Email to Feed

February 12, 2023

I have a new weekend project: Email to Feed. It turns emails into RSS feeds.


It feels like we’re in a renaissance for the open web. The past decade has been an unrelating march toward centralization, putting more and more eyeballs in front of infinitely-scrolling feeds controlled by a few elite organizations.

The self-destruction and implosion of Twitter is sad to see. I remember how big a deal it was when reply tweets started getting filtered out of bystander timelines. The whole mechanism of the “@“ was a user invention that eventually became part of the platform’s design.

Mastodon provides another opportunity for us to shape the flow of ideas and information without a profit motive. That’s exciting! In fact, a few friends and I set up our own private Mastodon instance a few weeks ago, and it’s been a lot of fun sharing things on a platform that belongs to us.

What’s so neat about RSS?

Tangentially, this has also revived my interest in RSS. I always strongly believed that no website is complete without an RSS feed (one of the last things I did at Replit was add a feed to the blog!). Today, many people whose ideas I’m discovering for the first time are sharing them on semi-closed platforms, whether that’s through Twitter or even TikTok. The implosion of Twitter is a good reminder that any of these platforms can also go away rapidly. But the decentralized nature of RSS ensures it will endure.

One of my favorite features of RSS is how simple it is. You can just toss a few lines of XML into a file and bam! That’s an RSS feed. This simplicity is key to why RSS is so powerful.

Since no one entity controls the producers or the consumers, anyone can start providing RSS or write a client without needing anyone’s permission.

I’ve recently rediscovered NetNewsWire, which is an extremely polished RSS reader for Mac and iOS. I’ve been having such a great time with it that I want to shift as much reading as possible into it. But that’s only possible if someone provides an RSS feed for their ideas.

A major problem is email newsletters, such as Matt Levine’s Money Stuff. It’s published via email and the official RSS feed only has a single-sentence summary. So, how can I get this email into my RSS reader?

Email to Feed!

When you generate a feed, you’ll get an associated email address that you can use wherever you’d like. Anything sent to it will be added to the RSS feed.

I use it to get email-only newsletters piped into my RSS reader. I’m mostly running it for myself, but if you have a use for it, please try it out and let me know what you think!

The stack

This uses a combination of AWS SES, S3, and SNS to get incoming emails piped into a Postgres database. A web app renders those emails to RSS on-demand.

The web app itself is Elixir with Phoenix, and I of course made the human-facing bits with LiveView. It’s just using the default Phoenix styles for now, but maybe one day I’ll make it look more unique.