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Dan

The Cyburbian: our first attempt at an email newsletter

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I've been on the Internet since 1987, long before where was such a thing as the World Wide Web, Gopher, or even planning-related mailing lists. My Internet experience began about a decade before the term "spam" became more commonly associated with unwanted email than potted meat product or a Monty Python sketch. In the good 'old days, email wasn't considered a broadcast medium. Outside of mailing lists that users subscribed to, email was for serious, technical one-on-one communications and passing around long lists of dirty jokes.

Through the years, I saw the email addresses I owned go from getting a trickle of mail from friends and colleagues to being swamped with spam, out-of-office notifications, bounces, notifications and confirmations for practically every action taken online beyond clicking on a link, press releases, and newsletters. Most newsletters were from Web sites that I had some "relationship" with; I was a registered member of some sort.

In the past, some have suggested that Cyburbia should publish a regular email newsletter. I always resisted. In my old-school view of te net, I didn't want Cyburbia to be seen as doing anything "spammy", contributing to the clutter and email overload so many already face. As time went by, though, and as people began to tolerate such mailings, I slowly warmed up to the idea.

Just about three hours ago, I sent out the first edition of The Cyburbian. It was a plain text email -- I still can't bring myself to send out HTML-formatted email -- eith an introduction to the newsletter, and a few paragraphs about the new Planning in Australia subforum, the social features in vBulletin 3.7, and the start of sponsorship and advertising opportunities on the site. Just after I sent it out, I realized that I forgot to mention the recent letters pointing out the existence of Cyburbia in Planning magazine, and the decision to stop updating the Resource Directory. Maybe it's for the best; I don't want ot make the newsletter too long..

At the time I wrote this blog entry, my email box filled up with some 300 bounced "no such user" messages. Apparently, many seem unaware of the Forums rule that requires users to maintain a working email address. The attachment many planners have to listservs was evident with the one-line responses that only read "UNSUBSCRIBE". Also, I was reminded of how, along with listservs, blue shirts, and car brands that begin with "S", planners love out-of-office notifications. It seems that many planners set an out-of-office notification if they so much as leave their desk for a restroom break.

I still fear a backlash, and that people who gladly accept newsletters from other Web sites will see the newsletter from Cyburbia as the equivalent of spam. The newsletter didn't go to Cyburbians that had their preferences set to "Don't receive email from administrators", and users can easily change their preferences in the Forums control panel so they don't get future newsletters. Considering that they probably receive other planning-related email newsletters, though, I hope they don't mind just one more message in their email box every month. Hey, if they'll put up with the bounces and out-of-office notifications from their listservs ...
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