Populi

Archive for the ‘Bloggable’ Category

Heartbleed

Tuesday, April 8th, 2014

On Monday, April 7, security researchers published information about a bug in the OpenSSL cryptographic software library. OpenSSL powers the encryption used to secure the internet—everything from websites to instant messaging to virtual private networks. The bug, called Heartbleed, could affect about 2/3 of encrypted internet traffic.

As of now, all Populi servers have been patched against this vulnerability, and we have no reason to believe that any of our clients’ data was compromised. Due to the critical nature of this issue, we performed the patching during business hours today—rather than after hours as we normally do—so our apologies to anyone who was affected! We’ll continue to monitor the situation and post further updates if necessary.

To the best of our knowledge, Populi has been locked-down against this bug and all data is secure.

Even more free file storage for everyone!

Monday, April 7th, 2014

Do you remember where you were on June 18th, 2013? The last time we went and upped everyone’s free file storage limit?  We remember where we were: that day, we were upping your free file storage limit. This is kind of like that, except we’re not even waiting for the summer to . . .

. . . give everyone even more free file storage.

Every plan has already received more for the same—which is for free. It happened and you didn’t even notice!

Are you on the so-called small plan? Where you used to get a measly 50 gigs of free storage? Now you get 100 gigs of free storage.

The medium plan? Been wishing you had more than 100 gigs of free file storage? You’ve been gazing wistfully at the large plan’s 200 gigs? Now it’s yours. 200 gigs of free storage.

The large plan. You had 200 gigs of free file storage. Pretty good. What would be great? 500 gigs would be great, right? And that’s what you get. 500 gigs of free storage.

Our Plan Pricing remains the same. So all those extra gigs-per-month really are free.

Enjoy it. Use it. You’ll have even more room to store and deliver your video and audio lectures and materials. Start uploading dumb stuff—like daily videos of your coffee cooling, accompanied by in-depth commentary—just because you can.

This applies to all of our current customers and anyone else who has yet to jump aboard with Populi. That extra file storage is yours to use right now!

New course roster, plus enhancements to tests and Admissions

Wednesday, March 26th, 2014

The new roster and finalize-by-student are now live! Take a look at the preview we published a few weeks ago, and get all the details in the Knowledge Base.

Here are some other noteworthy items we’ve released over the past couple months

Test availability

Tests can now have open-ended test availability dates. Choose from Available from (which gives you the usual date range), Available after or until, and Always available, which keeps the test open for the entire duration of the course. This makes things much simpler for our customers who run open-enrollment courses.

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Inquiries

You now have the option, when entering a new Inquiry, whether to email the comment to the student or keep it private. That, and the comment itself is now optional!

2-20-14 Inquiry form

Miscellaneous Admissions updates

Active Leads now get the Active Lead system tag. This makes it much simpler to, for example, include them in a Mailing List.

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When you accept an application, you can now add the Lead as a new user at the same time.

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Education tech: messiah or megaphone?

Thursday, February 27th, 2014

Elise Italiano at Public Discourse, in her article Community, Contemplation, and Computers: the Role of Technology in Education:

Though it is becoming clear that technology is changing the way we learn, it is not yet clear that it is improving it.

Though concerned with recent developments in K-12 education (especially in light of the White House’s ConnectED Initiative), there’s plenty here for higher-ed folks to contemplate regarding the relationship between pedagogy and technology.

Those who embrace the White House’s view of education share three main presumptions:

  1. Education should be highly individualized;
  2. Digital interaction with concepts and ideas is an effective and desirable means of learning;
  3. Education should be primarily geared toward helping produce students with skills for the workplace.

We, obviously, are in the education technology business. We really think Populi can help small colleges. But as we’ve written before, there’s a lot of hot air about online learning that has nothing to do with actually getting students a meaningful education.

The best presumption anyone can make about online learning is that it’s an amplifier: both in the sense that amplifiers get your voice out to more people, and in that small pedagogical problems are more likely to become big ones.

A few application improvements

Thursday, February 13th, 2014

We’ve been improving the new Admissions features we released just before Christmas. Here’s a quick look at what we’ve done:

Insert new elements

We updated the application designer. Previously, you had to add new elements at the end of the application and then drag them where you needed them. Now you just click the + and add another heading, text block, or field and insert the new element wherever you need it.

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Also, now you can see what’s Required without having to look in the Preview tab.

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Application fees

Previously, you had one option with application fees: collect them when the Lead started the application. Now you have the option to collect the fee at the start, or to let the Lead wait until he submits the application to pay the fee.

1-29-14 Application Fee Choice

Importing field info to the profile

The new application fields make it simple to collect information from the applicant that you can import directly to the Profile. We’ve improved that entire process:

  • We re-worked the interface: first you select whether to link to an existing field; then you pick the field you want on the application. This lets you collect the exact information you need from the applicant to import to the Profile.
  • To import a field—say, a mailing address—just set it to accepted.
  • When you accept the application, you can import course of study information (program, degree, specialization).
  • Now you can collect gender information using an application field.

Populi welcomes Josh Stevenson

Tuesday, February 4th, 2014

Populi is pleased to welcome Josh Stevenson. Josh will be joining our customer support team, taking calls, answering tickets, writing documentation, and making training videos. A writer and self-described competitive poet, he’ll also contribute to the blog and other writerly tasks. You know, once he’s up to speed. It’s his first week. Take it easy on him.

2-3-14 josh intro

Judging by the feedback we receive, our customers really dig our support. It’s something we work hard at—at last count we spend 56 cents of every dollar we take in on supporting and improving Populi. So it would be easy to think, “Well, we’ve got that part wired.” Instead, those compliments tell us just how important good support is to our customers.

