A while back we released the SendHub Manager App for Android which allowed managers to add and remove phone lines, and keep track of all their company usage. Today we’ve added the ability to log in to the SendHub app on any of your phone lines with the click of a button.
Until now, the SendHub Android app was used primarily by a single user at a time, with logouts and logins being relatively rare. User sessions were handled by simply downloading all of a user’s data when they logged in and clearing it when they logged out. This process was time consuming, data intensive, and not up to snuff for users who wanted to quickly log in and out of multiple accounts.
We hold all user information in a SQLite database, so given that we needed to persist data in order to keep session switches short we came up with two possible ways to handle this:
1. Add a userID column to all our tables and store all users information in the same table.
2. Create a new table for each user and switch between these at login/logout.
We went with option two for several reasons. First, we want to keep our queries fast, and using multiple databases means we will already have only the subsection of user data that we might need available at any time. Second, we want to keep the app to as small a storage footprint as possible and it is much easier to remove an entire database if it hasn’t been used in a while than to select specific data out of a larger database. More importantly, this was the option that required the least amount of change with our existing code. There is no need to rewrite queries or add new migrations; all we had to do was swap out the database as the user changed.
The basic implementation was straightforward: since we use a singleton for our database helper anyway, we simply added a bit of logic to getInstance() to make sure the correct database was returned.
The code above is a typical implementation of a singleton getter with two additional pieces. If there is no userId for the session we don’t create a database because no one is logged in. If there is a user ID, then we check if the current DatabaseHelper is attached to any database that does not match the user ID. If the IDs don’t match we simply close the old database and create a new DatabaseHelper with the correct user ID.
This is a quick way to add multiple user sessions to an app, but keep in mind it also requires code for cleaning up old databases and preventing long running processes from dumping data into another users database. Wanna check it out? Download the SendHub Manager App today and let us know how it’s working for you!
A few months ago we launched the file attachments feature for web. Today, we’re excited to officially announce attachments for Android! If you haven’t used it yet make sure to check it out.
You can easily send everything from images to PDFs right from your Android phone. Email your class assignments, send your customers forms to sign, or send a loved one an image — everything is possible with SendHub attachments.
For those on iOS, don’t worry, we’ve heard your requests. Attachments for SendHub on iOS will be rolling out shortly. In fact, here are a couple screenshot to get you ready.
Join SendHub at TwilioCon 2013, the Conference for Innovators and DOers
Do you want to know more about the latest tech trends? Are you looking to improve your business phone system? Then join us at TwilioCon next week!
TwilioCon 2013 is this September 17th through 19th in San Francisco, and we’re going to be there! Join us at the conference for software people – developers, decision makers, and entrepreneurs – who are building the future of communication.
TwilioCon will include inspirational and technical sessions with incredible speakers from various industries and companies like Zendesk, Parse, and Google. They will talk about their best communication practices, technology trends, driving real business results, and creating customer interactions with new business processes. Specific topics will include how to strategize your API, reinvent customer engagement with SMS, handle data at a massive scale, and even hack in the physical world.
We will be at our booth in the Community Hall throughout the conference along with many other DOers from the community, including developer evangelists and innovators, so don’t forget to stop by! Make sure to stick around in the evening Wednesday, September 18th for the Hacker Olympics, which is both a spin on the regular hackathon and a tournament filled with exciting challenges.
If you haven’t bought your tickets, be sure to get them before they sell out. We have a 25% discount promo code [SendHub_VIP] on TwilioCon tickets for our community.
We’re excited to be sponsoring TwilioCon and hope to see you all there!
SendHub, the Y Combinator-backed cloud business phone system, has recently completed their Series A led by Bullpen Capital with participation from Menlo Ventures, Kapor Capital, 500 startups, China Rock Capital, Alexis Ohanian, Garry Tan, Harj Taggar and Kenny Van Zant.
We’re also excited to announce the launch of our new File Attachments feature, now you can send any file to anyone via SMS, all you need is their phone number. This has been one of our most highly requested features since we started SendHub.
Collaborating is difficult. Everyone has different devices, people are not always working in the same room and we all know how many versions of a document get created. We feel this pain too so we’re making it easy by allowing people to send any file type via SMS - PDF’s, Word docs, Excel and, of course, pictures. Not only that, we already integrate with favorite cloud services, you can attach files from your computer and also Dropbox, Box and Google Docs.
When you attach a file to a text on SendHub, it’ll be added as a link to the message and your recipients will be able to simply tap to view and download the file - it’s that simple. Cofounder Garrett Johnson says that, “Attachments is the most requested feature and we are excited to make it available to our users. Every business needs an efficient way to pass documents around and this feature makes that process simple and accessible for anyone.”
As with everything at SendHub, we built the attachments feature with your small business in mind. Let us know what you think? Try it now for free. If you have any questions, contact our sales team to learn which plan best suits your business.
Have you Heard? Now your company can add as many phone lines as you need… for free!
SendHub now offers free phone lines for all of your co-workers. We make it as simple as we made signing up in the first place. Why do we give you a free phone number? We asked our customers what we could do to make SendHub easier for them and effective for their business. They told us that being able to manage phone lines and add accounts, without worrying about fees, would do the trick. So we made it happen— you can now setup the entire phone system for free.
How does it work? Simple. A manager invites their coworkers and they sign up individually on the web. They can add themselves to the phone system in seconds that connects them to their manager and other co-workers. Say ‘Goodbye’ to the notorious second cell phone you had to lug around for work.
Your account is completely flexible so you can add or delete lines as your business needs change. As the administrator of an account, you have control over all of these accounts. We want to help you improve your company’s internal and external communication system by making SendHub as convenient for you as possible.
Be on the lookout for more upcoming features, including MMS. If you want to be among the first to know about our new features and releases, text “MMS” of “Features” to the number, 6508305662, to receive about all of our updates straight to your phone.
Hey! My name is Khalia Braswell and I’m from North Carolina. I came out to Silicon Valley with my CS degree to work for SendHub!
Interning for a Start-Up is very rewarding! There is always a task to complete and a lot of room to make your mark. In order to get the most of a Start-Up internship, I would suggest the following:
Don’t be afraid to ask questions
People always say “there is never a dumb question”; however, when you are joining a team for the first time, anxiety can occur when it comes to asking a question. After getting past this fear, I realized that asking questions would allow me to be the most productive. It also increases my knowledge. Asking questions at SendHub often leads to me learning more than I ever expected. In this short time I’ve learned more about our product, API’s, and different applications that help make our business run.
Talk with the customers
Being able to interface with SendHub’s customer base has increased my passion to do work. We always strive to make our customers happy and listening to their needs drives me to complete tasks. For instance, while on chat support, I was able to help a customer who had issues uploading their contacts using a .CSV file. I instructed her to send it to me so that I could fix it for her. After I solved the problem, we set up a phone call so that I could walk her through how to edit the file in the future and upload the contacts herself. She was very pleased that I took the time to help her and it made me feel like I added value to our brand.
Food for thought: Every experience is a learning experience. Although I have a Computer Science background, I was very open to working with the Sales/Support team at SendHub. It has allowed me to increase my customer service skills and emphasize the importance of building strong customer relationships. In addition to being flexible about the type of work you may have to do for a start up, you have to be flexible about your projects. You may be assigned to a project that could get changed multiple times before the final product is completed. Things happen FAST at start-ups so you have to be willing to roll with the punches.
