Just Use Email
How to use Email for Everything



2021 Update on the Just Use Email website

Published on

If you're only interested in email-related posts, you can safely skip this one.

Sometime ago, I stopped using WordPress to better handle traffic with a static website.

But using a static site generator, such as Hugo or Jekyll, was not the real solution. Just Use Email is a simple plain text website that shares information via webpages.

The benefit of static html is numerous. But static site generators are generally overkill for simple websites such as this. Aside from them promoting and sometimes all-but requiring the use of Git, which is an abuse of version control, they make me write in Markdown, which is overkill. Even after cleaning it up, I didn't like that Hugo would add IDs to my head tags, not differentiate between <i> tags and <em> tags, default to 'clean URLs', and many other quirks I don't prefer. Even after working on my template and removing much unneeded code, I still had a site that was too bloated.

Returning to my roots, I write in simple HTML. I don't even use an external stylesheet. I even update the RSS feed manually which only takes about 30 seconds each time I add a post. The site is FTP'd right from within my text editor. It's almost impossible to create a faster workflow, but more importantly, it's blazing fast for you, the reader, and not dependent on any technology except open-source tools and technologies, like HTML, CSS, FTP, and Linux, just like email itself.

The simple look of the site is a bit retro, uses no external fonts, has no trackers or cookies, and each web page can be downloaded easily as a complete single unit. The tiny bit of CSS is embedded into each .html document and only consists of this tiny amount which takes almost zero rendering time:

<style>body {max-width: 650px; margin: 2em; font: 1.2em/1.5 monospace; background-color: #dcdcdc;} h1,h2,h3 {font-weight:normal;}</style>

The only thing I'm not thrilled about is the use of RSS instead of Atom for my feed. For now, RSS is slightly more simple, but when I get time later, I'll change it to an Atom feed. RSS is universal, but technically not an internet standard like Atom is. But since I'm manually coding the feed, I didn't want to leave my readers without a feed while I try to learn Atom.

Also, I stopped the full-text feed. To my readers who wrote me to say how much the appreciate the full-text feed, I'm sorry. I too like them, but there are two big reasons I decided against it.

First, if I have a full-text feed, at some point, I'll likely want to remove older posts from it as the file gets quite big. For those who don't know, a lot of my traffic is the feed itself being pulled on frequent syncs. I know I can put some directives in the feed, but I'll go through the trouble of learning more about that when I switch to Atom. I just don't want a massive file being downloaded thousands of times per day. However, alternatively, I would like all the posts to be in the feed for new readers to at least get a chance to scan through them all once they subscribe to the feed. Or at least the last 100 or so (once I get to that point).

Second, I want a better idea of what my readers find interesting. Certainly, the best way to hear from you is for you to write me here, but that only lets the squeaky wheels get the grease. Seeing more accurate traffic stats will be helpful. Still, I didn't want to only have a title-only feed, so I put the first paragraph or two into each feed item to whet your appetite and encourage you to click through to the actual article, or alternatively, give you enough of a taste to help you ignore the article if it's not of interest to you.

It's a compromise, and I don't know if I'll stick with it. I considered creating two feeds: an all-in-one summary feed, and a last ten full-text posts feed. Tell me what what you prefer. Two feeds will take only a tad more work once they are up and running, but my priority is to remove RSS and replace it with Atom first (to make the site completely open-source).

I also added the meta keywords tags in articles, just to spite Google. They unilaterally decided that keywords have no value in their ranking. But, if someone decided to mirror this whole site, they might find that metadata helpful. I know keyword stuffing abused search engines' early heavy reliance on the keyword meta tag, but that was their problem, not ours. It's valid HTML and one that helps to classify documents. It should be used. Other systems, such as archive.org, may decide later to use that metadata to help users find content they want.

Some of you may hate the new look. One workaround would be to use the print feature of your browser for a beautiful PDF. Easy to share that way. Long articles look great.

Most modern browsers, like Safari, have a "reader mode". Learn that hotkey (on  Mac it's ⇧⌘R). Adjust your reader mode settings to make web pages look how you want. Just Use Email is clean HTML and looks great in Reader Mode.