An Article That Says A Lot of it For Us

Although this Campus Technology article has somewhat larger institutions in view, it's a pretty good summary of the benefits that web-based software like Populi brings to small colleges. The only thing "off-note" it strikes is the title: "IT on Demand: The Pros and Cons of Cloud Computing in Higher Education"—it doesn't really mention the cons (in part because, I would submit, cons are rather hard to come by) so much as it exhorts colleges to "Look at what's most important to your school and how technology will help you reach those goals."

By that metric, we've found that Populi is a great fit for small colleges and the different situations they find themselves in: pursuing accreditation, getting a better grip on their information, expanding their online education presence, reducing infrastructure costs... to say nothing of simply better serving their students, faculty, and staff.

Visible puts the API to good use

Shane Flynn of Visible School just put the College Calendar up on their website using Populi's API (Application-Program Interface). It's a smart way to distribute some pretty important info to the folks who need to know about it.

In past years—that is, pre-Populi—important, college-wide events (Add-Drop Dates, Orientation, Student and Staff Hang Out Time, and so on) had to be entered on the Visible’s shared calendar, and then again on the college website. Shane told us, “Updating the calendar on the website has always been one of the things I dreaded every year. [It was] just a tedious job with a lot of room for error.”

This go-round, Shane had something new to work with. Visible was already using the Populi Calendar's standard School Calendar; to get it on the website, he spent a few hours with the API one afternoon—and it was up. The time he spent working with the API was a good investment, because future term calendars will automatically display as events are created. “Now when the academic office enters dates into the school calendar, the changes are automatically reflected on the website,” Shane said. “It’s a beautiful thing.”

The API is good for work-a-day applications like Visible's—they’d next like to put their course catalog online. It also lends itself to advanced data queries, integration with other software packages, and some flashier projects. We used it for Populi's iPhone app, for instance.

We're looking forward to seeing what else our customers think up for it. If you’d like to start working with it, just contact us and we’ll get you the documentation. Down the line, we’re planning some API discussion forums and help content—not to mention further enhancements to the API itself so it keeps pace with the new features we’re gonna be adding to Populi.

Zendesk: Goodwill in a Business Model

A bunch of new stuff with Zendesk, the SaaS helpdesk we use as our online help system, this past Monday the 17th. In addition to some new features, a redesigned website, and $6 million in new VC cash, Zendesk debuted a new pricing scheme. To sum it up in their words, "Previously you had to allocate agents in lumps. That's history."

Zendesk's former pricing gave you access to the first support agent for free, and after that charged $19 per agent; however, agent access couldn't be purchased per-agent, but rather in bunches of 3, 5, 10, and so on. So, if you had, say, 6 agents, that bumped you up past the "5" bracket and into the next higher-priced bracket... for 6 agents, therefore, you paid for 4 agents you didn't have.

Their new pricing scheme is much simpler: if you're a one-man operation, you pay $9 a month. If you're bigger, $39 gets you three agents, and each additional agent after that runs you $19 apiece. There's also a more expensive, premium version with extra reporting, support, and SSL certificate hosting.

Since Zendesk now runs on per-agent pricing, Populi pays less than it used to for what is now (in light of the software enhancements) a better program. A few interesting things about that: first, in terms of customer relations, the Populi office is absolutely aglow with praise for Zendesk. We were already pleased with it (and we trust our customers also find it an easy and helpful way to get answers), and plenty happy to pay what we were paying for the service. Now they've improved the program and ding us for less money than they used to. What's  more, they didn't have to do this. The old way was working. However, they saw that it could be done better.

In one sense, a price cut probably means that their income will decrease... but only for a time. In light of the tremendous buzz the new plan has generated (and the news about the VC money helps), that price cut looks more and more like a smart, gratuitous, multilateral PR and customer relations investment. Lest that sound at all cynical, it might be better to say that this shows how Zendesk is using goodwill in their business model.

Simplicity

Our tagline reads, "College Management Made Simple"... because we believe simplicity in software is a virtue. Simplicity doesn't necessarily mean that things are just left out; it has more to do with what we include and why. If we're considering a feature that everyone will use all the time contra some feature that a few users might use some of the time, our development decision is pretty simple to make. "Feature bloat" has bogged down many an otherwise fine program that, for some reason, sought to be all things to all people. We aim to build and deliver useful, usable software—because we want to do one thing, and do it really well.

That one thing happens to be a fairly complex, tightly interwoven bundle of tasks: college management. We're in this business because most software just adds to the complexity—not just in its feature bloat, but also in its approach to the "interwoven" part. But as our client colleges have found, and are still finding out, college management can be done with one program, and it can be done better for a much lower cost.

We have some features coming that we're pretty excited about, and that you'll be pretty excited about, too. We're going to be quiet about specifics for the moment, but suffice it to say that they'll expand Populi's ability to manage all of your college's information with less software and greater ease and simplicity.

In the meantime, two menus from some eateries in New York City with simple philosophies. John's Pizzeria on Bleecker makes what is simply the finest pizza anywhere; Ninth Street Espresso upends what people think of coffee on a regular basis. Both eschew the proliferation of options and sauces and extras that typically clutter the competition's menus and kitchens. Both do it like no one else can do it. And both do gangbusters business.

Trouble Logging In?

Some of our customers had trouble logging in yesterday. We fixed the problem, and everyone should have no trouble today. But, in case any Populi users experience any login problems today, we have an article up in our help system that tells you about some settings you can change in your browser. Just log in to support.populiweb.com with your regular Populi login information, and the article will make itself plain to you.

We're really sorry for the hassle this has caused, and we thank you for your patience.

New Populi Release: Multiple Tabs, To-do's, Admissions Enhancements

The Populi Development team is pleased to announce that the new release went live last night. Now you can use Populi in multiple browser tabs--a tremendous leap forward for day-to-day usability. Additionally, users now have built-in To-Do lists--assign tasks to yourself or others, complete with due dates.

In Admissions, new enhancements include the Timeline View for Applications, which retrieves applications, applicants, and components based on your own custom timeframe, application status, and degree--it's somewhat like a mini-Data Slicer for Admissions. You can then email or export the prospects that return from your query.  Also in Admissions, we've added Counselors--assign particular prospects to individual members of your Admissions group. Counselors can then focus on those prospects via the My Prospects view of their Profile. You can match Prospects and Counselors via the prospective info fields in the Prospect's Admissions view, or in the Admissions Staff's My Prospects view.

Numerous enhancements and patches accompanied the big-ticket items on this release; users can read a thorough list of the new release features in the online help system (just look for the newest post in the "Release Notes" forum). As always, please feel free to contact us with your questions and comments.