As my internship at SendHub comes to a close, I can reflect on all that I’ve seen and absorbed while here and say that I have thoroughly enjoyed my time here at SendHub. Being able to talk with our Co-founders has been the most rewarding. I tend to learn a lot from them about various things and I think it speaks a lot to the start-up culture.
SendHub adds Auto Attendant and Android in-app purchase
Our engineers continue to ship new features for our customers.Last month, we shipped the new Android app, expanded business features, and added unlimited SendHub to SendHub calling. Last week, we launched sound notifications and iPhone in-app purchase. Today, we’re excited to announce two more updates:
Direct your calls from your main business phone line to any department. Record a message with numerical codes (ex: Dial 1 for Sales, 2 for Support etc.) to let the caller know what the dialing options are. When the caller types a number into their phone, they will be automatically transfered to their selection. You need multiple phone lines in order to use “Auto Attendant”. Click on “Add a Line” now to get started.
Android in-app Purchase
You can now buy texts, calls, and groups right from your android app. Click on menu options (three dots) on the top right of your SendHub Android app and select “Settings” to upgrade now.
I scoured the internet high and low for a way to add request execution time logging to my Flask server console output, but failed to find any examples of how to do it. Here is my formula for one way to make it happen.
It turns out that the HTTP server component of Flask is a super thin wrapper around the Werkzeug WSGI library. The strategy is simply going to be implementing our own subclass of werkzeug’s BaseRequestHandler with a few overrides to capture and then inject information related to HTTP request execution time:
SendHub adds iPhone in-app purchase and sound notifications
Our engineers are hard at work launching new features for our awesome customers. If you missed our news last week - we launched an Android app, unlimited SendHub to SendHub calling and expanded business features. This week, we have some more news for you.
iPhone in-app purchase
We have added a new feature exclusively for our iPhone customers. If you are an iPhone user, you can now buy more texts, calls, and groups right from your SendHub app. We have also added special promotional pricing: $9.99/month only for unlimited texts, 150 voice minutes and 10 groups of 100 contacts. That’s a steal! Click on your profile settings now to upgrade.
Sound notifications for texts recieved on your PC
This has been one of the most requested features from our customers. Now when you receive a text message on your PC or your laptop, you will get a sound notification immediately. Don’t miss any more SendHub messages while you are browsing the web.
If you haven’t tried SendHub yet - sign up now for free. If you need more than 5 business lines or the premier plan, contact our sales team for special pricing.
SendHub launches Android app and expands business features
In 2011, Garrett, John and Ash started SendHub to build a communications platform for Garrett’s nephew’s school. Since then a lot has happened - we graduated from Y-Combinator, raised $2M from a handful of angel investors and have been hard at work building out our platform.
Our mission has always been to build a simple, fast and reliable communications platform for businesses and organizations. Today, we’re one step closer with the availability of Android app, unlimited SendHub to SendHub calling, and some rockin’ new business features.
The Android app is finally here. Download it from the Play Store and get all the awesome desktop features on your Android smartphone and tablet. Call and text over WiFi, 3G/4G data, or cellular voice networks using your SendHub number.
You can even use the native dialer of your Android phone to make outbound calls with your SendHub number - avoid the extra hassle of opening the Android app to place a call.
Unlimited SendHub to SendHub calling
No more worrying about SendHub minutes when you call your co-worker using a SendHub number. Unlimited SendHub to SendHub calling is now available on all plans. (Unlimited SendHub to SendHub texting is already available on all plans.)
New business features
We’ve recently added a collection of new features making it easy to use SendHub for your business or organization:
Call Forwarding: Receive your sendhub calls from any device, whether it is your home phone, tablet, laptop or desk phone.
Call Transfer - Someone dialed the wrong department? No worries! Press the call transfer button to transfer that call to any phone number on your contacts list.
Auto attendant (Coming Soon!) - Transfer your calls on your main business phone line to any department. Record a message with the codes for your respective departments ex: Dial 1 for Sales, 2 for Support, 0 for receptionist etc. The caller will hear the message and will get automatically transferred based on the code selected.
Shared Groups - Add all your contacts to a particular group and share it with your co-workers and employees.
Why SendHub is right for your business?
If you are a business owner or an IT admin, you want a phone system that is easy to use and manage, and also allows your employees to use their own devices. Using SendHub, you can easily add, delete or reallocate phone lines, monitor usage and download analytics with a single click.
You have no hardware to setup, no contracts and it just works on any device. You get the first phone line for free and additional phone lines start at $10/month - Try it now for free. If you need more than 5 business lines or the premier plan, contact our sales team for special pricing.
P.S. Don’t forget our group texting feature, which you can use to broadcast marketing and reminder text messages to all your customers, employees and suppliers.
It’s crucial for a website like ours to be as responsive as possible. One of our goals over the last couple months has been to improve our website’s performance. Not that page load time was particularly slow for a single page web-app, but we knew there was room for improvement. This post will take a look at some of the steps we took to improve performance.
Before we even start you might be thinking: “Aren’t there libraries which solve all these problems for you? Why not just install one of those and be done with it?”
Normally I’d probably agree with you, and in this case we did start with a library - we used Django Compressor. But (for legacy reasons we wont go into here) it drove us insane. Eventually we just bit the bullet and built our own. Sometimes its easier just to roll your own library than to try and bend an existing solution to fit all your needs. What was probably most surprising about this process was just how many little changes were necessary to finally make a dent in the numbers. Here’s how we did it.
80-90% of the end-user response time is spent on the frontend.
And two crucial tools: PageSpeed and YSlow. These tools will help you identify problems that cause your site to run slow.
Here were things we did:
We had GZIP enabled for all our pages (through django middleware), but we were serving static assets from an S3 bucket. There’s a workaround to this problem but it has the side effect of breaking anyone who doesn’t have support for GZIP. This is not acceptable. And its an unnecessary problem.
Instead, serve your assets with your web server and use a reverse-proxy CDN to cache them. Both Amazon CloudFront and CloudFlare can solve this job, however we found that CloudFlare (not amazon) was easier to use and did not have any worse performance. GZIP will be handled properly (with the addition of appropriate Vary headers) and you’ll get two nice side benefits: (1) it works the same way locally and (2) there’s no additional step when you deploy.
Combine Scripts & Styles
We were already doing this but its worth mentioning because it makes such a big impact. Something like this:
def get_package(typ, package):
contents = ""
for file_name in package:
file_path = os.path.join(root_dir, file_name)
_, file_contents = get_file(file_path)
contents += file_contents + "\n"
if typ == 'js':
return (hashlib.sha1(contents).hexdigest(), contents)
Don’t Combine All Scripts
This is in conflict with #2 but it turns out there’s a major downside to combining all your scripts together. Anytime any one of them changes you have to redownload the whole thing. Depending on the size of your scripts this could be a huge hit. So instead consider breaking up your large package into a couple of smaller packages. One to house relatively unchanging libraries (like jquery) and another to house the code that you are changing every day.
The other key here is to use a library like head.js to dynamically load these scripts asynchronously (so they are loaded simultaneously).
Embed your images directly in your css files using data-uris. You can generate them fairly easily:
Because proxies don’t like the ? in the URL. Or this:
Because that makes things really hard to debug. Also use the contents of the file to generate the hash not a timestamp… ever so slight variations between server timestamps is something you’d rather not have to think about.
