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PHP
Christopher Pitt, 5 days ago

Event Sourcing in a Pinch

Chris explains what event sourcing is, how to use it, when to apply it, and why. Check out this advanced DDD pattern in an easy to learn format!
2 COMMENTs
Ruby
Ilya Bodrov-Krukowski, 5 days ago

Video Uploads with Rails and Ziggeo

14 COMMENTs
PHP
Viraj Khatavkar, Nov 26

How to Properly Deploy Web Apps via SFTP with Git

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2 COMMENTs
Web
Wolfram Hempel, Nov 25

Deepstream: an Open-source Server for Building Realtime Apps

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2 COMMENTs
PHP
Bruno Skvorc, Nov 25

What Would You Pay to Make 27% of the Web More Secure?

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Web
SitePoint Offers, Nov 25

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1 COMMENT
Entrepreneur
Elio Qoshi, Nov 25

Open Source Email Marketing with phpList

Open source email marketing

Open Source Week

It’s Open Source Week at SitePoint! All week we’re publishing articles focused on everything Open Source, Free Software and Community, so keep checking the OSW tag for the latest updates.

Email marketing has been exploding in popularity. You might have heard of the likes of MailChimp and Emma advertising the use of their services to send a whole bunch of messages for prospects and profit. The number of ways to promote goods online is forever growing, and research shows emails are still the most effective. I like to compare it with the "desktop is dead" myth; while mobile is on the rise, desktop is here to stay. I believe the same about email.

Having said that, it’s no surprise that the number of services competing in the field have mushroomed in recent years, capitalising on demand from firms of all sizes to get access to that most personal of places, the email inbox.

While big brand proprietary platforms and their sponsorship deals have been busy establishing themselves, an Open Source alternative has been minding its own business, making regular releases and accumulating a committed base of users since the year 2000. Enter phpList, the email marketing app you can run yourself without paying for messages, subscribers, or additional features.

Why Use a Dedicated App for Sending Emails?

Marketing professionals have a habit of torturing words until they confess (usually to the greatness of their product). Maybe that’s why terminology around email marketing is confusing. If a ‘mailing list’ is just a list of email addresses, and a ‘mailing list manager’ is merely an application to handle and use these lists, then what’s the difference between Mailchimp, phpList, GNU Mailman, and mail clients like Thunderbird? Are Mailchimp and Mailman interchangeable? Unfortunately not.

Old-fashioned mailing lists are many-to-many mailing platforms; a variety of people send single messages to a group of others in a single act, and each member of the group can reply to the others (as healthcare workers at Britain’s National Health Service illustrated last week, when a 1.2 million long mailing list was crashed by 185 million unsubscription requests).

Thunderbird, on the other hand, is is a mail client which can send messages to one or more recipients, but is not designed for managing failed deliveries, recording delivery statistics, or sending to large lists of subscribers.

Mailchimp and phpList are one-to-many sending platforms; a single person sends a single message to a large number of recipients. If the message recipient wants to reply, they can contact only the sender — the other members of the list cannot be replied to directly, and are typically kept secret for the preservation of privacy. These and other popular email marketing platforms share a host of features not found in other software, including built-in email templates, easy integration of newsletter signup forms in websites and apps, and automatic email personalization based on subscriber preferences.

How does phpList measure up against the proprietary competition? Let’s compare its performance in three categories against market leaders (and no, mascot monkey-ness isn’t one of them).

Features

HTML emails aren’t everyone’s cup of tea – packed with tables and inline CSS, the code behind them is a throwback to a less civilized era. Unpredictable rendering by mail clients makes producing beautiful messages a challenge, but some services ease the pain with a range of templates and point and click editors. phpList provides editors as plugins, with CKEditor being the best of the bunch. While it works well for text formatting and media embedding, it can’t handle complex layouts, and doesn’t apply template styles as you type. For floated images and table layouts it’s easier to do your designing in a dedicated app and copy and paste the HTML in afterwards.

When it comes to templates, most people feel the more the merrier, but phpList ships with none pre-installed, and but a handful officially available. In theory, you can use templates from any other application (including many published by Mailchimp on GitHub), but including more and better templates ‘inside the box’ would save us from hunting around.

