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Suppose I send an e-mail to invite an expert in an Earth Science domain, unfamiliar with Stack Exchange, to come to the site. How can I best formulate the e-mail?

Let's have CW answers in different categories:

  • E-mail sent to an individual
  • E-mail sent to a group (mailing list)
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    $\begingroup$ Don't use a boilerplate, that's spam. $\endgroup$
    – blunders
    Commented May 1, 2014 at 23:40
  • $\begingroup$ @blunders disagree. Templates are useful (obviously they can be personalised), and are frequently sent round academic mailing lists as it is (e.g. conference announcements). $\endgroup$
    – kaberett
    Commented May 2, 2014 at 0:26
  • $\begingroup$ I suggest that for a for-individuals template it'd be useful to have it modular, i.e. at the least variations for sending it to an undergrad geological society committee member versus a postgrad versus a member of faculty... for members of faculty I'd suggest including the para from my template for mailing lists about particularly highlighting the new resource to grads/undergrads. $\endgroup$
    – kaberett
    Commented May 2, 2014 at 0:28
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    $\begingroup$ The template for personalized emails is personalized emails. Key is to create a reason per person you contact for them to want to read your email (enjoyed your paper, hearing you speak, etc) - and suggest how that very topic is of interest on ES.SE. You don't have to take my word for it, but I send 1000000s of emails a year, and in this case, when starting out, it calls for more target engagement. Doesn't mean you can't have a system, but best thing to do is send your first email today. $\endgroup$
    – blunders
    Commented May 2, 2014 at 1:13
  • $\begingroup$ @gerrit: Any luck? $\endgroup$
    – blunders
    Commented May 8, 2014 at 3:19

2 Answers 2

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As an example, here's what I just sent to the "Coastal list" mailing list:

Dear Coastal List,

Many of you will probably be aware of the stackoverflow.com website, if you use it for help with coding problems. Many may also be aware that this is part of a wider network, called Stack Exchange, which runs Q&A sites on a range of topics.

A new “Earth Sciences” site has recently entered a beta phase. This phase is where Stack Exchange tries out a site for a period of between a few months and a few years, to see whether it will gain the critical mass of expert users to be viable. The scope of “Earth Sciences” has been explicitly stated to include oceanography and related subjects, so it might be of interest to people here.

Like other Stack Exchange sites, it is community-moderated; good questions and answers are rapidly upvoted, and unclear or otherwise poor ones downvoted. The quality of questions is a bit variable at present in my view – you will see quite a lot of popular science level questions – but the quality of answers to them is often high, and there are a number of academics involved in the site. It’s still early enough that the people who get involved soon have a real chance to set the future expectations for content on the site.

The site is at http://earthscience.stackexchange.com, or you can view just questions that have been tagged with “ocean” at https://earthscience.stackexchange.com/questions/tagged/ocean?sort=active

Come and have a look, and perhaps pass the link on to any students or colleagues who might find it useful!

Kind regards, Simon.

Hope that's helpful as an example. Obviously it's written to be specific to its target.

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Suggested template for academic mailing lists, but by all means rip it to shreds...:

Dear all [or whatever local greeting is standard],

I'd like to draw your attention to the new Earth Sciences Stack Exchange site. Stack Exchange is a community-run information-exchange and teaching network; the Earth Sciences site launched in mid-April and is currently in open beta. It is hoped that it will prove a vibrant new community supporting experts and students in all subdisciplines.

Please particularly consider highlighting this new resource to grad and undergrad students: Stack Exchange provides excellent practice in teaching and in clear scientific communication, with feedback from the community on quality of answers - from written English to referencing and figure captioning - in a social setting.

--signoff

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    $\begingroup$ Yep, that's spam. $\endgroup$
    – blunders
    Commented May 2, 2014 at 1:09
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    $\begingroup$ I have yet to be convinced that it differs significantly from conference/postdoc/etc advertising. $\endgroup$
    – kaberett
    Commented May 2, 2014 at 1:11
  • $\begingroup$ Right, it doesn't, and that's spam. $\endgroup$
    – blunders
    Commented May 2, 2014 at 1:14
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    $\begingroup$ We clearly move in very different circles. Sure people don't want them as the main traffic on a mailing list, but all of the academic mailing lists I'm on consider them not only fair game but actively useful. $\endgroup$
    – kaberett
    Commented May 2, 2014 at 1:16
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    $\begingroup$ Right, I contact people as "blunders" and get them to do things, I don't spam people... :-) ...Just try finding a single person that you believe did something interesting, email them saying you how it interesting, and link to a question that you're 80% sure they would be able to answer, but 5% of the users here could not. Just a single email, that's real "user" engagement, and you'll get more "high-value" users that way + plus you'll learn what "new" users think too. Anyway, good luck! $\endgroup$
    – blunders
    Commented May 2, 2014 at 1:19
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    $\begingroup$ Just as a reminder, we don't need massive numbers, just real numbers, spamming people won't get us to real numbers faster, nor will it lead to real growth; all my opinion, but I'm speaking from experience; meaning growing "stuff" that creates real value. $\endgroup$
    – blunders
    Commented May 2, 2014 at 12:16
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    $\begingroup$ Are you aware that you're being staggeringly condescending and dismissive? $\endgroup$
    – kaberett
    Commented May 2, 2014 at 13:07
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    $\begingroup$ This fails to address some key points I would want to see. There exist forums and Q&A's at Yahoo, Usenet, Quora, Researchgate, and I'm sure many domain-specific locations. I've personally found participation in Stack Exchange much more rewarding than in others, but a recipient not familiar with Stack Exchange might ignore the e-mail as "why yet another forum?". I think a boilerplate text needs to address somehow why participation in ES SE might be more interesting/rewarding than elsewhere. $\endgroup$
    – gerrit Mod
    Commented May 2, 2014 at 13:23
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    $\begingroup$ This is the first time I've participated in SE; very happy to make a structure happen around why it's more rewarding, but will need some key points to bounce off. :-) $\endgroup$
    – kaberett
    Commented May 2, 2014 at 13:27
  • $\begingroup$ @kaberett Sure, it's a good start! I don't mean to sound negative. Maybe others can go in and edit the post to add some more points. $\endgroup$
    – gerrit Mod
    Commented May 2, 2014 at 14:03
  • $\begingroup$ @gerrit didn't think you were being! Just wanted to clarify what I'd need to make more words happen, but as I say I'm completely happy for other folk to edit :-) $\endgroup$
    – kaberett
    Commented May 2, 2014 at 14:04
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    $\begingroup$ @kaberett: That's not my intent, I'll reflect on the fact that I am sure it was not easy give me that feedback, and thank you for doing so too. Sorry! $\endgroup$
    – blunders
    Commented May 2, 2014 at 18:52
  • $\begingroup$ @gerrit meta answers aren't editable by most of us :-P But I have "publicise ES.SE on my to-do list for today or tomorrow, so I shall reflect back on that to here as another answer $\endgroup$ Commented May 4, 2014 at 11:24
  • $\begingroup$ @Simon W: it is editable now! $\endgroup$ Commented May 29, 2014 at 10:47

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