On electronic mail

That which you consume forms who you become.

At some point in your life, you discovered the ability to talk to other people over the Internet. For those of us at a certain age, that first bit of magic was in the form of electronic mail. Receiving an unexpected thoughtful message from a friend was a treat. Sending a reply, then receiving one in turn nearly instantly — that felt like discovering a superpower.

The best part about it was that you didn't always have mail to read when you checked. That made it special.

I began writing about my explorations in tech several years ago, and provided a feed of my posts by way of RSS. This ubiquitous format has long stood the test of time, and a smorgasboard of feed readers to choose from makes RSS appealing from a web independence point of view. Publishing by RSS is effortless, efficient, robust, and lonely. It's not an interactive medium.

By way of experiment, I adopted a more interactive strategy a few years back. I embraced social media as my main means of interaction online, engaging in conversations across platforms, and sharing my articles there. This was interactive. This was way too interactive.

While my follower count grew, I spent countless lost hours consuming media in a never-ending stream. I started learning, inadvertently and then intentionally, about the psychology of social media. I started forming opinions about the downsides of tweets. I wrote Why I'm automatically deleting my old tweets using AWS Lambda and Why PixelFed won't save us from Instagram as a result.

I decided social media was not a winning strategy. There's always more to read and far too much to really understand. When's the last time I happened across something thoughtful, considered, and profound while scrolling to infinity? I can't remember. What was that last hashtag-and-emoji-filled outburst I read even about? I can't remember.

A little over a year ago I decided to break up with infinity feeds completely. I decided to move on by going back to a simpler model of information consumption, one without the endless FOMO of doomscrolling: email. I created my own subscription and emailing functions and put a simple sign-up box on my site's front page, then promptly forgot all about it. One day, whimsically curious, I queried the subscriber database to see if anyone had signed up. Hundreds of emails flooded my screen.

As my subscribers continued to grow, maintaining that infrastructure started to take time away from the things I really wanted to do: find ways to improve software team processes, make cybersecurity awareness useful and fun, and explore all the implications of our often too-quickly-moving technology. To free up the time to do even more of all that, I've employed whole teams to handle my emailing for me: namely, Substack.

I'm looking forward to continuing this evolution of my communication with you in a way that is simultaneously pleasing and sustainable. You can bet on my website posts, which you'll continue to receive right here, to remain thoughtful, considered, and open source. Some emails, like this one, will be especially for you. I hope to continue to bring new ideas to you in my letters, along with a sense of achievement that social media won't offer: the satisfactory finality of reading all that was written for you.

If you were on my list before, you're still on it now. Welcome, again.


P.S. You can always reply and write back to me. I'd love to hear from you, too.