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December 14, 2013

“Post Office Department. Dead Letter Mail, Supt. Marvin McLean and Mrs. Clara R.A. Nelson”, 1917

Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Online Catalog: “Post Office Department. Dead Letter Mail, Supt. Marvin McLean and Mrs. Clara R.A. Nelson”, 1917, 1 negative : glass ; 5 x 7 in., Reproduction Number: LC-DIG-hec-08119 (digital file from original). Public domain.

The report was this: that Bartleby had been a subordinate clerk in the Dead Letter Office at Washington, from which he had been suddenly removed by a change in the administration. (see previously: Bartleby: Dead Letter Office)

• • •

• Short version

It is now possible to get notified by a short email whenever a new post is published on Aphelis.net: try it here.

• Long version

When I created a Facebook Page for this website back in May 2011, it was essentially a way to provide an alternative notification system for those who didn’t want to use, or didn’t know how to use, RSS.

At that time, I was under the impression that “liking” a Facebook Page was similar to a subscription (Facebook Pages are different from personal timelines). The user would receive notification on his or her “News Feed” whenever the Page posted a public update on its timeline. To notify those who had “liked” Aphelis on Facebook, I would share the URL of a new post, along with a short description. That’s how I’ve been using Facebook ever since.

I was wrong on one point though: “liking” a Page is not similar to a subscription, far from it. When a user “like” a Page, Facebook uses an algorithm to decide which update appear on the News Feed of any given user and which doesn’t. In itself, this is not a problem. The algorithm can filter content and eliminate irrelevant “stories” such as invasive marketing and memes, or so they say (apparently, in some countries, users are given the option to get all notifications from a Page they have liked).

But the algorithm ―called EdgeRank up until last August― also blocked updates (or “stories”) that are neither marketing nor meme. According to Facebook:

[N]ot all stories that are eligible for your News Feed are shown to you. Each story competes with every other eligible story for relevancy. For example, on average, a page will reach ~16% of its fan base in News Feed through the course of a month through its page posts. (“Sponsored Stories”)

On average, 16% of those who “liked” Aphelis on Facebook actually get notified when I link to a new post in the timeline. As a Page administrator, I’m given the opportunity to “boost” anything I put in my timeline: I can pay Facebook in order for such “sponsored stories” to be allowed greater visibility.

I don’t really have a problem with Facebook being a business, but I don’t have the intention of running sponsored updates either.

That left me with a problem. I certainly do not wish to impose the content published here to those who are not interested. But I would like to be able to offer an alternative to RSS for the few who may be interested in following the content published here more closely.

With this in mind, I have sign up with MailChimp and configure a very basic email notification system. Anyone interested can try it here. Subscribing only requires an email address. Upon subscribing, a confirmation email will be sent to the email address that was submitted (if it is not received, check the spam folder).

The newsletter is actually triggered by this blog’s RSS feed. MailChimp scans the feed once every 24 hours. If a new item appears in the feed, it sends a single, short email notification (never more than once a day). The email only contains a short description of the new post, along with it’s URL (see below). The reason for offering a short description instead of the full post is simple: some of the posts I write can get media heavy and loading them in email clients of mobile devices would not be very convenient. Unsubscribing from the notifications can be done easily at any time (each email notification contains an unsubscribe link: click once to get to the unsubscribe page, and click to confirm).

As usual, if something doesn’t quite work as expected, feel free to contact me.

Example of an email notification provided through Aphelis Newsletter.
Example of an email notification provided through Aphelis Newsletter.
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