Media no longer matter. The production and consumption of information isn’t tied to a particular medium. We don’t write for the newspaper and read from the newspaper. We produce information in text and images and sounds and videos and sms messages which can then be consumed on blogs and e-mail and newspapers and letters and television. Consumers (who are also increasingly producers) pick their channel of choice (which itself may vary moment to moment).

I touched in passing yesterday on the recent discussion about the death of the newspaper. Much of the discussion on this has treated the newspaper’s death as a given and even the dissenters from that opinion have treated the paper part as dying.

I argue that the reverse of this latter view. The news as we have known it will die, but paper will be alive and well. Paper is just one format. Formats are channels for moving information. Those who like the feel of a paper in the morning can continue to receive that.

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There is as much good to be done (and profit to be made) from refining and making older technologies accessible as there is in relentlessly trying to eliminate those technologies. In our drive to build the new thing, we ignore those who still have need of older systems (or just prefer them). Too often, the future we build for is one in which the world is populated solely by silicon valley startups and their VC overlords (Eloi and Morlock (I’ll let you pick which is which)). All users are not equal. Their needs vary. When new technology is used to beat people “out of the past” rather than creating tools to improve their lives, we all lose.

In the tech world, we’re always thinking forward. The next trend, the new format, the “coming thing”. Sometimes we need to stop and think backwards. Making “dead technologies” elegant is sometimes just as important as developing new ones.

E-mail, blogs, sms (and maybe twitter) have replaced the letter for many applications, but not everything. The common response when looking at the 200 billion letters sent every year (in the US alone) is to try improve the new technologies to handle those cases rather than improve the process for those sending the letters.

The assumption here is that the older technology (written mail) is dead and it’s just a matter of figuring out how to push it all the way into the grave. While this is true in some cases (no consumer revival of telegraph services is likely and maybe newspapers are gone too), I argue that it’s incorrect in just as many (and, as Postful demonstrates, I think mail is one of those cases).

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I’ve gone ahead and switched my development system over to Ubuntu 7.04 beta. I’d been having a few stability issues with 6.10 so I thought it couldn’t be worse. After a day of use, I’m glad I did. There are still some glitches (the built-in system for adding proprietary video drivers messed up my xorg.conf). But even though it doesn’t completely handle everything yet, it’s still a big step up from 6.10.

If you’re a rails developer, I can say that the full rails stack is working fine. Plus, for those of you using RadRails (thanks to Aptana for picking that up), the new restricted-packages installer makes switching to Sun’s JRE a snap.

Happy Accidents

March 22, 2007

We had our first two users signup today! Now, don’t start rushing in yet, this doesn’t mean we’ve launched. I’d just temporarily left our signup page publicly accessible and they got there at the right time.

What’s fantastic is that we’ve already received great feedback and suggestions from the two of them. It leaves me eager to let everyone else in and find out the uses that Postful is going to be put to. But, I suppose patience is a virtue…

So, for now, I’ll leave it with a hearty welcome to users one and two (not their real names). It’s great to have you on board (and thanks for all the help you’ve already provided).

Over the next few weeks, we’ll be highlighting some of the uses of Postful. Today, we start with small/medium sized business.

If you work in or run a small or medium sized business, you’ve probably felt the frustration of dealing with the occasional need to send a letter. Keeping materials stocked is expensive (letterhead, stamps, envelopes) and taking the time to produce, stamp, and mail a letter feels like a waste. Nonetheless, there are times when you have to mail something. Postful is here to make sending a letter as easy as sending an e-mail. Effectively, we put a corporate mail room in your e-mail client.

We give you the option to:

  • Create an e-mail address associated with a physical address. Every e-mail sent to that address is printed and mailed to the associated physical address. This is great for frequent contacts.
  • Send a letter to quickletter at postful.com with the name and address of the recipient in the subject line. We parse the address and send the letter on. This is perfect for one-off letters.

With Postful, you can:

  • Produce and mail a letter from anywhere. On a business trip? Working remotely? Need to send a quick letter? It’s easier than you could do it at present in your own office (and really you should be using Postful in your own office as well!).
  • Easily keep records of sent letters as easily as you keep and track sent e-mails.
  • Quickly send hard copies of documents to any location, from any location.
  • Eliminate the expense and inconvenience of stocking letterhead. Each letter can be printed on your own letterhead.

Mail isn’t the primary communications tool for business anymore, but it remains an important one for key tasks. However, the very rarity of those situations has increased the expense of mailings. Before Postful, any business too small to have it’s own mailing department was left to absorb those increased unit costs and unnecessary inconveniences. We’re happy to provide a solution for the rest of us.

We recently switched our deployment from dedicated RHEL Linux servers to Joyent TextDrive Accelerators. In the interest of helping others faced with similar deployment choices, I thought it might be useful to put up a review. For the short attention span crowd: if you are looking to deploy a Ruby on Rails application, go check Joyent out right now. Their deployment environment and support service for Rails apps are the best currently available. For those of you interested in details, read on (then go check them out).

(For the previously mentioned short-attention span crowd, here’s probably the key point from the rest of this: It’s common to make compromises in your initial deployment architecture due to limited resources. Joyent makes it inexpensive and easy to do things right from the start.)

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Global pals

March 20, 2007

Postful’s list of global visitors continues to grow. We’d like to take this opportunity to welcome new friends from Honorio Bicalho, Berlin, and Yokohama. We’ve now hit the point where we will be playing continent Bingo to see which continent can get visitors from every country first. Have some pride in your landmass and tell your friends in neighboring lands to check us out now!

We’re always curious to hear more from visitors, so be sure to drop us a note at feedback at postful-inc dot com!