Phishing scam targeted at Populi users

A Populi user forwarded an email she received from an "Alice Hobbs" which reads as follows:

Dear Webmail User,

This message is from the Webmail Support team to all email users. We are currently carrying out an upgrade on our system, hence it has come to our notice that one of our subscribers Infected our Network with a worm like virus and it is affecting Our database.

We are also having congestions due to the anonymous registration of email accounts, so we are shutting down email accounts deemed to be inactive. Your email account is listed among those requiring update.

To resolve this problem, simply click to reply this message and enter your User Name here

(_____________) And Password Here (___________) to have your email account Cleared against this virus.

Failure to comply will lead to the termination of your Email Account.

Hoping to serve you better.

Alice Hobbs

Webmail Support

This email is a phishing scam.

Not only do we not employ anyone named Alice Hobbs, but we have a strict policy: NO ONE AT POPULI WILL EVER ASK FOR YOUR USERNAME AND EMAIL. The only people who do this are scammers—in this case, operating via an IP address from Zhejiang Province, China.

If you received this email, delete it. If you responded to this email, please log in to Populi and change your password immediately.

Just to be clear, Populi itself has not been compromised; this is an attempt by hackers to compromise Populi (and possibly harvest sensitive information) by gaining access through a legitimate user account. Also, there's a good chance that you won't see this email; our spam-catchers have been sequestering most of these emails and junking them.

Please feel free to post this article to your Populi News Feed, or however you think would be a good way to spread the word.

Happy Monday everyone!

Reporting: the Movie

Populi is stuffed full of built-in reports. Any SIS ought to be—that's part of how the software makes the massive amount of information in your database useful and comprehensible. Customers who've come over from other systems tell us that many of the most basic reports in Populi—say, the Students Table—required lots of elbow grease to get them out of their old software... running this option and that one, then exporting it all and merging it with two other spreadsheets. Yeesh. We want reporting to be a lot simpler than it typically is, because that's how you get at your information and make it work for your school. That's our approach, and we're constantly finding ways to improve on what we've done.

Here's a brief video of the reporting tools in Academics. Analytics gives you the birds-eye view of student, faculty, degree, and retention statistics. The Data Slicer lets you create endlessly customizable reports on your students. And the Preset reports help you complete various IPEDS series and the National Student Clearinghouse report with a click or two.

Reporting from Populi on Vimeo.

Bad Business

We knew when we got into this business that, well, we were getting into business. In business, honest competition is good and necessary. It helps companies fight complacency and results in better products for consumers. But just because competition is good doesn't make everything done in the name of competition good.

We recently did a demo for a fellow claiming to represent St. Mary's University in San Antonio, Texas, which he said was shopping around for a new information system. The demo was just a low fly-over, nothing intensive or detailed. During the demo, our salesman got a funny feeling about the guy on the other end of the call. After it ended, we did a little research.

The guy had nothing to do with St. Mary's. We gave them a call—they'd never heard of him (and they weren't shopping). A little Googling, a little LinkedIn-ing, a little review of our notes in Highrise, and we figured out that the guy is the Sales Manager for one of our competitors. The company in question offers software similar to ours, and we've bumped into them during the sales process with some colleges. They've won some, we've won others. Fair enough. They're cheaper than Populi, and from the sounds of it, you get what you pay for—less-than-straightforward salesmen, development and support outsourced overseas, K-12 software shoehorned into a college setting...

...and, apparently, their Sales Manager is willing to lie about representing a college.

Now, we're not put out that a competitor saw Populi. That just means that we're the ones worth imitating. We honestly couldn't care less about seeing their software. We're just rather aghast at the willingness of this company to lie about representing an institution our industry is supposed to be serving. What must these guys think of their customers?

When we got into this business, we knew we were getting into something that had made itself obnoxious to a lot of colleges. This episode has hardened our resolve to be different—to just serve our customers, simply and honestly.

Recent Tidbits

A student at Visible School of Memphis, Tennessee wrote to us about how he—and many other students there—are using a Mac program called Fluid, which creates desktop "apps" for websites. Fluid is a "site-specific browser" that serves up one particular website; it's a great way to dedicate a spot for a web app like Populi on the Mac desktop or Dock and launch it separate from your browser. We use Fluid around here, too—it's nimble, lightweight, and stays out of the way. We like it. Anyway, the student wanted to see if we had a desktop icon he could use. Fluid defaults to use a website's 15 x 15-pixel favicon (you know, this thing) for the desktop icon, but when you blow up an icon that small, it looks pretty poor. Adam Sentz took a few seconds and provided him with this 512 x 512 icon, which you're free to download yourself to use with Fluid.*

Dennis Hixson, Vice-President of Pacific Life Bible College of Surrey, British Columbia, is easily our most-caffeinated customer. To show his appreciation for our development and support teams, he sent us three pounds of Intelligentsia Coffee from the roasting lab in Los Angeles, California. UPS dropped off a pound of Intelligentsia's invincible Black Cat espresso blend and about two pounds of a really beautiful, jammy Guatemalan bean. We love coffee around here—some love it as fuel, some love it as a culinary experience—and we're really grateful to Dennis for gifting us some of the best.

Our trickle of features continues. We released a Student Loan Clearinghouse report; it accompanies various IPEDS series in our preset reports in Academics. We added the ability to charge Bookstore tax and shipping charges to student accounts. Populi Accounting now accommodates foreign currencies. And Payment Plans have been slightly re-tooled to make them easier to use.

All the while we're still working on some bigger-ticket items, interface updates, and numerous other projects.

*Fluid, of course, is Mac-only. Google Chrome lets you do something similar for Windows PCs by creating "Application Shortcuts" for individual websites—check the Chrome documentation for full particulars.

Coming soon: Improved navigation in Admissions

We're currently hard at work on our upcoming release, which will focus mainly on back-end improvements to how Populi handles Academics. At the same time, we're also gonna be rolling out our improved navigation scheme to more of the program, starting with Admissions. Here's a video that takes a brief look at what we're doing with our navigation... and which gives you an idea of how we like to constantly re-evaluate our design decisions in pursuit of something better.

Improved Navigation in Admissions (New Releases) from Populi on Vimeo.