/ Email

How to Replace Twitter with Email as News Source - Non-technical reasons and technical implementation

How do you follow the blogs and news sites that interest you? Twitter, Facebook, Feedly or any other newsreader? I used to do that too, but now I only use email. Email? That’s right, my mailbox is my newsreader.

Although I’m offering an app on Google Play that does the exact job of displaying news, I’m now mainly using my email inbox and Telegram to keep up to date with the latest news and topics I’m interested in. And why? Here are a few reasons:

Less Social Media

In the past, my main sources of news were mainly social networks. Twitter, Facebook. But it was not possible to use them only for searching for news, you were forced to see what the “friends” are doing. Furthermore, the goal of these products (Twitter, Facebook) is to spend as much time as possible there, that they can show even more advertising and thus earn more money through YOU. They are by no means concerned about the quality of the content you are presented with.

I also just deleted my Facebook profile.

Only my interests

By receiving the latest news by email, I get only the news from the pages I actually subscribed to and not other recommendations with the note “This could be of interest to you”. I am interested in current world events, news from the world of technology or how politics is in Germany at the moment, but I’m not interested in which celebrity has attracted attention again.

Less distraction

And exactly these recommendations, or at Facebook and Co. the other things that are still shown to you (activities of girlfriend etc.) lead to the fact that you are distracted very quickly without really noticing it, and suddenly you are occupied with things that you didn’t really plan to do. For example, googling for topics displayed in one of the recommendations.

Furthermore, the distraction will cost you so much time that it could actually be used for more meaningful activities. After all, what’s the point of knowing that Celebrity X has undergone a plastic surgery again? Wouldn’t it have been better in the time it took to read these tabloid articles to get the garbage out or finish the article you started writing?

Clearer thoughts

By reducing the distraction, it is better able to focus on the important things in life, get things done and generally protect the brain from the garbage of the tabloids. I can use my thoughts to find solutions to problems, find ideas for future articles on my blog or learn a new programming language.

Technical implementation

Now to the (perhaps more exciting for Hackernoon readers) part of the technical implementation. I realized this by using IFTTT and my mail provider FastMail.

IFTTT

If you don’t know IFTTT (abbreviation for If This Then That), it is a free service to automate all sorts of tasks, be it an automatic tweeting of the latest Facebook post or just sending an email with a new entry in an RSS feed.

I could have used Zapier (another comparable service) because it offers to use several RSS feeds as a “trigger”, but the limit for execution in the free plan is very low and would not be sufficient for my requirements.

To create the applets (which I have to do individually for each feed because I can only use one RSS feed as trigger) I proceed as follows:

I go to https://ifttt.com/create to create a new applet.

There I click on “this” and select “RSS feed” as service and “New feed item” as trigger. Next, the URL to the feed must be entered.

When this is complete, I click on “that”, select “Email” as the service and “Send me an email” as the trigger. There you can now specify the subject and body of the emails to be sent.

As a subject, I always enter the following:

{{FeedTitle}}: {{EntryTitle}}

This way, the subject of the emails always consists of the name of the feed (i. e. the name of the news page) and the title of the feed entry (i. e. the title of the article).

As body for the email action I always choose the following:

New feed item in {{FeedTitle}}<br><br><b>{{EntryTitle}}</b><br>
{{EntryContent}}<br><br>
{{EntryPublished}}<br><a href="{{EntryUrl}}">Link</a>

This will show me the content of the feed entry (usually a small part of the article), as well as the date and a link. The “New feed item in…” is actually unnecessary and could be omitted, but it is useful for sorting in the mailbox later on.

After filling everything, you can save the applet.

Little update after one day:

Instead of the email service, I’m now using the Gmail service in spite of my dislike of Google, because suddenly I just didn’t receive any more emails and I couldn’t figure out what it was all about. With Gmail and the same settings for email subject and body, everything is working again and I get all the news directly in my inbox on time.

Fastmail

FastMail is my email provider of choice, but the following can be done in a similar way with almost any other provider. I use FastMail because, unlike Google with Gmail, the service does not live through my data (and advertisements based on it), but the monthly fee I pay.

In Fastmail I have my own domains and a catch-all address, so I receive all emails that are sent to this domain. This also gives me the possibility to use a separate e-mail address for each service, on the one hand for security reasons and on the other hand for better sortability and spam prevention. So I have also set a separate address for the email service at IFTTT.

So that the news emails don’t end up in my normal inbox and distract me even more, I have created a separate folder into which all emails with news are sorted and in which old emails are automatically deleted after two days. Because honestly, who else reads news from two days ago?

The automatic deletion of old emails can be set in the folder settings of FastMail. For sorting, I use an automated rule that looks like this:

(My email address is hidden by the red bar.)(My email address is hidden by the red bar.)

By adding the “New feed item in…” to the body of the email, it is safer that only the news items are sorted into the news folder and not other emails that I send through the email service of IFTTT, as the rule only sorts emails that are sent to my specific IFTTT address.

Conclusion

Thanks to this automation, I have one less reason to go to Twitter in between to pass the time out of boredom (?). Furthermore, by selecting the feeds I can also make sure that I get less fake news, because I only select news sources that I can trust. And thirdly, I spend more time in my email inbox and so I’m more likely to answer emails that I should actually answer, so they don’t remind me every time I open my email app that I have something to do.

This article was originally posted on Medium.