Use the appropriate caching headers. Set Cache-Control to public and give it a really long max-age (like 1 year). Because we use hashes in the URLs of our assets we never have to worry about a stale cache.
With Black Friday just three days away, retailers around the country are ramping up marketing efforts for the imminent swarms of coupon-clutching customers. Unfortunately, email marketing isn’t sufficient anymore. Our advice to retailers: Setup an SMS marketing campaign now.
Every year stores are opening earlier, and staying open later to fully cash in on the holiday rush. Last year, Forbes wrote of the record breaking Black Friday Weekend with online and instore sales totalling $52.4 billion. As you can imagine, this presents an enormous opportunity for businesses and customers alike.
Don’t you wish there was a way to directly inform individual customers about how much inventory is left of a product you already know they want, what similar deals might interest them, and how they can get it more quickly than everyone else?
At SendHub, we believe that there’s a more effective way to distribute these deals— and it’s not blasting your customers with emails. Opt-in text messages (unlike this case!) let you, the retailer or marketer, send targeted text message deals, exclusives, inventory updates and more to customers who actually want to receive them.
Texting Tips for Retailers:
1. Offer Text alerts: If you have yet to do this, you’re missing out on a huge opportunity. Give customers quick sales announcements or exclusive “text only” deals to spur the buying spree of Black Friday. SendHub offers various options to best suit your needs.
2. Identify Yourself: Your messages will come in with those of friends and family. Make it clear who is messaging them from the start. “Hi- SendHub here! Exclusive offer on all plans through Monday! Text DEALS to 650-555-5555 for details.”
3. Give Opt-In Customers Even MORE: These customers are telling you that they love your brand— so much so that they’re willing to give you direct access to their pocket. Sweeten up the regular in-store 20% off deal with an extra 5-10% or free [insert low cost, customer-keeping product].
4. Keep & Use Customer Information Wisely! The information you collect can be reused throughout the holiday season and into the future. However, don’t lose your customers by abusing their information with too many texts. This is an opportunity to thank your customer for letting you text them deals and alerts.
5. Write Brief and Focused Messages: There’s no room for fluff in these messages. Leave out the extraneous deals and tell them what the deal is and how they can claim it.
6. Text-to-Join: Leverage this high traffic time to get as many people on your text/mailing list as possible. After Thanksgiving and Black Friday is Christmas where the buying continues. Make joining your mailing list as easy as possible by saying “Text SIGNUP to 650-555-5555 to get deals through christmas!”
U.S. Pizza chain, Papa John’s is in trouble— we’re talking serious marinara sauce. Today, trouble is a $250 million class-action lawsuit for sending 500,000 unwanted text messages to their customers through a mass text messaging service. Yikes!
What could Papa John’s have done to prevent this?
Express written consent before sending a message to customers. Just because your company collected a cell phone number, doesn’t mean it’s cool to start blasting them with marketing messages. The customer must know that you intend to send them messages when collecting their information. Your customers are your lifeblood— remember to respect them.
Use text-to-join. Create a simple keyword, like ‘pizza’, that customers can text to opt-into marketing messages and deals. Maybe even offer them some discount credit for opting in. Nothing says “done with your service” like 15 unwanted text message in the middle of the night.
Have a simple way to unsubscribe. Similarly, nothing says unsubscribe like “Stop”. A user should be able to unsubscribe via a simple text message. If you let your customers know that they are in control, they will be much more likely to listen to what you have to say.
After a lawsuit this large, it’s unlikely that companies like Papa John’s will ever haphazardly spam their users with sms messages again. 250 million pepperonis is no small price even for a company that size. However, if they decide in the future that they want to tastefully message (or pepper!) their users, well, lets just say we’ll be waiting for their text. ;-)
Head over to SendHub to sign up and deliver pizza deals the right way.
Voting, Computers and the Future of Cybersecurity, November 9, 2012
Our Current Voting System is Broken.
Voting can be tedious. Between the “shade in the bubble” process, physical presence, and now, unforeseen natural disasters, actually getting out the vote can be difficult. Voting for a president is one of our greatest rights as American citizens. Today literally millions of us are excluded for the voting process for various reasons— some of course by choice. And while it is time for a change, the technology (or more accurately, the security) is not there yet.
If our intention is to enable more Americans to participate in elections, then the process needs to be quick, convenient and digitized. If we can do our banking online (even from our cell phones), store gigabytes of personal data online, and even conduct multibillion dollar deals online, why are we still voting in person or by using the postal service? The system is antiquated. Computer scientists, cybersecurity specialists, entrepreneurs and innovators need to continue to work together to improve computer and internet security, because we’re definitely not there yet.
Email Voting Begins…
This year we were faced with a natural disaster that prevented hundreds of thousand of people from getting to the polls. The Governor of New Jersey, Chris Christie, made the decision to allow registered voters displaced by Hurricane Sandy to vote electronically— i.e. by email. In a November 3rd statement from the New Jersey State government website, Lieutenant Governor Kim Guadagno is quoted saying:
“This has been an extraordinary storm that has created unthinkable destruction across our state and we know many people have questions about how and where to cast their vote in Tuesday’s election. To help alleviate pressure on polling places, we encourage voters to either use electronic voting or the extended hours at county offices to cast their vote…”
Not quite. Here’s the process:
While on the surface this seems like a tremendous step forward in voting technology, the process is not so simple.
“To vote electronically, displaced voters may submit a mail-in ballot application either by e-mail or fax to their county clerk. Once an application is approved, the clerk will electronically send a ballot to the voter by either fax or e-mail in accordance to the voter’s preference. Voters must return their electronic ballot – by fax or email – no later than November 6, 2012, at 8 p.m.”
…oh, and they forgot to mention the “Waiver of Secrecy” form which also needed to be returned by 8pm on Election day. More recent updates also necessitate that the online voter also send a physical ballot in for verification by Friday…after the election is over…
The voter needs a bunch of things at her disposal in order for this to work: a computer or fax machine, mailbox (or transportation to a public one), printer and quite a bit of time. Not easy if your house is gone, you have kids to take care of and you don’t have a computer or fax machine. While the effort was definitely a step in the right direction—and a decent test for the possibility of E-voting in the future, it was rushed and not sufficient. Countless Americans may have still been blocked from fulfilling their constitutional right to vote.
Why Email, Text or Online Voting Won’t Happen For a Long Time
The problem is that of security…hackers. Minor vulnerabilities in various stages of internet and computer security have major consequences on our ability to protect sensitive data and secure the online voting process (whether through a website, email or text message). Virtually any computer, company or server is vulnerable to cyber attack. Most big, “secure” companies (including banks, government even cybersecurity agencies!) have, or likely soon will be hacked. This is a serious issue. Even the Pentagon is not immune. Online spies have hacked top secret information from the Pentagon’s $300 billion Joint Strike Fighter Project, and even implanted bugs in American drones.
“The specific vulnerability that we exploited is simple to fix, but it will be vastly more difficult to make the system secure. We’ve found a number of other problems in the system, and everything we’ve seen suggests that the design is brittle: one small mistake can completely compromise its security.”
A forum on E-Voting was held at Princeton University where panelists discussed the risks and opportunities associated with e-voting for more than three hours. The primary concern for all parties was security. The consensus? We’re definitely not there yet.
How to Address The Security Problem
“Everything should be made as simple as possible, but no simpler.” ~ Albert Einstein
Unfortunately, we need to reinvent the computer. Peter G. Neumann, a renowned 80-year-old computer scientist at SRI International, reasonsthat the only viable solution to the computer security crisis is to study all previous research, hand pick the best ideas and systems, and then rebuild something completely new from the ground up.
