Daily e-mails working again—probably!

Howdy folks—my name is Lee, and I run the Space City Weather servers & back-end. (I don’t post much, so you might not recognize the name!) I wanted to weigh in real quick on the status of the e-mail deliverability issues some readers have experienced over the weekend, and explain what’s going on.

(This is not a weather post! If you’re interested in hearing more about our current cold snap, Eric & Matt will be posting their normal update tomorrow morning. This is just a quick technical update on recent e-mail issues.)

Here’s the short version: there were some hiccups this weekend, but things are working fine now. If you don’t care about the deep technical details, you can stop reading now 😀

The deep technical details

SCW runs on Wordpress. (See this post for details on the SCW hosting stack.) For cost reasons, the site relies on the Wordpress Jetpack service for the delivery of the daily e-mails—which means that, ultimately, e-mail is out of our control. The ultimate reason for this boils down to cost: the Wordpress Jetpack service will happily—and more importantly, for free—send e-mails to all 20,000+ SCW subscribers whenever Eric or Matt (and Maria!) make a post.

It turns out that e-mail in bulk is an incredibly expensive service to provide, and leaning on the built-in Wordpress Jetpack e-mail service saves SCW literally tens of thousands of dollars per year. (Seriously, we’ve run the numbers, and going with a commercial e-mail service provider like Mailgun or Mailchimp, or even rolling our own solution with something like Amazon SES, would be a massive cost burden at the scale we’re operating at.) As the sole infrastructure person, I feel a heavy sense of fiduciary responsibility with where and how we choose to spend resources on hosting, and so in spite of the inherent compromises, we’ve stuck with using Jetpack for e-mail updates.

One of those compromises is that we don’t have a lot of control over when and how the daily e-mails are delivered—we are dependent on the Jetpack service to be up and running. Which it usually is! However, for some reason that remains unexplained, over the last few days there have been some failures with the daily e-mails.

I’m very sorry, and I take personal responsibility. We’ve made the conscious choice to use the “free” Jetpack e-mail service in lieu of standing up our own, due to the cost and complexity involved (which truly would be a not-insignificant >$1k/mo expense—sending out millions of e-mails per month has a real cost!). Occasionally, the Jetpack service will have issues that we don’t have much insight into—and that’s apparently what happened over the last couple of days.

Fear not, though—Jetpack e-mail has been reliable (more or less) for every day of every year since I took over hosting the site in 2017. And the Wordpress Jetpack support crew have been extremely responsive in the past when I’ve had to open support tickets to work issues. Eric and Matt and Maria are committed to getting all y’all the best possible forecast data, and the backend crew of Dwight, Hussain, and I are committed to making sure those forecasts get to you immediately and without delay—come rain, snow, or server crashes 🙂

Cheers, everybody. Thanks for reading Space City Weather!

51 thoughts on “Daily e-mails working again—probably!”

  1. Thanks for the transparency in your explanation!! The back end folks rarely get any props but huge shout out to you 3 for all your work that allows us to read the daily blogs!!!

  2. I didn’t get a newsletter on Monday, but no problems this morning. Seems to be working again. Thanks!

  3. Another reason I continue to relish my decision to subscribe to SCW. Thank you for the update, Lee. Best Wishes for continued success in support of SCW and the subscribers.

  4. Thank you for the detailed explanation. I like free and I like “free”, so again thanks!

  5. I haven’t had any problems. I understand the economics and agree with your decision. Everything hiccups eventually.

  6. Not a problem. Am pretty sure I have continued to get SCW daily as a Facebook post, so wouldn’t necessarily miss it as an email. Thanks for the heads-up.

  7. Y’all are amazing and I’m so impressed with the thoughtfulness at every level of Space City Weather!

  8. It’s not if, but when issues will bite you. Can’t complain about a free service having a few hiccups. Props to the explanation and your dedication and care.

  9. I appreciate the transparency and thank you for all the work that y’all do to provide us with accurate and quick weather updates!

  10. Add me to the chorus of thanks for the transparency and insight into the “back room” of SCW. I never take for granted that this site is a true treasure so, if some technical difficulties happen occasionally, we should take it in stride.

  11. Appreciate that you took the time to explain the “SWC server hiccup “. Keep up the outstanding work.

  12. I appreciate the explanation Lee but don’t sweat it. For the one day that I didn’t get the email, I just logged into the app.

