Newsletter for ODK

(Narendra) #1

Hi all,

I was checking email which i received from ODK as well, I think we need to publish monthly newsletter for ODK. In this we can put different article and if any one wants to share his knowledge he can share also we can take explain something in ODK and as there are few research papers as well in ODK we also can publish that in newsletter.
I am wonder if this system exists or not?


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(A N M AL IMRAN (Imran)) #2


Great idea! If the community decides to start one, I believe many of us will be happy to contribute to this process.


(Narendra) #3

I am very exciting i am just thinking if we will get 1 post from 2 users in a month we will get near by 3K posts or article and we will send only near by 10-15 post in a newsletter in a month.
So, we have a lot of article and ideas within a month. We have lot of data and then we need to convert that data into information and then ready to go.

We all will get benefit with this and even in that newsletter we can post for top user for the month so more user will get excited to contribute more in this community.


(Hélène Martin) #4

I think this is a terrific idea, thanks for bringing it up. In the pre-forum days there was some experimentation with a newsletter to help keep everyone up to date on software updates. There were a total of four monthly installments which you can see here.

We stopped doing it because it was really hard to keep up with everything else going on and the content didn't seem to be that engaging. I was also surprised to find how much time putting it together took. Proofreading, making sure links work, getting formatting right, getting feedback before publishing, etc really added up.

The blog has also been used to share various kinds of content over time but it has been less active recently for similar reasons and also because the forum has largely taken its place.

I would recommend starting by coming up with sample topics and writing a few articles as samples. These could possibly go to the Showcase which usually gets quite a bit of engagement.

Once you have some examples you could propose a way to send it out (e.g. a new forum category the editors would control), how contributions would be received, who would do the editing, etc. And then experiment!

(Michael Downey) #5

This is a pretty cool technique and one that would get the maximum readership (since so many people visit here so often) and it'd also mean one less platform to maintain. And there's a way to ensure people do get email notifications for restricted categories (for example #announcements).

One thing I've noticed that works well for newsletters and/or blogs is to make sure you release new content steadily rather than sporadically. In other words, to figure out what kind of calendar you want to use for publishing, then working on filling in those slots. This also allows you to "work ahead" in small "bursts" rather than having to constantly be writing content. Just a thought!

I probably won't have a lot of time to write content, but I'd be very happy to help think up or discuss more ideas about this with others who are interested!

(Hélène Martin) #6

YES. This is important. It's easy to underestimate how much maintenance time is required for each new tool or platform. Also, the more fragmented communication is the more likely there is to be confusion.

I'm also now remembering that @downey showed me a cool thing that the Discourse folks have been doing: user interviews. This could be a really cool format for newsletter-type of content. For example, @iamnarendrasingh could interview @A.N.M_AL-IMRAN and then @A.N.M_AL-IMRAN could interview @mathieubossaert and so on. Every time I read an introduction or a showcase piece I'm finding I'd love to know more about the people and projects using ODK!

(Michael Downey) #7

Oh yes, interviews would be awesome. The list of most active users at could be a great place to get ideas for people to chat with!

(Narendra) #8

Yes, an interview is a good idea.
One more thing which strikes in my mind is when we are uploading any article or any newsletter we must upload that on each and every platform(ODK blog, ODK forum announcement section).
I have gone through with newsletters(Behind the Repos) which are very interesting and very technical. As I gone through with a profile of persons which are on this forms those are some coders, some developers, some health workers, some Ph.D. students, some Data Collector, some ME officers, some Data Managers, some Demographers and etc. And I found newsletter very specific to Developers and coders.

I think that we must make our newsletter static which is in PDF because in those 4 newsletters those are very good in content wise however if anyone wants to read then he needs to go on different links, which can be a negative impact.

I am attaching a format of the newsletter please see this and willing to get feedback from you all @LN @A.N.M_AL-IMRAN @downey.sample_newsletter_21Nov2017_NS.docx (30.0 KB)


(A N M AL IMRAN (Imran)) #9

Great idea @LN, I am sure that will be helpful for this initiative.

