Email is the new RSS (or a factotum is born)

My ongoing project this year is to establish a new professional digital identity for myself. will become the hub of my professional life.  I’ve also set up a Twitter account and a Facebook page where I’ll be writing and posting about EdTech, open education, online & blended learning, and the like.

While this site will remain, it will begin to morph over the next while to become a more personal space and a place to talk about things not necessarily related to educational technology, open education or teaching & learning.

I like that word – factotum – as it is an apt description of how I see myself. A generalist & a jack of all trades. The word makes me smile, too, because it reminds me of a real Jack – Jack Black. Yeah, that Jack Black, star of one of the most underrated movies about education ever made School of Rock.

No seriously. School of Rock has some great messages about education. Project-based learning, passion-based learning, collaboration, teamwork, authentic learning & assessment – it’s all there in School of Rock. It is no coincidence that Black’s characters name is Dewey, a smart nod from a scriptwriter in the know. The grade grubber in the movie, Summer, referred to herself as the class factotum and that term has stuck with me. So, while I admit that the term factotum does have an air about it, know that I got it from a Jack Black movie.

Anyway, the title of this post. Maybe it is because RSS isn’t a mainstream thing anymore , but I have been noticing a big increase in the use of good old fashioned email newsletters. While I still rock the RSS, some of the best content seems to be coming to me from email newsletters, so I am going to give a weekly newsletter a go.

I think what I like about the email newsletters is that they offer curated links with commentary. This last part is important as it provides a view and context around why the content is important. People like Stephen Downes and Doug Belshaw do this really well, and it is a skill that I want to work on. I read a lot, but don’t often take the time to explicitly summarize and contextualize what I am reading. So, I am hoping that a weekly curated newsletter may be the way to help me better understand the content I read.

To help constrain the newsletter, I am limiting the newsletter to 3 articles each week. I am not sure what day of the week to publish. For now, I am going to start with Friday mornings and see how that goes. I am using TinyLetter as the mail client. (changed this. it’s now self-hosted) You can sign up at EdTech Factotum.

I’ll likely set up a blog there as well. I had been experimenting with GRAV, but think I was trying to force GRAV to do something that it wasn’t really made to do, so have put that on hold for now, opting instead for a simple HTML5UP CC licensed landing page that I mucked around with. Good for now.

I also had some fun playing with Canva, coming up with a logo design. It’s a fun tool for quickly creating interesting images and graphics.

While I was at CC Global, there was a photographer named Sebastiaan ter Burg who captured a nice shot of me that I will likely be using as my avatar (I’ll reserve little Clint for my personal stuff).

I don’t know if I’ll stick with all of these, but it has been fun playing around with some new tools as I continue to work on developing a separate professional digital identity.

Okay, off to set up issue #1 of the EdTech Factotum newsletter, on the way Friday.


Clint Lalonde

Just a guy writing some stuff, mostly for me these days on this particular blog. For my EdTech/OpenEd stuff, check out


7 thoughts on “Email is the new RSS (or a factotum is born)

  1. Great post Clint. Learnt a new word today, and like you love it, I’m definitely a bit of a Factotum. Also big fan of the logo you created in Canva, thats a great tool.

    How is your newsletter going? I’d love to get your thoughts on the newsletter creator we’ve built (, if you are anything like me with RSS and content curation I’m hoping it’d save you a ton of time when you are pulling everything together.

    Let me know your thoughts 🙂

  2. Back in the late 90s (maybe early 2000s?) before RSS was commonly available, I used a web service that would alert me when websites were updated. This service didn’t work perfectly, but it was better than randomly checking websites to see if they had been updated. When websites started supporting RSS, it was awesome–updates for all my favourite websites “magically” appeared in my RSS reader.

    Today, I’m seeing more and more websites that do not support RSS, and very few websites have periodic newsletters with their content. Also, with some sites I want to know immediately if there is an update, so a newsletter isn’t good enough. For example, there’s an organization that I’ll call ‘ASDF’, and I want to keep an eye on their job postings, but their job postings page doesn’t support RSS. ASDF does have a general RSS for their website, but it doesn’t include job listings. Their job listing page allows me to sign-up for a newsletter “to learn about opportunities in the future to join [ASDF]”, but it only goes out once every three weeks, which isn’t frequent enough to catch job listings the moment they’re posted. I could use job alerts, but it would be so much easier to just navigate to ASDF’s career’s page and subscribe to it. Without RSS I feel like I’m back in the 90s.

    I will likely start writing Google Apps scripts to generate RSS feeds for websites I want to follow that lack RSS feeds.

    About 95% of the sites I want to read updates from still support RSS, but I worry about the future.

    How do I read your blog? With RSS of course! 🙂

    1. It does feel like a regression, doesn’t it? Yahoo Pipes was a tool that i used to do screen scraping to RSS when that was around. I think RSS for some sites is disappearing because it doesn’t play well with the dominant advertising paradigm of many websites. Sites that rely on page views and clicks to sites to pay their bills. RSS always subverted that ad model to some extent. The death of Google Reader also didn’t help for mainstream adoption. I still use RSS a lot. Many of the stories in the newsletter actually come via what I find in my Feedly account, which is all RSS.

  3. When I saw the word ‘factotum’, I thought of the Bukowski book and excellent movie based on that book with Matt Dillon. Plus: totally agree about the awesomeness that is School of Rock.

  4. I want to go and re-watch School of Rock now. It is Clint Lalonde approved educational material! I’ve always wanted Jack Black and Jack White to do a project probably called Jack Grey.

    1. 50 Shades of Jack Grey…

      oh wait…..

      Damn it. Now I’m not going to be able to get that image out of my head.

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