Proper Email Collections

I had the pleasure of a guest speaker at the Art Institute of Atlanta. It was Ben Chestnut, cofounder of The Rocket Science Group, and they have a product called MailChimp. MailChimp offers emailing & reporting services for email campaigns. Mr. Chestnut shared some basic concepts surrounding proper email collection, and the types of mishaps that sometimes happen. Only people who have opted into your email list may receive emails from you. Sounds basic enough, but I just didn’t realize. I didn’t even realize there was a Spam Act of 2003. Other important items I learned: do not use the words “free” or “click here”, which will be misinterpreted as spam. Do not let a business email to their client base without a proper invitation to join the email list first. Don’t purchase email lists, either, that’s just obvious spamming. A fishbowl set up for people to drop business cards into is not proper email collection. Items that DO work for email collection: prizes! Small prizes work, even if it’s just a T-shirt with the company logo on it.

Detecting Microformats

So how do you detect a microformat? Install the plugin in Firefox and it brings up a sidebar that highlights items you can click to save.  So I’m told.  The plugin only works on earlier versions, not 2.0.  Besides that, blogs about microformats tell of how they couldn’t get this or that to work. So maybe were’ not up and running yet, but microformats look like they will have a prosperous future.  The trend for people to write semantic code is driving people to write microformats now, even though it’s not mainstream. You have to use class names anyway, why not use some standard ones? Data like events, topics, geo locations can be mapped to the microformat class name, and everyone already understands these bits of information.

vCard: Evolution to Microformats

You know when you click on a contact in your email address book you get something that looks like an index card? Essentially, that’s what we call a Vcard. It’s a standard developed in the late 90’s by the IETF. It’s the first electronic business card that I can remember, and it holds information about yourself, ready for distribution. This is still around today. Simply make an entry in your address book about yourself and then export it (usually File, Export). You should be able to export it as yourname.vcf. Now, anytime you want to distribute your business card, just attach that file to your email.
Now we see this concept moving from your address book to the Internet. The same standards used for the vCard are being applied to HTML, hence the birth of hCard. The names associated with this standard have now been turned into class names for your markup. Now we have little electronic business cards as bits of XHTML sprinkled throughout our HTML code. The concept has grown to include not only names and addresses, but dates, reviews, events, etc.
Creating the hCard is easy, there’s even tools that will build the code for you: http://microformats.org/code/hcard/creator

To find out more about microformats, I recommend http://microformats.org/ as well as listening to the Podcast by Tantec Celik found here: http://microformats.org/wiki/podcasts