Shawn and Will in the front seats of a truck. The back seat is full of bags of dog food. Shawn smiles happily at the camera, and Will looks off into the distance with a small frown.

New method, same Buddies

If you’re a Buddy, you know our Buddy updates lately have been sparse. There’s a few reasons for that, but one of the really big ones is the method of sending those. We use Mailchimp to send out email updates to our Buddies about each dogs. Mailchimp is really handy for a few things. One, it works awesome for our race updates. We’ll definitely keep using it for those. Two, it lets us sort our list into dedicated segments, which means we can automagically send updates about Cassidy to Cassidy’s Buddies. But Mailchimp is really UNhandy for a few other things, and one of the big ones, for me, is that the email-building interface is a little clunky, at least for what I need.

Here’s an example of one of our Buddy updates:

This is a pretty simple update, in the end– Just a photo and some words. But to create this update and the others that went with it, we had to make a template, duplicate it 34 times, export photos for each dog, label the photos, IMPORT the photos, and then– what is to me the most laborious part– go into the Mailchimp editor and open and edit every single field. It’s silly, but each of those fields (text, photo, heading, etc) requires multiple clicks. On an executive function level, each click is a step. THAT’S SO MANY STEPS. Now, ATAO has been massively aided by our top tier “Away Team.” The fearless remote assistants did the bulk of this process for us. When did the email updates start slowing down? When I got back in charge of them, of course! The last two years, with all of the many factors at play, I’ve give the Away Team a break (aka I ghosted them so hard) (jk I would never but I did say, take a rest y’all, we gotta rebuild). Obviously I have high hopes they’ll be back with us in force, doing what they do best, if we can build back up to where we were before! But anyway, obviously and unsurprisingly, when the ball is in my court, productivity lessens, I’m afraid.

Buddy updates have been weighing on me the last few years, largely because of this executive function stuff. They are a huge “to do” that I feel like I can never actually overcome. What I *want* to do is just *share about the dogs.* What I have to do to get that info out is a lot of bureaucratic / executive function / click click click song and dance. Which I honestly suck at. We know dis.

A gif of kate mckinnon as "dr. weknowdis" from SNL with a gray wig, white lab coat, and pipe, saying "we know dis"

So over the last few weeks, especially, I’ve been thinking more about how we’ve been sharing those updates, and how it could be better. What would the ideal situation be like? For me, the ideal situation is that I open a page (even on my phone, in the field) where I can type text, upload pics, and click done. I want to remove the extra steps. I really want to get rid of worrying about format. I want the process of sharing to be easy so that I can give more time and heart to the content of sharing. I also want to give the Buddies that make ATAO possible the exciting insights they deserve!

Shawn and Will in the front seats of a truck. The back seat is full of bags of dog food. Shawn smiles happily at the camera, and Will looks off into the distance with a small frown.
Will thinking about executive function, Shawn thinking about fun

There’s one more thing I really dislike about our current sharing setup: when new people come aboard, it’s difficult to share OLD updates with them. We can (and have) shared “archive lists” of the old updates. That’s a way that they can see a list of links to the old “campaigns” (aka emails). But again, that’s not very user OR creator friendly. For the user, it’s a lot of links; for the creator, it’s a LOT of construction to create. What I want is that when a Buddy comes aboard, they can look backwards with a scroll of the page and see all they could ever want to see about their new BFF. Essentially, what I want is a feed about each dog.

I toyed with creating a social media type setup where each dog would have its own account (turning into a kind of teeny social media platform– ammmmmmmbitious). I also toyed with creating social media accounts (on existing platforms) for each individual dog. That’s back to the same executive function problems though– logging in for each individual “user” to write what’s up for them is a lot, not even to mention the front-end setup. Sure, there are automations and plugins, but I know what is too much to bite off, for now.

I also thought about creating a space on the website here that Buddies could view by logging in. But yes. That would require users to make ANOTHER LOGIN. NO ONE WANTS ANOTHER LOGIN! The biggest beauty of Mailchimp is that it delivers a complete update to you somewhere you already go, without more logins.

Finally, I determined what I think will actually work pretty smoothly. I have indeed created a quote-and-quote “feed” (aka a dedicated place on the website that will be updated continuously) for each dog, but instead of making it login dependent, it’s just set up to be accessed with a specific link. We do already have our Buddy “segments” thanks to Mailchimp, and we can email that link directly to you.

So what does that mean? That means starting this month (August of 2023), as a Buddy, you’ll get a Mailchimp update like you’re used to, but instead of the text and photos of the update being in the email, you’ll have one button to click that will bring you to the full update page. The downside? You have to click a link. The upside? The “feed” already is way more robust and fun, in my opinion. I can put a lot more photos. I can list the Buddies. I can do things like add Twitter feeds that mention each dog’s names. And what’s exciting is that I can keep adding to the page and all of that content will be available to look back at. Now new Buddies will get to go back and read through the updates for each dog starting before they joined up. (At the moment each “feed” starts with only the update I wrote this month, but the beauty of this is that I can embed the old Mailchimp updates for each dog so that you can see it all in one place.)

This is definitely a work in progress, like always, and maybe it won’t be the perfect solution ultimately. You all can let me know.
What’s best of all, for me, is that I can open a dog’s page (even from my phone, which is way harder on Mailchimp) and add text and a picture and click “update” and that’s it. It’s one more click for you folks (to access the link), but it’s like 200 less clicks for me and the team… And hopefully 2000% more content because of it.

We’ll be sending out those exciting Buddy Update links soon to all our Buddies, so keep an eye on your email. You can reply to those emails (or even comment on your Buddy’s update page!) to let us know what you think.

Thanks for being our Buds.


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