Is the reinvention of the computer, programing and the internet as we know it going to happen in this lifetime? Probably not. Is it possible? We should hope so.
Right now we need:
To promote open sharing of cyber vulnerabilities and emerging protective measures for our computers and servers.
Provide authority to the National Cybersecurity Center to identify and mitigate cyber weaknesses specifically when attacks could result in gross loss of information, money or life.
Build public-private partnerships and address these issues together
New innovative systems separating servers from computers from the internet
Bold, scientific creativity
More brilliant programmers working relentlessly on security
Vigilance; Security is an on-going battle between computer engineers and those looking to capitalize on weak systems.
The consequences of maintaining both our antiquated system of in-person voting, and our current method of writing code using computers, and casually throwing personal data across the internet are serious. Security is at the heart of these issues— your security! This is your finances, personal information and data, emails, pictures, work documents and so much more at risk. Voting is just one more example of an outdated and broken system. The real issue is one of computer and internet security.
In the social media age, where reviews and opinions are abundant, good customer service (CS) is essential for every company. Southwest Airlines, FedEx, Amazon.com, Bonobos and Zappos as examples of companies that treat customer service as an opportunity—a strategic business investment. These companies all have strong commitments to ensuring a simple and seamless buying process— and if problems do arise they work fast to fix them. These are just a few of the companies that made MSN’s 2012 Customer Service Hall of Fame List. Keep in mind that quality customer service is one of the most important ingredients to a sustainable and quality business strategy.
Here are 8 tips that can make a frustrated customer leave your website feeling happy, helped, and even inclined to share your company with their community.
“If you focus on doing what is right by the customer, your chances of success skyrocket. Bringing happiness to everyday transactions is what drives brand loyalty and encourages customers to spread the word to friends and family.” -Jay M, Customer Support, Zappos
2) Be Friendly. It seems like a simple thing, but when a customer is frustrated and needs help, they want to talk to a person— not a bot. Ask how their day is going, and if there is an appropriate opportunity, try to get to know somebody! Drop the script and just be your friendly, helpful self.
3) Empathize. Often times your customers are angry when they visit your site for support. Recognize this, forget all the other people that have been yelling at you all day, and start fresh. You are the voice for your company. That’s a huge responsibility, and your response can mean the difference between a lost customer and a sale/upgrade. Feel their frustration, and make your goal to solve their problem, and have them leave feeling satisfied. Anything less should be unacceptable.
4) Adapt. Customers will be angry, frustrated, confused, happy, chatty, and sometimes just plain rude. Try to recognize these moods early on in your conversation and adapt your tone to fit. If a customer is struggling to register, you could say “You’re not registering properly. Please try again.” or “I see you’re having some problems registering—sorry for the inconvenience. Let’s see what’s going on so we can get you started.” Two approaches: one of which is cold and pretty unhelpful, the other friendly, warm and focused on the customer and solving their problem. As Mark Schaefer writes:“I realized that the customer is NOT always right. But the customer is always the customer. I was the one who had to adapt to survive and compete.”
5) Keep a record to keep improving. Keeping track of all questions, their frequency, and the answers you give will help you make your product better. Desk.com is a fantastic resource to use so nothing falls through the cracks and you can prioritize issues. If you get 20 questions a day asking where the Purchase button is on your website, you would be wise to reevaluate the placement of that button. If customers are constantly asking you what your company does, you know it’s probably time to redesign your homepage.
6) Don’t keep your customers waiting, even if you don’t have an answer yet. The more available you can be, and the more quickly you can answer the phone/email/chat, the better. We all have painful stories of waiting on hold for hours listening to elevator “music.” Don’t make your customers wait. Even if you respond saying that you don’t have an answer yet, it will mean a lot to the customer. For example:
I just wanted to check in and let you know that we’re still working on this and we’ll let you know ASAP when we have a solution. Thanks for your patience and for being a great customer!”
Better than radio silence for a number of hours or days, right? Put yourself in your customer’s shoes. If they are on hold, and you’re waiting for a manager to get back to you with an answer, get back on the line and tell them what’s going on.
7) Empower your customer service team. Bonobos has the best customer service I have personally ever experienced. The customer service “Ninjas” don’t need to pass my requests on to their supervisors. They can give me discounted products, refunds and solve my issues on their own. If you have a business, let your CS staff make decisions using their judgement on all matters that can be solved for under $50 (you pick the cap). This way, you avoid the little questions and issues, your CS team feels empowered, and your customers problems can be solved quickly and without issue.
"We just want to be as easy as possible to deal with, period. We want to be fast, we don’t want to keep you waiting for a day to get a response from us. We also want to be really personable. In terms of being easy, we want to use the easiest policies that we can to make it easy to do business with us.” -John Rote, VP of Experience, Bonobos
8) 100% Customer satisfaction guaranteed. Make visiting your website and purchasing products from you as easy and enjoyable as possible. Give free shipping, free returns, get rid of the standard ‘30 days return’ policy and put your customers first. Always. Even if they wear your pants for a few months and decide they don’t, in fact, fit that well, take them back— no questions asked— and refund them fully. It won’t cost your company much, but I guarantee your customer will be back again, and will likely become a brand ambassador for you without asking.
While we could go on, these 8 tips will add a lot. If implementing these changes is expensive or time consuming, ask yourself whether customer service is going to be a necessary operational expense or a business investment for your company. We think the latter. If you want to know how the best does it, have your customer service team read Delivering Happiness, which explains how Zappos got to be the best in the business.
Now get your customer service team off script, empower them to make the decisions that will leave your customers happy, and remember that customer service is an opportunity, not just a necessity.
One of the biggest frustrations for educators, coaches and administrators in K-12 and higher education is students not opening emails. This problem is not new, and is only getting worse. Fortunately, some in the education community are exploring new “tricks” and adopting new messaging solutions.
If you want students to read your messages, send them a text.
Monterrio Jones, Direct Loan Coordinator at Voorhees College, is one of many administrators using text messaging to communicate with students more effectively. Below are a few examples of how Jones and others have used texting to simplify communications with students.
Scheduling Meetings: At Voorhees, for example, students can text the keyword ‘Appointment’ to the Office of Financial Aid’s SendHub number and are added to the “Appointments” group. The administrator can simply respond directly to the student with an available time. Jones mentioned that before using SendHub he consistently had 45 students packed in the lobby waiting to meet with an advisor. Now, after just two months of using SendHub? Only 3 students, and meetings can be confirmed instantly from any cell phone.
Academic Calendar Reminders: Lots of students want to attend campus events, but when the school sends copious emails everyday with the entire week’s activities, schedule changes, and safety reminders, remembering to actually go to these events can be tough. Using SendHub’s Scheduled Message feature, setting up and sending reminders to students is effortless. Just schedule a reminder about one specific event to be sent to all students (or interested groups) 30 minutes before it starts. No more hoping that they will check their email in time. As long as you have their phone number, you can assume students will get your message.
Delays & School Closings: Many students travel long distances to get to school. On days where the weather is inclement, reaching students, faculty and staff quickly is essential. Now administrators can send a message to students (and their parents) with transportation schedule updates, whether classes are cancelled, or if the school will be closed for the day.
