Pony Idea: MeFi Announcement Newsletter? January 19, 2016 9:04 AM   Subscribe

The talk in the grey about making significant information visibility changes to user profiles (which I am in favor of) and how best to communicate the new setup got me thinking about the ways in which new features/changes get shared with site users. I am a regular user, and I often won't see sidebar announcements. I'm wondering whether there might be some space for a MeFi users newsletter to handle things like new site features, new podcast notifications, maybe even top posts. This might fall into the category of 'more work than benefit' at this point. I know there are some services (like TinyLetter) that make simple newsletters pretty quick to send out. If it would help, I would be happy to volunteer my time for copy writing.
posted by softlord to Feature Requests at 9:04 AM (72 comments total)

Interested to hear what people think about this.
posted by LobsterMitten (staff) at 9:17 AM on January 19, 2016


MeTa regulars are more likely to 1) be up on this stuff already and 2) comment on this MeTa, so the response here may be (relative to the attitudes of MeFites as a whole) biased against this proposal.
posted by Jpfed at 9:26 AM on January 19, 2016 [5 favorites]


I like sites that put a notification badge in the header to announce new site features.

An email newsletter might also be interesting, but to be honest, email is much more likely to go unseen for me than an on-site notice.
posted by smackfu at 9:27 AM on January 19, 2016 [1 favorite]


Just seems like creating steps along a gradient of notification would benefit those in inverse proportion to their activeness on the site (i.e. the less time you spend on the site on desktop, the more you'd 'need' a newsletter to communicate important site updates).

That said, I am not particularly suggesting a newsletter as generalized content-broadcast, as that would tend (for me at least) to be more ignorable and noisy.
posted by softlord at 9:29 AM on January 19, 2016


This sort of stuff seems to end up in 'Best Of' already. Can't you just subscribe to the RSS feed for 'Best Of'?
posted by Confess, Fletch at 9:39 AM on January 19, 2016


This sort of stuff seems to end up in 'Best Of' already. Can't you just subscribe to the RSS feed for 'Best Of'?

No indication of the privacy policy change discussion on Best Of as of this instant.
posted by Etrigan at 9:41 AM on January 19, 2016


I don't subscribe to RSS feeds anymore; I wouldn't want to have to start doing that (elsewhere) to find out about Mefi news. In general I expect to be able to find out about changes at Metafilter on Metafilter itself, so not in my personal email, not on twitter, etc.

I do think that this is an ok use of mefi mail for people who haven't opted out.

As I mentioned elsewhere, this is a bad sidebar thing: I don't always look at the sidebar, and some significant proportion of users only use Ask so don't even get a sidebar.
posted by jeather at 10:01 AM on January 19, 2016 [3 favorites]


I would love this, but I love email and appreciate organizations that act and tell me things are changing instead of react and waiting for me to come to their org's site to discover changes. That said, I think the same people who opt of of MeMail, want to hide banners, etc would opt out of this too.
posted by kimberussell at 10:18 AM on January 19, 2016 [1 favorite]


Make it mefi mail pretty please? Because i don't need another newsletter that i'll just archive without reading. Also, i really like it when the mail icon on mefi lights up.
posted by Foci for Analysis at 10:39 AM on January 19, 2016 [16 favorites]


I think a page on the site, title Site News or something similar should be list the various site changes. Like a change log. Just a relatively low friction way for the mods to update info and users have a known, sane and easy way to to get that info. Because following MeTa to get info isn't very efficient or helpful.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 10:45 AM on January 19, 2016 [12 favorites]


I've thought about this sort of thing in a couple of forms over the years, though it's never really hit a "this needs to happen" threshold. On the one hand, yay, newsletters! On the other hand, ugh, newsletters...

I find that my enthusiasm for the idea of a newsletter/announcement thing tends to be a lot higher than my long-term enthusiasm for actually reading the ones I do get. Probably in proportion to how often I get them, in part; the rarer "actually, this is quite something, you should know about this" note is more interesting than a monthly like-clockwork thing where whether there is anything really interesting is trumped by the need to get the thing sent out.

