Behind the Scenes of Issue 114
Update on the status of the newsletter, deinfluencing, new shops and discounts, in the mailbox, deskmat, etc.
Published February 24, 2023
Welcome back for another edition of Keyboard Builders' Digest (this time Issue #114), a
weekly temporarily fortnightly roundup of this DIY keyboard focused newsletter and blog from Tamas Dovenyi – that's me. If you are new to this, you can read how this started out and what this is all about nowadays. If you like what you see, you can subscribe to the newsletter (free) and donate some bucks to keep this otherwise free and ad-free project alive.
Lots of topics to talk about this time: newsletter, deinfluencing, new deskmat, new shops and discounts, 3-4 keyboards in the mailbox, etc.
TLDR: Most likely I'll suspend the newsletter from March until I find out the best and cheapest way to continue. In the meantime, feel free to use the RSS, subscribe on Twitter (@KbdNews). Or you can just check back to the blog every now and then. ;)
So in my recent newsletter #113 – which btw I successfully managed to mess up again (subject was "#112" for half of the recipients) – I shared a link pointing to a short questionnaire. Your comments on my handful of questions on the future of the email version of these issues, the weekly (these days fortnightly) wrap-ups in your inbox, helped me to better understand the purpose and viability of these emails. Below is a rought summary of the answers I've received.
Obviously, subscribers who actually read and value these emails were overrepresented in the replies, and so most of the answers were positive, supportive, and most of you – seemingly – would prefer an ongoing newsletter. Even better, a great proportion of the people who filled out the form would support this feature with a few bucks a month or year.
However, and that's the greater picture, I've received only 44 answers – which is telling.
I can see from the stats that about half of all the 2,600 subscribers open these emails or click a link in them. (Compared to industry averages, this is a damn good number!)
44 of 2,600 subscribers, or 1,300 subscribers who actually open these mails, is still a very-very low value. It means that most of you see the weekly email as a mere reminder and not something worth reading. On receiving and opening it you check out the blog but don't really read the newsletter – at least that's one explanation for the low number of replies to the poll. Is this function worth $500 a year? I really don't know.
Some of your suggestions:
- Patreon model, selling PDF issues, other forms of monetizing – I was there. Patreon and BMC. Left for a good reason. And I try to keep the newsletter free and open for everyone. I don't want to earn money with this, I just don't want to pay for something which I offer for free.
- Looking for discounts for non profits (at online services). I'm working on this and have found some promising alternatives.
- RSS – Many suggestions mentioned some form of RSS instead of the newsletter. I have those, so check out the site's footer if you're interested in something like that. (OK, here is the one with all the posts and this one is for the weekly issues.)
- Posting issues on r/mk, r/ergomk instead of email. – I really don't know. Can do it again, but that's not the same audience.
- Getting a sponsor. – Could definitely look for sponsors. It would introduce other issues though.
Thanks for everyone who filled out the form to help me, and thanks for your suggestions, but this poll hasn't convinced me to pay the yearly $500-600 fee (at this current stage and subscriber number) to be able to send out the emails which takes me extra time to put together. Nor to pay the $200-300 which the cheaper alternatives would cost (paid upfront.) So I will most likely suspend the newsletter from March.
What I'll do is:
- Suspend the newsletter.
- Keep looking for alternative services – cheaper and with more generous free plan thresholds.
- Maybe try to set up an own email sending solution or put together my own minimal email sending script – without the bells and whistles of all the fancy paid services.
- I definitely won't beg for support or a sponsorship, but feel free to contact me if you'd like to pay for the monthly fee of about $50 atm and see your name/brand in the upcoming newsletters.
Since I learned that even some of my real-life acquaintances keep stalking on me by reading these editorial posts (yes, I'm looking at you!), here is an update to my personal situation I mentioned in my recent write-ups:
After weeks spent in ICU, some 36 days in hospital, and 43 days altogether, my wife is at home with us again. This still doesn't mean I can get back to my earlier pace, but I'm working on it. Thanks for your patience.
We have to figure out how to proceed with our jobs, work, life, etc. You simply can't continue with your life just like before after such an experience.
