I’ve hijacked the VerticalResponse Product Blog for this post. I’m Josh Feinberg, VP of Product Management. As we get ready for the exciting Email Creation Upgrade in the next few weeks, the team continues to blaze ahead on this massive release. We are redesigning the way users create email marketing campaigns in VerticalResponse, and all of this new code is being written from scratch, which is great…except for the fact that we have hundreds and hundreds of email templates that need to be converted from the current application into the new one.

Although there are some automated ways to make this process run a little faster, there is nothing like real-life “quality assurance” from human beings.  Lucky for us we’ve got a whole group of dedicated humans in our Product and Engineering groups who decided to turn what could be considered a long, tedious process into something a lot more fun. So here’s the skinny on what went down.

Last week James (our Software Development Manager) sent around an invitation to attend a “Template Party” on Thursday night.  As you can imagine we could hardly contain our excitement.  But James is a very smart dude and to help increase party attendance he dangled things like pizza, beer as well as the potential to win prizes.  Apparently we have a lot of suckers when it comes to free things — well played James!  So began VR’s first ever Template Party. Here is a quick timeline of the events:

5:00 PM: VR folks start filing into the conference room, the skeptical looks on their face seem to say: “What exactly have I gotten myself into? I could be at home watching the Winter Olympics right now.”

5:15 PM:
Teams are created by pairing a Software Developer up with either a QA Engineer or a Product Manager. This arrangement would help us find problems and then fix those problems in real-time.


5:20 PM: James gives instructions to the teams. Again, since we’re converting all our existing templates for the upcoming release we really want to make sure everything is solid when customers get access.

5:25 PM: James ups the ante a bit by revealing a custom Ruby on Rails app that he somehow managed to whip up in his copious spare time. It provides a full set of tools for
reviewing and editing the templates in real-time as well as dashboard stats showing a counter for how many templates are left and which team is in the lead.  Oh yes, nothing like healthy competition (cough: trash-talking) to get folks fired up about being crowned the Template Party Champions.

5:30 PM: Game On! The teams are let loose and everyone dives in.  We saw a variety of strategies employed by the different teams and some started strong then faded while others snuck up and surprised the field.  In all we reviewed, fixed, tweaked and/or updated close to 500 templates over the next 3 hours.

8:45 PM: Evan (our Director of Engineering) arrived to award the winning team their prizes. They seemed slightly disappointed to each be handed an empty shot glass with some congratulatory words scribbled on the side.  That was until the two bottles of top-shelf tequila entered the room a few seconds later!  The crowd went wild and we toasted the winning team as well as the hard work everyone put in that night.

Your reigning Template Party Champions: Micah B. and Nathan R.

What made the Template Party great was not so much that we got through reviewing all the templates (that was obviously cool and it would have taken much longer if we’d tried to do this piecemeal a few hours at a time) but rather we had a solid group of dedicated folks who banded together and made a pain in the butt task really fun.

This is why I love working at VR — good people working hard to provide the best possible user experience for our customers.  We’re all very excited about the Email Creation Upgrade and hope that you are as well!  Thanks for reading and watch this space for more updates coming soon.

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