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Letter From Our CTO

Hi Team,

As we embark on another ambitious year for Zappos Technology, let's remember to play our part in moving forward one of the company's most powerful assets and competitive differentiators - OUR CULTURE. Moving our culture forward entails engaging with departments outside technology as much as engaging with teams inside the technology department. Our culture provides the platform for friendships across teams and departments which then enables seamless communication without the bureaucracy found in larger companies. I'm happy to share how Zappos Tech will be owning and driving various cultural events and projects in 2011 – your participation and engagement in these events would be welcomed!

1. The 8000M challenge – I made the mistake of telling Brent that I would actually do the 8000M challenge if he agreed to lead it – well, he's leading it and I will be doing the 8000M challenge. Hope to see many of you participate!

2. The Rube Goldberg Machine – Dave Fong will lead getting the company involved in the creation of a very fun Rube Goldberg machine!

3. The Pinewood Derby – Frank Zaffino and team are leading this and we expect this to be a fun event in March!

This is in addition to various cultural events like Hackathons, Tech Lunch n Learns, Minute to Win-its, the donut eating contests, the breakfast club for Finance, and more…

Additionally, tech will be enabling and/or driving various cultural projects including the evolution of the face game, the next versions of Wishez and moving the zepic hackathon project forward. 

Let's continue to solidify technology's reputation as an incredible innovation, execution and operational team by leveraging our technical skills and our cultural platform to WOW and deliver happiness to everyone around us!!


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What's Tech Working On?

Hurdling buildings and halting speeding locomotives is an average day in the life of SYS… the team is always “on point” when needed to handle incidents that arise through the normal course of business. 

One such event developed on a normal, wintry day in Kentucky… slight breeze, chill in the air, and all systems were “go.” Out of nowhere, Verizon went down and the company was unable to produce shipping labels for cartons.  Verizon, you see, provides the internet connection between Zappos and GTS (Amazon’s shipping solution).  Bert Hooper, caped-crusader extraordinaire sprang into action, suggesting the team switch to the backup internet connection for SiteManager (Windstream). In an amazing feat that would have only been described by an ex-president as “Thwartin’ the evildoer’s doin’,” SYS worked simultaneously with Verizon to resolve the problem, and with Amazon, to setup a tunnel through Windstream to connect to GTS - in the event that Verizon couldn’t come back online. As was the case, Verizon didn’t come back up, and SYS moved forward with the Windstream workaround once the tunnel had been established. 

Kudos and props go out to Sys and KYFC Ops for their collaboration in bringing a thoughtful and rapid solution to this dastardly situation. Not only was the team able to re-establish peace to the Kentucky quadrant, they saved the system from sure ruin. Though manual shipping stations and automated shipping lanes were affected, the efforts of all involved resulted in no missed paid or VIP orders - quite amazing given the outage. Additionally, the team has already established a redundant solution to avoid an extended outage should this sort of thing happen again.

So the next time you see SYS wandering the halls, give ‘em a high-five, thumbs-up, or blow up the rock… ‘cuz there are superheroes among us.

The Perpetual Cart

With all the shoes, clothes and accessories on our site it's fun to look at lots of product and add things to your cart quickly and easily. With the perpetual cart, we're hoping to make that even more smooth by allowing you to quickly view what's in your cart from any page on the site without having to leave that page. Additionally, we're testing perpetual cart's functionality that allows you to stay on the product page when adding an item to the cart.

This feature also leverages our public API, which allows 3rd party developers to write applications that interface with the Zappos site.

Perpetual Cart

Stacey Eddy, Sr User Experience Architect, and Brandon Murry, Front-End Developer, who both worked on this project give their thumbs up on the perpetual cart.

Stacey and Brandon

Give us your feedback!

A Conversation with the Customer - Listen, Watch, Learn and Tell

This past year, we released a bunch of new features to the site. Some more obvious than others but our growing team got a lot accomplished and it was another amazing year for the Zappos Family. While we delivered on our internal timelines and optimized a lot of things on the site, one thing that we didn't do that well is have that conversation with you, our customer, on which site changes worked, which didn't and give you a heads up about new features that are being released in the future. In 2011, we'll be listening, watching and learning about what's working and what isn't and also telling you about site changes and new features we roll out. 

Listening. We've always had a great feedback loop at, through our conversations with you on our 1800 number (1 800 927 7671), facebook, twitter, blog comments, surveys and testimonials, we get a pulse of how you are doing and how we are doing. We're going to continue to listen to your feedback and be actively asking for your input on existing and new site features. Every comment is read, often multiple times, by different people and a lot of the feedback we get from you start discussions and define what we work on. Keep the comments coming because it's one way to inform the team if we're on the right track and doing the right things. 

Watching. In the past few years we've built out our research capabilities to better see what makes you happy and what makes you sad. Occassionally we'll roll out new features to just a subset of customers to see how they are received and interacted with. In some cases, we'll keep features and in others we won't depending on how things are received. In addition, if you stumble or are having problems with the site we send our team of sleuths out to investigate to find what went wrong and many times escalate that pain point as a project to fix as soon as possible. 

Learning. All of this is in an effort to better Learn how we can offer the absolute best online shopping experience possible and maybe even read your mind so that the next time you visit the site the experience will be even better than the previous. We haven't hired a psychic yet, but it's on our todo list. 