I came across an article about influencers, overconsumption, deinfluencing, etc. As a result, I canceled my Shift Happens pledge on Kickstarter (and stopped short of joining Lu's TRIFL group buy). The price is one thing, but do I really need a gigantic book however impressive it is? Marcin Wichary's name is guarantee for a high-quality end result so support his project if you can't live without the book. But do I really need these two hefty volumes on my desk? I'd open the book a few times, then put it on a shelf and forget about it.
I'm writing this because, as ridiculous as this may sound (especially for my kids), I became some kind of influencer in this niche and every now and then I receive comments claiming I incite overconsumption and purchases. So let me clear things up: I'd like you to design and build your own keyboards instead of buying and hoarding stuff. That can be achieved for just a few bucks, really. Use all the resources on this blog consciously and responsibly. Don't hoard caps, switches, nor keyboards.
That said, let's see what I got in the mailbox this time…
Reuters, IBM POS, Ergohaven K:02
In contrast to contemporary GBs, I find collecting (and saving) vintage stuff still uplifting.
E.g. my Reuters collection is growing, and by the time you're reading this write-up I'll probably own another one (on the way). ;)
The new family member is the one with the Siemens style caps and the "Jet 707" sticker(?). I've no clue if that's a factory design. Anyone recognizes it? Btw, the board is mostly eviscerated, lacks the tiny display and also the connector sockets. Disassembly later.
I simply couldn't leave this IBM POS in the store either (mentioned in my previous write-up). Typing on it feels amazing despite being rubberdome – although it has individual domes so it may play in a whole different league compared to the cheap office keyboards. So the normal size keys (pretty much everything except the function row with smaller caps) feel like an awesome tactile switch. I'm not sure how it would perform against a Topre and I don't have much experience with vintage IBMs either (the only other IBM I have by accident is a model F), but I had to take this home. ;)
It's a cool prebuilt split with OLED displays, in a black 3D printed PLA case. Works out of the box which was a pleasant experience after all the DIY kits. :D No need to solder anything. Slightly too many keys for me, and I prefer much more aggressive staggering on the pinky, but I'll try to test the K:02 for a few days to get a decent impression.
New shops and updates to the database of keyboard vendors:
- Jason Hazel's new shop: Hazel's Garage, OH, US. The new home of keyboards/PCBs like his Dust, Crepe, Satpad, etc. – now with a 5% discount (code: KBDNEWS).
- The Kapco, Malaysia – use the KBDNEWS coupon code for 10% off.
- And I just realized that XVX/Womier implemented a 10% coupon code for you as well. I asked for this in December but haven't heard back from them. Looking for some info about the XVX Cube caps I checked out their site, and the discount works.
- CustomErgoBoards will officially stop accepting orders as of March 1st, 2023 (source)
- Minnesota Keyboard Meetup // Sept 2 (Thanks David!)
- The monthly Florida MechKeys Meetup, Orlando will be held on Feb 25th.
- There's a montly meetup in Berlin as well. // Feb 27 (Thanks Fabian!)
- And another recurring one in Jacksonville, Florida – already over by the time you're reading this: Tiny Little Tech Shop Meetup. // Feb 18.
As always, this meetup database is both a calendar and an archive so feel free to send me upcoming events or even ones from the recent past to make this collection as comprehensive as possible.
I'm working on a deskmat design for my personal use. This is a by-product of a keycap project which I may share later. Anyway, I'm not going to sell these but will share the files or the algorithms so you can personalize and get printed such mats if you'd like.
The main motif is generated by a script I wrote and I'm enjoying toying around with the config. Atm I'm in a state of a prolonged decision paralysis:
(Yes, I like boobs.)
- A new donor: Thanks Jens Woyke!
- And two new recurring supporters: Thanks Jason Hazel and Matthias Goffette!
As I write it in my year-end summary, maintaining this site takes a lot of energy and time. (According to the Reddit Recap stats that's 100 hours per month on Reddit only.) If you'd like and can afford to help, here is the donation form.
And many thanks to everyone who supported this project in any of its development stages.
Unwanted music recommendation
Eiji's ortholinear Binary Star System didn't made it to this issue, I'm waiting for the files to be published. Still, I couldn't help but associate it with Loud Twin Stars performed by the incredible ladies of DOLL $ BOXX. It has been around for 10 year, jeez I'm old:
That's all for today. Thanks for checking by. Let's get back to implement my pretty weird layout on the K:02!
Published on Fri 24th Feb 2023. Featured in KBD #114.