Buttondown: Newsletter software for people like you and me

Buttondown logo in a blue background

Like many digital entrepreneurs, Justin Duke thought he could create a better newsletter service than TinyLetter, the one used to send news to friends and family.

In 2016, driven by the continual shortcomings of TinyLetter, which by then was already owned (and forgotten) by Mailchimp, Justin launched Buttondown.

Originally crafted for personal use, a year later Buttondown became a service available to others. This transition was prompted by requests from others who had seen screenshots and comments about the product that Justin shared on Twitter.

In an email conversation, Justin mentioned that “the dirty secret” of the industry is that all newsletter or email tools do 80% of what people expect from them—composing and sending emails, managing subscriptions, etc. The differentiation lies in that last 20%.

“For Buttondown, the 20% we care about is the small stuff”, he explained. “Buttondown doesn’t work well if you’re an e-commerce platform sending to 200,000 subscribers daily, requiring many coupons and plugins. However, we focus on ease of use and the ability to concentrate on writing or your business without fussing around with yet another tool, ideal for single authors or small teams.”

The appeal of Buttondown is readily apparent.

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My Blogging Workflow

Let’s talk about blogs!

Mine is made with Jekyll and hosted on Fastmail — yes, on Fastmail’s virtual drive; more on that in a second. I mix medium-length articles with images, quotes, and short notes/asides (which we used to know as “tweets”), which makes my blog, in fact, a tumblelog.

Post ideas are registered in a list in Apple Reminders and developed on the computer. To write, I always use the standard macOS TextEditor, in plain text mode.

After putting the front matter in the file, I save it in the posts directory of my local copy of the blog and run an alias command in the terminal that serves as a shortcut for four commands:

It sounds complex, but to be honest it’s not. (I’m not a developer or anything like that, just a random guy a little curious.)

I run the same workflow in my pt_BR blog, and both of them work like a charm!

This post was inspired by Robb Knight, Barry Hess, Robert Birming and others who shared their blog publishing workflows. See all of them on Robert’s blog.


Taming “read later” apps

When smartphones became popular, a new kind of app emerged to address the limitations of the small screen and the mobile nature of these devices that keep us in constant contact with interesting content.

“Read it later” apps, such as Instapaper and Pocket, serve as private repositories for articles we save throughout the day when we don’t have time to read them immediately.

I’ve always had one of these apps on my phone, but I’ve never been able to stop the number of unread articles from skyrocketing.

Can anyone manage it? The cycle is always the same: I download a new app or revisit an old one, start adding articles faster than I can read them, and before I know it, my reading list is in the triple digits. At that point, I declare bankruptcy and restart the cycle.

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Jack Cheng has been highly influential in my work with his “The Slow Web” manifest. He recently launched his first app, called Bebop, “an iOS app for capturing notes as text files, saved and synced to the iCloud/Dropbox directory of your choice”.

Earlier this month, I created a shortcut in the Apple app with the same functionality. (I had no idea that Jack was developing Bebop at the time!)

Despite being Jack’s first app, Bebop offers a more tailored solution than my simple shortcut and yet remains lightweight and pleasant to use.

Some advantages I noticed within minutes of using it include:

On the other hand, I like that my solution doesn’t require an additional app and automatically includes the date and time in the file name. (Bebop does offer an option to append the date and time to the end of the note/text.)

Bebop is free and offers more customization options with a one-time purchase of USD 5.

It’s worth checking out Jack’s blog, where he details the process of creating Bebop and discusses his decisions in its development.


Today I learned that iMessage automatically…

Today I learned that iMessage automatically transcribes audio messages 🤯


Reply guys

Americans have a notable talent for naming phenomena, a fact exemplified by the term “reply guys” – individuals who post disparaging comments on public posts made by women.

Recently, two women who have made significant strides in traditionally male-dominated fields — Veronica in Linux/free software and Sophie in web development – expressed frustration with the behavior of reply guys on Mastodon.

Veronica opted to temporarily deactivate her Mastodon account. Sophie, on the other hand, had a light-hearted post matching her hair color with her IDE end up on 4chan because the code snippet wasn’t accessible — not an issue in that particular context.

This isn’t a new issue. Back in 2020, Twitter rolled out filters to curb the antics of reply guys. Come November 2023, Mastodon followed suit, introducing alerts on Android for those attempting to respond to posts from non-mutual followers or ancient posts.

These measures make sense. Sophie acknowledged Mastodon’s blocking and muting functionalities in her post, though she found the implementation in her favorite app, Ice Cubes, lacking.

Maybe the biggest harm inflicted by 2010s social media platforms on public discourse was the notion that we’re obligated to opine on everything, that we can’t resist hitting “Reply” online—especially if the other party isn’t male, or if the matter doesn’t concern us, or if the error is inconsequential.

Believe it or not, it’s entirely possible to scroll past a trivial opinion or comment and move on.

One unintended consequence of these regrettable incidents is the stark reminder that there’s no utopia on the internet. While Mastodon is often seen as the antithesis of post-Elon Musk Twitter, it’s not without its flaws. Don’t get me wrong: I still believe Mastodon beats out Twitter/X and other alternatives — but only because those options were/are pretty dire.

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