Back in September, at the fantastic ReCommerce Hackday, I hung out with Jimmy Jacobson and Porter Haney, the guys behind is a lightweight social application that lets you easily poll your friends via twitter. Porter told me he was addicted to the email updates that they had implemented using SendGrid, so I asked Jimmy and Porter if they’d write about their application and experience for our blog. They obliged, so we are very pleased to present a guest blog post from!

Internet surveys and polls should be simple.

Sending email from your app should be simple.

What do you mean polls aren’t simple? I just go to my favorite survey site, sign in, put in a question, click the “add question” button and then pick a template and customize the CSS.  Now I just have to preview it and then opt out of the premium membership options and now I can send my link to them to take my poll and then I can log back into the survey site to see the results.

Or. You can use ( to ask people a question and let them answer anywhere you can paste some text.  SMS, Twitter, Facebook, email etc.  Just like this…

How do you send email from your webapp?
Choose One: mail server on my web server
or Sendgrid started as a project by @porterhaney and myself.  We wanted to see if we could make something awesome in a weekend.  We sat at Porter’s kitchen table over a few glorious July days and ignored all our friends who wanted us to go hiking or swimming.  At the end of the weekend we showed a few people what we’d come up with and they agreed. had a lot of potential to be awesome.  So we set our next goal.  Could we make something that people would use?  We iterated quickly, fixed bugs, added new features and gathered feedback and watched as the votes came pouring in to wedgies that our friends and coworkers created.  The driving principle always was simplicity.  That’s why we allow you to create a poll without having to log in.  We don’t cap the number of polls you can create or the number of votes a poll can get.  And we make seeing the results of a poll simple and clear.

Quickly we realized we needed to be able to send email, both to us and to users.  The page we used to see newly created polls was getting hammered by Porter.  He’d ruthlessly smash the refresh button to see if the data had changed.  Google Analytics reported this page as up to half of our page views for the first month.  Bad Porter.  So I decided to add an email sent to us every time a new wedgie is created.

The simple approach would be to set up a mail server on the same box is hosted off of and call it good.  But that’s not really simple. is written using node.js (oh so trendy) and is running on an EC2 instance.  I don’t really want to have to configure a new mail server each time I set up a new box for scaling out the website. In fact, I don’t even want to host a mail server.  I did the whole small time hosting gig for a few years and handling spam notices from a compromised mail server was the worst part.  Email is hard.  Even making sure it gets delivered is hard.  SendGrid solves those problems. It was a simple choice.

Now, instead of mashing refresh on our stats page, Porter wakes up in the morning to a fresh batch of emails containing Dutch wedgies.  If you want to get Netherlands as an early adopter for your app, just use a lot of orange.  That’s not the point though.  The point is, I know those emails get to Porter every morning.  And I know as we scale out and implement more customer facing emails, I’m not going to have to worry about mail servers, deliverability or spam.

Go check out, create and share a few polls! It really is a lot of fun.

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