Thoughts on Janet Yellen

*Disclaimer: I am no expert on anything I write about below, including the main topic, Janet Yellen. I am writing this post and my thoughts about the most impactful Biden cabinet pick, so I can learn more about what the next four years may look like.

The Daily dedicated a recent podcast to the news of President-elect Biden selecting Janet Yellen as his Secretary of Treasury. I grew more and more intrigued as I listened to the podcast, to the history of Janet Yellen. So, I listened to a few more podcasts about Janet Yellen, both recent and less-than-recent.

Here is some of what I came away with:

The Daily – “Biden’s Cabinet Picks, Part 1: Janet Yellen”

“Inequality is not a political issue. Inequality is an economic issue.”

[She] wants to get people into the workforce and working.

And I think this is a consistent view that Yellen has held for a long time. And it is something that she pairs with a real concern for making sure that the folks at sort of the margins of the labor market, you know, minorities, people with less education, et cetera, making sure that they have opportunities. So as Fed chair, she starts to talk about inequality.

…And she’s kind of the first Fed Chair who comes in and says, inequality is not a political issue. Inequality is an economic issue. And we need to be thinking about what it means for the future of our economy.

NYTimes – “The Senate Is on Vacation While Americans Starve”

Discussing the need for continued support for American households:

And aside from the grave ethical questions raised by ending crucial safeguards for the vulnerable, such actions endanger the economy as a whole.

For more background on the above op-ed, listen to this 9 minute interview of Janet Yellen from Planet Money.

The Journal. – “Janet Yellen’s Biggest Challenge Yet”

Another perspective on the cabinet pick from The Wall Street Journal. I found this one interesting as well, specifically in talking about Janet Yellen’s character. The podcast describes the 2014 White House Correspondents dinner and a photo showing Yellen as the only person in the ballroom before dinner because she is always on-time or early. Yellen is always prepared, is a fastidious notetaker, and is on-time.

Heather Cox Richardson – December 1, 2020.

Stimulus is an economic issue.

Former Federal Reserve Chair Janet Yellen, Biden’s nominee for Treasury Secretary, echoed Powell today. “Lost lives, lost jobs, small businesses struggling to stay alive are closed for good. So many people struggling to put food on the table and pay bills and rent. It’s an American tragedy. And it is essential we move with urgency. Inaction will produce a self-reinforcing downturn causing yet more devastation.”

So far, I’m looking forward to the Biden administration. If you had told me during the Iowa Caucuses when I was cheering about Biden placing 4th, this was the administration that President-elect Biden would put together, I wouldn’t have believed you. (If you told me anything about the rest of 2020, I wouldn’t have believed you either!)


Thoughts on the Biden transition

Matt Stoller discussed some finer details in his latest BIG newsletter on the Biden transition under the headline: “We Won’t Be Repeating the Obama Administration.” Stoller calls out three specific examples.

  1. Bill Baer, head of Antitrust Division under President Obama. Baer is “heading up one of the antitrust review teams for the Biden transition. Baer didn’t do a great job under Obama, but he’s making some useful noises. “We should care too about under enforcement because it’s led to growing concentration in many markets, think agriculture, telecom, wireless, travel, pharma and beer,” he said at an American Bar Association conference.”
  2. Sen. Amy Klobuchar. Supposedly gunning for Attorney General.
  3. Sheryl Sandberg. A counter-example for the previous two. Sandberg was a “credible rumored candidate for Treasury Secretary had Hillary Clinton won.”

Two more notes on Amy Klobuchar from CNBC:

One of the areas that could interest Biden in choosing her to lead the Department of Justice is her stance on antitrust and her pushback on the tech giants. During her run for president, she said strong antitrust enforcement means looking back at the deal between Facebook and Instagram.

Klobuchar, along with a group of bipartisan lawmakers, has introduced the Honest Ads Act, which looks to “help prevent foreign interference in future elections and improve the transparency of online political advertisements.”

I’ve so far been pleased with what I’ve heard from the Biden transition team. As Stoller and many others have noted, progressives and the left-wing of the Democratic party are going to have a strong place in the centrist Biden administration. The progressive voice will be extremely important, especially if the Senate is still controlled by Mitch McConnell and the Republicans. Progressives will be needed as a counter-weight to both the Republicans and centrist Democrats who want things to stay the same, or only make incremental changes.


Quick Notes on Affluenza and Materialism

Several good articles covering affluenza and materialism.

