The New Newsletters are sent in Boxes

I’ve been saying newsletters are not worth anyone’s time for awhile. When did you last really read a newsletter from your email inbox? I’ve nearly given up on email itself, so newsletters tend to go right to the outbox.

Speaking of boxes… have you noticed the trend to getting themed boxes of stuff sent through the mail? Snail mail, not email.

I’ve found a few so far, without really looking hard:

Today I found something bigger, smarter and very interesting, Quarterly.

quarterlycurators
Source: Online Quarterly Subscription and Gifting Services from Quarterly Co.

Quarterly is the new newsletter, vastly improved. The idea of getting people to pay for a box of things (themed but not predetermined) sent out every three months is going to catch on. How could it fail? Who hasn’t become at least slightly addicted to shopping online, getting a present delivered to your door? Now it can be a real surprise, created for you, every month (every 3 months on Quarterly). Are you curious enough to look at the site? You can see what has been sent in past boxes from the curators (as they are called) on the site.

I think it’s brilliant. People will subscribe and look forward to getting your newsletter and other goodies. They won’t just read your newsletter, they will pay to get it. Just considering it from a marketing point of view… it is pretty amazing.

But, I’m not so cynical. I love the idea of being a curator of mailed out boxes. I’ve already thought about what I could send and how I could get things to send. It’s like Christmas and birthday shopping to plan a surprise for others.

Of course it’s not so simple. There are plans to make, angles to consider and I need a theme that works. I’m not sure about working through Quarterly. I’m not a household name in any household but my own. Also, I’m not sure Quarterly (as a service) would help me in any way I couldn’t figure out to help myself. But, I loved seeing it today. It’s not the first to mail out gifts and presents, but it seems to be the first to collect them in a group – like an online catalog of people who want to give you unique gifts, and a newsletter.

Are you Still Writing Letters?

I’d still be writing regular letters to penpals, Grandparents and/ or my niece but there is a problem with people not writing back. No letter writer is an island. Plus, there are the perks of shopping for stationery. (Not to be confused with stationary – not moving).

Of course my Grandparents can’t reply for sadly obvious reasons. Unless there are family skeletons in the closet I haven’t wandered into yet, literally. I lost touch with all my penpals from my younger days. We had less in common, less time to write and so it goes. My niece would likely write more if I sent her a few more letters in the mail. But, it’s discouraging to be in a one way conversation through the mail. Like someone who just nods once in awhile, leaving one person to carry the whole thing. But, she is a school girl still. About the age I was when I began writing letters to the Grandparents and penpals from all over the world.

Did you know they don’t teach the children how to write in school now? Printing, but not cursive writing. No handwriting, not the real kind. What a loss for all the coming generations. Cursive writing is elegant. I can remember how adult I felt when I was able to move up from printing to cursive. Not these days. Oddly, they don’t teach typing or keyboarding either. Is being unable to communicate a literacy problem or as long as they can read are we assuming they can get by?

CaptureTonight I joined the Letter Writers Alliance. I only wish it were Canadian, here in Ontario, so I could attend some events. I’m still glad to support the group and the cause of letter writing.

When did you last write (in cursive) a letter you sent in the mail to someone? I’d even count birthday or Christmas cards if you wrote a note to go along with it.

Throw Something Out Today

We keep too much and then get overwhelmed by what we have. Pick something to throw out today. Recycle it if you can but remove it from your home and your life.

Something already garbage does not count. Be fair and give yourself a break.

Get creative.

Give up on fixing something broken. Find a way to give it to someone else (like leaving it at the bottom of the road for someone else to pick up).

Give away something you have not used in years. Consider trinkets and gadgets gathering dust. Offer them to family and friends so someone else can get more use out of them.

Use old stationary to write a letter to someone. The catch is you have to mail it today rather than leave it for tomorrow.

However you do it, remove one piece of clutter from your life today.

Could you Try Guerilla Art?

Guerilla art, also referred to as “street art”, is a method of art making where the artist leaves anonymous art pieces in public places. It is often an installation in an unauthorized location. It is a way for an artist to express their views and opinions to a large audience in an anonymous way. In contrast to popular belief, guerilla art does not have to be done with spray paint. Other popular forms include videos and projections. There is no one motivation for making guerilla art. However, popular reasons include statement making, the sharing of ideas, the desire to send out good karma, and plain fun. Many times guerilla art is used to make a political statement, however, for this assignment it is used to make a statement about creativity.

