras to link to similar things or to credit those who posted or shared the original thing you’re sharing.
No emojis. I broke this rule once and won’t do it again.
I find all sorts of links to share during the week and put them into a note in SimpleNote then sort through and choose which ones to use each Friday night before hitting send on a Sat morning. I skipped a week or two in the early days but have been pretty regular since. It’s been a really nice thing to do and have had some lovely feedback from people. The title was specifically crafted to allow me to skip or pause when not feeling up to it or busy.
In terms of where I get all these things from I have a range of sources. Twitter is by far the biggest source but also various WhatsApp groups and people just generally sharing things there. I’m also still an RSS user and use Reeder on my phone/iPad/laptop to scan through and look for things. Kottke.org and daringfireball.net being two of my favourite feeds. One of the best places is another newsletter which kind of inspired me to start doing this and is called ‘The Overspill’ by Charles Arthur. I adore this in terms of the articles he sends as well as the commentary that goes with it. He also always responds to any feedback or further comments on Twitter. It arrives in my inbox at 8am every weekday and always good to rear at the start of the day. My favourite sources on Twitter are the Present & Correct account, Urban Fox and Dick King Smith. Maybe I need to keep updating this as time goes by. But all of the above has generated a huge amount of interesting things to share and gives me a reason to read, digest and then collate and post on for other folk. (I’m on a social media break so will link to the Twitter ones later).
The list is now up to 118 subscribers at the time of writing and hopefully it continue to grow organically. I’m a way away from hitting the 1000 subscriber limit of TinyLetter.