HNT: Get your newsletters read

This is How Not To get your email newsletters read.

Whenever sending a newsletter via email, remember that it is very likely that the recipients are overwhelmed with masses of spam. This means that most will have some sort of filtering in place to reduce the amount of junk they have to wade through to get the communications they want. It is also a pretty good bet that your potential customers have little or no incentive to trawl through the trash to find your message.

With that in mind, here are some wonderful tips on how not to have your newsletters read:

  • Send your newsletter from a different email address each time and, as much as possible, be sure that address does not obviously correspond to your corporate identity. (Servers with multiple hosts and subhosts, all with cryptic two-character names, is best.)
  • Change the format of the subject line for each issue.
  • Never publish your newsletter on a regular schedule.
  • Always remind recipients to whitelist your newsletter based on a name that includes a special character (such as the trademark symbol, â„¢) that is not included in all fonts or any standard keyboard.
  • Make sure that your newsletter is only available in HTML format; do not offer an option for plain text.
  • Further to the above, be sure that the layout formatting depends heavily on many small graphic files that have to be downloaded separately from your server. This assures that your content will be completely indecipherable in many circumstances (e.g., plain text, basic firewalls, or server issues).

Using techniques such as these, some companies (such as Intel), have managed to assure that their marketing messages successfully avoid my positive filtering and reliably end up in my junk folder. Of course, newsletters are only part of an email campaign, so after successfully fouling up the above, one could also (as Hewlett-Packard has done) employ the following advanced techniques for destroying good will:

  • Add a corporate customer to a newsletter list targeted at (computer illiterate) home users, based on the need to get a replacement part for a different type of product.
  • Implement ‘user profiles’ for newsletter configuration and email all subscribers (and the forcibly subscribed) separately to notify each one of this important development.
  • Finally (and here is where the art really comes into it), track profile modifications and assume that the failure of one to make changes is an indication of ignorance, so email a reminder about user profiles. Greet a continued lack of response with increasingly frequent reminders.

One has to wonder how some of these companies managed to get as large as they did with such marketing ineptitude. Consistency and useful information would make these newsletters so much less challenging.

The Answer is 51!

This is definitely a Frequently Asked Question.

In the Goodsol Solitaire Forum, there is a question that keeps coming up; in fact, some people ask it in the very same forum thread in which I have already answered it comprehensively. Instead of repeating myself, I am posting it here for ease of linking and because some readers may find it interesting. (I have always enjoyed this kind of mental exercise, even if I have had less time for it recently.)

The question is:

What is the fewer number of moves to win a game of Spider Solitaire?

Here is the answer:


The explanation (from the forum):

The lowest move count would be fewer than 101 moves, and one could probably construct a deal which demonstrates this. The chances of actually winning a game of Spider in Pretty Good Solitaire in fewer moves is almost impossibly low, however.

The base calculation is actually fairly simple: Normally, each card lower than a king, of which there are 96, needs to be moved at least once, and there are five extra moves needed to get all of the cards from the stock. This gives a total of 101 moves.

However, each of the moves from the stock could produce a sequence in one or more columns, so the above number could be reduced by as many as 10 moves each, if the cards line up perfectly. That would give a theoretical lowest limit of 51 moves, and it could be a challenge to create a deal by hand that would work (although I believe that it is definitely possible).

Now, the practical proof (a forum followup):

Anyway, as an intellectual challenge, I actually constructed (stacked) a deck for Spider that produces a game that can be solved in only 51 moves. Not only that, but every move is obvious and no legal move is left unmade. (In other words, it plays perfectly naturally.)

Without further ado…

Starting at the top of the deck (comprised of 2 packs, 104 cards):

KS KH 9H 5H KD 9D 5D KC 9C 5C
KC JC 8C 4D 5C QS 2D 9S 6S 3C
KD QD TD 9D 8D 7D 6D 9S 8S 7S
JD QH 9H 6H 3H KS QS 6S 5S 4S
JH 8H 5H 2H

5D TC 7C 3D 4C JS AD 8S 5S 2C
QC 9C 6C 4H AC TS 4D 7S 4S 4C
3S QH 8H 3H QD 8D 3D QC 8C 3C
2S JH 7H 2H JC 7D 2D JC 7C 2C

If one starts with this deck, the game can and will be solved in only 51 moves.


2007 NCAA Men's Hockey Champions!

The Spartans won it all this year.

Michigan State University beat the Eagles of Boston College this evening to win the NCAA Men’s Hockey Championship. The Spartans played a very exciting game to come from behind and win. There were no goals in the first period, only the third time in history for a 0-0 score at the first intermission in a championship game. BC took a 1-0 lead over MSU in the second period, which held through the second intermission. Again, this was just the third time for a championship game to have only a single goal by the second break. The teams were very evenly matched, even if the ESPN commentators refused to acknowledge it.

In the middle of the third period, MSU won a face off in the neutral zone and their top scorer, Tim Kennedy, simply drove straight in and scored with a beautiful shot to the side of the net to tie the game at 1. At that time, I predicted a 3-1 win for Michigan State, with the final goal scored on an empty net. The pace of the game picked up and, amazingly, with 18.9 seconds left, Justin Abdelkader put in the game winner (off a beautiful assist from Kennedy). Boston College came out with an empty net and after a few tense seconds, the puck was cleared to Spartan Chris Mueller who put in an insurance goal with 1.2 seconds on the clock. The celebration started and the Eagle’s coach, in a classy act, had the officials run the remaining time off and sound the final horn.

Final score: Michigan State 3, Boston College 1.

We saw a few familiar faces on TV celebrating in the crowd in St. Louis, including a close/direct shot of a friend. The best part of the post-game festivities, though, was the interview with the MSU goalkeeper, Jeff Lerg, who said he knew they could win it, “if I made every save I was supposed to make, plus added two or three more big ones.” The biggest disappointment was that MSU won its 3rd National Championship in Hockey, 21 years after the previous one (1986), on a weekend when most students were home for Easter, so downtown East Lansing had no fan gathering. (The snow and 24 degree temperature did not help.)

I will always remember the date of this victory for MSU, as it comes on my son’s 18th birthday. Happy Birthday, James!

NCAA Frozen Four Semifinals

What a game!

I took a short-ish break from development this afternoon to watch the first semifinal game of the NCAA Frozen Four (Div I), the National Championship in men’s college hockey. As much as I like watching college hockey, I only made time because the Michigan State University Spartans were in this game against the Black Bears of Maine.

Unfortunately, Maine scored only 27 seconds into the game, and then they scored again less than 3 minutes later to take a 2-0 lead in the fourth minute. Fortunately, MSU shut them out for the remaining 56 minutes (and 36 seconds) while scoring 4 goals of its own. It was an excellent and exciting game for the duration and, thanks to TiVo, I was able to watch it in less than real time, omitting the inane chatter and repetition during the two intermissions. Final score: Michigan State 4, Maine 2.

It looks like now I will have to take another break from the crunch on Saturday at 7:00pm (ESPN) for the NCAA National Championship game for Men’s Ice Hockey. One team will be Michigan State, and the other will be either North Dakota or Boston College, depending on the second semifinal (to start within the hour); either way, I know who I will be cheering for.