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Saying thank you

Things are in a really bad place right now. It is difficult to think of any aspect of the world that isn’t being strangled by malignant forces. This includes the web.

It's been a long time since the altruistic early web—putting content out there for the its own sake. The web doesn't feel transactional anymore, either. If I could put a label on the current state of things, it feels extractive.

In this ongoing despair I find myself remembering a rare and wonderful treat: the thank you email. They’re usually short and sweet, mentioning a specific thing I’ve made or written and what quality they liked about it. I don’t get them that often, but I cherish each one.

Thank you emails are private, and their goal is as earnest as it is direct. They don’t come with UTM tracking codes, quid pro quo schemes, or linkback spam. They also don’t have self-aggrandizing, parasocial vibe of a quote tweet (why I’ve been trying to only signal boost the original author as of late).

The recipient also doesn’t have to do anything with the email if they don’t want to—they can delete or archive it just as easily as replying. Sometimes when I say thank you back there isn’t a response. Sometimes we have a short conversation. There’s no gamification to navigate or burndown chart to satisfy. It’s great.

A thank you email feels like a personal and selfless act in a web that feels increasingly built to not facilitate this kind of interaction. I’ve given myself a challenge to send a thank you email each week to someone whose work I’ve enjoyed.

Most blog post authors fall over themselves to give out their contact information (don’t be creepy if they don’t). It takes only a modicum of effort to break out of a consumptive mode and fire an email off. And hey, maybe sending a thank you email is something you could do too!