Timing Is Everything

Please Benj, tell me more about how Charitocracy will be ready to go live in June 2016

Okay, beta testers new and old, we're at the end of another month.

I recently added the end-of-month code that actually does something at the end of the month. At the stroke of midnight (NYC time) it counts votes, records a winner, cancels all votes donors had cast for it, makes voting for the cause impossible for the next 11 months, adds it to the Celebrate page of past winners, and emails everyone about the winner (unless you've opted-out in your notification preferences).

So let's test it, shall we?! Usual fake credit card: 4242 4242 4242 4242

Jessica and I have discovered a bit of an administrative obstacle to going live, accepting real donations: the requirement to register for solicitation of donations with nearly every state in This Great Nation of Ours, each with its own set of forms, fee, renewal cycle, etc. So what this means is we have one more month to do a full test of the new (not yet coded!) monthly cycle:

  • At midnight, start of new month: name last month's winner, open up for new nominations, voting begins on full field of nominees
  • At midnight end of week 1: end new nominations, email out digest of newly nominated causes, voting continues
  • At midnight end of week 2: narrow down the field to top 10 causes, email donors the list and encourage re-vote
  • At midnight end of week 3: narrow down to top 3 causes, email donors the list and encourage re-vote
  • Name winner, lather, rinse, repeat!

This new cycle, led by your recent Facebook poll responses, is intended to make Charitocracy more fun and engaging by providing several "touch points" during the month: news updates on progress and motivation to get back on there and take action. A donor can continue to take a hands-off approach and let Charitocracy be their crowd-curated charity-of-the-month club. But I like having something to actually go on there and do more than once a month. I hope you agree?

So let's close July out with a new winner under the old "anything goes" approach, and meanwhile I'll code up the new world order and have it ready for August 1! Feedback appreciated, as always. (You'll find us slaving over the mimeograph machine in the back office, filling out our TPS reports solicitation registration forms.)

If I don't get my red stapler back...

Great Outdoors and Open Houses

Wow, they must be all out beta-testing Charitocracy

I'm back from a week of camping with the kids, and happy to see Charitocracy's beta test server is still humming along with no signs of missing me. I would be lying if I said the reverse were true. I'd have pulled all-nighters in the tent if I had (A) power, (B) Internet, (C) Hodor to carry me around the next day on the hiking trail with the kids.

As I get back to work here, I've decided that keeping the test server online as I make further progress will be a good way to build my discipline as a fledgling sysadmin. I'll use maintenance mode (shutting down the site with a "back in 5!" message) sparingly and do most of the new work on a separate staging server before merging the databases back together and putting the new code online. It will slow me down a bit at first, but once we go live this is how I'll need to operate anyway, so best get used to it now!

All of this is to say: the Charitocracy beta test open house is permanent. Jump on whenever you feel inspired to test the latest and greatest. I'll post here on the blog when there's something new to try out. This post has instructions and caveats that I'll try to keep current. Happy beta-testing! Hopefully the open house will be short-lived, and I can instead start taking actual sign ups...

Charitocracy's open house shall remain open!


Everyone’s a Critic

Never mind using Charitocracy, they can't even say or spell it right! Ha ha ha

I spend a lot of time under the illusion that I'm my own worst critic. While I try to hold myself to a high standard, and don't often live up to it, I at least aim high before I fall short. I'm extremely detail-oriented... especially when looking over someone else's shoulder. It's only when I invite other critics to the party that I realize how easy I've been on myself, how many corners I've cut, mistakes I've made, and how much better I can do.

With fresh eyes, desire to help, and the necessary distance from the nuts and bolts of this endeavor to question everything, you beta testers have provided me a wealth of ideas, big and small, on how to improve Charitocracy. I still have some big ideas to digest, but at least most of the smaller ones have been tackled embraced and are now visible on the test site. Consider this a Charitocracy open house for critics!

If you missed the last beta test, feel free to jump on now. Fake credit card: 4242 4242 4242 4242 with any future expiration date and any 3-digit CVC. It is certainly not too late for any and all feedback. See the beta test announcement for caveats/known issues.

For those of you who already beta tested, feel free to jump back on, see what's changed, which of your reported bugs have been addressed, and then please try out the new WYSIWYG comment editor to make sure it works well enough. I've left your accounts exactly as they were, though of course you're welcome to sign up again with another email account. (If you've forgotten your password, go ahead and try to recover like you would in real life!)

Here's a summary of the bigger ticket items I've addressed since the first beta that started 2 weeks ago:

  • Support retina displays (high-dpi avatars, logos, icons, etc.)
  • Use simple WYSIWYG editor for discussion posts
  • Add vote summary to donor account widget
  • Big reminder to hit Submit button after entering CC #
  • Improve layout for small screens
  • Fix momentary flash of menu during page load on small screens
  • Donor map can go full-screen
  • Make discussion comments editable forever
  • Add alphabetical sort of causes
  • Use display name (vs. username) if set in profile
  • Limit length of display names shown
  • Change donation page now shows all 4 plans, defaults to current plan
  • Make one-time donations adjustable on its page, not just in widget
  • Add 'apply' button when changing split vote percentages
  • Detect when in iOS Facebook browser, provide instructions
  • Add note about checking spam folder if password reset email not received
  • Make social share pop-up less obtrusive on large screens

I'll be traveling non-stop for the coming week, but will check in on the Charitocracy open house from time to time, and look forward to your criticism. Bring it on!

Charitocracy #fail list? It's already been broughton.

The Aftermath

The morning after Charitocracy's beta test

It's been a week since our first 2-day beta test, and I've been busy! I received a lot of useful feedback from so many of you, and wanted to give shout-outs to those who took time to type up a laundry list for me: Lionel Lemarié, Kim Belli Andews, Brian & Julie Miller, and Alistair Bell. I've nearly worked through all of your suggestions!

Thanks also to those who IM'd me your quick observations and thumbs ups. And extra special thanks to Stephanie LaFond, Lisa Nicholson, Andrew Whitaker, and Amy Cayer who each created multiple accounts to test more features and device compatibility. You and everyone who helped beta test are amazing for pitching in on this critical effort!

The vital stats

  • Length: 2 days
  • Number of beta test accounts created: 39
  • Number of causes nominated: 16
  • Number of votes cast: 31
  • Number of likes: 63
  • Number of comments: 22
  • Breakdown of Bronze/Silver/Gold/Platinum memberships: 26/4/5/4
  • Most generous one-time donation: $2500 (the max!) by Amy Cayer
  • Funniest one-time donations: $314 (π) by Alistair Bell, $167.12 (no idea!) by Mary Bartlett
  • Most popular: Project Shakespeare with 9 likes nominated by... me (as KennyBranagh)
  • drumroll, please?
  • Total pot size for June: $8691.12
  • Most votes: Kurt Vonnegut Memorial Library Inc. with 2.6 votes nominated by... me (as Vonnegut).

And that's why Charitocracy won't be in the business of nominating causes. Clearly I'm way too persuasive?

Stay tuned for the next round, where I'll open it up for folks to test all the improvements and bug fixes, and perhaps focus on another aspect of the site that needs attention. Onward!

Keep calm and beta test