Another Missive from the Trenches

On occasion I’ll receive great notes from my past clients about their data management challenges. Here’s another one, from a past client, reprinted with his permission. This is lightly edited for clarity. My commentary follows his letter.

Hi Wes,

Last year, I asked you regarding mailing list software, if you had suggestions. Aurea, the owner of Lyris, quit selling their hosted product @1,000/month we used. Their replacement was priced to switch, only to become a horrendously pricey solution two years in. So I figured I’d give a try to Mailman (all the work on me, but heck, why not – if only as a bridge, $55/month and no contract).

When I switched servers, we switched IP addresses.  As you know mail servers and IPs have a reputation – so I knew I had to create a good reputation for this new IP – so I started to chase obsessively returns on bad emails. Coming from Lyris, I knew well we had about 15% aged data – but that data had aged gracefully over time one record at a time, since Lyris would automatically suspend people as needed. After the switch, Mailman could only presume that ALL the data was good. I found there was a price to pay, as we should not have ignored the one bad email here and there; they never stop accumulating.

Once we got all our data cleaned up, I was able to write a report in Mailman so that in one instant, I can get a short, deduped list of about three “bad” records for any given week. Out of about 3000 names, that is a cool 0.1% or so. The bounceback list is so small, I write to them individually before we remove them – AND I can keep an eye on more exotic delivery issues – it’s remarkable.  It went from a bit overwhelming to enjoyable – because you find these other problems you can now worry about – now our delivery is so fast, and the product is so cheap, that it was well worth the trouble.


This is an excellent case study of why keeping your data clean, and cleaning your data consistently over time, is so important. As the writer notes, now that the data is cleaned up, and he’s continuing to clean it weekly, not only is it easy to keep clean, but, as he put it, he can “keep an eye on more exotic delivery issues.” In other words, by staying on top of the mundane, he’s able to focus more energy on the “exotic.”

For best results, make sure you’re consistently weeding the garden.

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