Mark Brownlow has a post up explaining how he discovered some problems with delivery at Gmail by digging deeper into his statistics. Mark goes through his thought process including his initial conjecture on what might be causing the problems and then how he looked at the data to see if his supposition fit the data.
I love this post. It is so refreshing to watch someone document how they asked questions, then looked at data to find out the answers. Too many people treat best practices in email delivery as a set of rules that are meant to be broken. Instead of actually asking questions and determining what is best for their market and their recipients they implement best practices.
Following best practices isn’t exactly a bad thing, the reason they’re best is because they’re easy to communicate practices that will not result in bad outcomes. But, they’re not always the ideal practices for a specific situation. Best practices are ones that work across a wide range of senders and situations. Blindly implementing best practices will not always result in the best outcome for each situation.
Mark’s post is a tutorial in the art of looking at email delivery. I think there is a need for more of those kinds of posts, explaining the process from identifying an email problem through to confirming that is actually the problem and then testing potential fixes. I’ll be posting troubleshooting guides here over the next few weeks and months. If you have an issue you think would be an interesting case study drop me an email and we’ll go through it.