Aug 26, 2011

Introducing Hairball: an Air App for Really Complicated MailChimp Lists


Every once in a while we get complaints from customers who want to run really complex segmentation criteria in MailChimp, but they keep bumping into our segmentation limitations. Truth is, we put those limits in place to keep a handful of customers from destroying our servers for the 900k other users on the system. Some of their queries could really turn our databases into a hairball of a mess. To get around those limitations, we’ve seen customers create multiple MailChimp accounts, open up separate tabs to run more segments, and all kinds of crazy hairbally stuff that would make our servers choke.

So we created Hairball. It’s an Air app that you install on your computer, and it syncs with your MailChimp list. Then, you can GO NUTS building all kinds of segments with your list. When you’re done, you sync it back up to MailChimp.

Hairball is currently in beta. If you’re interested in giving it a try, here’s where you can download:

Some Quick Tips


1. First, go to "Connect Account" (it’s the link in the top right of the screen) and tell it which MailChimp account to connect to:


2. Next, you’ll see all your MailChimp Lists:


3. For each list, you’ll need to click the "fetch" buttons to sync their data down. Depending on the size of your lists, downloading their data can take a while (now you know how our servers feel).


4. After the data is downloaded, you can build unlimited segments. Get whacky!



You can even build a segment that’s based on fields with empty data:


5. After you’ve saved your segment, upload it to MailChimp:

6. You can even generate random percentage segments (what’s more random than 17?):


7. You can view the members of your segments in Hairball, or export them for a spreadsheet app or something:

Static Segments 

After building your segments in Hairball, they’re uploaded to MailChimp as "static segments." That means we don’t have to build them dynamically for you, because you already did the hard work in Hairball (which makes our database servers purr  happily).

Whenever you log in to MailChimp and create your next campaign, you’ll see an option in the segmentation screen for static segment:



That’ll show the segments you built in Hairball. Pick your segment, and it’ll zap into place and you’re on your way. Power tip: use this to build a big static segment of "proof readers" that can test all your campaigns before you send to the full list.

If you’re one of our users with ginormous lists and MailChimp just feels a little sluggish when you build out your segments, give Hairball a try.