I’m doing a thing: D&DF16

In case you’ve missed the subtle hints, I’m a bit of a geek.

Sci-Fi? Love it. I will not share how many times I’ve watched Star Trek episodes movies seasons everything. I’ve had to have spent a quarter of my life watching/re-watching Star Wars.

Fantasy? Working on a sleeve for my favorite series, Steven Erikson’s Malazan Book of the Fallen. (Haven’t heard of it? Stop everything you are doing right now to go look it up.)

Comics? Ask the three long boxes I’ve got stashed for a rainy day.

Video games? I got some Platinum, if you’re interested.

D&D? Pshhhhh. Okay, well, technically, I’ve mostly played some good ole fashioned World of Darkness (White Wolf was started in my home state), but you’d better believe I can roll some D20’s.

So when I heard that Nerdforce was doing a little something called D&DF16, I immediately starting buttering up John and Nana to let me play. And by that I mean I asked if I could play, cited my experience, and NOW I AM PLAYING D&D WITH AMBER BOAZ, BRIAN KWONG, JOHN GRAF, AND MARK ROSS!!

Let me introduce you to Trailblazer, a dwarf Ranger (from the Midwest), via this quick and not-very-detailed sketch of said character and her trusty mountain goat friend! (Disclaimer: due to D&D build rules, she is not actually a Beast Master archetype, but it goes with the whole aesthetic.)

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Maybe I have should started with this…if you are unfamiliar, John and Nana are the two rockstars that run the Nerdforce blog and podcast, and they put together a few wicked awesome fundraisers for this year’s Dreamforce.

All of these activities and fun are supporting Extra Life, part of the Children’s Miracle Network.

First is the Dreamcrate, a bounty of Salesforce and geek swag worthy of Mordor! You can bid on it NOW. Be warned, there is a TON OF STUFF, so it might make you encumbered. Pro tip: pool money with friends, win the crate, split the loot.

Next is our D&DF16 campaign. We’ll be streaming live on Twitch on Tuesday nights, and you’ll also be able to watch recordings. What’s more – you can donate to the cause! When you donate to Extra Life, you can mention one of our characters, assigning them points that can be used to help in a pinch. But there’s more info about that here.

All of this *amazing* culminates on Thursday, October 6th at the PREMIERE NerdforceCon, sponsored graciously by Apttus. We’ll be playing games and geeking out in the best way possible at everyone’s favorite time of year. All of these activities and fun are supporting Extra Life, part of the Children’s Miracle Network; it’s geek with a feel-good twist, and I am all about it.

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Here’s the thing. It is hard to find a job that you love. And it’s impossible even harder to love your job every single day. The benefit of being part of this community is that, even when you’re not head-over-heels for your job, you have backup. You have people who totally get it; they will nod sympathetically when you tearfully explain that you have told users about the help text hundreds of time, why are you still getting emails asking what information they should put in the Name field??

They also do things like this. My friends at Nerdforce are just one example of this community coming up with ways to give back. It just so happens that this is sort of my thing, you know?

I am so proud to be part of this experience, to be part of this community. I love knowing that I can spend time volunteering at Dreamforce, that I’m surrounded with people who just want to do good, who want to leave the world a little better than they found it. I don’t know anyone else – outside of my old coworkers at Goodwill and friends at nonprofits – who gets to be part of something like this…and get paid to do it!

So if no one else has said it yet, THANK YOU John and Nana for putting this show together, for doing something truly epic in celebration of your first year on air, and for being the lovely people that you are. I am honored and humbled to know you both and be part of this with you.

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Woah; that got heavy.

So here’s a link to a song that sums up, well, so many things. It has some NSFW language. #noregrets

 

 

Vocab and syntax: a programming language is still a language

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Disclaimer: I am not a fully-functioning programmer, yet, so please don’t look to me as an authority, by any stretch. What I am is curious and interested in languages, which gives me a unique perspective on things like programming *languages*.

I am not multi-lingual. I can only speak English fluently, although I can muddle my way through French, still retain my knowledge of syntax and many vocabulary words for Japanese, and I’ve been chipping away at my grandparents’ native tongue, Italian. Maybe Maltese eventually, to nab the other side.

