Workflow: Making a mailer

Some of you might remember that, well before Infinite in All Directions, a friend and I used to send out a science newsletter called Curious Bends. After quickly raking in a few hundred subscribers, both of us lost interest in sending the newsletter even as we continued to believe that doing so would be a valuable service. One of the reasons it may have stopped – in hindsight – is likely set-shifting. From next week’s newsletter:

… the newsletter didn’t take a hit for lack of time as much as for the cost of switching between tasks that require different aptitudes. Psychologists have a name for this phenomenon: set-shifting. Research has shown that when a person switches from one task to another, there are two kinds of costs. One is the cost of readjusting one’s mental settings to be ready for the second task after the first. The other is the erosion of our efficiency at performing the second task due to ‘leftover’ settings from the first task. And these costs are exacerbated when the tasks get more complex. In effect, I skipped the newsletter because the second kind of cost was just getting too high for me.

Now, I don’t want that to happen with Infinite in All Directions because when I do compile and send it out, I have a gala time as do many of its subscribers (based on the feedback I’ve received – but feel free to tell me I’m wrong). And this is now making me think harder about mitigating the costs, or even prevalence, of set-shifting.

One way out, for example, is for me to reduce the time it takes to create the newsletter. Right now, I send it out through MailChimp, which has its own editing and formatting tools/area. I didn’t choose MailChimp as much as I chose the email newsletter as a medium through which to deliver information. And my workflow goes like this: See a link I like → Save it on Evernote → Make some points on Evernote → Port them at the end of the week to MailChimp → Format the newsletter → Send → Copy the email and reformat → Publish on The Wire (WordPress).

Now what if I could use one tool – like iA Writer (and its amazing transclusion feature) – instead of two (Evernote + MailChimp) so I can publish what I compile via the same platform, while you – the subscriber – receive an auto-compiled list of posts once a week via MailChimp? I.e.: Ulysses/iA → WordPress → MailChimp. It sounds quite appealing to me but if you think I’m missing something, please let me know.

Featured image: A few server racks with disks and switches. Caption & credit: Alex/Flickr, CC BY 2.0.

2 Comments

  1. Set-shifting. You’ve lit the bulb in my head with that one. For the last few months, this set-shifting cost has been draining me. I’m not exaggerating here: Having a term to describe the phenomenon, or experience — quite apart from the question of its scientific legitimacy — is liberating.

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