This column is about TANSTAAFL, which is a term from a book by Robert A. Heinlein (one of best Science Fiction authors that ever lived) called "The Moon Is A Harsh Mistress". The term means "There Ain't No Such Thing As A Free Lunch". This concept is basis of plot of book, which is about a Lunar penal colony and it's attempt to free itself from Earth domination.
Some years ago I decided it was time to create an email newsletter. I had been doing quite a bit of research on internet promotion, and it was quite obvious that a newsletter is an essential part of any advertising campaign. I didn't know much about elists at time, so I more or less used first service that I found. That service was Listbot.
Listbot was cool. It was easy (almost trivial) to create a list (or as many lists as I wanted). In fact, I soon had finished creating my list and went on to attempt to get people to join (and that's hard part of job of any listmaster). Listbot seemed to be perfect service, and price of a small advertisement at end of each newsletter seemed very reasonable.
I kept my mailing list on Listbot for about a year until I more or less outgrew their service. Oh, it would handle my list easily (well under 500 subscribers), but I was finding user interface awkward and difficult to use. So I went off to find a different service, and after some searching and experimenting, settled on Bravenet's mailing list.
Moving list was a pain but fortunately it was fairly small so I managed to do it in a few hours. For next few months, I was happy on Bravenet's service, until I ran into 500 email address limit. At that time, Bravenet did not provide a solution for larger lists.
Thus, I had to move my list again, and this time I moved it to my own list server. Now I have none of limits forced upon my by other list services. With any luck, I will never have to move list again.
I never did delete my Listbot account, and thus received occasional mailings from them. A few weeks ago, I received an email which I found interesting. Here is first paragraph of that email.
"Dear ListBot User:We are sending this letter to inform you that effective Aug. 20, 2001, we are discontinuing central ListBot service. ListBot has become a very popular free service, and we've been pleased to offer this valuable tool to both consumers and business users. As a provider of services for small and medium-sized businesses, our main goal is continual improvement of services to meet growing needs of business users. To achieve this goal, we have launched new List Builder service, an enhanced e-mail marketing tool that will take place of ListBot."
Is there a foul smell in air?
What's problem with this? Well, I've been seeing this more and more lately and it really ticks me off. This is when an excellent service is picked up by a large company and ruined, destroyed or simply closed down. The company cannot make service fit their business model so they simply discard it without a single care that human beings are recipients of their services and products.
Almost as bad is when service is modified to fit larger company's standards and previously excellent tool or service is made more-or-less worthless. The best example of this behavior is destruction of Webring system by Yahoo! in September of 2000.
These companies have totally forgotten (or don't care) that people, real flesh-and-blood human beings with feelings, use and depend upon their services.
Listbot is an old service which has always been free (advertising supported). A few years ago Microsoft purchased service, presumably to be able to offer this kind of service to their customers. They added Listbot to offerings on their Bcentral service and promoted it all over internet.