For someone who a) loves reading, b) is curious about everything and c) will tackle anything in the course of completing a web project, there is a plethora of email newsletters clamouring to bring interesting articles, news items and blog posts to my attention.
Too much of a plethora (if that’s grammatically possible).
With so many websites now gathering and publishing “news” about IT, tech and the web industry it is simply too time-consuming to follow all the possible sources of what could be key (or even just very interesting) information.
Whereas previously, I did try to browse everything and selectively focus on what seemed most important – typically via digest-type email newsletters and RSS readers – I have now gone the other way, and subscribe to just five email newsletters.
After a couple of months, I believe I have greatly improved the rate at which I keep up with industry developments in general, increased the attention I can give to the stories that are of the greatest interest to me and decreased the time I regret wasting on drivel.
What I do is effectively use these five email newsletters as my filter. I don’t need to follow BuzzFeed, The Next Web or ReadWrite for the occasional scrap of meaningful news they offer (meaningful to me, I hasten to add), because I know that one or more of the newsletters I subscribe to are 90% sure to cover it, without me having to wade through less relevant material.
That also goes for news outlets that get so technical that they lose me, who focus only on their own services and products or who charge ridiculous fees. If any of those carry info I need, I’m confident it will come up in one of my five.
In effect, what I’m saying is that these five are the best curators of current and emerging information about what’s new in web design, development, content and philosophy. Here they are, in no particular order.
Links for Light Reading
Their description: The Web Standards Group is for web professionals who are interested in web standards and best practices. The WSG newsletter provides a weekly recap of updates from the W3C, latest web links and resources, upcoming web events around the world, and new web-related jobs from around the world.
My description: I didn’t realise how much I missed this when Russ took a break from it. Apart from being one of the true CSS geniuses of the world, Russ has a keen eye for what is relevant in web industry developments. Thank God he came back.
Editor: The SitePoint Team
Frequency: Daily (Mon-Fri)
Their description: As a modern web developer you’re expected to stay bleeding-edge while somehow finding time to, you know, develop things. Versioning is a daily email packed with the latest web development news, so you can get on with your day confident you’re not being left behind. We skip the filler and bring you the good stuff, in a handy digest form.
My description: I worked at SitePoint for a few years and have been an ardent fan for many more. I wish I’d developed this when I was Managing Editor. When SitePoint created a series of separate websites to focus on specific aspects of web tech – each with a newsletter, then folded them all back into the main site – still each with a newsletter, it was great for single-topic subscribers but generalists would have to subscribe to six or seven newsletters. Versioning addresses this perfectly.
Web Directions Newsletter – The Weekend Edition
Editor: Maxine Sherrin
Publisher: Web Directions
Frequency: Weekly (Fri)
Their description: Every Friday morning we round up the best reading and watching about design, development and the big picture we’ve seen this week and send it to you in time for the weekend.
My description: Web Directions has been my go-to web conference since it started. Who better to round up the quirky, the influential, the controversial and the thought-provoking? My only concern is that with Maxine retiring from Web Directions, who will edit this?
Editor: Vitaly Friedman
Publisher: Smashing Magazine
Frequency: Three or four times a month
Their description: We love useful stuff, and we love quality writing, that’s why we send out an editorial email newsletter three times a month with useful tips, tricks and resources for designers and developers — thoroughly collected, written and edited by us exclusively for our readers.
My description: Industry news, events, jobs, skills development. The European base means this often carries info I might not find in the other outlets. Has a strong, likeable community feel.
Web Dev Reading List
Their description: This Newsletter shares the latest articles in web development. It is a filtered and handcrafted list of links by Anselm Hannemann. Usually a new episode comes every week.
My description: Gold. This is the one least likely to carry something that is in the broader industry news outlets, and most likely to carry nuggets that you wouldn’t find elsewhere (unless you had Anselm’s contacts, I guess). It’s the only one that doesn’t have a barrow of its own to push (not there’s anything wrong with that), and maybe that helps to give it a less partisan or parochial air.
I will add two important points.
First, I do not get ALL my web industry news from these five newsletters. I do still follow links to news type information from Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn and Google + (especially). I also follow various bloggers and writers directly or via social media. This is important because it represents what I think remains a critical truth: if you rely ONLY on curated content, you will miss significant new information. As soon as curation involves selecting content – which it does and it must – there will be stuff cut that would have been useful to you. To counter this, I use social media. You may prefer a different method, perhaps one with less noise.
Second, and last, there is one other means I have to keep in touch with what matters in my industry. This can get technical and webby but it’s really more about following the writings of people who care about the web, who think about the web and who share ideas about the web. If my five newsletters are about me keeping up with web industry news, medium.com is about me keeping up with the discussion of ideas. I’m a relative newcomer, but it is to me a delight whose contributors challenge me and excite me. Highly recommended.