(A N M AL IMRAN (Imran)) #10

Dear Narendra,

This is a good start. I believe @LN and @downey can provide some helpful suggestions.


(Michael Downey) #11

Thanks for this first draft! As is often said, sometimes the first prototype is the most difficult.

One thing that would concern me with a PDF is that it's not immediately obvious what's inside. In other words, someone must first download the PDF and open it before they even know if it's worth their time in reading. Historically, PDF's have been considered great for printing, but poor for on-screen reading. This article from usability engineer Jakob Nielsen is a bit old but it explains the reasoning. I have not heard recently if these trends have changed though, so someone may know of more recent thinking!

I am also not sure that having articles on separate URL's is a bad thing. As you said, there are many different types of audiences, and they might not all be interested to see all the articles. Having some kind of "index page" (be it here on Discourse or some separate page) allows someone to scan the titles and/or areas of interest, and then "drill down" into the article if it sounds interesting. Kind of like a "table of contents" in a book or magazine.

This is a really good start at a list of potential audience members! Are there any other types of readers that other folks can think of?

(Narendra) #12

Thanks a lot below thing I didn't know this about PDF. I read article two times. It is very interesting for me. I got new information from you @downey thanks a ton for this.

It's a good idea.
@LN @downey @yanokwa I also go through with Link and I thought 3 times and I found that we should stick with our old looking of the newsletter, so many users which read old one easily understand easily.

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(Narendra) #13

Hi all,
I am coming with a draft version of Newsletter and soon i will update rest section in this. Here is first darft Tomorrow i will complete section 2 and Section 4. @LN, Shall we remove section 3?

I am thinking When should we release ODK Newsletter and my point of view is that when we will release a new version of ODK at that time we should shoot Newsletter.
Willing forward for your valuable suggestion @ln @downey @A.N.M_AL-IMRAN @Ronald_Munjoma @yanokwa.


(Michael Downey) #14

Hey @iamnarendrasingh. Good start!

:+1: I like your idea about releasing a newsletter alongside ODK1 or ODK2 releases. Not only does it have "fresh" news to include for content, it takes advantage of peoples' curiosities about what might be new in the larger ODK community.

:thinking: Do you have any ideas for the "ODK Article" for this one? If you need some content, we could discuss the formation of the new website project. It's less about software but would certainly impact and be of interest to a wide audience. Happy to help with this article if it sounds interesting to folks.

Looking forward to see the next "issue"!

(Hélène Martin) #15

@iamnarendrasingh and I had a call so that I could interview him as discussed in Call for Article in ODK Newsletter. We had a great chat and I can't wait to share the interview!

We're back to the question of when and where to share this kind of content. The written up interview is about two pages long which is already a lot of content. We could do a summary in a newsletter but I feel like it's a kind of feature that has a lot of value and can stand on its own.

I'd like to propose interviews go in the Showcase category, probably in a User-interview sub-category.

The articles going into a bit more depth about new features that @iamnarendrasingh has been coming up with seem similar to Perhaps the blog would be the right place for that?

A narrative on how the new website will be approached as @downey suggests does sound like a really good idea.

Any other ideas on where all of these features should go? If they are all published together as a newsletter, how can we can make sure it's of a manageable size for people to read through? Could the newsletter perhaps be introductory paragraphs to each of the features with links to read more or something like that?

(Yaw Anokwa) #16

It's so exciting to see all the momentum around better communication and engagement with the community! I've had a chance to review all the discussions and I wanted to offer my perspective.

I think it's already really hard for community members to figure out authoritative sources of information about ODK and I think adding a newsletter while so many other changes are ongoing will make that problem worse. Additionally, there are always lots and lots of things going on with ODK and so it's very easy to overwhelm the community if we aren't careful. And then there are the real challenges of getting people to subscribe to the newsletter, making sure we have a solid publishing schedule, coordinating content with the release team, etc.

The draft of the newsletter @iamnarendrasingh shared is trying to solve four issues and I wonder if we can take a step back, try to understand the root problems, and come up with solutions that harness the enthusiasm on this topic to solve those problems in the best ways possible.