Source: What Is Guerilla Art? – Guerilla Art

Could you write something short and leave it for someone else to find? Make it anonymous or leave a web mail address if you want to ask for feedback? You may not get any… but it would be an adventure.

What Do You Write on a Postcard??

The first picture Postal Card was Sent as a Joke!

The Origin of the Modern Post Card

In 1840 the British author Thomas Hook made a post card with caricatures of postal workers on it. It was meant to amuse and irritate the workers as it went through the mail. I imagine it did, I am sure he got a lot of attention.

Hook didn’t send it out to anyone else, he addressed it to himself, so he could be sure of having a grin and a chuckle at the end of the process.

From – What Do You Write on a Postcard?

This post has suggestions from humour to writing a mini journal. All good ideas. What do you tend to write on a postcard? Do you only send them when you’re travelling?

Postcards are also a nice way to give someone personal mail (a letter) without having to say a lot. Nice when you’re trying to be nice and send a personal note to someone you don’t know very well.

How would you write a postcard to a Great-Aunt you’ve never met?

How to Switch from Yahoo! Mail to Gmail

Source for information – How to Switch from Yahoo! Mail to Gmail (with Pictures) – wikiHow.

yahoo to gmail

I found and tested this out myself. Using a Yahoo mail account I have had since 1998, I went into Gmail and used the Gmail options to transfer all my old email from the Yahoo account into Gmail.

On the con side… it did import a massive amount of spam email from Yahoo.

This was AFTER I had deleted every last spam in the account. However, it took a few days for the import and during that time yet more spam gathered. So not only did I get the old email I wanted but also all the latest junk I could have happily done without.

On the pro/ plus side… it worked!!!

I tried to find a way to import old email from Yahoo a couple of years ago. Yahoo had blocked any options (unless you paid for a premium account with them). I didn’t want a paid account when all I wanted was my existing email. I have not used that account in quite a bit longer than ten years. So, paying for it seemed nonsense. (Especially due to the more than average amount of junk/ spam which flooded in to an account inactive for son long).

Gmail let me know when the Yahoo transfer was complete. There was a note at the top of my Gmail account, highlighted in yellow. Everything imported over was labelled with the Yahoo email address. That made it easy to find. At first I thought all I had was the spam. There were 6,000+ imported emails. I had cleaned the account and left about 300 emails to be imported over. I had to dig and scroll to find the email I wanted to keep. Luckily, Gmail lets you select unread emails. I used that feature to select and delete the junk. This left the older emails alone.

So, you can save old email from Yahoo Mail and not have to pay for it. Next I’m getting my Mother to do the same. One thing you do need to do – pull all your emails into the InBox and out of all folders. Anything in folders will not be imported (according to the directions in the post on WikiHow).

Note: Not everything was exactly as WikiHow reported it. Maybe the procedure was updated since that article was posted. It was actually simpler and if you follow along with the instructions in the pop-up window from Gmail you will do fine.

Declaring Email Bankruptcy!

On Dec. 31, I had 46,315 unread emails in my inbox. On my first day back to work in the new year, I had zero.

No, I didn’t spend two weeks replying to all those messages. I deleted them — without reading a single one — and declared what is known as email bankruptcy.

Am I a bad guy for ignoring those emails? Or are the senders somehow at fault? Probably a bit of both.

via Disruptions: Looking for Relief From a Flood of Email – NYTimes.com.

I didn’t delete every email in my inbox but I have stopped reading email each day. It is overwhelming in volume and uselessness. The few email from family and friends are drowned out in an ocean of newsletters, sales pitches and so on. Even the newsletters are thin disguises for sales pitches, marketing schemes. None of it is worth my time. It just frustrates me.

I have my phone number on the Do Not Call List. That cut down on the phone calls I get for services I never asked for or about. But, I still get the odd call, roughly three a week. There is no system in place, no Do Not Email List, for email.

Declaring email bankruptcy sounds like a good idea to me. But, I’d take it farther and delete the whole account, or at least empty all the past, present and begin to bounce all the future email sent to that account. If you set up filters on your email account which allowed only email from specific email addresses – how much quieter would your email be and how much time would you save in wading through junk mail?

