Looking forward to 2018

Company

This is the final post in the 2017 FastMail Advent Calendar. In the previous post we met Rik.

We’ve done it! 24 blog posts, one per day.

To begin this aspirational blog post, a goal. We plan to post more frequently overall next year. At least one post every month.

This should be fairly easy since we have a Pobox blog, a Topicbox blog and of course this FastMail blog.

One company

In 2018 we will continue the process of becoming a single company where everybody “owns” all our products, rather than two separate companies flying in close formation, each with their own products. Rik is driving the process of integrating development while Rob N ★ leads merging of operations.

We no longer wake somebody with automated notifications if there’s a person awake in a different timezone who can perform triage, leading to better sleep for everybody. We’re also distributing first-line support between the offices, and training support staff in all our products, for a closer working relationship between the people seeing emerging issues, and the people responding to them.

Our 4 products have their own branding, but internally we’re becoming a single team who love all our children equally (ssssh … I think we each still have our favourite)

Settling in to our new digs

FastMail Melbourne moved to a new office in the middle of the year, and the process was not entirely painless.

Special mention to Jamie who somehow didn’t go mad through all of this. What a welcome to the company – he’s just coming up to the completion of his first year with us, and when I asked him to take point on the office fit-out, I had no idea what I was asking him to do. I’m sure he had no idea either, or he wouldn’t have said yes!

Our office is a lovely space, just 50 metres from our old office, so we can still go to our favourite coffee places in the morning! We have a favourite place we normally go, but we can be fickle – if their coffee isn’t up to our snobby standards, Melbourne has plenty of nearby hipster options just waiting for our custom. This year we’ve mostly dragged people who used disposable paper cups into bringing reusable keep-cups instead. Reusable keep-cups are totally Melbourne.

The morning coffee run is our main regular social gathering, and a highlight of the day. Even non-coffee-drinkers join us for the walk and chat.

Improving our products

The world keeps changing, and no product can keep still and stay successful. But we’re not just reacting, we have plans for new features too!

Next year we will keep polishing Topicbox based on feedback from our early adopters. We also have some neat ideas for new features which will make it even more compelling for teams working together.

FastMail hasn’t seen many user-visible changes in the past year, largely because we’ve been focusing on getting JMAP finished and the interface ported over to use it. 3 Years since our first blog post about JMAP, we’re really close to a finished mail spec. 2018 will be the year of JMAP on the desktop, and then we can start adding new features that build upon the new protocol.

More and more people are accessing our products primarily on mobile devices. We have neglected our apps in 2017, and we will remedy that in 2018. Mobile experience is an explicit focus for us in the coming year, and we’ve engaged outside help to assist with our app development.

Continuing to support Open Source and the community

We fund large amounts of the development work going into the Cyrus IMAP server, as well as the many other open source projects we work on.

We have sponsored various conferences in the past year, and provide free email service to some groups that we feel are well aligned with our mission, like the Thunderbird project, one of the most well known open source email clients.

And of course we send people, and give our time to standards work and collaboration at IETF, M3AAGW and CalConnect.

Pragmatism

This is always the most interesting thing to me when I follow discussions about issues that affect us and our customers. Privacy and security are key features for everybody, as are usability and speed. Ideally, as a customer, these things are invisible. You only notice speed when things get slow. You only notice usability when you’re struggling to achieve your goals. You only notice privacy and security when it turns out you didn’t have them.

Neil wrote a great post earlier in this advent series about our mindset around security. Security and usability are frequently in opposition – the most secure computer is one which is turned off and unplugged from the network. The problem is, it’s easy to believe that something is more secure just because it’s harder to use – that is rarely true.

For example if you pop up dialogs all the time to ask users to make security decisions, they will just click “Yes” without reading and actually be less secure than if asked rarely. Our preferred interaction is to perform the requested action immediately, but make undo simple, so the common case is painless. We also provide a restore from backup feature which allows recovery from most mistakes.

As we review our systems for GDPR compliance next year, we will have pragmatic and effective security in mind.

To 2018

The advent calendar is over, Christmas is almost here, and the New Year just a week away. 2018 will be an exciting year for us.

Thank you again for reading, and for your loyal support throughout 2017. We depend upon the existence of people who are willing to pay to be the customer rather than the product. We’re not the cheapest option for your email, but we firmly believe we are the best. We love what we do, and we love the direct relationship with our customers, payment for service provided.

FastMail the company is growing strongly. We have great people, great products, great customers, and funky new t-shirts.

Cheers! See you next year :)