Ode to Sadie










Secret sauce for an awesome job

secret_sauceI was in Mozilla’s San Francisco office last week and had a fun revelation.  I’m fortunate to work with some very bright people. Okay, that wasn’t really a revelation. Anyone who knows me has heard about the respect I have for my colleagues. But as I reflected on that thought, something else occurred to me.  There are some simple reasons I enjoy my work. For me, there are 5 pieces that have to be aligned. We’ll call this list the secret sauce.

  1. A product or mission that I love and believe in
  2. Passionate colleagues who share a common vision
  3. Support from those colleagues (they’ve got my back)
  4. Transparency in the workplace
  5. The freedom to be bold

Finding all five isn’t easy.  It took me YEARS to find the perfect place for me, but fear not. The search can be long, but it is worth the time and effort.

You have my full attention.

I had some great feedback tonight and it warranted a quick blog post.

One of the things I love about working in tech is the pace of change. We move fast. But I also think innovation comes from moments of focus and contemplation. It’s important to take a step back and reflect on what’s been said. I’ve always valued that reflection and appreciate it in my peers.

During dinner tonight, we started talking about people becoming distracted during meetings. A colleague of mine, who I respect a great deal, pointed out that she has seen me check my phone in meetings. As soon as she said it, I knew she was absolutely right. It’s not intentional. I’m a fairly active person by nature. I move. I fidget. I know I’m not the only person who faces this challenge, but hearing it acknowledged from someone I respect gave me a moment of pause.

Another interesting thing happened this week. I was in a meeting for an hour and half where my laptop was closed. It was one of the best meetings I’ve been apart of in months. This wasn’t solely due to my lack of Wi-Fi. The moderator was the focal point. She did a great job of keeping us on task and focused, but my own contributions were amplified.  I think that was due in part to the lack of technology distracting me. The ideas that came out of that meeting were far more valuable than any time I might have saved by trying to multitask.

Technology brings us closer together. Without it, I wouldn’t have the amazing flexibility I enjoy in the workplace. But there are times when we have to be disciplined enough to turn everything off and focus on one another.

Here’s my plan. I use a laptop frequently because video conferencing is important to our culture. Having said that, I can take steps to ensure I’m giving my colleagues 100% of my attention. It’s really simple:

1) Turn off everything except the app I’m using to video conference
2) If I am in a meeting that isn’t remote, turn everything off
3) Bring a pen and paper

Let’s see what happens next.

Scrub Your Email List – Bigger Isn’t Always Better

Email marketers hear a lot about scrubbing their list. It can be a difficult concept to grasp. Where is the logic in sending fewer emails and expecting higher returns?  It’s a question that my colleague Jess Davis (Mozilla’s email engagement manager) and I discussed for many months in 2013.

Before I dive too deep, let me say that if you’re interested in email, you should be following and talking with Jess.  She is the email magician at Mozilla, and she knows her stuff. I’ll try not to steal too much of her thunder because I’m sure she has plenty to say on this topic.  I was compelled to discuss this particular email tactic given the overall impact it had on user engagement as a whole and the positive impact it had on budget. More on that later.

One more note before we jump into the fun stuff. Mozilla’s program spans many different geographies.  This particular blog post is focused on the English speaking portion of our list.  This excludes other languages in our email marketing program.

Let’s talk about the scrubbing

So for those of you not familiar with list scrubbing, here’s a quick and dirty description. It’s the practice of removing inactive subscribers from your list. Here’s a simple example. If Sally joined our email program six months ago, and has not clicked or opened any campaigns, it may be time to stop sending her email.  Here’s why.

Engagement matters

There’s a lot of junk in our inboxes. Gmail, Yahoo, AOL and other Internet service providers realize this. One of the metrics they use when deciding where to place email (in the inbox or the spam filter) is based on the open and click activity of your IP (learn more email delivery factors here). Translation: The more subscribers opening and clicking, the more likely your email will go to the inbox versus the spam box.

Our program

Our email engagement goals center around helping users get the most out of their Firefox experience by offering tips, tricks and news.

The program grew incredibly fast. We were fortunate to have massive traffic on our website from users downloading Firefox. We added an optional email opt-in to the download success page and watched our list take off at the speed of light. For the first twelve months we were seeing incredible engagement stats. But as time went by, we noticed that our stats were starting to decline.

Re-engage and scrub

We had a feeling it was time to start cleaning house. In mid-2013, we implemented a re-engagement campaign to begin the process of scrubbing our list. The criteria were as follows:

• The subscriber had been a member of our email program for at least 12 months
• The subscriber had not opened or clicked in at least 6 months

If a member of our list met these criteria, they were sent an email asking them to confirm interest in our program by clicking a confirmation button in the message. No click = removed from the list.