To cure affluenza, we have to be satisfied with the stuff we already own – Richard Denniss

Came across this article via “Becoming Minimalist” and their weekend reads newsletter. Something about reading Mr. Denniss’ article that made me think we can make progress towards curing our societal affluenza and materialism. Certainly, I think my own household is working on that goal. As Richard Denniss points out, however, just because our mass consumption has only come on in the last few decades does not mean solving it will be easy.

If having more no longer satisfies us, perhaps we’ve reached ‘peak stuff’ – Will Hutton

An older article, but worth the read, especially within the context of our current conversations surrounding the American GOP tax bill. The question I would frame for the GOP is “Does this tax bill help make people happy?” Or taking this thought a step further, “Does this tax bill help make more people happy than the status quo or alternative tax bills?”

When western societies were poorer, it was reasonable for economics to focus on how to produce more stuff – that was what societies wanted. Now, the question is Aristotelian: how to live a happy life – or “humanomics”, as Sedlacek calls it. Aristotle was clear: happiness results from deploying our human intelligence to act creatively on nature. To inquire and successfully to quest for understanding is the root of happiness.

Affluenza: The Psychology of Wealth – Adrian Furnham

The other two articles got me interested in learning more, so Google became my friend and I found this synopsis of two books on Affluenza: “Affluenza” by Oliver James, and “The Golden Ghetto” by Jessie O’Neill. Not so much providing any new insight, the synopsis provides background into the creation and evolution of the term “affluenza,” along with some of the political and psychological underpinnings of the term.


Email UX is Easy. Said No One Ever.

Creating new emails is so easy, isn’t it?


It’s easy to say that email marketing has become easier over the years, and for the majority of us, email marketing is easier.

I Didn't Choose the Email Marketing Life. It Chose Me.

I was a young, naive, 27-year-old getting my first taste of email marketing with a “wonderful” ESP named Manticore. I would routinely spend days coding and fixing emails. The WYSIWYG editor wouldn’t have been state-of-the-art in 1995. It was a horrible experience.

Needless to say, once I started getting the hang of what it took to create HTML emails, I soon was on the hunt for a new, more user-friendly ESP. And about 18 months after I started, I led the drive and search for a new ESP, which turned into a search for a marketing automation provider as the industry changed. At the end of the day, we ended up with Pardot and haven’t looked back.

Marketing Automation to the rescue!

The difference between Pardot and the previous platform, Manticore, is night and day AND the effect on myself and our company was immediate. My time spent working on individual emails went from 3-4 days to maybe half a day, if not less. Today, I work on an individual email maybe once every 3 months because everything is pretty much on autopilot design- and coding-wise.

(As an aside, this changed me and my job role from that of email/web grunt to email/web strategist, and I now spend most of my time driving our email/web strategy instead of coding. FTW!)


One of the main criteria we used in our ESP/MA search was “how easy was it to create an email?” We wanted all of our marketing staff to be able to create emails on a regular basis without the need for fixing code on a regular basis. This is one of the main reasons we ended up choosing Pardot. Pardot’s WYSIWYG editor was light years ahead of what we were used to and what we saw among other enterprise-level Marketing Automation providers.

Design in IE MemeChange the Editor

Fast-forward 2-3 years and I realize now how difficult email design remains.

Yes, many tools exist to make design and coding easier. Tools to make troubleshooting easier. Guides on what CSS works in what client.

The million-dollar question remains: Why is it so difficult to create good emails these days?

It’s Outlook’s fault!

We all do this. You can hear me on a regular basis damning Outlook to eternal hell. It’s easy for all of us to blame it on the inbox – the Outlooks, the Gmails, and LotusNotes. But the blame also resides with us, the marketers, the designers, the technologists in charge of email marketing and marketing automation.

“Emails that provide a better user experience should be within reach of most marketers. They should not require any hand coding. All complexity should be hidden behind better, more powerful email creation tools. That’s our job as product people, and we are — at least partially — failing.” –

There are plenty of what I call “email nerds.” The people who understand to their core, email is 600px wide, only use tables, Word sucks, inline CSS, and so much more. These are the people who know how to code the exceptions so the email renders correctly in Outlook. But in lots of companies, like mine, there’s only one of you (or me) – if you’re lucky. I think of other marketers in my metro area (roughly 200,000 people or so), and how many use ESPs like Constant Contact. These are the marketers who don’t have the resources, human or capital, to dedicate themselves to crafting hand-coded emails.