The main reason I don’t want to delete my account is the address I have with Gmail. I don’t want to lose that. So, I can either set up filters to delete all email (but for family and friends) or begin using a different email account (a new address) which I only give to family and friends, the people I do want to hear from. Some people may set up a third account for business-only email. However, I have an ongoing case study with an email address I abandoned at Yahoo web mail over ten years ago. That account is still flooded with spam and junk email though I have not used it (other than logging into Yahoo services) for over ten years. So, an abandoned email account will remain toxic for a long time after you stop using it. Likely, the junk email will still be filling that account as long as there is still Internet access.

How do you handle junk email? Have you committed email bankruptcy once, or several times? Feels kind of good to dump it all, doesn’t it?

Modern Chain Mail

modern chain mail

Do you remember old fashioned chain mail, the promises of fame fortune and death threats to you and your family (loved ones)?

Modern chain mail has taken a new twist. Now we have to reply, friend and follow people in order to save the world or at least save the life of someone deathly ill or suicidal.

At least these are easier to ignore. It was kind of spooky not sending on those old, retro chain letters. I always did feel creepy about throwing them out… just in case something did happen.  These modern chain letters all sound just too phoney to me. How can I possibly save this boy from committing suicide just by passing this along to strangers, from strangers. So I don’t feel even a twinge of creepiness.

But… could you use a modern chain letter and come up with a really creepy story, something unique?

Write your own Christmas Newsletter

ascii art angelI admit I don’t write and send a Christmas newsletter every year. Often I have it started, get it written, find the art to put inside and then I don’t get it mailed in time. Or, I get stalled out somewhere along the way. So, the best I do is send Christmas cards and try not to feel bad about not getting the newsletter finished and mailed out in time. But, the years I did work everything out and send the Christmas newsletter (inside the standard, yet cheerful, Christmas cards) were good years and I had the feeling of a job well done and having done a good deed.

Who to Send the Newsletter To

The first people I send a newsletter to are those who are a bit isolated among family and friends. Elderly and singles can feel disconnected from friends and family at this time of year. I think it’s important to make them feel included. If you want them to come for Christmas dinner or meet for coffee over the holidays, add a personal invitation to the newsletter.

If you want a newsletter for people who don’t really have a personal connection to you (like business connections or people you know online) send an edited down version, with less personal information about you and your comings and goings.

Consider the people you are sending the newsletter to and decide how much you really want them to know. Why not boast a bit if things are going well? If you don’t go too far, stick to the facts, the people who know you should feel happy for you. Encourage people to write back about their own great moments and events so you can add them to the newsletter for next year.

Never write a pity letter. The holiday season is about good cheer. Find yours before you start to write. The only people you might want to send a whiny letter to are your parents, maybe.

How to Create the Newsletter

Creating a holiday newsletter is fun. It’s a chance to find my Christmas spirit early. I look for holiday images and think up something to write about whatever we are doing for the holidays. Sometimes I find great seasonal quotes too.

In a non-digital way, I like to make the newsletter in the retro zine publishing way: glue, clippings from magazines and I hand write at least some part of them. It’s too much to write them all by hand, but you can stash in a few sentences or at least hand write the salutations for each one.

Add a recent photo of yourself and family. Take a photo in the middle of summer with everyone wearing antlers if you plan ahead that far. Pick something you do, like a sport or a hobby and make that the focus of the photo. There’s no reason the photo(s) need to be seasonal or holiday photos. Make a cake and decorate it for Christmas, get everyone’s face around the cake and use that as a holiday photo. Take pictures of your family (or yourself) making paper snowflakes, snow angels outside or pulling the Christmas decorations out of storage. You don’t need “deer in the headlights” posed photos.

How to Write the Newsletter

If you tend to babble once you put pen to paper (fingers to keyboard) read it over the next day, or the next week. Decide if you really want to tell EVERYONE that much about yourself, your plans and what you’ve been doing. Consider the person you least wnat to communicate with… do you really want them to have all that information?

If you can’t think of anything to say, recruit help. As your direct family (husband, kids, parents, siblings) what they have planned for Christmas and include that. Or, interview yourself. Write out a set of impersonal sort of questions and then answer them. Or, include more photos and less text, if you really can’t write about yourself. Add captions or some explanation to go with the photos. Let people know what they are seeing.