  13. Lee, a truly outstanding explanation for what happened over the weekend. Thanks for being so thorough! Keep up the awesome, yet ‘behind the scenes’ work you do. I love SCW and this just reinforces it!

  14. Thank you for the explanation and information. Sounds like very solid, prudent decision-making.We appreciate all who make Space City Weather happen!

  15. Wow. I’m impressed with and appreciate the work you and others do. It was kind of you to provide the details of the behind the scenes workings. It makes perfect sense to remain with JetPack. All of you are good-hearted people and it shows in the work you do at SCW. Keep on keeping on. 😉

  16. Thank for you the explanation and I totally agree with your fiduciary sense! I’ll happily take the odd glitch over a subscriber cost (and I hop to the app anytime I think I’ve missed something)

  17. …..and SCW continues their commitment to no hype, just the facts, and openness we all have grown to appreciate and rely on from EVERYONE involved. Thank you!

  18. Kudos for such a detailed explanation and thanks for taking the time to post. Wasn’t an issue – just read it in the app.

  19. Lee, thanks for all the work you do! I didn’t get the email yesterday, so I just went to the website and read it. Email was fine today.

  20. Thank you for the explanation. I appreciate you taking the time to explain. I certainly understand the economics. Like many, many others I feel fortunate to be part of SCW.

    Art Shelton

  21. As a person who has worked in the website space, thank you! Behind the scenes stuff may not be glamorous and it is so essential!

  22. Thank you so much for the explanation. I rely on Space City Weather forecasts to make decisions about when my business jobs will be scheduled. Outdoor access is very important to these decisions. Thank you so much for your explanation. As a small business owner myself, it’s helpful to understand how you guys keep your costs down. Cheers!

  23. DIDO! Thanks for the explanation – you took a somewhat difficult topic and made it easy to understand.

  24. Thanks for a most interesting insight into how your service works. I had no idea about how involved it is to generate a newsletter. Thank you for hanging in there. I love SCW.

  25. Thanks for the explanation. Exactly what I expect from your excellent team. And I had no delivery issues. Wolfe

  26. Thank you All for the wonderful work you do. I didn’t subscribe to your email list but just ” log on” whenever I need reliable weather info. Again, thanks
    C Reynolds
    Spring, Tx

  27. I DID miss y’all over the week-end. I appreciate all of you there from the visibles to the invisibles! The only problem I’ve had with the site is when I tried to donate and buy something during the $$drive last fall and it wouldn’t take my money no matter how hard I tried. I think it was the fault of the company running that donation campaign. I think you have made a wise business decision and am happy that you have that set-up available. Onward & upward!

  28. I did not have this issue, but actually have another one: When I open your post from the app, a very short while in, the app closes..(iPhone 13mini, OS 15.6.1). That’s been happening for over two weeks now.. Since I rely on you guys exclusively for my weather information, I will of course use the email link a little later in the day to read the rest of the post, so I’m not missing out…

  29. Don’t beat yourself senseless with a wet noodle over this. In the world of IT issues, this is less than a mosquito bite.

  30. Thanks for the update. I have never had any trouble receiving your emails and look forward to all the great info you provide. It’s greatly appreciated!

  31. Eric, Matt and Maria: No issues here. Tech issues are bound to happen from time to time. I am truly grateful for your incredibly precise, scientific, and thoughtful emails regarding our local weather. I have not seen or experienced a group that is so dead-on in predicting the weather as you all are! Keep up the great work!

  32. It happens. No big deal as long as people can still check the website/app for weather updates. It is shocking how much I rely on y’all (shocking until I talk to people about upcoming storms and notice they rely extensively on you too).

    Appreciate the insight. So grateful for the work that you ALL do.

    Bonus – now I know there is a Maria version of Eric & Matt, so I don’t have to try and translate for my Spanish-speaking friends. I know how much they’re gonna miss my comical mistranslations and confounding syntax.

    Thanks you all!!

  33. Very interesting. Agree with your financial decisions, and we can all use the app if email is transiently unreliable

  34. Thank you Lee for your understandable explanation about the email issues. I agree with Mike, keep up the good work!

  35. Thank you, Lee and your coworkers who “carry the mail” for us! I value my subscription.

Comments are closed.