Release highlights
We have that we encourage users to subscribe to. We also put release highlights (including contributors!) on the GitHub page and for Collect, in the Play Store. We also try to send releases out on social media and put highlights of highlights in the Community Update we try to send out every quarter. And the revamped website will likely also have release information. Is there a reason why our current approach is inadequate? What could we do on our existing platforms to make the situation better?

Interviews with community members
We don't do interviews and I think we should. It's content that builds community, it's relatively easy for community members to find people to interview and post those interviews. The biggest lift here would be generating a quick template that community members can fill in and post. If @A.N.M_AL-IMRAN and @iamnarendrasingh can commit to finding community members and encouraging them to do the interview, then it’s a sustainable effort that can keep providing value. It seems reasonable to post it under Showcase > Interviews as @LN suggests. Before we launched, we could see if we could get 4-5 interviews lined up so we have a nice buffer and post them monthly.

In-depth feature narratives
Unlike highlights or docs, these are narratives that are a bit more in-depth. I think of them as marketing for a feature. It's the kind of thing that can be really helpful for both new and old features. We had these on the blog previously because we didn't really have a good docs platform. I think this is important, but as an author of a number of those blog posts, it's a lot of work. I think it's an important problem to solve, but I'd wait until after the website revamp. And in the meanwhile, we should try some smaller ideas first that aren't on a critical path. Some ideas...

  • Make small animated GIFs of features that we share on the forum or on social media.
  • Add this as a question in the interviews (e.g., What's your favorite ODK feature that people don't know about?)

(Narendra) #17

Happy New Year all,

@yanokwa I already lined up some members for interview and now I am sharing within this document

@LN, yes I thought that article is a little bit in depth about a new update but when you show me the link of QR code and parallel idea gave by@downey and @yanokwa sounds good, and I found some research papers those are written on ODK ( So for the first month, we can put names of papers and then give the link.

@yanokwa yes I thought that I should cover 4 problems in the newsletter and I think you are right @yanokwa. We need to rethink the process and will start our newsletter your points are valid.

Will get back to you in this week again.

(Yaw Anokwa) #18

@iamnarendrasingh Awesome work lining up the members! I also got a look at your interview and it's really great. I think we should publish it early next week!

@downey Does Discourse have a mechanism where we send members an interview template? Then their answers can go through a light editing pass and be published.

(Narendra) #19

Thanks @yanokwa . It's good that we should publish in next week but I think we should fix a date to publish the newsletter every month.
Template which you make that is awesome and I think that we should carry that design.
Do you think that we should tell other users that there are few papers which are written on ODK technology so our academic group can think of write a research paper on ODK technology?


(Michael Downey) #20

Hi folks. Great progress on multiple fronts including the interview stuff.

Discourse does have something called "canned replies", but this use case is probably not frequent enough to really set it up that way. Personally I'd recommend maintaining something in a separate location (repository, Google Doc, etc.)

Templates are good, but I've found they don't always get you to 100% of what you'd like to see in a written interview. Very often, you'll want to ask follow-up questions about some of the things the "interviewee" explains in previous questions.

So I'd recommend the following "process":

  1. Prepare an interview template, probably with more questions than may apply to every single type of person. (That's OK, see next step.) This template should also have an "intro" paragraph explaining why we want to do these community interviews and how they'll be used.
  2. The "interviewer" would create a new personal message here on the Discourse forum to the person to be interviewed. Copy & paste from the template both (a) the introduction, and (b) all relevant questions from the template list. Request the interviewee respond within 72 hours.
  3. Once the initial answers are sent back, the "interviewer" will (if appropriate) reply (ideally within 24 hours) with any follow-up questions. Request answers to the follow up questions to be sent back within 24 hours.
  4. Interviewer would then assemble the answers into a new post, format it nicely, and then pre-schedule it for an future time & date (see below for how to).

This would require a private category for the "scheduled drafts" -- I agree that monthly seems like a good rate to start.

What do folks think of this approach?