Sod's Law just bit us in the ass

Profile picture for user gonzodaddy By Den Howlett May 26, 2016
Oops - we didn't quite get our stuff out. Here's what happened. Thank you Sod's Law.


Early morning today (Pacific Time) I put out a Tweet and Facebook update that talked about our efforts at personalization. From what I said at Facebook:

For those who signed up for our stuff at Diginomica before today, we're sending the 1st personalized email out today. Hope it works 4 U. Let us know - this is an evolving effort which we're monitoring closely.

This was in reference to my story about how we are endeavoring to bring personalization to the 10,000 plus email subscribers to our content. It didn't happen and that leaves me sad because achieving a high degree of personalization is something I see as a personal (sic) goal as well as one for the business and its readers. Here's what happened.

We migrated the database of subscribers from MailChimp to Boomtrain. That went well. We then segmented that database based upon activity so as to get a 'cut' of subscribers that would form a solid baseline for reviewing outcomes. We tested the creation of the email letter - which, I have to say, looks rather spiffy and a huge improvement on our past efforts. We also did some forms replacement because we expect to move to a fresh system of subscriber ingestion. That has a few glitches of its own but isn't a show stopper so we did a rollback for that. BUT...we dropped something of a clanger.

While we were busily testing the various component parts, we made a crucial error, We didn't overwrite the rules for subscriber ingestion into the new system which happen to include the all important double opt-in. That meant while we have a perfectly serviceable database of ingested subscribers, the system doesn't yet know they are genuine. Net-net, when we hit the go button, nothing happened. It was like the system was saying to us: "Yeah? Not happening dude. Follow da rules numbnut" and in this case, there is no Plan B.

Side note - never think computer programs are intelligent. They're not. But they're fantastic at following the rules!

As I write this, Boomtrain engineers are working this one out and we are promised the email will go 10am PT Friday. It's not ideal given that there is a public holiday looming in the US, UK and Spain - three of our biggest 'markets.' But I made that call for several reasons.

  1. Waiting another week doesn't provide much upside.
  2. We need to get the personalization engine running sooner rather than later.
  3. We want feedback on what readers see so the sooner we go the better. (Thanks to those who did get in touch and ask what happened)
  4. Our most engaged readers will give us feedback 24x7, so timing for this is perhaps less relevant than we imagine.

In the meantime, I'm hoping that Sod's Law doesn't bite us in the ass twice in one week.

Image credit - via Terrafirma UK

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