Three paragraphs of text should be plenty. Stick to one side of a full sheet of paper, add images and illustrations. If you have kids they can decorate the back of the newsletter with their own drawings. But a newsletter doesn’t need to be continued on the next page, one page with about 200 words is just fine. You may add personal notes to individuals if you have the time and interest. Just make sure you get those sent in the right envelopes.

How to Mail the Newsletter

Sending the newsletter via email is the fact that it’s impersonal and defeats the purpose of connecting with people and making them feel valued and important. There is a very different feeling to having a real newsletter made with pictures glued to it, hand written (versus typed) and opening an email file to see what someone made with their computer. It lacks the personal touch. Email never has been great when it comes to sharing emotion, feeling and atmosphere.

Weight and packaging. If you plan to mail it out you can’t create a newsletter which won’t easily slip into the envelope or cost too much to mail out. Think light if you want to add extras. Also, don’t add anything which could poke a hole through the envelope. Light and flat.

Do You Have an Online Shopping Addiction?

Buyer Beware

I love online shopping. If I had the money I’d be sending myself little gifts every day. No wonder people are addicted to it. It’s like buying yourself a present. But when it actually arrives it feels like someone sent you a present. The odd time I have bought something online the best part was looking forward to the day it actually arrives, then unpacking it and seeing what extras they sent along with my purchase. (Usually nothing more than a free sample of something, a coupon for more spending, brochures or other sales related stuff).

They say it’s retail therapy when you go shopping to make yourself feel better. It’s almost cute if that’s all it is. However, when the credit cards are filling up and you have to choose which bills to pay and plan how you will have enough for groceries but still you’re out there buying more stuff for retail therapy… something is broken. It’s not cute when it becomes an addiction and it doesn’t really make you feel better. Also, with a shopping addiction there is the problem of what to do with all that stuff, where does it all go inside the available living space?

My best advice to anyone who is getting too involved with online shopping is to go ahead and shop, but stop at actually purchasing anything. Become an online window shopper instead. All the fun of looking for the bargain, or the right thing but none of the financial burden. You don’t even have to worry about sizes, colours or whether shipping is an extra charge.

I also love to spend time shopping for freeware, open source or gadgets like addons for my web browser, plugins for my WordPress blog, etc. I do stick to things I will actually use and anything I don’t care for I delete right away rather than having it hanging around.

These are all free shopping, no download required if you just look for the latest interesting thing and don’t choose any of them. But, even if you end up downloading and installing a mass of freebie stuff – it’s pretty easy to delete it all later. One thing to be careful about – don’t download from risky sites which might be free but come with extras you don’t want. Do some research and find the best sites to shop, just as you would for any other online shopping.

Signs of Online Shopping Addiction

Jobs, families and friends are neglected.

Financially they are over extended, credit cards are loaded and they may be borrowing money from family and friends to pay for ordinary things.

They plan their day around waiting for the mail to be delivered.

Even if you get them away from it they can’t get shopping off their mind.

Feeling lost or out of control when credit cards are unavailable for use.

They have a lot of stuff they don’t need and don’t really have a place for.

They have clothes, cosmetics, books, etc. never used and yet they are still shopping and buying more.

They lie and make excuses for the things they buy.

Feeling happy and good while shopping, then let down and upset after the shopping high wears off.

Repetitively doing the same things far more than necessary. Checking prices, comparing prices on items you just looked at the day (or hour) before and expecting or feeling let down when nothing has changed.

Help for Online Shopping Addiction

Consider what triggers the shopping: boredom, anger, disappointment, fear, nervousness, or habit.

Begin setting limits on how much you will spend. Stick to your limits.

Remove your financial information from all the shopping sites. That way, you at least have to take the time to input the information all over again and this will give you time to reconsider making the purchase.

Have a list of things you could do instead of giving into the temptation to shop online.

Set limits on your time spent online. Put the Internet on holiday service to give yourself time to recover and become less dependent on it.

Keep a journal of your online habits, let yourself see how much time and money you are actually spending on this.

Get a shopping buddy so you can both work on getting your habit/ addiction in better control. Be accountable to each other and keep in touch daily.

Try to take a digital sabbatical, see how long you can last without going online and find other things to do with your time instead.

Become an online window shopping instead. Don’t buy anything, just enjoy the shopping part.

Have a goal in mind, a reason for cutting your online shopping. What is the most important reason for you to kick the habit or get your shopping under control? What is the benefit which you are most looking forward to?

Getting Compulsive Online Shopping Under Control