February Roundup: Do Less and Automate More

IntroCave Updates

(No lemur this month. Thinking about what I could automate got my gears turning about gears.)

Do Less and Automate More

Last month's lazy update got me thinking a little bit about how I could be lazy more often. I ended up focusing most of my February development efforts on that mission: AUTOMATE ALL THE THINGS.

Email Maintenance

I send quite a few emails through IntroCave, but only a few were automated (registration and order emails). I started sending out a monthly newsletter when I took over the site, but new signups weren't automatically going into the email list. I've been doing that manually—every month, I would export new signups from the database and run a ruby script to add those to the mailing list 100 at a time. Mailgun doesn't automatically unsubscribe bounced emails, so I would then go and export all the bounces and run another script to add them to my list as unsubscribes. It's not the hardest task in the world, but it's a great example of something a human shouldn't need to do.

Adding new users to the right email list is just a single API call, so it's a bit embarrassing that it took this long to wire that up. Handling the bounces required a bit more thought. I ended up hooking up a new route to listen to Mailgun's webhooks and then firing off an API call to update bounced emails to be globally unsubscribed. Side note: one of my long-running initiatives is to start sending some lifecycle emails (registration help, welcome sequence, cart abandonment, order follow-ups). That makes this code a double whammy in that I'll save about a half-hour each month and it will lay the groundwork for some other things I want to build.

Customer Support

In February, I got 38 support requests. For roughly half of those, I ended up sending the customer a coupon to do another render (recreating an old lost video, changing some text, render errors). I've sent enough of those emails that I can write one from scratch pretty quickly... but I don't actually need to type out the same thing over and over again and attach the same helper graphic over and over again. This month I finally set up a template (Gmail calls them a "canned response"). HubSpot has a mostly up-to-date article on setting up canned responses.

I still need to make a coupon and fill in a bit of text to respond to their specific issue, but I'm hoping my average time-per-response will go from something like 5 minutes to more like 2 minutes. That's an hour or two each month!

Top Videos of the Month

I post these recaps near the beginning of each month. I like to include a few stats at the bottom of these posts—top searches, top keywords, and the top-selling previews from the previous month. The searches and keywords come from Google Analytics. I could probably create a report for these in Google Analytics, but I like poking through this data at least once a month anyway.

The "Top Intro Videos" list is a bit more obnoxious. I manually run a SQL query (updating the dates to be last month's start/end) to pull the top 3 videos, but then I need to manually fill in the image, title, and copy for all those videos. This means looking up the template in the database and then copy/pasting about eight fields manually. This is a task that's much better suited to a computer. I went into my admin code and added a new view that renders these for the last 3 months. Using Chrome, I can just inspect a "row" of data and copy the pre-generated HTML instead of writing this by hand each month. I expect will save me around 15-20 minutes every month!

Final Tally

When you add up all these minor improvements, it should save me 2-3 hours each month. That hardly seems worth blogging about, but for me side hustles are all about small incremental improvements. If I can keep chipping away on a bunch of different channels at once (marketing, conversion rates, server stability, customer support), the site will continue to grow in value. Someday it might not be a side hustle!

By the Numbers

Top Searches in February

Top Keywords in February


Top Intro Videos in February

it me

IntroCave is a one-person-show operated by Will Hankinson, but it's not 100% accurate to say every word is written by me. Some articles were live on the site when I took over. I hire writers from time to time to work on specific articles. People keep asking me to do guest posts, but I haven't actually seen any relevant submissions yet. "IntroCave staff" might make a better by-line, but currently that's just me. I've been building digital things for 10+ years now, and some of my favorite projects are posted over at my personal website if you want to take a look!


If you've got any thoughts you'd like to share about this post (or anything IntroCave related), you can use this feedback form to send me an email! You're not signing up for an account or opting in to any kind of email list, and you could just as easily go type "support@introcave.com" into your email client of choice. But I LOVE getting feedback, so if this form helps people get over the hurdle, I'm all for it!

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