I’ve worked through enough foreign languages, though, to understand how to go about learning them. Practice, obviously, but I’m not going to be pedantic here.

There are, honestly, a few ways to do it. You can focus on vocabulary first, learning words and how they, individually, translate into your native language. You will likely learn a lot of words this way, but language is more than just phonemes and morphemes. The other way to learn is by learning grammar. If you understand the function of a noun, pronoun, direct object, indirect object, conjunction, etc., you will be better equipped to handle the structure of a complete thought in your new language.

Most classroom foreign language instruction works on both at one time, in tandem. That’s difficult to achieve when learning in your spare time (trust me on that).

It follows, then, that learning a programming language functions the same way.

You must learn the vocabulary and the syntax. The order depends entirely on you. If you feel comfortable with grammar and parts of speech, then it makes sense to start with syntax. You can comfortably fit in placeholders.

; refers to a full stop. () asks for a direct object. {} implies that there is a conditional clause or conjunction.

Syntax also includes the meta-language, if you will. What is a verb called in object-oriented programming? A method.

Vocabulary are the words that fill in around the syntax. My nouns, for instance, are things like integers and strings. These are things. They can serve as adjectives, as well, and they may be the subject (a Class, for instance), or they might be an indirect object (a set that is receiving an input of integers).

So if I see List<String> Vocab = new List<String>(); I can break this down.

I know that I am dealing with a complete sentence here because I have a ; at the end. I will be receiving a direct object, a noun of the string type, which I know because it’s in <>, which I think of as a way to indicate that my noun is acting as an adjective. I am saying that when I mention the proper noun Vocab, I am referring to a new list of strings that I will define.

Once I learn my syntax and my vocabulary, I can read a text more fluently. I can still read French, even though my ear is not as sensitive to the nuances of the language as it once was.

As you begin to read, you can start to translate and write.

This brief explanation of how I’ve started to become more comfortable with Apex is in no way complete. As with any other language, there are shortcuts and dialects that might change here and there – exceptions to the rule. But everyone must start somewhere, and this seems as good a place as any.

 

 

A note on vertigo

In case you are unfamiliar, vertigo is a sensation much like dizziness, except prolonged and, for me, often accompanied with the perception of time slowing down.

I don’t mean like when you stare at the clock, willing it to go faster, although I experience that frequently, too.

I mean my thoughts literally come to me in slow motion. I can hear my inner monologue slow…until…I think…a…single…word…at…..a……..time. Melodies that might be stuck in my head stretch endlessly, cords strung out with excessive fermatas, drum beats that you would forget are there until they spring out from the silence much too long after they are due.

And that is to say nothing of the distinct feeling of rocking back and forth. I feel like I’m on a boat, listing restlessly on obvious, though not violent, waves.

Forward, back, forward, back, then occasionally side to side.

It is constant. It can be disorienting.

I’ve had it for the past few days, and while I’ve tried to sit in front of a computer and narrow my eyes, concentrate and ignore the way my hands feel like they should be swaying along with this gentle, lapping rhythm (typing is truly a chore. I miss letters, backspace too many times), it never ends well.

I am lulled by the rocking, by the impossibly slow tempo of my thoughts.

Not to say that I think less. It’s simply that I am slowed to a point that I must think more deeply. Instead of the complex highway of thoughts and sub-thoughts, notions, dreams, memories, ideas, and other ephemeral things, it is a river. It is constant, and it is dragging me forward at its own pace, even as I fail to feel the wet, almost slimy bottom of the riverbed with my toes.

I struggle to remember conversations and details that normally stand out to me. I’m one of those people that will recall a birthday of someone to whom I’ve not spoken in years. And that’s best case. Worst case, I remember some minute detail that was shared that makes me sound like a too-interested friend. I have some honestly creepy examples of things that have simply stayed in my brain for longer than is strictly necessary. I’ve stopped bringing them up because I find it makes people uncomfortable.

But right now, I struggle to find words for commonplace ideas. I lose track of what imagery I’ve used. I simply exist – back and forth, back and forth.

All of this to say that I will not have a clever post about Salesforce, or Marketing Automation, or the woeful attempts of DC and Warner Brothers to catch up to Disney’s powerhouse of super hero movies this week.

Only this winding, steady current of vertigo.

