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Tech newsletters worth your time

We all want to stay up to date, but our reading time is finite. Here are several email newsletters for developers, sysadmins, and DevOps that curate tech news, how-tos, and entertaining articles that make you say, "How 'bout that!"

I was disappointed when I learned that the weekly newsletter for sysadmins, Cron.weekly, was going away. In my search for another to serve that need, I began to appreciate how many technology newsletters I already find valuable. It occurred to me that you might want to enhance your email inbox, too, with something besides end-user complaints whose eloquent explanations are, "It doesn't work" and "I'm sure that's easy to fix."

I have nothing against RSS feeds, Twitter accounts, and techie websites. But they are ephemeral; if you take a day off, you miss out. Email lets me catch up at my leisure and even save items for posterity or "I told you so" purposes. (For instance, I have archives of the mini-Annals of Improbable Research going back at least 15 years.)

As a dedicated curator of Things That Make You Say Hmmm and How 'Bout That, I see it as my role in life to distract people from their to-do lists. As a result, I'm always looking for reliable, informative sources of entertainment and enlightenment. My tastes are eclectic (that sounds better than "weird"), but in this article I focus on newsletters that matter to techies: infosec professionals, software developers, DevOps, and anyone whose job it is to ensure that the 1s and 0s are sorted appropriately and have optimum performance.

Most of these newsletters include 10 or so links to hither and yon, which means they are easy to scan and click, and you can then move on with your day. They include tech-centric news, how-to guides and tutorials, and contemplative essays—rather like enterprise.nxt itself. (If I did not work from home, I suppose they'd be handy reading during a daily commute. But ha ha ha I get to work here with a cat shedding on my lap, just as I prefer. And as the cat insists.)

I left out newsletters for general news updates, startups and entrepreneurs, writers, and off-hours stuff (such as literary pursuits, space exploration, and anthropology). I certainly read plenty of these, but I forced myself to focus.

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Theoretically, I could include excellent vendor newsletters; many companies send out useful newsletters with product tips and tricks. However, the tips aren't useful if you don't use that tool, and users probably are aware of the vendor's newsletter. I also shied away from publications' own newsletters. If you read ZDNet or CNet regularly, you don't need me to suggest signing up, though I included a few newsletters that point to domains beyond their own.

I've started with the newsletters to which I've subscribed for years and wholeheartedly endorse. I also asked other techies for their suggestions, especially to fill the void left by Cron.weekly. I'm still experimenting, but my initial positive experiences made me conclude that you may want to check them out, too.

My short list

I receive a lot of newsletters, more than you see here. However, I open these immediately or save them to read later.

CodeProject describes itself as "daily developer news," and I've been relying on it for more than a decade. It includes industry news, developer news, science and technology, and links to the community's on-site discussions. CodeProject is mainly for software developers, with a tropism toward those who write with Microsoft tools, but don't let that dissuade you. I nearly always find at least one item worth clicking on. Even when I don't, I have been known to laugh aloud in public places at the editor's dry humor; a link to a news article, "Government outlines when it will disclose or exploit software vulnerabilities," has a comment, "I'm going to go with 'when it suits their needs' for both."

Hacker News (a.k.a. News.Ycombinator) is a well-known link-sharing and discussion site for techies and startups, though its geeky vibe also encourages conversations about books and history (rather like Slashdot in its prime). What's less obvious is the weekly Hacker News newsletter that serves as a best-of or at least an organized popularity list, with headings such as Code, Design, Books, Working, and Learn.

WebOpsWeekly is probably the closest to the Cron newsletter that started this entire project. It delivers the latest web operations and performance news—with no fluff whatsoever. Its links point to blogs that describe such things as "Best Practices for Staging Environments," "How to Record SSH Sessions with OpenSSH Servers," and "Scaling ipify to 30 Billion Requests on Heroku." Don't look for "Hey, that just happened!" news; turn to CodeProject for that.

