Hello, this is the (optional.is) quarterly email. Mostly the thoughts of Brian Suda. We took a small newsletter sabbatical, but we're back now. Thanks for your patience.

02020Q1 REYKJAVIK:  It's over a year since our last quarterly newsletter, but even if we haven't been writing, we've been busy: Material 2018 conference, Data visualisation workshops, another trip to CERN to emulate the WorldWideWeb browser (more on that soon), lots of new top-secret projects. This newsletter is intended to start off 2020 with a bit of a reset and restructuring for future correspondences.

Shearing Layers: Activity at different layers and speeds.
The famous Shearing Layers is repurposed here to help visualise our written activity. Right now we are publishing 2-3 articles a week, in addition to social media posts. At the end of each week, we do our best to summarise our activities in a weeknote. What you are reading right now is our Quarterly newsletter. Annually, we reflect on the year and summarise our activities in an Omnibus.

We struggle with the shearing layer at the monthly level and look forward to experimenting with new monthly projects throughout 2020. Adjusting how each of these layers relates and builds off of each other is something we'll do more of this year.


One of our favourite ways to consume content these days is through high-quality, thoughtful email newsletters. There are several apps that can turn your newsletters into an RSS feed. These apps are very appealing, except that they are centralised services. When you sign-up, you receive a unique email address that you then use to sign-up for all the newsletters.

If you are already subscribed to lots of newsletters, it is a slog to manually change your email address with each sender. Then what happens if/when these start-ups go out of business or get bought? Not to mention they make their money by mining your subscriptions and try to up-sell you others. (Who knows they might eventually inject their advertising in other people's newsletters?)

We were inspired to create a solution that doesn't change default habits. Our own iOS app formats the existing subscriptions already in your email inbox to a sensible hierarchy.

If you want to beta test this newsletter app on iOS, you can use the public TestFlight link.
This solution is much more resilient than a 3rd party service.

Through developing our own newsletter app, we realised a few key takeaways:
  • Write more templatized subject lines
  • Keep (at least semi-consistent) content structure and sections
  • Send correct x-headers for ease of unsubscribing, grouping and labelling
We also changed the sender address from brian@optional.is to newsletter@optional.is Please add this to your white-list to help with any future filtering.

We are also in the process of making the archives for all the previous newsletters more accessible.

Material Conference
March 20th, Reykjavik Iceland

A conference exploring the concept of the Web as a material.

A limited number of tickets are still available. Come see an amazing line-up of speakers, talk about the Web, and gain invaluable insights into where the web is headed.

We will live-stream the events of the day. Please register for the Online Streaming Ticket to get a reminder and a link at 9am GMT on the day of the event. We also plan to post videos of the key lectures after the one-day event.
Get Your Online Streaming Ticket Today


Beautiful, Letterpressed, Island Notebooks. A series of 6 interesting islands and stories from around the world. 3 pack for $15. Remember, the future is analog.

Designing with Data eBooks. If you need to tell your story using data, pick up these books today. Now pay what you want pricing for epub, mobi, pdf.

Triagemail: Get unread email under-control. A new iOS email app to check any account. With only 4 options, get through all your unread email fast so you never miss anything important. $1.99 on the App store.

A0 02020 Wall Calendar. Download it for free, print it yourself and stay organized. All the code is available if you want to change the holidays or design.

Red Days: Holiday Countdown. This is a free app to countdown to the next public holiday. Available for iOS and Apple Watch.

A quarterly newsletter from (optional.is)

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