How we hack
Our Hack Weeks are about three things: pushing the boundaries of what marketing and customer engagement technology can be; learning new things; and having fun.
In 2018, our Hack ‘Week’ was four days long. That’s four days for planning, designing, engineering, and demonstrating. It encompassed 16 teams – widely formed of people who don’t typically work together. Here are the hacks that stood out the most.
The Best Hack award, as voted for live by the audience, went to ‘The Continuum of Automation’. The team was formed of software engineers James Marais, Luke van Blerk, and Terry Muyambo from our Cape Town office, and designer Sani Chan based in London.
They asked the questions: What happens when automation goes wrong? How could we give insight into what automations did in the past?
Their answer was a history button that served up every version of an automation program, with a graphical representation of what it looked like at the time. What’s more, they offered a fully interactive preview for each version. They showed how you could see the historical configuration of every node from the past.
Program testing can be challenging, especially when programs grow in size and complexity. This hack captured the imagination of an audience that had done their fair share of program debugging.
Our founder and original CTO, Simon Bird, is a frequent member of the Hack Week audience, so this year we gave him his own award. He judged based on innovation, the approach of solving a real-world problem, and potential customer impact.
Winning the Founder’s Award was ‘Contact Personas’. The winning team was formed of data scientist Sam Crawley and software engineers Grant Lodge and Joseph Appleyard.
The team built a way of ‘contact clustering’ – automatically separating contacts into groups based on what content they’re opening, what they’re buying, how often they’re ordering, and so on.
They did this by ranking every contact based on the percentile they were in for each metric being recorded (‘percentile ranking’). Those contacts were then clustered using vectors based on the percentile ranks. If I’ve lost you at this point, then no need to worry. Essentially, they used the data we hold on contacts to add them into common groups.
The team did this so that marketers could have a different way of looking at their contacts – not just who they are, but what type of customer they are: splurgers, regulars, special-offer hunters, and so on, and then target them with specific, relevant messaging.
If there’s one thing I know, it’s that our users rarely work alone. Marketing teams are, well, teams. We had two entries this year tackle the subject of collaboration, both of which deserve a special mention.
‘Signal R’ll The Things’, featuring Darran Jugdoyal, Dawn Swan, Jesus Sanchez, and Dave Russell, looked at collaboration in our Program Builder, and used Signal R to allow real-time updating of the program canvas. They showed a nifty demo (check out the GIF to the right) of two users logged into the same dotmailer account, showing how each user could see what the other was doing with the canvas.
Team RKID (formed of Manchester-based software engineers Andrei Constantin and Tom Westwood) also put Signal R to use, but in EasyEditor. They crafted a way for more than one person to edit an email campaign simultaneously – and to see who else was viewing it. Special shout out to this team as both engineers have only been with us for a few months, and they’re already hacking the phenomenally complicated (under the bonnet!) EasyEditor. Impressive stuff.
You can be a dotmailer hacker, too
If you think you have what it takes to be a world-class customer engagement software engineer, designer, data scientist, UX designer, product manager, or pretty much any other product role, then check out our open positions. We look forward to seeing you at the dotmailer Hack Week 2019…