Sacha Grief had a problem.
"Whenever I wrote tech-oriented blog posts, I would post them to Hacker News to generate traffic and discussion," the French designer—who currently lives in Japan—tells MailChimp. "On the other hand, the design related content didn’t really have a place on its own apart from Twitter."
Born out of his frustration was Sidebar, a dead-simple email newsletter that highlights "the best design links, every day." He had originally planned for it to serve as a temporary holding pattern on the way to "a full-featured social news site," but when the initial format started getting a great response, he stuck with it. Creating a list with MailChimp, he gave his readers the option of daily, twice a week, or once a week emails, and just like that, he was off.
Email is a great way for online communities to stay in touch, but it’s also a nice way to build those groups of likeminded people. As Laura Olin told us recently, "one of those fundamental rules of the internet [is] that even if what you find interesting is kind of weird, you’ll probably still be able to find people who’ll find it interesting too."
This is particularly true for Sidebar, which has been around for about two years now and has already gathered thousands of subscribers. It also has 221 members—handpicked by Sacha, these folks are mostly designers and writers, and they’re invited to submit links, which broadens Sidebar’s perspective.
"The most active members contribute a couple links per week, while others only submit the stuff they wrote themselves, which is fine too," Sacha says. "I then pick my 5 favorites to show on the site and send by email. Although I’m the one building and sending the newsletter, it’s definitely a collaborative effort."
Sacha hopes to eventually automate the process further and bring in weekly guest editors to further the collaboration aspect—but also to afford him a little vacation time. Meanwhile, Sidebar’s also influencing him to start (and improve) other projects.
"I’ve been working a lot on Telescope, the open-source platform that powers Sidebar," Sacha says. "After realizing how important the email newsletter was through Sidebar, one of the big features I implemented in Telescope was an automated newsletter, which happens to use MailChimp’s API."
But for now, he’s pretty happy that 20,000 people care enough to read his newsletters.
"I definitely think Sidebar’s filled a void," he says. "At least, that’s what people tell me. Of course, I’d love to see that audience grow even more."