Anyway, there's on that front both downsides and upsides to the current tiered MetaTalk-sidebar-banner approach we take to site announcement stuff.

The downside is porousness: MetaTalk is self-selectingly (if still fairly broadly) visited by site members, and the sidebar isn't super visible especially for mobile readers, and Best Of is very opt-in. The banners are, I think, actually pretty effective for getting a lot of eyeballs, but they're also really, well, visible. It feels like a big deal to stick something up at the top of everybody's page for a while, so we don't want to use it every day or casually.

The upside is: no getting people burnt out on email newsletters, and no inventing a new chunk of work for the mod staff. Which is a pretty terse downside but at the same time, how many newsletters do I actually keep up with at this point, if I'm honest, as someone who likes the idea?

In any case, I'm just jawing. The idea is interesting enough to think about at least, and doing it as a bulk mefimail would probably be the best solution if we wanted to pursue it as an actively-contacting-people sort of thing. What would be in it, how we'd produce it, when and how often and how regularly it would go out are all things we'd need to talk about and suss out the practicality of.
posted by cortex (staff) at 10:53 AM on January 19, 2016 [2 favorites]


I don't think this would reach anyone not already reached by one of the other options. So what would be it's purpose?
posted by shelleycat at 10:57 AM on January 19, 2016


And please don't send me mefi mail, like, ever.
posted by shelleycat at 10:58 AM on January 19, 2016


I don't see the point. I mean, there's already here in Meta, sidebarring on the front page, top-of-the-front-page banners like Matt made when the MeFi finances were in the crapper, or (for truly desperate situations) MeMail and email. So why would we need yet one more way to notify folks?

Honestly, I suspect I'd either never register for such a newsletter in the first place, or just block it.
posted by easily confused at 11:04 AM on January 19, 2016 [1 favorite]


I like the idea of a "Site News" tab, and then some very brief bullet points with links that go to the Meta discussions behind the changes (if there is one). So, my vote for that, I guess.
posted by joseph conrad is fully awesome at 11:08 AM on January 19, 2016 [10 favorites]


I don't see the point. I mean, there's already here in Meta, sidebarring on the front page, top-of-the-front-page banners like Matt made when the MeFi finances were in the crapper, or (for truly desperate situations) MeMail and email. So why would we need yet one more way to notify folks?

I like the Site News idea because it would, ideally, be a permanent place to check for important news and its JUST for site news. MeTa can have a bunch of other stuff in it that may not be site news, so said news gets lost in the shuffle.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 11:12 AM on January 19, 2016 [2 favorites]


Maybe functionality changes like this privacy one could go on status.metafilter.com along with the server stuff, thus making that a more general info/updates page?
posted by shelleycat at 11:16 AM on January 19, 2016 [4 favorites]


Okay, a Site News tab might work; it'd keep all MeFi news in a consistent place, but without sending out more stuff to clog folks' inboxes or be ignored.
posted by easily confused at 11:17 AM on January 19, 2016


It's funny. The front page sideblog says "This sideblog keeps track of site news and noteworthy posts." But the better the mods are about adding the noteworthy posts (which I applaud), the harder it is to see the real site news, like adding a new mod.
posted by smackfu at 11:38 AM on January 19, 2016


(Oh, I guess it only says that for the Classic theme, and on the new theme it says "New & Noteworthy".)
posted by smackfu at 11:40 AM on January 19, 2016


I'm wondering whether there might be some space for a MeFi users newsletter to handle things like new site features, new podcast notifications, maybe even top posts.

The last time something like that was attempted, MeFi Mag, production petered out after six issues. Obviously it's at the extreme end of a "newsletter" category.

A newsletter containing only feature changes sounds more feasible. Would involve much less time and effort to compile and keep up with.
posted by zarq at 12:31 PM on January 19, 2016 [1 favorite]


There is an existing method of alerting people to new important things in the banner. It (if I remember corectly) allows each user to dismiss it once they know what they need to know so doesn't constantly remind people once they do know. This, with a link to the discussion around the change, seems like the right fit for telling people of changes. The discussion link is important to head off the slew of MeTa posts asking 'why was this changed?'

