The Bitterest of Pills

Standard Theme release 2.5 has been a dream project for our budding team.

The scoping was effortless, and we ended up doing more than we thought we would initially. The development went smoothly and was complete ahead of schedule. The testing phase was smooth with minimal defects that were easily fixed. The blog posts were drafted the night before and the download file was updated and purchased before we even announced the update.

So what went wrong?

Why did I have to send out the following email to our new and cherished customers?

This is Important

My name is Chris and I’m the Product Manager for Standard Theme. We discovered a critical defect our 2.5.0 theme download file during the window of time in which you made your purchase. It is not something noticeable to the human eye, you wouldn’t necessarily know by looking at your site, but it is something to be taken seriously because it has the possibility to impact how Google and other search engines “see” your site.

We take SEO very, very seriously and we want Standard Theme to be instrumental in your blog gaining favor with search engines. If you downloaded our theme on Friday, January 21st or Saturday, January 22nd, you could have a version of our theme that was not ready for release and could, in some instances, harm your SEO efforts.

Standard Theme is our flagship product. For us, developing the very best blogging theme with web standards and air-tight SEO isn’t a marketing angle, it’s the whole point.

On behalf of myself, and the entire team, please accept our apologies. You deserve better and we aim to deliver it.

Please update your site with the latest version (attached) right away.

Chris

In a word, comfort. We are a small, flexible team. We “wear many hats” as the saying goes. Each of us has a primary strength, but also secondary ones that allow us to pitch in and fill gaps. We have the skills to back each other up, and so we do. It feels very natural for any one of us to jump in and help. We are a team and there is no lack of teamwork here, I assure you. We are comfortable this way, and that is a remarkable thing.

But it can also cause trouble.

Sometimes, the team works best when processes are honored and hats are not shared. When one person owns hat #1 and another owns hat #2. It sucks because helping each other is fun and rewarding and much faster than stuffy old boring processes that lock you down and stay your hand.

But, they have their place. We knew this before, and that’s why we have primary roles and a lightly defined process for our work, but it is especially clear now. Team roles and procedures can mitigate risk and that has value, too. If we would have adhered to the stuffy side of things, this failure would have been avoided.

Every time I start to dwell on the fact that this is a bitter pill for our team, I remember the ones we really let down. All of you who trust us to deliver quality every single time.

We did not honor your blogs and we did not honor you. You deserve better and we aim to deliver.

UPDATE 1/26/2010

A great question in the comments from Barry, “How can I check to make sure?” Peek at the style.css file. Either on your live site or in the ZIP you downloaded.

If it is not 2.5.3 then please update your theme.