Monday, 3 April 2017

Normal Service Has Resumed, I Think...

Last Monday I kissed and made up with Mail Chimp, who until 11am that day, had been causing me all kinds of weekly havoc for a month or so. But as Maria Von Trapp implored, let’s start at the very beginning.

A few months ago, once I had got into the weekly routine of blogging, I decided I wanted to include a ‘Subscribe Here’ button. I was promoting my posts via Facebook and Twitter every week, aware that people would only know there was new content if I happened to pop up on their timeline at the time they were looking. I wanted people to have an alert in their inbox, with a link to the new post so that they could come back to it whenever they had time.

First of all, I did what I have come well-used to doing - I searched Google for ‘How do I add a subscribe button to Blogger’. (The ‘How do I…to Blogger?’ has become a personal mantra.) I found an easy to follow guide on someone's website from a few years ago that gave me everything I needed to know. This involved setting up a Feedburner account to deal with sending emails after people have subscribed, and then adding a piece of code to the blog that appeared as a ‘Subscribe Here’ box on the top of the page. All relatively simple. I did what I was told, and then asked people to subscribe, as well as doing so myself so I could see if it all worked.

The first problem was getting people to actually do it. There is no real urgency in getting weekly emails when you can see it on your Facebook at the same time. Also, people are spammed with crap all the day is long. Another inconvenient ping coming from your inbox is not something you rush to sign up for. Still, I got some takers, a few people that weren’t known to me too. It all boded well as something to build on.

The first week, I (and other subscribers, I presume) got an email in the chosen timeframe of Monday 11am-1pm. It all looked as it should – a teaser paragraph from the blog, with a ‘read more’ link to take you out of your email, to the blog post itself. It worked, and I was all happy with the glow of technological achievement.

The weeks that followed were a bit more hit and miss. Sometimes my weekly email was sent to my junk box. When this happened to me, it didn’t necessarily happen to other subscribers. This also meant, when I did receive it correctly, it might not have made it to anyone else. And then a couple of weeks in a row, I got nothing at all.

As I really wanted to nag everyone to subscribe, I couldn’t really start to do that until I got it sorted. I did a bit more online research to see what cleverer people than me would suggest.

So yeah. Apparently Feedburner wasn’t really the best option according to the overwhelming consensus on the Internet. It is owned by Google, but they’ve let it fester since 2012, with no updates or TLC since then. Most people seem to have moved on and gone with other providers. I did more research. A popular site seemed to be Mail Chimp. It looked good, and had a lot of positive reviews, so I gave it a go.

Once again, my piss-poor grasp of basic technology caused me a load of hassle. I just didn’t understand a lot of the words. Or the concepts. Or anything really. I struggled to follow Mail Chimp’s instructions regarding the creation of an email to send out to subscribers each week. I searched for something clearer and found yet another bunch of bloggers who had been there before me, and were able to explain things without the jargon. I had only just got to grips with the term ‘code’, but suddenly I was having to choose the correct ‘merge tag’ to include, to make my email link do what I wanted. I didn’t know what a merge tag was, but I suspected it was a made up thing, designed to make me feel thick.

Sidebar: I am so impressed by Techy People. To me, the stuff I was having to copy and paste into the email template looked like this...

Sdlkfnadfogbnadfpkfvpiadofnjb;kvdm`sdopvkmaeroigjq]FPIV[ONrejapbklvs,EFRGOBFMKLDV,FGNHSJTAGOIRKSDFLV,BMNXHKAGEROWlp[fdscsdfertghdfghjgbkm dfogaepfoklmblk`, v;df,b gf;n, sbfg

Now do you see what I did there? I just bashed my fingers on the keyboard in a random fashion. I know. I’m very funny. But when Techy People do that, they create code that can make a link take you from an email to a blog, and have that email be named after the blog title that changes every week. It is LITERALLY magic.

Anyway, to cut a long story short, I did what I thought was needed to do just that - send a weekly email to subscribers that included a ‘read more’ link to take you to my latest blog. The trouble was, because I was piecing together bits of code that made no sense at any point, it was only when it didn’t work each week that I was able to see it didn’t work. Yeah. I know. Annoying.

First of all it sent it out on the wrong day. Then on the right day it sent out the previous week’s blog instead of the new one. Then the week later it sent out a ‘read more’ link that took you to the same email but in a new window. And every time Monday morning came around and it didn’t work again, I’d swear a lot and then have to go back to Mail Chimp and work out what I had got wrong. (I’d also be fending off sarky WhatsApps from my sister congratulating me that I’d nailed my subscription link.)

But now for some closure. It is finally OK. Last Monday, at 11am, I got my Mail Chimp email through. (I’d been waiting all morning to see if last week’s tinkering had been in the right direction.) I opened it, clicked the ‘read more’ link and FINALLY I was taken to the latest blog post. It was a day I never thought I’d witness.

I spent the rest of the day walking around like I was Mark Zuckerburg (insert more appropriate computer-related name there if you prefer.)

At some point soon, I’m going to have to stop boring everyone with the minutiae of my computer stresses. But for now, let’s just relax in the knowledge that this week, the people on my subscription list received the correct email with the correct link at the correct time. If anyone else wants a Monday morning edge-of-their-seat experience, subscribe in the box above and see if we can manage it two weeks in a row.

No, I mean it. Subscribe in the box above. I didn't go through weeks of stress and comfort eating for nothing. The cheese I have eaten! The wine I have guzzled! Get it done. It can ONLY improve your life.

Have a lovely week, folks. I will be giddy from the joy of publication day (Friday 7th April) next time I ramble on. Brace yourselves.

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