I guess it could be useful to store these on a page as 'site news' for those who disappear for periods long enough to miss the original announcement.
posted by dg at 12:50 PM on January 19, 2016 [1 favorite]


I'm against making more work for the mods, especially when the benefit seems dubious.
posted by naju at 1:12 PM on January 19, 2016 [1 favorite]


I like the idea of a bulk mefimail that is only sent out maybe four times a year, including stuff like site tweaks and changes as well as some more fun/interesting stuff like descriptions of the music challenges and podcast guests, and if there were any neat monthly events like julybywomen. And, if there's anything that's time-sensitive it could be treated like the recent IRL regional event alerts, with a very short bulk mefimail and a corresponding meta. Links to those would be included in the seasonal memail.

But key to this plan would be a toggle on profile preferences that can turn off being sent this seasonal round-up. That way folks would still get the rare time-sensitive ones that would invite them to participate in a corresponding meta, but that would happen maybe once a year? The seasonal round-ups could have a public archive page so anybody who wants to read them but opts not to get them memailed would be able to read them any time.

It would be some work, but if the document was communally updated by the mod team throughout the season it would only be a small amount of editing at the last minute to get it ready to send out and posted to the archive page.
posted by Mizu at 1:15 PM on January 19, 2016 [1 favorite]


But then you have to enable mefimail and some people don't want to deal with that.

me, it's me, i don't want to deal with it
posted by poffin boffin at 2:12 PM on January 19, 2016 [2 favorites]


I feel like the way to handle this
(and I do agree that it would be nice if there were a more visible way to notify users of significant site changes) is with MeMail. Not periodic newsletters, but quick as-needed notices informing users of specific site-related news and feature changes. I personally have been trained to ignore newsletters, nor would one necessarily be appropriate in terms of format or timeliness for announcing minor site news such as the recent profile visibility feature.

The sidebar, as has been pointed out above, is not very visible to mobile users or users who rarely go to the Blue or the Gray. Banners are obtrusive (though the ones here aren't too bad), don't have enough space to provide much in the way of explanation, and frankly I've also been trained to turn them off without even reading them. Adding a News tab sounds like it would be a lot of technical effort relative to the return, especially since site news doesn't come along but once every few weeks or so.

MeMail is visible to most members (except for the few who elect to turn it off, and I feel like not reaching those users would be a small enough problem that issues could likely be dealt with case-by-case), doesn't steal screen space or otherwise get in between users and content, and is flexible enough that the mods can provide whatever explanation they feel is appropriate for a given issue.

More important stuff could be announced via banner as well, and some things might be minor enough to only merit announcing on the sidebar. I'd be comfortable leaving it up to the mods to decide how to sort that out. But I do think using MeMail as an additional option for announcing site changes would be helpful, and I'd be in favor of an administrative adjustment along those lines.
posted by Anticipation Of A New Lover's Arrival, The at 2:13 PM on January 19, 2016


I don't even know if this would work, but how about an IFTTT recipe? I created a recipe that matches "MetaPolicy" for the MetaTalk RSS feed. I assume if a new post on the grey matches that term I will get an email (or an iPhone Message or ______). It would only work if the OP (or a mod) put that specific word in the post though, so not foolproof, but what is.

Probably stupid, but I am going to see if I can make it work for me. Wish there was a way to use the categories to trigger it. Like Feature Requests, or the like.

Anyway, ignore me as usual.
posted by terrapin at 2:49 PM on January 19, 2016


It's been a long time since I didn't pony up $5 for a membership, so I don't know how the sign up process works anymore. Can someone clue me in on what new members receive before I post my idea? In case it's what we already do so I don't look silly?
posted by Ruki at 4:17 PM on January 19, 2016


i got chocolates.

edit: not really.
posted by andrewcooke at 4:25 PM on January 19, 2016


New members get a welcome email that includes a link to the guidelines, FAQ, and Contact Form. It also lists their username which helps if they need to reset their password. They also get a separate MeFi Mail that welcomes them to the site, points them to preferences, and tells them how to turn off MeFi Mail.
posted by pb (staff) at 4:28 PM on January 19, 2016


Thanks, pb!

