PhpList Newsletter Manager Software

With my last theme I provided the options to subscribe to this sites RSS feed or to subscribe by email. While I would like to offer these options again, at some point I need to set something up so people can subscribe to an OpenSourceHack newsletter. I feel like I should probably decide which direction to follow soon so I don’t end up losing readers by having to switch list platforms sometime in the future. If I follow the Feedburner route, a lot of the management takes care of itself. If I decide on an open source newsletter manager, it might not be so easy.

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A number of sites I read use AWeber for all their email marketing and newsletter communication. People really seem to love it. They report your email subscribers to Feedburner, so if you only have a small amount of RSS subscribers, but a whole bunch of email subscribers, it’s all included in your little Feedburner chicklet. My only issue with using them would be the idea of dollars going out of my pocket. The lowest plan is only $19 a month, and I know a lot of people will say if you’re unwilling to pay $19 a month, you’re not serious about growing your business or website. While I somewhat identify with that philosophy, I also somewhat disagree with it.

There’s probably a tons of things I can foresee myself needing when the site gets a lot more daily visitors, but does that mean I should shell out the money for them now? With my aspirations for this site, I believe I’ll need a dedicated server one day, but should I order it now? Then to destroy my own argument in the same breath, I felt the need after only a hundred days to go purchase a premium WordPress theme so I wouldn’t have to worry about too many changes down the road. Maybe that’s why people choose AWeber and maybe that’s why we should too.

However, this post (or what’s left of it) is about an alternative solution that I know very little about, but still looks pretty cool. It’s called PhpList and it’s got a hefty list of features worth checking out. There’s also a demo page with links to different demos, but they really don’t do it justice because you have to imagine these forms would be integrated into your site pages and look nicer as a result.

They boast of being able to handle hundreds of thousands of users which sounds impressive. Templates are customizable, subscribers never receive duplicate copies even if subscribed more than once, and you can schedule when your emails are sent. The feature that caught my eye was the ability to fetch and send a webpage. If you didn’t want to fuss around with configuring templates, I suppose you could publish your newsletter right on your site and just send your subscribers to the new page when it becomes available. Sounds like a great way to keep people coming back.

As much fanfare as AWeber gets, I think I’ll play around with PhpList first. I don’t know how to use either, so I’d rather become familiar with something free instead of feeling like I have to learn my way around a new application quickly because the money is still getting deducted either way. I don’t have any subscribers right now, so I don’t have to make any tough decisions on a newsletter platform at the moment. When I get up to a couple hundred subscribers, you’ll know that it’s time for me to make a decision on whether to stay open source or take the plunge to commercial.

osTicket Support Software

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osTicket is open source software that adds customer support functionality and ticket tracking to your website. Visitors will arrive on your support page (directory where you installed osTicket) and input contact details and a description of the issue. The user can then select a specific department if you’ve created different ones as well as set the priority of the problem. Once the ticket is submitted, an email that you created in the administration area is generated and sent to the user for confirmation of the tickets receipt.

The administration area is so simple and extremely easy to traverse, yet it still has all the necessary and practical components of a fully functional support system. I installed osTicket on a site that got very few visitors, but I didn’t care. I just wanted to play around with a new script. I was more enamored with the idea of being able to respond to people in a professional manner that I just didn’t care it would go unused. And for the most part, it did go unused, and eventually I deleted it from the site, but not before it made quite a lasting impression.

Having osTicket not only made me feel like I was offering help at an enterprise level, I was (or would have been) able to with this simple script. This is a classic example of how open source software can level the playing field for entrepreneurs running a SoHo shop and enable them to effectively compete with larger companies by offering the same (or better) level of support.

If I had to find one thing I did not like about osTicket, it would be the awful default orange button color. It’s quite an unattractive hue. I think osTicket has a good thing going for it if the only glaring ugliness is color which is fairly simple to change. Install it, change the color, and you’re golden (or whatever color you choose).

Have a look at some of the osTicket screen shots that include the client interface, staff control panel, as well as the administrators control panel.