One feature that I had in mind for the 1.1 release of Kalzumeus (does it even make sense to have a 1.1 version of a webapp? Well, you get the general drift) was the ability to send a real, honest-to-God postal mail in an automated fashion. It is a requirement with legal significance for some of my customers, and all of my customers would see the ability and go “Oooh, that would save me so much hassle”. I have been searching for a good way to do this for a while. Obviously, doing it myself would transform me from a highly-paid software developer to a low-paid postal clerk, which is frankly stupid when there are plenty of businesses out there which offer ways to do it without ever having to lick a stamp.
I was originally planning on using the Post Office’s API. They have a service called NetPost which is aimed at direct marketers. The prices are pretty high for one piece ($2.25 or so) but reasonable if you’re sending hundreds, I guess. I used to use this any time I needed to send a letter to America which didn’t need a physical signature on it, since it costs about the same as sending a letter internationally and gets there a week earlier.
However, cost issues aside ($2.25 is dwarfed by the number of sales this will get me, and I can probably charge extra for it for customers who use it on a regular basis), I really hate having to learn another API. It is one more thing that can go wrong with my application, and the consequences of a letter not being sent when my app reports it sent are rather severe. Then today I ran into a site called Postful, which has a much more convenient interface — send them an email, they send out a letter. You preload your account in advance and after that its $.99 a letter for one page, which is where all the letters I’d be sending are.
Composing an email to my requirements is trivial, since I already have the exact same functionality elsewhere in the program to deliver this notification via email. As a result, this will probably get into the 1.0 release of Kalzumeus.
As an extra bonus, I can now save myself $1.25 the next time I have to send out a letter to the States. Yay.