The FAQ is long. So my idea is that it might be worth it to highlight MeTa in the new user email, rather than having it just be a line item in the FAQ. Ideally, new users should read the FAQ, but, it is a lot to read. A newsletter would be just another thing in my inbox, but it eventually wouldn't be necessary if new members were explicitly told, "hey, policy discussions happen here," and then maybe have a sidebar with any site changes.
posted by Ruki at 4:51 PM on January 19, 2016


I would like a notification weekly that there are no notifications. Alternate idea: no notifications of anything ever. I like surprises.

I don't want a newsletter from mefi. It's just one more thing to slog through .
posted by disclaimer at 5:02 PM on January 19, 2016


same here
posted by Joseph Gurl at 5:57 PM on January 19, 2016


Please, no more newsletters.
posted by grouse at 6:21 PM on January 19, 2016 [1 favorite]


A news subsite would probably only be viewed by diehard users or bored people.
A newsletter will be largely be ignored even with the best intentions to read it later.
Many users have memail turned off.
A lot of users only read askmefi and wouldn't see the sidebar. I am now exclusively a mobile user and cannot remember the last time I saw the sidebar. Should the sidebar perhaps have its own subsite header? In this case it wouldn't solve the problem at hand.

The only solution that I can see is a banner announcement.
posted by futz at 7:44 PM on January 19, 2016


Why not add it to the "New and Noteworthy" column that appears at the side of the screen already? Sitewide changes are certainly noteworthy, and it'll give a little more visibility to the announcement thread without any major changes to how people interact with the site. I don't know if there's some prohibition on linking to the Gray in the Blue (or if this has been discussed already - I skimmed but didn't see any mention of this), and I know not everyone always sees what's in that column - but it seems like a small way of increasing visibility without hassling people.
posted by teponaztli at 7:50 PM on January 19, 2016 [1 favorite]


Hm, maybe too complicated to gin up for it's actual benefit, but I feel like there's a compromise between actively sending things to people and "keep an eye on MeTa". What about a separate change log page that just chronologically listed functional or policy changes (or clarifications) with a link to the meta discussion. It could get an ignorable (i.e. non-obnoxious) "new" indicator on the front page if you haven't seen the latest.
posted by ctmf at 8:44 PM on January 19, 2016


I think the key is not mixing it in with other things people might be ignoring (email, memail, rss, sidebar, all of meta), while still being ignorable itself.
posted by ctmf at 8:47 PM on January 19, 2016


I feel like we may have gotten away from the point a little. My initial inquiry was specifically around new and changed site functionality. Perhaps even a Changelog-style page/notification thing, as if MetaFilter were a software project (which it is). Release notes, that sort of thing.

I would not vote for a "Here's What's Happening On Metafilter Threads This Month"-style newsletter, as much as i love the site.
posted by softlord at 9:24 PM on January 19, 2016 [3 favorites]


I'll look for a mimeograph machine on eBay, I guess. Sigh. Getting my hands all purple....

Guess everyone wanting one should Send a SASE.
posted by discopolo at 9:53 PM on January 19, 2016 [2 favorites]


Any bulk or direct marketing messages (which this would be) either via email or mefi mail must be opt in only. Anything else is incredibly shitty. Either notify people passively via banner or sidebar or give them the choice to be contacted directly. No newsletter is so amazing that it needs to be forced on people who didn't ask for it. Honestly I'm surprised people are suggesting otherwise.