Parents: Parents can be just as difficult to reach as students. Now teachers and administrators can send quick, targeted messages to parents about anything— from important notices about lice going around school, to reminders about upcoming parent-teacher meetings. SendHub helps bridge the virtual gap between a school, parents and students.
For more information on how to ensure that students and parents receive your messages, or to get a SendHub number for free in under a minute, visit www.sendhub.com.
Spotlight: Avi Herschman, High School Hockey Coach and Co-founder of Givespark
Meet Avi, a social entrepreneur and men’s hockey coach at Rambam Mesivta High School in West Hempstead, New York.
Avi first learned about SendHub through Hacker News and TechCrunch, two of the most trafficked sites for tech news and hacker gossip. Avi was looking for a more effective way to contact his players.
“SendHub allows me to stay in close contact with my players outside of school”
Unless you work in a high school or have a teen around the house, you may not have noticed that students really don’t check email very often. I know— it might be hard to believe, but it’s true. All those middle school screen names turned email addresses (remember, ‘luv2smooch5255,’ ‘gurlpower4eva,’ or ‘ih8thepolice420’) are history.
Avi needed a way to reach his players consistently, often with short notice, while at the same time keeping his personal cell phone number private. Avi mentioned that he mostly uses SendHub to “text players reminders about games and practices.” Avi continued, “and the fact that I can text different groups of players is also extremely useful.”
Like Avi, coaches at almost every level of sport look to SendHub for a simple and effective solution for communicating with parents and players who are often unresponsive to email. SendHub offers the perfect web and mobile platform for sending practice reminders, schedule changes, and motivational quotes directly to any cell phone— a device most people never leave home without.
Sorting personal contacts into meaningful large and small groups is becoming increasingly prevalent across other popular messaging platforms (i.e. Google+, Facebook, etc.). Team SendHub is working hard to provide the best contact management experience, while keeping everything simple and accessible on any device.
Avi, for example, can send one message to the offense and goalies reminding them that they have shooting practice, and a separate message to parents with a reminder about the upcoming game. Now communicating with any one group on his team is incredibly easy.
Outside of his coaching job and time with friends and family, Avi is the Co-founder of Givespark (also a Y-Combinator graduate along with SendHub.), and works in business development and operations. Givespark is a platform that allows celebrities to engage their fans on a personal level while also supporting social causes. They’re just getting started, so check out their website for more information!
Favorite Tech Gadget - My Computer
Favorite thing about SendHub - Its Simplicity!
Favorite events to attend - Hockey games, of course!
Thanks for taking the time to talk to us, Avi! Best of luck to your team this season!
If you or your team want to be our spotlight feature for the week (we love giving shout outs!) send us a text or email and tell us how YOU use SendHub :)
We (yes, Kovacs the Afghan Hound, too) have been working tirelessly these past few weeks on an exciting new feature that we can FINALLY tell you about.
Shared Groups!SendHub Users now have a fast and simple way to share a group of contacts with their team. It’s just like Shared Folders in Dropbox, but for groups of contacts that you can message instantly. Share contacts across your organization, then when you make a change it’s instantly available to everyone. Voila!
Below is a short explanation of why we launched this feature, how it’s going to help you, and a step by step guide to sharing a group with your colleagues or friends.
First, the why:
We make it incredibly easy to share client and colleague contact information across organizations - changes appear everywhere, with simple permissions.
This feature makes it incredibly convenient for everyone on a team to send messages to your groups.
Contact sharing was one of our most highly requested features.
Here are a few examples of how customers will benefit:
Businesses: A business with sales staff across the country reduces workload by automatically pushing customer information changes to all team members. Contact updates can happen while in the field, centralizing all customer data at headquarters, or the reverse.
Organizations: A fire department needs a simple way to share contacts between the chief, officers and other company members so anyone can send a message to the team or a particular group in the department.
Schools: A school office can now easily create contact groups for each class of students and parents, and then distribute them to the appropriate teachers.
So HOW do you share a group?
1) On the mobile app, begin by selecting the group that you wish to share. Right now, we’re going to be sharing the Customers group.
2) Once inside, tap Share Group.
3) Enter the Contact Name, Cell Phone Number or Email Address of the contacts that you would like to share the group with. Next, decide whether you would like to enable Sharers to Edit the Group, and whether you would like to include yourself in the group.
4) If you share a group to an email address, the invitation will look like this. If you share a group with a cell phone number, a similar message will appear. Simply click the link to join the Shared Group.
5) You can choose whether to Accept or Decline this group invitation.
And that’s it. Now all you need to do is decide who to share with first! Enjoy!
Name: Caleb Doxsey, the newest member of the SendHub Team!
Hometown:Spanish Fort, Alabama Unofficial Title: Team Minstrel!
Fun Fact: When I was a kid I was an avid juggler. Juggling, like riding a bike, is a skill you don’t ever really forget so I still juggle from time to time. Best Prank Call you’ve ever pulled off: I can’t think of a time I ever prank called anyone, but we used to leave rubber spiders around the house to scare my Mom.
What’s your biggest texting pet peeve: All the advertising texts my cell phone provider sends me.
That’s it for another Casual Friday team member highlight. Keep checking in to meet the rest of our team!
Donald and Ann are, as you might suspect, avid Obama supporters (“political junkies,” in their own words) and both enjoy travel, sports, and running.
“We first heard about SendHub through a quick Google Search because we were trying to find creative ways to market to our student body. We found SendHub and have not looked back” This is AWESOME for us to hear for two reasons:
1.) Google did its job and connected students looking to market their organization on campus by sending one message to lots of people, to our company that offers that exact functionality, along with much more. 2.) They haven’t looked back! Here at SendHub we strive for speed, efficiency and simplicity— a one stop shop for all of your group communication needs.
When asked how else SendHub might be used on Campus, Donald responded that “SendHub is an awesome way to market your Student Body organization because it encourages a more involved atmosphere”. With our simple Text-To-Join feature, students can simply text the groups keyword to the SendHub number and, voila, they are now members of the CNU Students for Obama SendHub group, and can receive updates “at any given moment around new activities on campus and in the community. It allows us to hit 80+ members at any given moment within 3 seconds! :)”
Thanks for taking the time to chat with us, Donald and Ann— and for using SendHub at CNU!
Favorite tech gadget: iPhone. Favorite Part about SendHub: The reliability, and consistency. Favorite Event to attend: Student Events on Campus, and Concerts!
And that’s it for another edition of the SendHub User Spotlight! Please e-mail email@example.com if you or your organization would like to be featured on our blog.
Spotlight: Kevin Cline, Director of the Christian Student Center at Louisiana Tech
After receiving this post on our Facebook wall, we had to reach out to Kevin!
Hearing from users like this is the type of thing that brings a smile to the face of everyone in our office— it’s our bread and butter and keeps us working hard everyday. But back to Kevin.
Kevin first heard about SendHub from his cousin, who is a youth minister in Georgia and uses SendHub to communicate with his ministry and loves the service. According to Kevin, “It used to be such a pain to send out different texts to different people, especially our intramural teams…now, it is so easy and fast to contact and know that EVERYBODY on a team or group got the message.” Kevin also loves our integration with both Facebook and Twitter where he can “send one message out via text, and those who do not want to get the news via text can get it on our other avenues of communication without me having to copy and paste all the time!!! HOW AWESOME IS THAT???” It’s incredibly awesome, Kevin.
Here at SendHub our goal is to simplify communication.
