2017 Retrospective

Company

This is the first post in the 2017 FastMail Advent series. The next post is about Ways to use calendars at FastMail.

Last year I finished the blog post series with a Christmas Day post looking at the year ahead, so let's start by checking how well we did on the predictions!

Scheduled future actions

Now 2 years since that first Christmas Day post, scheduled future actions (e.g. snooze, undo send, tell me if no reply) are still on the schedule to be implemented in the future! How nicely recursive.

Old-style screens

With the introduction of the new files interface and the removal of the classic interface during 2017, we removed nearly all old-style screens. There are still a couple of those screens left in obscure corners like mailbox quota usage and website settings, but they'll be upgraded eventually too.

Inexperienced programmers measure productivity by amount of code written, but the best feeling for a seasoned programmer is being able to remove code. The least buggy code is code that doesn't exist!

JMAP and standards

The JMAP protocol is taking time to complete, but it's getting the benefits of a much larger group of people being involved through the IETF standardisation process. The JMAP of today is better in many ways than the JMAP of 2 years ago. We are already using the JMAP protocol in parts of FastMail, and designing new subsystems to be JMAP-compatible.

I'll be writing more about our work at the IETF later in this blog series.

New Office

As noted at the end of last year, our Melbourne team was outgrowing the office we'd been in since 2011. We moved to a bigger office at the end of July this year. It's been a pretty epic process, and we'll tell the story of the new office in another post.

And no, I didn't get the best seat in the office as I promised I would last year, but I'm happy with my spot. It has a nice view. Besides, I have seat number 1 in office number 1 on the floor plan! Just come in the front door and turn left.

New Product

This is the most exiting bit of all! Our new product, Topicbox, is doing great. If you haven't checked it out yet, so sign up for a trial and see what we've been up to.

Topicbox is a collaborative project of staff from both our offices, and runs entirely on top of JMAP. We're at the forefront of new email standards.

We have been using Topicbox internally for most of the year. We're really excited about how our own Topicbox will make onboarding easier for our new staff in future, and for out customers' Topicbox archives to be increasingly valuable as their teams grow.

Technical debt

Mostly, reducing technical debt is about the little things. Fixing bugs, standardising internal APIs. Not exciting to our customers, but exciting to us.

We cleaned up a ton of things in the past year, particularly as a result of removing the legacy classic interface.

Every service needs to balance adding exciting new features and maintaining existing features. We will continue doing both next year.

Integrating the two companies

As we've grown from a very small company a few years ago, to absorbing another company, we've adjusted how we work to deal with the difficulties of having people working in different timezones. We restructured this year, and I'm now CEO - leading an executive team split between the two offices as we picked the best person for each role from our distributed workforce.

Thankfully at this time of the year (Summer in Australia, Winter in the USA) the time difference is only 8 hours rather than 10 hours (give or take a day - it's 16 or 14 if you go the long way around!), so we share more waking hours.

We still spend a lot of time wearing a headset and looking into a webcam, but at least we're all mostly-awake while we do it!

Things people wanted to achieve in 2017

I finished the final post last year with some quotes from staff about what they wanted to achieve in the coming year, so let's check the scorecard.

"Replacing our incoming SMTP and spam checking pipeline with a simpler and easier to extend system." — Rob M

IN-PROGRESS. There's still more to do here, but we now have a single team responsible for deliverability across all our products, both inbound and outbound. World-class mail flow handling is a key part of our value proposition, so this is going to continue being an important focus for us.

"Can't wait to hang out at LCA (see you there?) where I'm doing my (first ever talk), and meet customers present (and future)! (all of the brackets)" — Nicola

COMPLETED. Nicola gave a great talk at LCA, and has represented FastMail at conferences and meetups throughout the year. She has been instrumental in building our support and documentation teams, and is now our Customer & Communications Manager.

"Making more tools and monitoring and other internal magic so everyone can get stuff done faster without worrying about breaking anything." — Rob N

IN-PROGRESS. Rob N ★ is our Development & Operations Manager and has kept all the lights on while also replacing all our monitoring with new infrastructure, moving our East Coast datacenter in two days and spinning up a new datacentre on the USA West Coast. There's always more work to do, but we've already made major improvements this year.

"Focusing on Abuse and Deliverability — making sure your mail gets delivered, and keeping nasties out of your Inbox" — Marc

IN-PROGRESS. Marc has represented us at the M3AAWG conference and is keeping us at the forefront of anti-spam. We now have ARC testing and signing enabled on all incoming email. Deliverability and anti-abuse is an ever-evolving arms race - Marc's work will never be done!

"Getting our new project in front of customers — it brings the best parts of Listbox's group email infrastructure together with FastMail's interface expertise. It's going to be awesome!" — Helen

COMPLETED! Last and certainly not least, Helen led the Topicbox team, while still somehow finding time to manage the Listbox and Pobox products, keep the US office running, and so much more. Helen is our COO, and will take a secondment to the Australian office for much of 2018.

Topicbox is indeed in front of customers, you can sign up right now!


Congratulations to all our staff at FastMail for a great year. #highfive

Huge thanks to all our customers for your support. We can employ the excellent staff who build, maintain and support our products because you believe it's worth paying to be a customer rather than a product. We know you have a choice in air travel, and we thank you for flying with FastMail.

Finally, to all the readers who make this advent series worth writing. We look forward to entertaining and informing you for the next 3-and-a-bit weeks!