As its name implies, Designer News (both the site and daily newsletter) focuses on user experience, website design, and other touchy-feely matters. User experience and design may not be relevant to your job, but the creative process applies to us all, whether that's a discussion about how to find a mentor or a link to an article about best places to get an SSL certificate.

Another newsletter to which I've subscribed for many years is the twice-daily ResearchBuzz. Its editors' primary interest is databases and archives (which is how I know about the open data directory collecting standards from around the world), which certainly tickle my "How 'bout that!" requirements. More actionable for most techies is the newsletter sections for tweaks and updates; useful stuff; around the search and social media world; and security and legal. If you find yourself exploring an archive of Nova Scotia recipes or a database of bird colors, don't blame me. Or, do. I don't mind.

While I could mention plenty of tech news sites' newsletters, two of them regularly make me reach for the mouse instead of the Delete key. The daily MIT Technology Review mainly points to its own articles (which are reliably excellent), but it also has a section titled "Ten Fascinating Things: Our roundup of today's top tech news to get you thinking and debating." They tend to be science- and algorithm-centric (AI has learned to spot suicidal tendencies from brain scans, or China has a new three-year plan to help it rule artificial intelligence). O'Reilly has quite a few weekly newsletters, such as its O'Reilly Web newsletter, which, too, link primarily but not exclusively to its own articles. It's always worth a glance, at the least.

The Hashnode Weekly Digest just squeaks into my list of recommendations. It contains a little more tutorial-based and troubleshooting advice than is relevant to me—I do prefer links to articles. I keep reading it, I confess, because it begins with a useful quote, such as Doug Linder's "A good programmer is someone who always looks both ways before crossing a one-way street." However, you might like it for more technical reasons. The online community is organized by topics such as DevOps or Docker, and the newsletter shares the most popular discussions.

It should be obvious by now that you should sign up for the weekly enterprise.nxt newsletter. I'm one of the site's managing editors, which means I have a hand in choosing and editing what we publish. Our goal is to be genuinely useful, and I'm proud of what we've done. Please subscribe; I hope that you agree.

Your mileage may vary

I asked a lot of people for their newsletter recommendations. I didn't quite think through that I should judge them (the newsletters, not the people) only after a few weeks of reading. So far, I like these, but take the endorsements with a few grains of salt.

The weekly Better Dev Link doesn't tie its programming topics to any specific programming language or frameworks. It also includes some DevOps infrastructure-related links, such as containers and IT security.

Last Week in AWS advertises "less fog, more cloud," and as you'd expect, it's meant for anyone working with Amazon Web Services. Since that's just about everyone, I expect you'll find its short list of links useful—and the just-slightly-snarky attitude entertaining. It's organized by community contributions, "Choice Cuts from the AWS Blog," tool highlights (such as "a gorgeous tool for managing SSH keys across multiple AWS accounts"), and a detailed tip of the week.

You probably should have at least one source of NetSec news, and Security newsletter comes highly recommended. I'm not sure you'll find a lot that surprises you if you pay attention to the news, but it's certainly a good idea to make sure you're up to date, and the newsletter links to solid non-obvious sources.

I confess that I don't pay as much attention to JavaScript as I should. If you're more engaged with web development, more than one programmer recommended JavaScript Weekly. As with many of these newsletters, you can browse the archives to determine if its coverage is right for you.

Honorable mentions:

  • Data Elixir: all things data, machine learning, and artificial intelligence.
  • Benedict Evans' newsletter: primarily mobile tech, with a weekly news round-up, statistics, and links to his own and outside blog posts.
  • Software Lead Weekly: a bit more focused on management issues such as culture and peopleware.

I could keep going—but I don't need to. If you didn't see a newsletter you think every techie should know about, tweet it to me @estherschindler.

This article/content was written by the individual writer identified and does not necessarily reflect the view of Hewlett Packard Enterprise Company.