But how is Kevin sending messages via SendHub you ask (we know— you were JUST about to ask)? “I really use both [iPhone app and website]. I like that I can send notices and schedule them for different times and dates online.”
People just like Kevin (though, so far, few are as enthusiastic) are using SendHub all over the country for similar purposes. Firehouses, sports teams, restaurants, shipping companies, college clubs and more all use SendHub to streamline, focus and simplify communication with their communities. If you’re interested in trying out SendHub for your group, visit our website for details!
And a little bit more about Kevin:
•Favorite Tech Gadget: IPHONE!!! Only way I stay sane. LOL.
•Favorite part about SendHub: The ease of use. I can use it anytime, anywhere, and it was easy to learn. Furthermore, the staff is EXCELLENT. The anytime chat box on the website makes it easy to get quick answers to any questions
•Favorite event to attend: Devotionals, concerts, and FOOTBALL!!! Love tailgating before games, especially in Louisiana. Jambalaya, Red Beans and Rice, Burgers, Hot Dogs, Blackened Chicken Boudain, Sausage and Shrimp and Catfish, All Sprinkled with Tony Chachere’s!!!! AMAZING!!!
•Best prank/prank call you’ve ever pulled: I don’t call people to prank them. I prank people that call me. I love answering the phone in many different ways— i.e. - “Road-kill grill: You kill em we grill em..” - “SANTA’S WORKSHOP: ELMER SPEAKING!” - “Hulk’s deli. You order, we smash.”
And that’s it for another edition of the SendHub User Spotlight! Please e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org if you would like to be featured.
SendHub Visits Facebook for "HackEd"...so how did we fare?
Facebook and the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation put on a hackathon yesterday right here in Menlo Park. SendHub was fortunate enough to be invited to participate. Sweet, right? Since our team is located down the street from Facebook’s campus, it was a short trip to join the party.
But how did we do….
We dominated, of course!
“HackEd” was part launch party and part hackathon. The Gates Foundation announced a new initiative called College Knowledge Challenge, which will use a $2.5 million dollar fund (I think they found the spare change in Bill and Melinda’s sofa…..) to encourage the development of products that help increase college access and completion. So, all you education enthusiasts out there, start building and disrupting……no excuses!
Good news first; our team was one of three winners! The following are the categories we had to choose between and focus on building a solution to address:
Academic Support: Building social capital and an academically supportive peer group.
Financial Aid: Navigating the college admissions, financial aid, and matching processes.
Academic Pathways: Seeing themselves as college graduates and developing personal pathways to graduation.
Our team was comprised of Nihal ElRayess with Teach for America, Anna Waring with Foundation for a College Education and Marc Weil of Cloudmine. In just under 6 hours (crazy, right?) we built an application that enables academic coaches/counselors to communicate important information - like application deadlines with links embedded - via text to students or parents. When important milestones are reached, messages or badges are posted to the student’s Facebook wall so her friends and support network can celebrate the accomplishment.
I promise, I did not propose this idea…..honest. Both Nihal and Anna emphasized the need for such a communication tool that has the ability to reach even the most disadvantaged homes… so we made it happen! But, since we had such limited time to build everything, SendHub’s API was a critical backend piece that enabled us to deploy a functional prototype within just a few hours.
We gave our pitch for the problem we were solving and enabled both the audience and judges to participate using SendHub’s text to join feature. Clearly, things went well.
Every student, regardless of the zip code they live in, deserves a chance at self-actualization and social mobility. SendHub is excited to be part of a large community committed to making this happen.
Spotlight: Shira Malone, 2nd Grade Teacher at The Orchard School
We launched SendHub in order to empower educators to communicate more effectively with students and parents. Teachers can text everyone, without having to give out their personal number, which is especially helpful in disadvantaged communities, where access to computers and email are limited, but nearly everyone has a cell phone.
Enter Shira Malone. Mrs. Malone teaches second grade at The Orchard School in Indianapolis, Indiana. Shira has a Master’s Degree in Elementary Education and loves to drive down to Bloomington with her husband to watch IU Hoosiers basketball games.
Shira first found out about SendHub through a simple Google search of educational tools for teachers. Wanting to more easily communicate with the parents of her students, Shira tried six (yep, SIX!) different messaging programs until she landed on SendHub as the winner. “It was by far the best,” Shira mentioned, adding that it gives her the opportunity to share information with parents in a “secure and private manner.” Though SendHub, Shira can contact parents directly (either individually or the entire group) with class updates, reminders about school activities, projects and upcoming events. Unlike regular text messaging, Shira appreciates that when parents reply, responses go directly back to her only, and not the entire group of parents. Another feature that Shira mentioned was helpful was the ability to either send messages from either her desk at the computer or on-the-go from her iPhone.
Favorite Tech Gadget: iPhone
Favorite Part About SendHub: I can text parents, but they can’t call me on my personal cell phone number.
Favorite Event to Attend: Friday evening date nights at home with my husband (with take out and a movie rental). I’m boring, I know…
You can follow Shira on Twitter @shira_rachelle. We hope you enjoyed our Spotlight, and if you (or your company) want to be featured, send us a txt or email and tell us how YOU use SendHub :)
Spotlight: Perry Wasserbauer, Phi Gamma Delta at the University of Connecticut
If you grew up with at least one brother, you can probably recall your house being pretty crazy at times. Well, imagine having ninety brothers and throwing everyone together on the campus of the University of Connecticut. There’s likely to be a few stories you never write home about.
Perry Wasserbauer is the recording secretary for Phi Gamma Delta. He gave up on using email to reach the brothers of Fiji a long time ago and managing everything on his personal phone just became too much of a hassle. SendHub is now the tool he uses to keep all the brothers connected. “Instead of people trying to keep track of their calendars, which is a big issue for most of these guys, we are able to send out a text that hits everyone immediately”, says Perry. “I am able to schedule the messages usually, which has made things a lot more convenient for me.”
In order to keep their chapter meetings short, they have each committee submit their report via text, which they then add to the minutes. “We hate long meetings, so getting everyone to text in their report shaves off a bunch time,” he said. “It’s easy for me to go online and cut & paste the messages into a document that has all the meeting details for the week.”
College is the best 4, 5 or 6 years of your life, so why waste one second, right? By the looks of things, Perry and the men of Phi Gamma Delta will have a lot of epic memories that will last a lifetime.
Fav tech gadget: Google Nexus phone
Fav part of SendHub: Schedule messages make my life a lot easier. I also like being able to message from my phone, even though you don’t have an android app yet.
Casual Friday: Meet Engineering Ninja, Kevin Calloway
Name: Kevin Calloway
Hometown: Lynwood, IL
Unofficial job: Director of Cilantro Detection
Fun Fact: I have twice the amount of nerves in my gums as the average human. When I got x-rays for my wisdom teeth removal, the surgeon rushed into the room, excited to share his “discovery”. I’d like to say that I experience sensations that you can only imagine, but in reality, cavities just hurt more.
Best prank call you’ve pulled off: I’ve never done a prank call, but in college I changed the auto-replace dictionary on a friend’s computer so that words like his name, “the”, etc would auto-replace with colorful words!
What’s your biggest texting pet peeve? When people want to have deep conversations that could be addressed faster in a phone conversation, I’m not a happy camper.
If you mention Stine in Louisiana, everyone knows you are talking about the home improvement store. With 12 locations and more than 800 associates, this family owned business competes in the major leagues, against giants like Home Depot and Loews.