I have my boundaries trampled all over every day out here on the real world already, I don't need my favourite website getting in on the act.
posted by shelleycat at 11:32 PM on January 19, 2016 [2 favorites]


I never read newsletters, not for anything. Which is not a statistically valid opinion. But do people honestly read newsletters? Making news more visible on the site somehow is fine.
posted by frumiousb at 11:55 PM on January 19, 2016 [1 favorite]


I would N-th the suggestion for a Site News page with a stripped down construction - essentially a changelog with links to the more detailed What and Why in MeTa. Then people can eventually understand that if Something has Happened to the interface, they go check Site News. It works on everybody's own time, unlike newsletters, and would also contain a lot more of the changes on the one page, unlike newsletters, and people might ever read it (unlike newsletters).

Please not a newsletter.
posted by solarion at 2:52 AM on January 20, 2016 [3 favorites]


Nope, no e/mails, please... I've worked long and hard to eliminate unnecessary e/mails and newsletters... The information is here, those that are interested can find it if they need to, or a site-news page with info in bullet points would be fine, with a link at the top of the main page...
posted by HuronBob at 6:53 AM on January 20, 2016 [2 favorites]


I think if someone wanted to put together a newsletter go for it. I am trying to encourage people to run with their ideas, but to make it an official document, maybe not so much. A newsletter that had more than just change log stuff in it might be fun. Follow-up to posts on the blue that don't merit a new post. People announcements (who married whom and who managed to procreate), new endeavors from members, etc. I could see it being something nice and fun.

This said, I wouldn't subscribe. I get too much of this sort of crap already.
posted by cjorgensen at 6:58 AM on January 20, 2016 [1 favorite]


Please, please do not e-mail me anything that I am not e-mailed under the current working schema of when MetaFilter sends me mail.

(If people wanted to put energy into a strictly opt-in newsletter, I suppose that I think MetaFilter is one of the few remaining places on the web that I would trust to resist the impulse to subscribe me to new iterations of e-mail bullshit.)

A changelog page somewhere seems like a lovely idea.
posted by brennen at 7:13 AM on January 20, 2016


We could probably buy Clippy from Microsoft for a real steal. He could pop up on screen to make MeFi announcements.
posted by Kabanos at 7:30 AM on January 20, 2016 [2 favorites]


A real changelog would be really neat. Like some place to list all the little changes that pg does every day that otherwise don't get noticed.
posted by smackfu at 8:13 AM on January 20, 2016 [2 favorites]


maybe it could be one of those semitransparent pop-up ads that cover the entire front page when you log in and it will be an unskippable video of cortex shrieking THIS IS WHAT YOU FUCKING GET WHEN YOU CAN'T MAKE UP YOUR MINDS, ASSLORDS followed immediately by the KARS-4-KIDS advert played 100 times
posted by poffin boffin at 9:20 AM on January 20, 2016 [10 favorites]


We could probably buy Clippy from Microsoft for a real steal. He could pop up on screen to make MeFi announcements.

Already taken.
posted by cjorgensen at 9:21 AM on January 20, 2016


maybe it could be one of those semitransparent pop-up ads that cover the entire front page when you log in and it will be an unskippable video of cortex shrieking THIS IS WHAT YOU FUCKING GET WHEN YOU CAN'T MAKE UP YOUR MINDS, ASSLORDS followed immediately by the KARS-4-KIDS advert played 100 times

Stop giving cortex ideas for April Fool's Day.
posted by nubs at 9:23 AM on January 20, 2016 [3 favorites]


can we compromise and settle for paper airplanes?
posted by Foci for Analysis at 11:03 AM on January 20, 2016 [1 favorite]


If I were a low-interest user who signed up a while back but didn't engage the site much, I would find unsolicited emails annoying. Since I am a regular user that does engage the site frequently, I tend to not need emails because I see the feature announcements here. I think BB's idea of a site news page (with the occasional top banner for really major things, like you're doing already) should suffice.
posted by Devils Rancher at 11:31 AM on January 20, 2016 [1 favorite]


...semitransparent pop-up ads that cover the entire front page …

Interstitial webpages.

I hate them and wish they would die.