Suicide Squad, takin’ me back

I went to see Suicide Squad the other night. I was on the fence about going in the first place. DC has been a little lackluster in the film department. It’s not entirely their fault; Marvel beat them to it this time around. Anything they do is going to be compared to Marvel by default, and the bar was set relatively high, if only because everything they’d done hadn’t been done before (or at least not well).

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Suicide Squad, based on the DC comic, is out now. Photo from Suicide Squad official website.

It wasn’t just that, though.

Suicide Squad is meant to be over the top. It’s about the *bad* guys being the kind-of-good guys. They save the day, but they do it with chips on their shoulders and a little bit of dark attitude and crazy. Honor among thieves! Harley and Joker really love each other, like Bonnie and Clyde!

Sure, when I was 15, I was obsessed with Harley Quinn. She just got me. She was dark because the world is dark, and she loved Joker, who was also dark. She laughed in the face of it, too.

And I did all the things that one might expect of a 15 year old obsessed with a character that is written to be cool to a 15 year old. I wore a lot of black eyeliner. I talked about the darkness and the weirdness and the uniqueness of everything. I read the Bell Jar like 87 times. Sylvia Plath understood my pain. And so did Harley! She was kind of crazy but in a *fun* way.

I was all kinds of stereotype.

And then I grew out of it. I stopped romanticizing depression and mental illness in general because, you know, it’s not romantic.

Now things are weird between us: me and my interests, I mean.

I want to go to conventions, enjoy myself, indulge in some comic buying, what with the whole disposable income thing. I mean, why do I work if not to enjoy my various interests, right?

The problem is that so many of the things that I enjoyed, that were somewhat obscure, are starting to become mainstream. I was not prepared for that. And I most definitely was not prepared for having to see 15 year old girls prancing around in impossibly more suggestive outfits than what Harley Quinn used to wear. Because apparently skin tight black and red wasn’t objectifying enough – now she wears barely-there shorts and t-shirt that says “Daddy’s Lil Monster.”

I could go on for days about how offensive that is.

These girls have the eye liner and shorts that leave literally nothing to the imagination, corsets, and thigh-highs. They are laughing about all of the dark things in the world, and they are romanticizing mental illness.

I want to smack them into their 20’s, so they grow out of it.

And going to see Suicide Squad was a culmination of these things. It was the joy of seeing a childhood interest come to life, combined with the abject disgust of seeing versions of my younger self walking around.

The movie itself wasn’t memorable enough to overshadow all of this strange introspection.

It wasn’t bad. It really wasn’t. It just wasn’t worth the baggage for me.

All that said. Go see it. It IS a fun movie. (I’m allowed to contradict myself. Back off.) And it’s not the worst way to spend a couple hours.

I’m Learning Pardot

I am taking the plunge.

When I accepted my new job offer, it came contingent upon my finishing a few more exams, including at least one for Pardot.

I thoroughly enjoy marketing, and I’m a big fan of marketing automation (if it’s not clear from my speaking sessions always including it), so I’ve decided to tackle the Pardot cert first.

I realize that doesn’t seem like a big deal. “Ok. A certification. Great. Don’t you have some of those?” Yeah, I do. And I’m not writing this to reinvent the wheel and provide a “how I passed” overview. First off, I haven’t taken it yet, so that would be premature and a little conceited. Second, those exist.

The only reason I felt this news needed any sort of nod is because I ran a Marketo shop, and I have at least one purple piece of swag in my possession. My backpack from Marketing Nation is pretty much my favorite – it is the perfect size for my work computer, and it carries more than it seems like it would.

The fact is, Marketo doesn’t allow re-certification if you’re not a customer. That puts me in a bit of a bind. When I left my last company, I knew that the day would come when I have to remove “Marketo Certified Expert” from my resume and LinkedIn. Frankly, that sucks. I earned that. Twice, in fact because Marketo’s exam maintenance consists of re-taking the exam every year.

My cert is up in December, so until then, I can call myself “MCE,” but afterwards…well, I need some feather in my cap.

And so it begins.

Midwest Dreamin’ 2016

This was my second time attending this community event. What a week.