Stine is the weekend playground for avid ‘DIY’ (do it yourself) warriors in Louisiana. But a large percentage of their business focuses on professional construction contractors. As the technology guy, Jeremy Stine has to make sure they are reaching this important customer base. “We wanted a better way to reach our contractors. A lot of them are old school and don’t have smart phones or their on the job site a lot, so they are not checking email”, says Jeremy. “They asked us to text them. Now we send special discounts and all types of offers directly to their phones.”
Stine is also focusing more on hunters and they rely heavily on print advertising to promote their products. In a recent edition of their store catalogue, which is distributed to four hundred thousand homes, they offered a prize for completing a new call to action, “Text BUCKS to 337-409-0477”. Because SendHub offers the flexibility to create multiple groups and keywords, they also placed advertisements in two other widely circulated hunting magazines, assigning a different keyword to each ad. Jeremy noted that this strategy, “allowed us to test three magazines and measure the exposure of the print advertisements and how much reader engagement we got. We were happy to see that our catalogue drove the most opt-ins”.
Unless you slept through geography class, you know that Louisiana is often in the path of hurricanes that come through the Gulf of Mexico. A few weeks ago, SendHub also proved to be a useful tool as Jeremy prepared for the arrival of Isaac. “We have a 50 page emergency procedure guide for this stuff, but it was going to be way more efficient to text message our associates”, he said. “Not all of our associates have active email accounts, but we know the majority have cell phones. Fortunately, our area wasn’t directly impacted, so we only had to use it a few times, but it’s good to have this option.”
Fav tech gadget: Never leaves home without his iPhone. But, he prefers hacker news to hardware.
Fav part of SendHub: iPhone app and the ability to control everything on the go.
Fav event to attend: New Orleans Saints game
Worst Prank Call: Apparetnly, Cajuns like to prank call Onstar.
To learn more about Stine, you can check out their website or find them on facebook. We hope you enjoyed our Spotlight, and if you (or your company) want to be featured, send us a txt or email and tell us how YOU use SendHub :)
This week, we decided to profile one of our awesome engineers. Meet Captain Canada - Brock Haywood.
- Name: Brock D. Haywood
- Hometown: Kamloops, BC Canada
- Unofficial job: Director of Awesome
- Fun fact: Canadians don’t have fun facts. We just have facts.
- Best prank call you pulled off (or want to pull off): Calling the east coast office of a company I worked for previously asking for the secretary to go to the hardware store to pick up a flux capacitor because we were all out. I think she called four stores before someone let her in on the joke.
Spotlight: Donald Engstrom, Executive Director at DeBartolo Sports & Events
Friday Night Lights (I’m talking about the TV show, not the movie… duh) was a must-watch for a lot of people for the past years, and many (including myself… maybe) shed a tear during the season finale. Remember when Riggins skips practice because he thought it was cancelled, and Coach Taylor puts him in hell for it? Donald Engstrom, the Executive Director at DeBartolo Sports & Events shared a few tips with us on how he simplified communication.
DeBartolo Sports University, a subdivision of DeBartolo Sports & Events, is an amateur sports education organization. DSU was founded by former San Francisco 49ers owner, Edward DeBartolo Jr., and focuses on bringing young talent to the forefront by offering developmental programs as well as coaching & mentoring from Pro’s.
As the Executive Director, Donald is well aware of all the planning that goes into such events, but in his opinion, the execution & communication during these events is almost more important than the planning. One item that was a constant problem for him? Communication with the athletes. “Our events involve large groups of people - mostly High School & University age audiences. You’re lucky if they get the email, let alone consider reading it. If you call them, they won’t pick up since they don’t know the number.” he says. “But the response rate for text messages is amazing. It’s an instant call to action, and most of the recipients respond right away.”
A recent announcement, for the ‘Holiday Quarterback Academy’ called to action every HS football coach in Tampa. Yeah - that’s a lot. It gets better: each of the coaches submitted a list of eligible athletes who could participate in the event, and using SendHub, DSU contacted them all with an invite to participate. “Reply HQA to participate” was the call to action. “It’s the best way to communicate with large groups of people! Within 24 hours we had a dozen signups, which is quite a lot for such a short time period and it being summer…”, says Donald. “SendHub is also incredibly easy to manage. With 300+ participants, we’re still able to have only one person manage the account, and have multiple conversations going at once… it’s great!”
Fav tech gadget: iPod nano (I’m training for a marathon and tracking my runs is awesome!)
Fav part of SendHub: reliability & the ease of management
Fav type of event to attend: Nebraska Football games
Worst prank call: Dealing with high school athletes one could only imagine some of the shenanigans that we experience leading up-to, during, and after events. I’ll save some of those stories for another time… :-) However, the best prank that was ever pulled on me wasn’t actually a phone call or SMS Message but rather it was on a tour of Boston that was being given by my future sister-in-law. She was telling a long story about Paul Revere and a golden carrot that could be found in Boston and is symbolic of the famous “Midnight Ride” that alerted colonial militias of the British invasion. She led us on a long scavenger hunt to find this non-existent “golden carrot”. It wasn’t until she attempted to convince us that Paul Revere’s horse was named Hilton and was the basis for the famous Hotel brand that we figured out her entire story was a scam.
To learn more about DeBartolo Sports, or Donald, you can check out their website, and follow him. We hope you enjoyed our Spotlight, and if you (or your company) want to be featured, send us a txt or email and tell us how YOU use SendHub :)
The number of concurrent users on our service has been growing by leaps and bounds. This is great news for our business but also means our primary database on Heroku keeps running out of cache. In our experience, Heroku’s Postgres databases see a significant performance drop when cache utilization exceeds 85%.
Ten days ago our growth caught up with us and our app began to slow. Engineering isolated the cause of the slowdown to the database, and our cache utilization. We then upgraded to the next plan (Fugu) following the fast database changeovers procedure. The process required less than 90 seconds of downtime. The team rejoiced as we believed we’d found a relatively easy way to keep scaling Postgres, without application changes, for the near future.
Five days ago I checked our cache utilization. We were already at 2.3GB/3.75GB-. The data size was growing at more than 100MB per day. This meant that in less than 8 days we would already have performance issues again. I logged in to Heroku to initiate another fast-database-changeover, but to my surprise all further upgrades were grayed out (see image below).
After contacting support, I learned that SendHub was one of the very first clients to start using Heroku’s managed database services back in January 2012. It turns out that all early adopter Postgres instances are running on 32-bit Postgres, and we were already on the maximum plan available (Fugu). There is a binary incompatibility between the two architectures which renders the WALs (Write-Ahead-Logs) not interoperable, which means that a 32-bit database cannot have 64-bit followers. The end result was that a fast-database-changeover procedure was impossible. Heroku advised doing a “dump and restore” operation but this would mean 45 minutes or more of downtime. Even in the middle of the night SendHub has significant activity, making that option unacceptable.
The SendHub stack is homogeneous and straightforward, consisting of Python (Django/Celery), Postgres and RabbitMQ. All the database interactions use single statement autocommit (no multi-statement transactions). Since multiple concurrent sessions of transactions do not exist on our system, I thought that maybe the following replay scheme could work:
Take the SendHub site offline and make a snapshot of the database
Deploy a branch that will send all database queries to a logging server
Turn the site back on and begin importing the snapshot to the new database
When the import is finished, take the site offline
Replay the collected queries
Promote the new database
Bring the site back online
When I first described the above approach to one of my co-workers, his first response was, “Jay, you’re crazy”; however, given that the only alternative was a massive amount of downtime, I decided to write a remote logger and test out my hypothesis.