To that end, we’ve been thinking about hiring a new CS person for some time. As it happens, our top choice for the role became available right when we started looking in earnest. Josh previously worked for EMSI customer support, most recently developing training and user certification programs for their web-based economics software. We’ve known him for years as a man who appreciates and shares our company values, and we’re really happy to have him join the team. 

Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year from the Populi Team

Friday, December 20th, 2013
Populi Team

From left: Christian Amos, Isaac Grauke, Joel Penney, Joseph Schoolland, James Hill, Mark Ackerman, Patrick Swanson, Josh Stevenson*, Nick Holloway, Brendan O’Donnell, Toby Robinson, Adam Sentz

Many thanks to all of our customers, new and old, for making 2013 a great year to work at Populi. Here’s to an even better 2014!

* Future employee #spoilers

Nielsen-Norman Group: Show your pricing!

Thursday, December 12th, 2013

Website usability researchers The Nielsen-Norman Group have something to say to business-to-business websites: publish your pricing.

Business customers report pricing as the top most needed piece of information online, yet many business-to-business (B2B) sites don’t show it… In our studies, we watch participants go to competitors’ sites when websites do not show prices. If pricing information can be found elsewhere, that’s where users will be.

We’re aware of one other company in the higher-ed software industry that has up-front pricing information—Pathwright—and they’re after a different slice of pie than we are. Otherwise, we’re not aware of any services comparable to Populi that publish what they cost.

Companies rationalize reasons for not revealing prices online: we don’t want our competitors to know, price varies for different customers, price constantly fluctuates, customized services have unique prices, and so on. These excuses are legitimate reasons in almost all cases, but they’re still excuses. Not showing pricing works against customer needs and thus creates a hostile shopping experience. Remember the Halo Effect: people’s impression of one aspect of your brand (“they’re hiding the information I want”) transfers to their feelings about everything else (“they’re difficult to deal with; I don’t like them.”)

We don’t call it the “Halo Effect”, but the description of it resonates with us. We want you to know everything you deserve to know about us: What do we provide youHow will we do business with you? What are our priorities as a company? What does it cost?

This may be a murky, obscurantist industry, but hiding basic stuff like that never made any sense to us.

The Everpix shutdown

Wednesday, November 20th, 2013

Everpix, a well-loved photo storage service, recently announced its imminent shutdown:

We were unable to secure sufficient funding in order to properly scale the business, and our endeavors to find a new home for Everpix did not come to pass. At this point, we have no other options but to discontinue the service.

By all accounts, the site and service provided an elegant solution to a common problem: how to store, organize, and access years’ worth of digital photos from myriad sources. Everpix stored them all on the cloud and gave users a simple interface to manage them. But as good a product as it was, it simply failed to gain traction. Casey Newton’s post-morten at The Verge reports that “the company had attracted fewer than 19,000 signups”. Some 6,800 of those were paying customers, plunking down $4.99 a month or $49 a year for the paid version.

In the company’s final months, company founder Pierre-Oliver Latour made the rounds among the venture capitalists. He sought another $5 million to follow up on the initial $2.3 million he’d raised during Everpix’ nonage—which sum the company had burned right through. In a telling paragraph, Newton reports:

In meetings on Sand Hill Road, Latour says, nearly everyone expressed enthusiasm for Everpix’s product. But one by one, they turned him down. After two meetings with one well-known firm, a partner sent Latour an email. “You guys seem to be a spectacularly talented team and some informal reference checking confirmed that, but everyone here is hung up on the concern over being able to build a >$100M revenue subscription business in photos in this age of free photo tools.” Said a partner at another firm: “The reaction was positive for you as a team but weak in terms of whether a $B business could be built.”

Everpix, not holding the possibility of doing billion-dollar—or even a paltry hundred-million—business, was thus refused five million semolians by the VC’s. Which well they should have. Only suckers go for an investment that gets you less than a 2,000-percent return.

In time, Latour hopes, the lessons of Everpix will become more clear to him. Where had it all gone wrong, exactly? Maybe there was something obvious that everyone had missed.

Maybe the Everpix guys could have taken a look at their expenses. Their Profit & Loss statement:

Income
Funds raised: $2.3 million
Subscription revenue: $254,060.57


Expenses
Total consulting and legal fees: $565,975.65
Total Office Expenses: $128,750.87
Total Operating Costs: $360,924.30
Total Salaries: $1,168,710.45
Total Payroll: $1,298,819.67
Total Personnel Costs: $1,411,513.53


Net Income: -$2,294,818.17
Source: Everpix profit and loss statement summary (via The Verge).

Everpix was spending money like there was no tomorrow. Which, as it turned out, there wasn’t.

To be clear, we’re sympathetic to the Everpix guys. No one wants to see their work up and vanish like that. What we’re looking askance at is the culture that killed it. The company raced through its cash with such abandon that it must’ve been planning on either more funding or an acquisition. And when it came to that time, turns out the VC’s wouldn’t lift a finger for anything less than a nine-digit payday. Not a thought given to long-term sustainability or the preservation and improvement of what they had built.

The ones who put up the money are the ones who own your work. If you want it to last past tomorrow, make sure they’re as invested in it as you are.

Admissions Preview: the new application

Tuesday, November 12th, 2013

Applications are going to be so stupendously better in the new Admissions that you’ll wonder how you ever did without them. A new application designer, a preview tab, online references, better integration of application data, HTML embed codes… plus a lot more. Check out the video below for an overview of how they work, and how your existing applications will be moved over to the new format.