Tooling for Simple but Informative Emails

Emails are one of my favorite methods of communicating with users. Its works as a quick test for product validation. It works well at one->some->many-> all. Its still highly effective even as much noise as we receive in our inboxes. Over the years I’ve tried a lot of email tools from custom built solutions, to newer entrants that help around drip actions ( and, to more “enterprise” tools such as Marketo. While I have varying opinions on all of those, I still find myself coming back to a simple one off script setup to deliver clear concise emails.

Getting the Data

The first step of any email is deciding what you want to do, but hopefully you know that already. The part that is usually a bit more effort is actually getting the list to send it to and formatting it appropriately. I usually opt for SQL. While the specifics of the query of course always vary it common follows a general structure:

WITH initial_data AS (
  WHERE = apps.user_id
    AND some_filter_to_limit_data

candidates_for_email AS ... --- likely to have additional CTEs

--- Finally I build up the list

SELECT email,
       array_to_string(array_agg(data_for_email), '
') --- an important note is to add a newline or not here depending on how you wish to format it
FROM candidates_for_email
GROUP BY email;

The query structure you’ll want is first column email, second column whatever data you want to include in your email.

From here I usually create a dataclip of it. This makes it easy to allow my data to change over time. If I’m testing an email for data over the last 7 days I just come back in 7 days and I have new data. It also lets me easily share and iterate on the data. The nice part is there’s an easy way to click a button and get the data as a CSV which is what you want for sending.

Once you download the CSV you’ll want to remove the header line as its not needed for the script.

Sending the Mail

To actually send the email you’ll need this script, which is largely credited to @leinweber:

require 'mail'
require 'csv'

Mail.defaults do
  delivery_method :smtp, {
    address: 'smtp address',
    port: 587,
    domain: '',
    user_name: '',
    password: ENV.fetch('EMAIL_PASSWORD'),
    authentication: :plain,
    enable_starttls_auto: true

def send_email(address, app)
  mail = do
    to      address
    from    'Craig Kerstiens <>'
    subject "Your email subject in here"
    body    generate_body(app)

def generate_body(app)

Your list of apps: 


Various email content in here...


CSV.parse( do |line|
  address = line[0]
  app     = line[1]
  m = send_email(address, app)
  puts m.to_s
  p m.deliver!


You’ll want to make sure to export the PW of your email provider with EXPORT EMAIL_PASSWORD=pw_here

You can easily download this script from off of Github’s Gist. I’d recommend using an email service provider other than Gmail in sending your emails such as mailgun as they’re built to handle sending a large amount of emails. Finally send your emails:

ruby email.rb nameofyourfile.csv