Before the re-engagement campaign, we were sending roughly 6 million emails to our Firefox & You newsletter list. Many of the subscribers that were added in 2011 were no longer opening and clicking. After lots of conversation and research, we made the decision to start scrubbing.

Jess also implemented a double opt-in to increase list quality. This dramatically decreased the rate of growth since subscribers now had to click to confirm their interest before being added to the newsletter.

The results

The changes had a profound impact. Within a few months, our 6 million subscribers turned into 3.5 million subscribers.

Watching the list shrink was scary. We questioned whether the strategy made sense. There were discussions about killing the re-engagement campaign and moving back to a single opt-in. But when Jess dove into the data, she saw some interesting things happening. First, our open rates went from averaging 19-21% to 35-40%. We also saw a surge in our click through rates.  But what difference does that make if fewer people are seeing our emails?

We decided to look at the raw numbers side-by-side and compare the volume of opens and clicks. It was important to understand if the decrease in list size was decreasing the volume of individuals we were reaching. In other words, are more people seeing our emails even though we’re sending to 40% fewer subscribers? We were delighted to find that after launching the double opt-in and the re-engagement campaign, we had MORE opens and clicks than before.  Why?

We theorize that:

  • the double opt-in creates a list of subscribers that are truly interested in content, which makes them more likely to open and click on our email.
  • the increased engagement stats strengthen our IP reputation and that increases email delivery

The results go far beyond simple subscriber engagement. When you start sending millions of emails a month, you can expect your email vendor to take a nice chunk of your marketing budget. By removing the disengaged, and focusing on the engaged, we were able to send 27 million fewer emails annually. That translates into thousands of dollars in savings.

Bottom line? 

We’re reaching more people.  We’re reaching the people who truly want our content.  We’re saving money. That’s three big wins.

5 Lessons from the Mozilla Summit

Winston on Headset

They even gave me a headset. Serious stuff.

Last weekend, more than a thousand Mozillians descended on three cities to help build the future of the Web.  It was a great experiment.  Could we manage a Summit that was happening simultaneously in three locations?  Three sets of speakers.  Three sets of logistical plans.  Three sets of Mozillians… you get the point.

The verdict is in and I think most of us believe the experiment was a resounding success.  During the four-day marathon, I learned a few things that I’ll take into my next Summit experience.

Lesson 1 – Embrace the chaos of the Summit

It was a wild ride.  Speakers were being secured, presentations finalized, and then there’s all the audio and visual work that had to be coordinated.  I came into the event as a speaker steward.  On paper, this meant I was suppose to round up presentations and help speakers get from point A to point B.  Sounds simple.

I realized the job was a bit more complicated 2 minutes after walking into the grand ballroom where keynote sessions would be held.  We worked from 7:30 am until 10 pm most nights of the Summit.  We were tracking down presentations, helping speakers rehearse, calling tech cues, writing MC scripts, finalizing the speaker notes, helping the a/v crew load in decks and a lot more.

Sound exciting?  It was. We had an amazing team and a great lineup of speakers.  Our roles changed from collecting presenter decks to becoming a part of the production team.  It was hard work, but we all had a blast doing it and learned a lot in the process.   I was also fortunate to work with three amazing ladies.  Shez Prasad, Liza Fox and Chelsea Novak were awesome Summit pals.

Lesson 2 – Coffee.  Coffee.  Coffee.

Sleep was scarce. I got to know caffeine really well.   First order of business around 6:30 am was to brew some drip coffee in my hotel room before hopping in the shower.  Thirty minutes later, I was walking downstairs and searching for a latte.  Two hours later, I was in the conference hall grabbing another latte.   Around 1:00 pm?  You guessed it.  Another latte.

Lesson 3 – Erase all expectations

This was my first Summit.  Many of my colleagues attended the Summit in Whistler several years ago.  I had painted a picture of what to expect and it bore little resemblance to what unfolded during the course of those four days.  While the vision I had was different, the outcome was similar:  thousands of Mozillians sharing ideas and their vision for the future of the Web.

Lesson 4 – There’s a lot of great content!

My team loves great content. We manage relationships with 28 million Firefox users through email, social media and the Firefox desktop start page.  To build these relationships, we need content that our users care about. By the end of the summit, I was salivating from watching dozens of demos, testimonials, and stories from Mozillians.  We’re stoked to share these stories with our users in the coming weeks and months.

Lesson 5 – Tune up your singing voice

Most importantly…

I walked away from the Summit with even more enthusiasm and excitement for the work Mozilla is doing.  During the daily grind, it’s easy to forget about the momentous impact we can make.  The Summit helped keep that top of mind.

Why I Walked Out of Star Trek into Darkness

If only he were yelling ABRAAAAAAAMS!

