Archive for the ‘Email’ Category

The new WikiStudent is now live

Saturday, October 17th, 2009

The new WikiStudent, for Unisa students, went live a couple of weeks ago. The URL:

We need Unisa students to become editors to help fill in the content - see the new site for how to join.

This blog is no longer being updated. You can browse the archives if you’re interested in how WikiStudent was re-built.


Sunday, May 3rd, 2009

The other day I came across an ad for an email marketing provider called GraphicMail. I clicked through to their website and was highly impressed, not only by the look & feel of their website, but also by what they have to offer!


The time has come when I need to use a third-party company to handle my newsletters. In the past, I always did all the bulk mail myself. I wrote my own mail scripts, ran them in batches, manually dealt with all the bounces, change of address notifications and out of office replies.

But I don’t have the time for this anymore, which is why in 2008 the WikiStudent newsletters fizzled out.

If I use GraphicMail, I will be able to send out 10 000 emails with one click! I think it is worth paying R200 per month for a service like this. The free alternative is spending half an hour every morning, sending mails in batches of 500 over 20 days.

So why am I looking into this at the moment, when I could be spending more time working on the wiki? Well, even though newsletters do not need to be there when the site goes live, they will be introduced at some point, so this has to be considered while planning. An example to illustrate my point: I see that GraphicMail also offer an SMS service. I need to decide before the site goes live if I want to send SMSs as well, and start capturing cellphone numbers from the beginning if I go this route.

The email marketing kit

Wednesday, April 29th, 2009

One thing I haven’t yet factored into my schedule is email marketing. Oops… But that’s OK, it can wait till after the site’s gone live. Here’s a brilliant email marketing kit I bought recently, to help me with mass mailers, newsletter design, viral marketing, etc:

Sitepoint's email marketing kit
I’m glad I own this (rather huge) file with CD, as it answered almost all my questions on email marketing.

The new WikiStudent, like the old site, will have newsletters you can subscribe to, and I’ve reached the point where my mailing list (or future mailing list, I should rather say) will be so large, that I have to do things properly. E.g. If I send out zillions of emails all at once there is a good chance that I’ll be seen as a spammer, even though the recipients chose to be on the list. This email marketing kit has a whole chapter on spam, and gives anti-spam laws by country even. It also has email design guidelines, tips for optimising delivery, tracking and reporting, developing an effective email strategy… Vital stuff to know!

Email is so old-fashioned

Monday, April 27th, 2009

I hate email. Hate it! It takes me forever to reply to emails, and sometimes I just never get round to replying at all…

Email is so one-on-one, which is not what a community site is about. People love posting things like “Please email me study notes for ACN102N”, while they should be checking the uploads to see what’s available for everyone, and uploading whatever they have for everyone. Sending individual emails is so inefficient!

The problem is this: If a student sees that there are no study notes for a certain module, they are going to want to ask, or want to at least be notified via email as soon as notes become available. I’d like to do away with these types of emails and get students to use the following:


This is Google Reader and you can get it on

What it is, is a way to keep updated with websites that change frequently, like blogs and wikis.

The above screenshot shows how a MediaWiki change is reflected in Google Reader. The original text is on the right in green, and the newer text on the left in yellow. The change to the text is in red, so you can see exactly what has been modified.

The advantage: You don’t need to keep visiting a website to see if there is something new. All you do is go to your Google Reader online and see which of the websites you follow have been changed. You visit one website instead of 10 (or however many it is you visit regularly!)

I am going to encourage use of RSS readers like Google Reader, and whatever other ones anyone cares to suggest.

Mailshot out of the way

Thursday, April 9th, 2009

A few weeks ago I mentioned a group email that was being sent out to all members of the old WikiStudent. I thought everyone (even non-subscribers to the newsletter) should know why the site was down and what’s happening.

Well, today I finally sent out the last batch of mails. What a relief! (I have to stagger the mails. I wish I could send out thousands of emails with just one click, but I can’t). Every day I’ve been running this mailer and watching the bounces and out-of-office replies stream in. (By the way, it’s amazing how many people use their work email to register, and then leave the company).

It is important for me to know which email addresses bounce and then never email them again. If I do repeatedly massmail stacks of invalid addresses I become flagged as a spammer and my IP gets blacklisted, so this is a vital cleanup task!

7% of members’ email addresses bounced. This might not sound like much, but it is several hundred email addresses! My original idea was to delete these members from the database. (If a user never logged in, never contributed, and their email doesn’t work anymore, I think I’m justified in removing them from the site).

Things have changed though, and I no longer need this ‘database cleanup’ anymore because the new site will be using a new database. Yes, I’m starting afresh with a new CMS (MediaWiki) and no member profiles will be carried across. You’ll have to register again - with a vaild address please ;-) I made people re-register every year in the past when I re-did the site, and I’m going to do it one more time!