Manufacturing guy-at-large.

A year of my mailing list

Added on by Spencer Wright.

I've been doing my weekly mailing list (which you should sign up for!) for a little over a year. 

The first four issues were sent on 2013.11.20, 2013.12.26, and 2014.01.10. They had no subscribers and were pretty loose. The first issue claimed its purpose to be:

To be useful. To connect. To tell you about things that matter to me.

Furthermore, all of the first four issues included a version of the following:

"If you're going to make a mailing list, at least make it a self-aware one."
— Me, like a month ago, when I first set this mailing list up.

Today, I have 194 subscribers. I'd say that I know about a third of them personally, but about half of those people I know mostly through the mailing list itself. In 2014.04.12's issue I added a note at the bottom of each email asking the people I send it to to have coffee with me, and through that I've made a number of new friends.

Here you can see the list growth over time, plus open & click rates by issue:

My workflow is as follows: I get links from places (details below). I add them to Pocket. I read them on my daily commute, which is a predictable 30 minutes twice daily. If I like something, I star it. Then an IFTTT recipe grabs the link and emails it to me. When I'm back at my computer (usually the same day), I open the link up and add it plus a short description/observation to that week's campaign.

My sources fall in four big categories:

  • The first (and most prevalent) is RSS. I use Digg Reader, and go through between 50 and 100 posts a day - almost never reading them in browser, almost always saving them to Pocket.
  • The second is Twitter. I follow about 600 people, and save a handful of links per week to Pocket there.
  • The third is through one of the companies that I work & hang out at. The Undercurrent Slack channels give a few articles per week, as do Gin Lane's email chains, which I'm on. I also get a lot of links from Kane & Adam at Brilliant Bikes.
  • The fourth is through subscribers. I get a few emails per month from people (often friends) who subscribe to The Prepared and think I'd be interested in something.

At any given moment I usually have between 40 and 80 articles in Pocket, and I churn through them pretty quickly. I organize my Pocket list LIFO, which means that some longer articles get stuck in the queue for a while. I'll usually try to attack those on a long flight, or if I know I'll be in a waiting room for a while.

It's surprising to say so, but in the past year my mailing list has become arguably the single most popular and useful thing that I do. It's also something that I'm quite fond of. For one, it does a great job at incentivizing me to self-educate. But equally as important (and much more surprising to me) is the effect that it's had on my social circles. The Prepared's subscriber list continues to amaze me; I feel absolutely blessed that there are so many caring, intelligent, and interested people who bother to read it.

Thanks so much for a great year!