In late 2016, I set a goal to start and run a successful weekly newsletter. I decided that DevOps would be the topic. On December 11, 2016, DevOps’ish was born. After fifty-two weeks of uninterrupted DevOps newsletters, I have some things to share about the experience.
The amount of effort writing a weekly newsletter for the past year has changed over time. As you write a newsletter the format evolves. As you get busier and busier the format self optimizes. I’ve done one thing to make the time required to write the newsletter by hand more manageable; write DevOps’ish on Saturday night. If a family or sporting event is going to prevent me from writing the newsletter on Saturday around 8:30, I do it Friday. The consistency is key; you set the tone for yourself, those around you, and your readers.
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The process for writing the newsletter is simplistic enough. Throughout the week I gather links that I read and share through my DIY Buffer. I then use Pocket and a cursory look at Twitter analytics to figure out what to put in the newsletter. In the beginning, the format of DevOps’ish was very sarcastic in nature. The established categories became a bear to manage though. As much as I loved, “Department of Dafuq”, “Department of Happy Little Clouds”, and “Department of Next Year’s Old Tech” it was too much to manage. The categorizations changed to match the People, Process, and Tools concept I formed in my DevOps 101 talk for Open Source South Carolina. This categorization change drastically simplified newsletter writing.
The next optimization I made was to stop writing commentary on every single link I share. Instead doing, at a minimum, a weekly monologue at the beginning of the newsletter became the norm. This made it very easy to broadcast my thoughts in a concise manner then assemble links and pithy comments. The newsletter went from four hours of work to two hours at the absolute most with now welcomed distractions of life.
There is a constant hurdle when running a newsletter though; marketing. No matter what, you want to see what you’re building grow. There is no silver projectile for this. A brief foray with paid ads on Twitter, Facebook, and Google proved this to be the case. Writing good content is still the key to any successful project.
The next most important thing is to have good relationships with people. I can’t thank fellow newsletter writers out there that I’ve traded sponsorships with to get our names out there. Sponsors are key to marketing as well. Every DevOps’ish sticker ever printed is thanks to a sponsor. Special thanks to ThoughtWorks, the easiest to work with advertiser ever. The Changelog’s Ping was a big boon to subscribers too. Thank you to Changelog for supporting my venture in its infancy.
In short, running a newsletter is not something you nonchalantly waltz into. I might have thought that in the beginning. But, the second people started to notice DevOps’ish, it became more than thing I threw together on a Saturday night. I felt I owed it to the readers to put thought into the newsletter. With 578 subscribers as of 12/1/2017, a Q1 2018 sponsor already signed, and almost 10,000 unique visitors to devopsish.com over the past year I am calling this a success. Subscribe today to see what happens in 2018.