For the few reading this that don’t know me, I have been watching Star Trek since I was seven years old.  That was 1987.  I started off on Next Gen and quickly fell in love with the original series as well.  I didn’t play GI Joe.  I played Star Trek.  My friends and I would sit in the living room with one of the movies playing.  I was in the Captain’s chair (a lazy boy) and my friends were at their stations.  We’d watch the film and pretend we were in it.  The point here?  I’ve loved the Star Trek universe for a long time.

Let me start off by saying this was not the worst Trek movie ever.  Nemesis takes the grand prize.  In fact, I think this is a far cry better than Nemesis or Insurrection.  I sat through both of those and have watched them a few times since.  But even though they were shitty movies, I did still care for the characters.  That was missing for me in Star Trek into Darkness.

It’s no secret that my original expectations were high.  I was very happy with the 2009 reboot and wanted more.  In the latter part of May I read some early reviews that tempered those expectations.  I was prepared to be disappointed, but my preparation was not adequate.

I won’t write a full review because I think Devin Farcai’s has already written one that encompasses the bulk of my feelings.  It’s full of spoilers but accurately represents how I feel about this film from start to finish.  (http://badassdigest.com/2013/05/14/star-trek-into-darkness-spoiler-review/)

It wasn’t all bad.  It’s an attractive film on screen.  There are some beautiful visuals, and of course the CGI is excellent.  The score is solid and the cast does an excellent job with the exception of Chris Pine.  As in the 2009 film, Zachary Quinto IS Spock.  He embodies the character through and through.

Why did I hate it?  As others have written, the plot was sloppy and the screenplay uninspired.   I watched until we learned Khan has “magic” blood.  At that point, I decided I had seen enough.  I walked out. I may sound like the bitter canon trekkie who hates all new Trek.  That couldn’t be further from the truth.  I simply didn’t care what happened.   The plot was so broken for me that the outcome was irrelevant.  Even more disappointing, I really didn’t need to watch to know how it was going to end.   Every plot point is predictable.

More importantly, I didn’t want my memories of Star Trek II the Wrath of Khan to be in any way intertwined with this movie.   When they announced into Darkness, I wanted Khan to be the villain.  After watching most of the film, I can say Abram’s Khan isn’t Khan.  He was present only in name.  What a waste of talent.  Benedict Cumberbatch is a brilliant actor and could have brought the essence of Khan into JJ’s universe.   But that was impossible with the screenplay he was given.  It was full of holes – a sinking ship.

The movie is doing well and I have no doubt will surpass the 2009 film in terms of revenue.   I expect they’ll soon begin the planning for the third movie in their series.  Fortunately, my expectations are now permanently tempered when it comes to JJ Abram’s Trek universe.  It will be hard to disappoint me in 2016.

And with that… I end with a quote from the real Khan. To JJ and company I say:

“He tasks me. He tasks me and I shall have him! I’ll chase himround the moons of Nibia and ’round the Antares Maelstrom and ’round Perdition’s flames before I give him up!”

Some thoughts about my Uncle – Joe Melton

joeWithout a doubt, this has been one of the hardest weeks of my life.  We lost my uncle Joe on Tuesday to a sudden heart attack.   He was one of the most important mentors and figures in my life.  This was what I said about him at the funeral on Friday.

It’s fair to say that I’ve spent a large part of my life trying to be like Joe.   We met when he started dating my aunt Cindy.  I was nine and I’ll admit I was a little jealous at first.   I wasn’t a custom to sharing my aunt.   But it didn’t take me long to realize this was a two for one deal.  By years end, Joe had become my idol.

Joe was driven to succeed, but his drive was never more important than his integrity.  He was a man of his word and kept the promises he made.   Joe took his work seriously, but never let it take precedent over his family.  He was always there when someone needed him.

I think what most people will remember about Joe is the dedication to his family. Every choice he made was centered around their security and happiness. Cindy, Jackson and Laurel were the center of his universe.  He could not have been more proud of Laurel or Jackson.

Joe supported all of us in so many ways.  If there was a tough decision to be made, I always knew who to call.  He talked me through the problem and gave a balanced perspective.  It wasn’t always exactly what I wanted to hear – but I always knew it was what I needed to hear.  Two years ago when I was debating a move to San Francisco for a new job, Joe explained that there shouldn’t be a debate.  Move.  Go get the experience and come back in a few years if that’s what you want.   As always, he was right.

Cindy and Joe proved to me that there is such a thing as soul mates. You could see it whenever they looked at each other.  As individuals, they were different in demeanor, but as a partnership, they completed one another.  I’ve never known a more devoted couple.  Joe adored Cindy.  After more than two decades of marriage, that adoration was still apparent to anyone that spent time with them.

Joe taught me a lot.  I think the most important lesson was to always be proud of who I am and know that his love was unconditional.   It’s one of the best lessons of my life and I’m forever grateful.

Finally, I just want to say thank you to my Uncle for all the love and support you’ve shown all of us.  We miss you and love you very much.