For Cameo 10, I am thinking about making some changes to how lists and templates work to address some problems, particularly with opting out. I envisage:

  • Separating opt-outs from lists, so that people opt-out from a small number of purposes for which templates are sent.
  • Allowing all lists to be subscribed to manually, in addition to anyone they automatically select.

Problems to address

  • Opt-outs and subscriptions with combinations of lists are hard to manage.

    In particular, it is not obvious what an opt-out from a specific list that either combines or is combined in other lists should do.

    Consider lists A, B and AB. AB is a combination (everyone on either list, set union) of A and B. People will mostly get mail from AB, and if they opt out from it they will be opted out from AB but not from A or B. So if someone sends only to A and they are on that, they will get the email, which probably isn’t what was intended. Also, the interactive subscriptions section in Cameo doesn’t offer the opt-outs from combination lists.

  • Furthermore, even when lists aren’t combined, many recipients won’t understand or know about different lists for different purposes. Many will just think of email from that organisation and not as segmented kinds of email; so opting out of email for a list may still give them other email they actually didn’t want.

  • Currently applying existing opt-outs to a new list is clumsy: you have to combine with the older list as “anyone on both lists”, set intersection, so that any opt-out from the older list will be applied to the combined list.

  • Sending to a few hangers-on in addition to those selected by an automatic list is also rather clumsy. You need to combine the automatic list (say all current members with email – except opt-outs) and a manual list with the hangers-on (because they aren’t in the automatically defined group but you still want them to get that email) into a third list, the combination of those two. It would be good to simplify this case.

  • Opting out from everything correctly applies to all lists, now and in the future. There is a case that causes problems though: because it applies to all lists, this suppresses postal communications too (other than transactional things, like renewal notices). A list doesn’t know it is being used for snail mail, it’s the template that does that, and indeed the same list could be used for both email and postal in different templates.

    In many cases it is not obvious this is happening as one member of a household may opt-out of all, but they still see the paper delivery (newsletter say) by virtue of their other household member receiving it, so it is not clear they are actually opted out of this (and arguably they shouldn’t be – indeed one of the reasons for opting out of email is to only receive a paper newsletter and not any separate newsletter email).

Possible solution

1. Opt-outs

Instead of opting out of individual lists, we separate opt-outs from lists. We introduce purposes, representing the reasons you communicate. For example, you might have an announcements purpose, a fundraising purpose and a regular updates purpose.

So when someone gets an email and decides they no longer want emails like it, they are opted-out not from the list which it is sent to, but to anything sent for that purpose.

They can also opt out from all purposes: no more mailshot email of any kind.

The process wouldn’t look any different to them: it’s just the scope of applying the opt-out that differs.

When you make a template (not a list), you say what purpose(s) it is for. There wouldn’t be many of these, and almost always you’d choose one (or possibly more) existing ones. That means existing opt-outs would automatically apply to your new template, and it wouldn’t matter what combinations of lists the mail was sent to. There would be:

  • a default purpose, so you can’t accidentally overlook opt-outs (which need to be applied by law)
  • an all purposes applied by default to all templates, which means opt-out-all isn’t special, it’s just an over-arching purpose
  • you would be able to explicitly apply no purposes, which deals with the opt-out-all-includes-post problem above, by effectively excluding them from having opt-outs applied (or perhaps just all purposes opt-outs in some cases).

2. Automatic+manual

Secondly, the distinction between automatic and manual lists is removed.

All lists can both select people automatically from their source (like all current members with email), and also have manual subscriptions applied to them. This deals with the “hangers-on problem”. What is currently a manual list becomes just a list which selects no one automatically.

In this way, it is the list subscription that is manual or automatic, not the list itself.