Thursday

I am the person who arrives too early. I just do. It’s bad. I was at Navy Pier by 09:30. I got some work done, drank some coffee, and then joined the Women in Tech Diversity group for lunch (thanks to SaaSy Sistah for arranging!).

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After lunch, it was off to register and start my first round of volunteering. I met so many people. So. Many. People.

The weird thing is that I was meeting pretty much all of these people for the first time in person, but it felt so much like seeing old friends for the first time in years – not at all like meeting brand new people.

Volunteering was fun; it was time to chat with people and also help a great event be successful. Wandering around was fun. The Expo Hall was fun. All around fun. Apex & the Limits was SUUUUUUPER fun.

There was a great tribute to the wonderful Tami Esling, who touched so many lives in the community.

And I capped off the evening at dinner with part of the Michigan Nonprofit User Group.

When I got back to my room, I remembered I have a job and had to get to it for a bit, but it didn’t feel so much like work after such an inspiring day.

Friday

Friday was down to business. The opening keynote by Vala Afshar was fantastic – so many gems, but perhaps my favorite was “company culture is what your employees do when the manager leaves the room.”

More volunteering. I missed some of the sessions I wanted to see, but I’ve made special arrangements.

#awesomeadmin trivia, anyone? Team SAAS took home the gold, and we didn’t have to swim in bacteria-infested waters to do it, which I view as a plus.

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My own session went well, although I definitely know to choose a less broad topic next time. Who knew that all of the things that one needs to know about Marketing Automation took up so much space?? Want to see the list? You can go here (requires Salesforce Community login).

I had to miss Peter Coffee’s keynote in order to make the trek to Union Station. It was stupid hot out.

But overall…

It had that sense of community that Dreamforce lacks. Yes, Dreamforce is an amazing shindig and well worth a visit. But these regional gatherings are safer spaces, where people new to the platform, new to the community, can go and learn and feel welcome.

That was what I experienced last year, and through putting some time in, something I hope I was able to offer to those visiting this year.

This wasn’t a long post, not very detailed, but there are other reviews out there, run-downs, and snippets, and this time…selfishly, I wanted to keep some of it to myself.

Regardless, I hope to see many of you there in 2017.

 

The Polymath’s Guide to Dealing With It

Well, this is awkward.

I like to write when I’m happy and sometimes when I’m angry (anger makes me funnier!), which is like 87% of the time.

When I don’t like to write is when I’m struggling with something that I don’t like to talk about – namely, crippling social anxiety. It’s no fun. It’s kind of the skeleton in the closet. Because most people, when they meet me, are like “oh! You’re not anxious/awkward/weird/nervous at all! You’re great!”

HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA.

That’s because it takes days if not weeks for me to mentally prepare myself for going to some sort of social event. Especially one where I don’t feel that I know anyone. I understand the phrase “herculean effort” in the context of going to a comic convention, which is something I enjoy.

To be frank, I don’t even know why I’m writing this. Maybe it’s to give other people out there some hope? I don’t exactly have tips for managing this; I am not a poster child for healthy habits. But I guess I can describe what happens to me, and if someone out there finds this helpful, then that’s great.

Without further ado, I present “The Polymath’s Guide to Dealing With it.”

Step 1: Sign up for the event, momentarily forgetting that you will be curled up in the fetal position when you finally realize that you have to be around people, in public.

It’s all fun and games when someone’s filling out a registration form. All of your Twitter friends are doing it, and you know that it’s going to be fun. Why wouldn’t you sign up?

Step 2: Forget about the event because you registered like 18 months in advance, to make sure that you could get a ticket, and go on about your life.

Life moves on. Not going would be worse than going, so we’ve done our due diligence and signed up just as soon as possible. Because it’s way worse to say you’re going to go, talk it up a bunch, and then miss it because you failed to sign up.

Step 3: As the event approaches, begin making a list of all of the things that could go wrong.

The event could be cancelled; inclement weather could crop up and cause flooding; the venue might experience a fire; a spontaneous mosh pit might form right around your 5ft person; your car could break down; your flight could be cancelled; your plane could crash; a meteor could strike the Earth; alien invasion; you might get sick; everyone there might speak a language that you don’t understand; the power could go out in the entire city; your favorite shirt might be dirty the day of; they might not have functional bathrooms; you will have to walk all over a city you don’t know with a giant suitcase that just screams “MUG ME! I DON’T BELONG HERE”, and you’ll get mugged, and no one will believe that you are you because you will have no proof, and they’ll end up arresting you, and you get out, and no one answers their phones, and now you’re homeless.