How to save the Everyman Marketer?

Where are the options for them? Where are the tools for the Everyman marketer? I’ve tried to make our templates or code-snippets “super simple” for anyone on our team to copy-paste into the email they’re creating. But the options are pretty much limited to creating one-off templates/emails for each email they create – which is tedious and time-consuming – or I create plain text code snippets and save them on our intranet for them to copy. This leaves our marketers open to copying or pasting the code incorrectly, and now the template doesn’t work as intended.

Where’s the drag-drop editor? How can I make that “snippet” process even easier? Even more simple?

Innovation in Email Marketing

Taxi for Email” is a good start in this direction. From what I’ve seen of the latest MailChimp editor, that’s a good start as well. While “Taxi” is something that anyone can use, most other similar tools are proprietary tools stuck within siloed software.

How do we move the email marketing industry forward and spread the knowledge outside of each of our silos? How do we get marketers and our budgets to place the same attention on email marketing that we do on social media? This despite the fact that email continues to be one of THE best ways to connect with customers and prospects.

No Best Solution. Right now.

The above missive isn’t really meant to answer those questions. Not for me, and not for you. We all have our own specific needs and wants, strengths and weaknesses. But we need to come together, as marketers AND consumers (because we are both), and push the marketing industry towards a more user-friendly email design future.


How language gives your brain a break

Here’s a quick task: Take a look at the sentences below and decide which is the most effective.

(1) “John threw out the old trash sitting in the kitchen.”

(2) “John threw the old trash sitting in the kitchen out.”

Either sentence is grammatically acceptable, but you probably found the first one to be more natural. Why? Perhaps because of the placement of the word “out,” which seems to fit better in the middle of this word sequence than the end.

Great read for all types of writing. (Via MIT)


How to work less and be successful

Most of us have heard about “The 4-Hour Work Week” by Tim Ferriss at this point. If we haven’t, it probably means we’re not interested in working smarter, or we’ve been living under a rock or in a cave. Now, this post is not about creating a 4-hour work week. No, there’s been plenty written about that digitally and otherwise.

No, this post is about an article from Quartz, entitled “How successful people work less—and get more done.”

The study found that productivity per hour declines sharply when the workweek exceeds 50 hours, and productivity drops off so much after 55 hours that there’s no point in working any more. That’s right, people who work as much as 70 hours (or more) per week actually get the same amount done as people who work 55 hours.

To me, the most important part of the article is the idea of “Numero Uno comes first.” And definitely not in a selfish, “I am the most important person in the world, everything must bend to my will” Mussolini-type of “#1 comes first.” No, what I’m talking about is making sure that you and the most important parts of your life come first.

What are the aspects of your life you care most about?

  • Family
  • Friends
  • Hobby
  • Vacation
  • Experiences

These are some of the most important parts of my life, and they come first every day. Work, money, those are just tools to help us achieve what is truly important. The Quartz article does a good job of reminding us that success comes in many forms.

Funny how being successful at work means that we’re usually successful at home.


A Marathon of Experimental Photography

Stainless consciously calls to mind the realm of theoretical physics, with its references to the thought experiments of Albert Einstein. Magyar’s stationary camera aimed at a moving train bears echoes of Einstein’s hypothesis that “distant simultaneity”—the idea that two spatially separated events occur at the same time—is not absolute, but depends on the observer’s frame of reference.

Joshua Hammer‘s Einstein’s Camera is a terrific exposé on experimental photography. Einstein’s Camera paints the portrait of a man determined to explore his world, through travel, photography, and experimentation.

Magyar seems to be many things at once: a maker, a philosopher, an artist, a photographer, computer scientist, computer programmer, and mechanical engineer to name a few. He is, literally, a man on a multi-year, nay, multi-decade quest to find new ways of seeing the world around him.




Don’t read this. It doesn’t apply to B2B.

Your competitors hope you keep saying about patterns found in consumer products "but this is B2B… that stuff doesn't apply here."

It's easy to say that certain tactics, strategies, or tools won't work for your business because you're B2B, B2G, or some other acronym. 

It's important to remember, though, that your competitors are more than likely trying to figure out how to make it work for them. And one of your competitors will get it to work for them


This post is not about misleading email content

I got up early this morning to work on a post about misleading email content. Exciting, I know!

