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Computing Thoughts
Do Newsletters Still Matter?
by Bruce Eckel
October 10, 2008
Summary
Of course I'm asking the wrong crowd here -- you're watching the weblog. Still, you might have some ideas.

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In the early days of the web, I was one of the first people to post a book online (Eric Raymond tells me The Cathedral and the Bazaar was the first, and Thinking in Java was the second, and I'm not inclined to argue with him). I started a newsletter for people who wanted notifications about books, seminars, and other activities.

Initially the newsletter was a great thing. And it cost money for the service to send it out. As time has passed, it's gotten to where anyone can set up a newsletter for free. I moved mine to Google Groups some time ago.

This was long before blogs. It took me a little while to make the move, but the more I blog the less I tend to pay attention to the newsletter. I changed it to a quarterly but it's become semi-annually, if that. I've discovered I'm just not as attracted to it anymore.

Blogging is relatively easy. You get a single idea, and you write, and you're done. Doing a newsletter is much more trouble. You have to plan and set up and review and eventually send the thing out. Then you get a ton of "out of office" autoreplies. It's not really a conversation, but more like old-school mass media.

A blog is like a continuously-forming magazine, with articles that appear as you think of them, and at the moment you are most excited about them. And right then, you get feedback about the ideas -- rather than weeks or months later, when a magazine or newsletter is published.

So blogs are real-time, interactive, a lot easier to do and with improving technology everything about them is getting better. So the question is: is there anything useful to do with a newsletter anymore?

The one value of the newsletter, which is more of a "push" medium, while blogs are "pull," is that it can be a kind of reminder to people -- people who want to be reminded, that is -- of what you are doing. Since I have taken more and more to putting things on the blog, perhaps a useful thing for the folks who want such a reminder would just be headlines and summaries of recent blog posts on a quarterly basis.

What do you think? Would you find such a thing useful, and if not what would you find useful?

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About the Blogger

Bruce Eckel (www.BruceEckel.com) provides development assistance in Python with user interfaces in Flex. He is the author of Thinking in Java (Prentice-Hall, 1998, 2nd Edition, 2000, 3rd Edition, 2003, 4th Edition, 2005), the Hands-On Java Seminar CD ROM (available on the Web site), Thinking in C++ (PH 1995; 2nd edition 2000, Volume 2 with Chuck Allison, 2003), C++ Inside & Out (Osborne/McGraw-Hill 1993), among others. He's given hundreds of presentations throughout the world, published over 150 articles in numerous magazines, was a founding member of the ANSI/ISO C++ committee and speaks regularly at conferences.

This weblog entry is Copyright © 2008 Bruce Eckel. All rights reserved.

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