Step 4: Become hyper-aware of all things related to the event, reading into each one of them.

Start checking the weather for the area. Learn the public transit time tables. Read up on crime. Double, triple, and quadruple check your reservations for hotels and travel because you probably actually forgot to make the reservations, and you’ll be stranded.

Step 5: A few days before you need to leave, start panicking.

Full blown. Take an hour long shower with your head tucked between your knees, so you can breathe. The world is literally crashing down around you because of your silly notions of being around people.

Step 6: Apologize to your family for being so weird and fixated on this thing

They already know this about you, but go ahead and bemoan the fact that you keep doing this. They will remind you that you’ve done it before, and everything has turned out just fine, and you’ll actually enjoy yourself. Agree with them, but secretly don’t believe them because this time will be different, and you know it.

Step 7: Distract yourself

Watch funny movies or tv shows; play an embarrassing number of hours of video games; write blog posts, poking fun at yourself

Step 8: Don’t sleep the night before your departure

Sleep is for wimps.

Step 9: Fake it ’til you make it

At the end of the day, money you’ve paid trumps the fears, so you put on a brave face and head out. No one needs to know that on the inside, you’re just a knotted ball of anxiety and self berating. Spend the entire social event working overtime to not let your fears bleed out over everyone you meet. Smile and joke and laugh, secretly fighting off whispers that all of those people are actually laughing at you. Make sure no one sees your forced deep breaths.

Step 10: Go home and recover

Spend at least a week sequestered in your home, speaking only to those with whom it is necessary to converse. Eat whatever food is available in your house – grocery shopping is too disastrous. Play a game that you know you’ll win, so you feel like you’re accomplishing something.

 

 

Your Best Untapped Resource

If you’re anything like me, you have a love-hate relationship with your vendors. I loved my software platforms, enjoyed learning more about them, but after daily calls from various people, I became wary of the sales pitches. Even if I was reaching out to THEM for information. Catch 22.

As I’ve moved into my new role, I’ve endeavored to keep in touch with those vendors, though. At the end of the day, many of them were sad to see me go, wished me well, and really did just want what was best for me and my org.

I borrowed a half hour from one of them to ask them more about what they do and how they can help admins out there get the most of out of their software.

In the interest of fairness, I am not sharing the name of the company of the person I interviewed. Our Friendly Neighborhood Sales Rep (FNSR) has worked for a few software companies, most often in sales roles, and agreed to share some of those insights with me.

Polymath: To start out, why don’t you describe a day in your life?

Friendly Neighborhood Sales Rep: My job is to generate sales for our team from existing customers – signing up for new products and things like that. I get into work about 8, and we have a daily team huddle at 9. Then I go through my action item list – usually following up on emails from the night before or going through a follow-up list, like from webinars or visiting key webpages.

P: What do you like best about your job?

FNSR: I love helping customers get stuff done. A lot of the calls I handle – I feel more like tech support because I’m helping people solve problems. I might help them make better use of a feature they have or maybe get their admin some training. I can find resources for them, if I don’t know the answer. I enjoy the feeling, getting off a call, knowing that my customer got something out of it. And working for a software company, you know, we have a pretty laid back atmosphere.

P: I enjoy that, too, working in the software industry before and now from home. My casual Fridays are a lot more casual now. So what do you like least about your job?

FNSR: The uncertainty. Working in the tech industry with so many companies starting and growing – it can be tough to go through growing pains with a company.

P: That goes both ways. I’ve worked with platforms where, in a single year, I’ve had two or more Account Managers.

FNSR: Yeah; that’s something that happens, you know? If someone gets a great new job, and they leave the company, can’t really be mad at them, but it needs to be communicated really well.

P: Good point. I guess somewhat in that vein, what do you wish your clients knew about what you do?

FNSR: Just because I’m a sales representative doesn’t mean my sole objective is to sell them something. I do love getting a sales opportunity, but I’m going to get plenty. I feel like it’s (the job) perceived in a negative light, but the truth is, I can be a valuable asset. If you want to learn more about a new feature before, in the future, jumping into a sales cycle, then it’s my job to teach you about it. And it’s your decision if you want to buy in the future.