I can't think of a singular ethical reason to use one.
posted by cjorgensen at 12:14 PM on January 20, 2016 [3 favorites]


feel free to memail me about genuinely important stuff as needed -- hopefully no more than a small handful of times per year. This will work for me because I do check my memail. For those who don't, other means seem to be available.
posted by philip-random at 12:45 PM on January 20, 2016


I sincerely wish to be a Metafilter ASSLORD. Is there a form I fill out?
posted by Oyéah at 1:44 PM on January 20, 2016 [1 favorite]


KARS-4-KIDS advert played 100 times


Holy shit, humans continually find heinous ways to hurt each other
posted by JenMarie at 1:51 PM on January 20, 2016


Speaking for myself, I would opt out of a newsletter so fast that it would make your head spin. A banner on top is fine; e-mail or memail spam is not.
posted by Shmuel510 at 2:04 PM on January 20, 2016


Like some place to list all the little changes that pg does every day that otherwise don't get noticed.

A change log, and also a mod blotter while we're at it! Piggyback pony!
posted by ctmf at 5:56 PM on January 20, 2016


Oh man, can we pwease, pwease, pwetty pwease have a mod blotter?

*sigh*

It's OK, I understand why it can never happen. I can dream, though.
posted by Anticipation Of A New Lover's Arrival, The at 7:12 PM on January 20, 2016


Sidebar? I only read on a computer, but for some reason never look at the sidebar. There could be winning lottery numbers there every day for all I know. I actually had to go to the main page to remind myself what it was just now, like I do every time it comes up.

If you do a newsletter, make sure that there’s one of those interstellar wetpages every time I come to the site that takes several seconds to load, and then asks if I want to sign up for the newsletter. Make the thing you click on to close it really small and appear on a random part of the window. Have it do this even if I am signed in and subscribed to the newsletter. Those are very popular and obviously the cool new future of the web if you don’t want to be all losery and old fashioned.
posted by bongo_x at 9:26 PM on January 20, 2016 [1 favorite]


Thinking of it I might subscribe to an oldsletter which tells me comforting things I already know though.
posted by solarion at 5:42 PM on January 21, 2016 [1 favorite]


I like the way that Trello and Slack handle this sort of thing.

Trello has a mascot. When new features are released, the mascot's head pops up in the header with a word bubble that says 'new stuff.' Clicking it takes you to a page that lists the new things being announced.

Slack has a top level button that's an ellipsis, under which some less used stuff resides, including a "what's new" link. The ellipsis button gets some slight graphical treatment when there is a new item under the "what's new" link.

I think, based on the design, the Trello model would work better for metafilter... Just have Mathowie's face pop up in the header with a 'what's new' word bubble.
posted by Jacob G at 5:09 AM on January 22, 2016


I wonder what a Metafitler Mascot would be?!
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 6:18 AM on January 22, 2016


Anthropomorphic plate of beans.
posted by brennen at 8:28 AM on January 22, 2016 [1 favorite]


Anthropomorphic plate of beans.

With a cartoon thought-bubble either containing a smaller, identical plate of beans, or, maybe better, bending around to surround itself.
posted by nobody at 9:49 AM on January 22, 2016 [1 favorite]


(The latter might specifically be the version for MetaTalk.)
posted by nobody at 9:51 AM on January 22, 2016


Anthropomorphic plate of beans.

I would agree but then I recalled that in a recent thread there were people who said their mental image of the iconic plate of beans was a plate with string beans on it and not a plate with tinned baked beans waiting to be put on toast as the lord intended.
posted by poffin boffin at 10:22 AM on January 22, 2016 [1 favorite]


Fractal plates of beans, kind of like the bumper sticker, "Visualize Whirled Peas."
posted by Oyéah at 10:45 AM on January 22, 2016


I'm sure pb can just make a new preference about what kind of beans should pop up to inform us of changes we know about because we've been fighting about them here. Also a preference for plate colour.
posted by jeather at 10:46 AM on January 22, 2016 [3 favorites]


Also a preference for plate colour.

Sub-site dependent, surely?
posted by brennen at 11:20 AM on January 22, 2016


Anthropomorphic plate of beans.

plate of beings?
posted by andrewcooke at 4:46 AM on January 23, 2016


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