Telling. Finally, we're going to Tell you about changes on the site and at the same time introduce you to the team that's responsible for making those changes. As new features roll out, look out for our new feature kitty,

The New Feature Kitty

that will let you know that we have a new feature on the site. You'll have access to a survey about the feature to give feedback and a blog post describing the feature showcased by the developers and designers that worked on it. 

So, if you're a long-time customer or brand new to the site, let's continue to have that conversation and build that relationship until we're one of those couples that makes our friends uncomfortable. We're looking forward to it! ;) 




FEZ (Front-End Development) and UX (User Experience) Manager

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Putting A Face To Tech - Q&A With Website QA Lead Denly Johnson

Q: Pretend that I am your grandma. How would you describe your job?
A: I get paid to break things.

Q: What makes you geek out the most?
A: 1910's to 1960's women's fashions.

Q: What's the last thing you do before going to bed?
A: Turn off the light.

Q: Star Wars or Star Trek? Why?
A: Star Wars - it still stands up well against today's sci fi films.

Q: What is your biggest technology-related pet peeve?
A: Test environments.....shouldn't be that difficult to mimic production.....but it is.....

Q: What's the most embarrassing thing that's ever happened to you at Zappos or at a Zappos event?
A: I have to say I leave events early to make sure I don't embarrass myself. I don't think I have, but I'm sure there will be disagreement with those who know me.

Q: Finish this sentence…….If I died, my supervisor would……
A: Party....It is QA after all. Any excuse for a party.

Q: Who's your work spouse?
A: I don't have one. :( Should I advertise in the ZCN? "Wanted - work spouse"

Q: If hell exists, what would you like to hear Satan say when you arrive?
A: You took your time!

Q: Name one thing you do now that you wouldn't have considered "normal" before starting to work at Zappos?
A: Having so much fun at work.


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What's Tech Working On?

New Classification tool streamlines the merchandising experience...

Before a product goes live on our site, the merchandising team must classify it. Previously, this process was excruciatingly slow and inefficient. This made it difficult for merchandisers to get products to our customers…and we certainly don’t want that.

Now, thanks to Dean Curtis and the catalog department, the classification process is 90x faster overall than the original. In cases where products had many styles, it could take an hour or more to classify. But with the new tool, this same task can be accomplished in minutes.

The project started out initially to simply improve the 1.0 version of the tool. The team decided instead to go with a complete re-write.  The project took 3 months and the combined talent of all 5 members of the catalog team.  The development process was complicated further by almost constant attacks from the neighboring dev horde. It was only through teamwork, stamina, and high-castle walls that they were able to deliver this project to the waiting public.

The Catagorians, as they like to be called, border the UX team territory in the 2290 building. Come by the castle and say “Hi!” anytime!

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Downloading Core Values

Part 1: Three Square

In an effort to "Deliver Wow Through Service" and "Build a Positive Team and Family Spirit", part of the Project Management team spent a Thursday morning volunteering at a Three Square Event called "Backpack for Kids" - Give Back, Fill a Pack.

The Backpack program is designed to meet the needs of hungry children at times such as weekends and school vacations. The volunteers pack kid-friendly foods into bags that will be delivered to the kids at the end of the school day on Fridays. There are several activities occurring during the Backpack session which include stuffing bags with food, replenishing stock, tying the bags and placing them into the school bins.

The Backpack program schedule is Tuesday and Wednesday 5:30pm - 7:30pm and Thursdays 9:30am - 11:30am. There are 50 spots available for volunteers for each shift.

Comments by Corey:
"The Three Square event was great! The Zappos team was there along with volunteers from University of Phoenix and others in the community. In the two plus hours we were there, we filled 2,880 bags for children in need. The event was not just a well planned excursion and break from the “non-routine” here at Zappos, but a great opportunity to lend a helping hand to a very deserving cause, and come together as a team in the process. At the end of the day, I think all involved felt a sense of gratitude for the opportunity to be there, and a desire to go back and do it again… because I know I did!"

Part 2: The Breakfast Club

In an effort to "Build a Positive Team and Family Spirit", our own Back Office Systems and Financial Systems groups showed some love to Finance on December 2 by…

Masterfully flipping 250 pancakes, delicately cracking 8 doz. eggs, expertly frying 144 slices of bacon and 50 sausage links, and they totally lost count when it came to the waffles. Ahhhhhhhh Waaaaaffles!

There is no better way to start a 12-14 hour day than with breakfast. “The Breakfast Club” set up the griddles and fry pans over in the 2300 break room and served up a healthy dose of Core Value #7 to the 60 (+/-) team members in Finance.

Our Finance department does an amazing job each and every month to collect, reconcile, and analyze all the financial data and close the books inside of 2 DAYS!! It wasn’t too long ago when it took 7 days to close the books.  Kudos “The Breakfast Club” for showing the love through pancakes.

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4th Annual Tech Team Donut Eating Contest

The Tech team is at it again, and this time they are out to break some records. We have hosted several competitive eating contests in the Zappos HQ, but this is the granddaddy of them all. Ladies and Gentlemen, I present to you the 4th Annual Tech Team Donut Eating Contest.