P: What advice would you give to an admin having issues with his or her enterprise software?

FNSR: The customers who struggle the most are the ones who expect the software to work by itself. The software doesn’t run itself. You have to learn how to use it; I don’t get mad at systems I use when I don’t know how to use it. And the most successful customers are the ones that really work with the software and their reps. There are a lot of people there to help them, and they don’t have the problem of not knowing what they don’t know because they’re talking to their reps about their issues, what they’re using or not using.

P: So don’t try to exist in a vacuum?

FNSR: Yeah. I know sometimes customers struggle getting in touch with people – they call their rep, and maybe the rep is on vacation. Remember that there are other channels. Go use the chat function on a website or a Contact Us form. If you want the quickest response, contact the sales team; even the call isn’t for them, they are going to answer, and they will get you in touch with the right people.

P: So don’t fear the sales man, I guess. Thank you, FNSR, for your time today and sharing some insights on getting the most out of our software partners.

 

 

Lessons Learned: Hide, Don’t Delete

There are benefits to starting at level 0.

  1. There’s nowhere to go but up.
  2. No one has overblown expectations of what you can do.
  3. Learning something new is literally the best thing.
  4. No bad habits, all best practices.

This was how I started my Salesforce journey…just like everyone else.

I took over an instance that had been around a few years. I was excited and nervous. I started learning with Salesforce’s Premier Support Getting Started video and training series.

I learned all about naming conventions, org security, page layouts, Chatter, and all of the things we all know and love. I learned that duplicates were bad, too many fields was unnecessary, and that Chatter could help teams communicate cross-functionally. Can we just take a moment to appreciate how amazing Salesforce is, though, seriously?

Anyway. I was a little embarrassed. My org, the one I had just adopted and decided to raise as my own, was not house trained yet. I didn’t want people coming over, even though they already knew the org and weren’t really aware that it wasn’t in optimal condition.

I went on a little bit of a change spree. I documented my org, interviewed my users, ran some reports, and I decided to do some dusting. With a back hoe.

I took out so much stuff.

We had fields that hadn’t been used in ever. Page layouts that no one saw. Profiles whose contents had been emptied long ago. Role hierarchy?! They didn’t need no stinkin’ role hierarchy. (Just kidding. They did.)

I went in like a wrecking ball, and I started to lose track of some kind of important things. Namely my users. And data.

In my desire to makethingsbetterrightthissecond, I just started making changes. Sure, I knew that best practice was to use picklists instead of MSPs, but I missed some things along the way.

Such as hiding fields before you delete them.

As it turns out, sometimes fields are sparsely used because they’re only used on certain record types or in certain use cases. If you delete them, that data goes away.

For instance, if you have a field to track those people that need to be invited to a special client event every year, and that number is small – like only 50 people – it may seem like it’s almost never used. And technically that’s right. But it’s also sparse because it’s kind of a VIP indicator, and not everyone can be a VIP.

People were displeased when that field suddenly went missing.

I received emails and phone calls. I explained righteously that since the field had not been used, it clearly was not needed. Ah…I was incorrect.

Oops.

The next things I learned were how to restore records from the recycle bin, the location of our weekly data exports, and how to import data.

What I should have done

I’m not the first person to learn this lesson the hard way. I won’t be the last. But if I can help one person avoid it, I will consider myself successful.

Hide fields. Hide them. Remove the field from the page layout, take away Read access, whatever you have to do to hide it.

But don’t delete the field.

I know you want to clean your org. You should. It’s a good thing to do. But you have users to consider, not to mention your own time.

So when you’re digging through the muck, don’t throw everything out. Put it out of sight, out of mind. Your users will let you know if you took away something important. Trust me, they will let you know.

Since I didn’t go about it the right way, I can’t tell you what a safe timeline is, but I’d probably give it 6 months to a year. It looks excessive, even to me looking at it after I just suggested it…but really, it’s viable.

In the example I gave, there was a once-per-year conference, so giving my users a year to realize that they were missing it? Totally reasonable.

Take this small but important piece of advice and live by it. You will be glad you did.