Reports and Statistics

Once your message is signed, sealed, and delivered, you’ll be itching to see the impact it has had. Open rates, click-throughs, bounces, and conversions are all things you’ll want to check following a successful send. Like other services, phpList includes detailed statistics relating these and more going further than some, giving a complete history of each subscriber. This includes each open, click, visit, and change, including response times. It’s easy to see all subscribers who opted out of future messages, following which campaign, and for what reason (if one was given).

Unlike nearly all competitors, phpList does not include data visualisations – no bar graphs or pie charts found here. If you’re looking for a satisfying uptick in user engagement, you’ll have to use Piwik or Google Analytics (both are supported), or export the data to a spreadsheet and make graphs by yourself. Built-in graphs feel past due for phpList and some users will miss them.

Interface

Responsive web interface? Check. Fat finger friendly on tablets and smartphones? More or less. Sleek and modern? Heck no! The usability of email marketing apps varies wildly, and while phpList gets the job done across devices, its design belongs to last decade. No HTML5 inputs or modal dialogues are to be found, but pages are easy to navigate, with a practical aesthetic.

Java
Paul King, Nov 24

Groovy, an Open Source Success Story

The history of the Groovy programming language including technical features and aspects of its governance and community that have made it successful.
2 COMMENTs
Entrepreneur
Akshay Sachdeva, Nov 24

5 Ways to Drive More Traffic to Your Site with Content Promotion

Akshay Sachdeva teaches you to get more out of your content marketing efforts with five content promotion methods.
Ruby
Glenn Goodrich, Nov 24

The Conventions of Contributing to Open Source

3 COMMENTs
Ruby
Jeff Smith, Nov 23

Talk with the Experts: Glenn Goodrich

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5 COMMENTs
Web
Kristi Progri, Nov 23

Nextcloud: an Open-source Dropbox, Google Drive Alternative

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JavaScript
Elio Qoshi, Nov 23

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2 COMMENTs
Design & UX
Alex Walker, Nov 23

How to Hack Brains with Cinemagraphs

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HTML & CSS
Maria Antonietta Perna, Nov 23

How Open Sourcing Bootstrap Made It Huge

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9 COMMENTs
PHP
Cal Evans, Nov 23

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1 COMMENT
Web
Tim Evko, Nov 22

Versioning Show, Episode 17: What Makes a Good Engineer

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1 COMMENT
Entrepreneur
Joshua Kraus, Nov 22

How Your Company Can Benefit from Contributing to Open Source

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JavaScript
Christian Heilmann, Nov 22

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WordPress
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Mastering the WordPress Categories API

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HTML & CSS
Simon Codrington, Nov 22

The Power of Open Source in the Foundation Framework

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8 COMMENTs
Mobile
Elio Qoshi, Nov 22

Firefox OS post-mortem - Interview with Andre Garzia

I am happy to be joined today by Andre Garzia, a Mozilla Tech Speaker, Firefox OS book author and contributor at Mozilla for the past few years. At SitePoint we tend to cover cutting edge topics and keep developers in the loop about the latest happenings around the web. This time however, we will have a look back and talk about Firefox OS, which as you might have heard, was discontinued earlier this year. We will have a look at the things Firefox OS stood for, what impact it had on the web and what lessons we can learn from it. Elio: It’s great having you here Andre! Also thanks for taking the time to cover a few things about Firefox OS, which might be a rather difficult topic, as we have all been so passionate about it. Andre: It’s my pleasure. After all this time we can have a look at Firefox OS in a less biased way, I believe. Elio: I suppose. It would be great if you could tell me more about yourself at Mozilla and how did you get involved with Firefox OS in the first place? Andre: I was participating in a hackathon, on a brazilian campus party. They had these huge hackathons there lasting for many days. People basically camp there with activities 24/7. I went to that event alone, I didn’t have a crew to hang out with and a couple of days before that event, I went to a Firefox OS app day, where they explained the system and the API-s.
1 COMMENT
Java
Simon Ritter, Nov 21

Keeping The Community In The Java Community Process (JCP)

The Java Community Process (JCP) governs Java's future. Simon Ritter explains it and how the EC, EGs, JSRs, JEPs, the JSPA, FoU, RI, and TCK/JCK interact.
5 COMMENTs
JavaScript
Rob Eisenberg, Nov 21

The Future of Aurelia — Roadmap and Upcoming Features

Rob Eisenberg takes a look at the future of Aurelia, from tooling to server-side rendering to a look at Aurelia UX, Aurelia's open source sister framework.