The thing was, I wasn't excited about it, at least not at 5:30am. And I wasn't excited about it LAST night when I sat down to work on the post then. What I do remember is the feeling of excitement when I first created the note in Evernote, the feeling of "Everyone needs to know about THIS."

That feeling wears off.

And then what do you do? If you're like me, when that feeling wears off, it's extremely difficult to get back into the "excitement phase" and bash out that post. You say, "I'll write it tomorrow night," or "It wasn't worth writing about anyway."

The thing is, though, that post may be worth writing. There may be another person out there who was thinking the same thing about that THING you were going to write about.

You're the kid who's afraid to raise his hand in class, thinking no one has that question, when in fact, you need to be the one who has the courage to ask the question for everyone else.

Just do it.

So, when it came to actually writing something this morning, I just wrote. I wrote for a good half-hour, just stream of consciousness pouring onto the screen of the iPad. The quiet taping on the screen, my dog curled up at my feet, and the soft "pitter-patter" of rain on the windows.

And you know what? It felt good. *REAL GOOD.*

What I learned this morning…

In our lives we get caught up in the idea of something so often that we forget to create that idea.

I loved the idea of a post about misleading email content. I loved the idea of sticking it to the company, publicly, that they screwed up. But I loved the idea more than the actual post. And I created this instead.


How Long is Too Long?

The 9AM deluge.

It hits me every Monday-Friday. The post-coffee/caffeine hangover? Nope. The post-lunch blues? Nope, not that either. It's the onslaught of the newsletters I get between 9AM and 10AM every day. In fact, a few months ago, I tweeted such:

What gets me to open those newsletters?

That's the eternal question for email marketers, and it's not what this story is about. What this story is about is my love for one newsletter in particular and a random thought about its (seemingly) abnormal length.

MailChimp UX Newsletter

love getting the MailChimp UX newsletter in my inbox. When I see it pop up, I read it immediately. The times that I don't read it immediately, well, let's just say that I haven't had my coffee yet that day and am not making smart decisions.

And the MailChimp UX Newsletter is all about making smart decisions. The newsletter covers various aspects of the UX world, sharing stories and expertise from those people who bring you MailChimp. The most recent email – Issue 21 – covers the topic of "Teams", including anything from how to hire staff to the workflow and idea generation that works for the MailChimp UX team.

Does Size Matter?

So let's get to the point of this already! Does the length of a newsletter matter?

The newsletter presents a conundrum for us email marketers: What length is too long? At roughly 2800 words, Issue 21 of the MailChimp UX Newsletter is about 118 times longer than the average Tweet. I recently watched a MarketingProfs class on writing for the web in which the presenter talked about the ideal word count for a landing page be 200-250 words. So is 2800 for an email newsletter too long?

Here are some thoughts on why the 2800-word newsletter works:


Everything about this newsletter is about UX; from the name of the newsletter, to the audience it attracts, and to the topics covered within. The most recent newsletter focused on "Teams" with the main topics being

  • "Building a UX Team"
  • "Easy to Hire, Hard to Fire"
  • "Respect"
  • "Autonomy"
  • "Parallel Cycles"
  • "Create a Culture of Empathy"
  • "Tell Stories"

All of these topics are not just relevant to the UX field, but to many other creative/technical fields. Much of the writing and topic focus hit home for me as a jack-of-all-trades in the corporate world, generally outside the UX field.


If this was a standard newsletter, the content would probably have a short introduction paragraph followed by the headline items of the newsletter. In the case of the MailChimp UX Newsletter, the content of each section could even have been separate blogs posts on a UX blog.

I believe, however, that the current long-form iteration of the newsletter keeps the reader focused on the content at hand instead of distracting the reader by taking them to another page with potentially distracting content.

Single Thought.

Following up the last point, the newsletter presents a single, coherent message. Contrary to having several separate blog posts on similar topics, the newsletter presents a unified message created from several distinct ideas. In the example issue above, the overall focus is on your team at work with the deeper dives coming through the individual focus on topics like autonomy and Easy to Hire, Hard to Fire.


In my humble opinion, I believe the long-form newsletter works for the MailChimp UX Team. It keeps my attention, it has a singular focus, and it doesn't offer any distraction from its main message.

Would it work for you or your clients? Hard for me to say.

What I would tell you is this: If you want to hit home on a single idea and keep the attention of your reader, this is a pretty darn good format to steal.