I wrote a simple query log capturing and replay system in PHP. Then I modified the SendHub Django application to forward all of its data modification SQL statements to the capturing system. I had everyone at the office help test on staging and the results were promising—the replay system cleanly reassembled the data.
The end result was that Ryan (our engineering lead) and I teamed up to execute the changeover procedure on production with a total of only 6 minutes downtime instead of 45 minutes. There was one minor hiccup though—we learned that when “debug” mode is not turned on Django query logging is disabled, so that set us back one or two minutes. All in all, it was an incredible success.
Below you can find our process and code for performing the upgrade.
At SendHub, we streamline our production site maintenance by preparing a document with detailed instructions including all the commands which will be run. Here is the planning document we used for this procedure:
Spotlight: Jason Toff, Product Manager at Google & co-founder of Camp PALS
Remember the summers you spent at Camp Wannapeelyo (you know, that lake you still don’t know how to pronounce…)? Did your camp counselors seem organized, well on schedule and overall on top of things? I didn’t think so. Keeping the kids in line is one thing, but organizing the counselors can be an entire challenge in its own. No one has more experience with this than Jason Toff, a co-founder of Camp PALS in Radnor, PA.
Camp PALS is a place for young adults with Down Syndrome and their peers to have an experience of a lifetime. Campers are paired one-to-one with volunteer counselors and spend the week on teams as they grow in independence and build new friendships. Jason, who is a Product Manager at Google by day, co-founded Camp PALS in 2004.
With 9 summers as a camp director under his belt, he’s quite aware of all the scheduling, planning and grueling organizational tasks necessary to make a camp run as smoothly as possible. A techy on the side, Jason built a communication system on top of Twilio for the staffers last summer but it wasn’t quite perfect. This year, he discovered SendHub. “Reminding staffers that the trip leaves in 30 minutes, or that a location has changed is so easy to do via text“ says Jason, especially considering that many changes are done last minute.
With over 150 staff members, this year’s Camp PALS was the biggest one yet and we’re excited that SendHub was able to help make the communication more clear & organized. “It’s extremely reliable and so easy to use - it was perfect for us”, says Jason. “It worked so well for our daily staff meeting reminders, scheduling updates, etc. - we had constant communication with them.” Not that any kids have gone missing, but in a worst case scenario, Jason noted that SendHub could be used to alert everyone of a missing child, item or other general announcements.
Fav tech gadget: calculator watch (picture below) Fav part of SendHub: the reliability Texting pet peeve: When people send super long texts that need 2 or 3 messages… Fav prank call made: oh boy… back when I was a kid my friends & I called random people from the phonebook and said really stupid things. One time, the police called us back and told my parents. Needless to say, the prank calls ended that day…
To learn more about Camp PALS, or Jason, you can check out their website, and follow him. We hope you enjoyed our Spotlight, and if you (or your company) want to be featured, send us a txt or email and tell us how YOU use SendHub :)
Unofficial job: Marketing agent for Wheaties: the Breakfast, Lunch, and Dinner of Champions!
Fun fact: I once helped break up a fistfight between a teammate’s father and the team bus driver.
Best prank call you pulled off (or want to pull off): I never really prank called, but when I was in elementary school I once or twice pulled a devious trick where I created AIM screennames that looked similar to other friends’ screennames (by switching a capital ‘i’ to a lower case ‘L’ or something along those lines). I would chat with other friends and get access to some interesting information. In hindsight, they should have noticed that I wasn’t on their buddy list.
What’s your biggest texting pet peeve?: When someone calls to make a short comment or ask a quick question when it would be easier if they just texted. Alternatively, when people want to have a lengthy, substantive discussions over text instead of calling or meeting in person.
What you say? Yes… it’s true. SendHub can help you get to Inbox Zero a little faster now, with the new Message Center.
You ask. We listen. Simple as that :-)
One of the features requested by many of you was the ability to separate your inbox, and see Unread Messages only, as well as the Scheduled Messages you have set up. Today, we’re really excited to release these new features, in the Message Center.
To change the Message Center - simply click the down-arrow next to “All Messages” and select one of the options from the drop-down menu.
This is one of our favorite features because we use it in the office for all of our team announcements, but also see a variety of ways you all use it, to make your lives easier.
Teachers use it to contact their students about homework, tests or schedule changes; health-care clinics & doctors use it to remind patients about appointments; and coaches send their players reminders to get to practices & games on-time.
With the updated feature you can now see all of your upcoming scheduled messages, as well as edit or delete them, right up until they get sent. Remember: the time you schedule is in the time zone your computer is in. (Psst: read more about scheduled messages here)
We’re really excited to share these news with you. If you have any suggestions for features, do let us know - we’d love to hear your feedback. Email, or text us: (650) 830-5662 :-)
Unofficial job: Captain Major Double Extreme Gunnery Sergent of Mountain Dew Consumption
Fun fact: I was actually born in Colorado and moved to Minnesota when I was about 12. I grew up on the slopes and learned how to ski not long after I could walk.
Best prank call you pulled off (or want to pull off): One of my friends once managed to get a hold of the phone number for the White House. He and I called them up and played whale sounds into the receiver. (It seemed really funny at the time//alcohol may have been involved)
What’s your biggest texting pet peeve?: When people abruptly stop responding during a text conversation. If you’re going to take three hours to respond to my last message, the least you could do is say “talk to you later” first.
Everyone is talking about the olympics right now - and why shouldn’t they, it’s a once-every-four-years-event and seeing these superhumans compete is the closest we get to having real superheroes, but today’s spotlight is focused on a different type of olympics… the annual Amateur Athletic Union Junior Olympic Games. Organizing this event can be quite a challenge and headache - between the officials, coaches, parents and 13,000 athletes who came in from all over the nation, it’s hard to stay on track and make sure everyone is informed. No one has more experience with this than Coach Oliver, the founder & meet director of CoachO.
CoachO is a one stop shop for the Track Community - the company handles the event registration, all of the event management, and is the leader in their space. While organizing the AAU Junior Olympic Games, CoachO has decided to use SendHub to help keep things on time, and organized. The biggest benefit? According to Coach Oliver, “time management and efficiency”.
“The most important thing is keeping everyone in the loop - that means a lot of calls, and reminder emails”, says Coach Oliver. “The problem I always had was the resulting phone tag - they called my landline, I tried them at home, but everyone is always on the go. No one checks their email from the track… but everyone gets text messages. It doesn’t matter where they are, and I don’t have to waste time tracking people down anymore. I just send one text message to the SendHub group and I know everyone is in the loop.”
At the Junior Olympics specifically, CoachO has been using the SendHub platform to communicate with the officials on their private channel, as well as send updates for the different events that are easily followed by coaches & parents with the text-to-join feature. “If the 100m dash is delayed, they send out a text message which is so great for the athletes… they don’t waste time warming up” says Carlene, mother of one of the competing athletes. “My grandparents found out via text that I broke a record, within a few minutes of me finishing the race - it’s so cool because they couldn’t be here but feel like they are” said Tyler Mapson, who broke the 100m dash record yesterday.
Fav tech gadget: my Motorola Droid X Fav part of SendHub: broadcasting & being able to organize contacts through text-to-join Fav track story: I started running track my senior year of high school - 2 months later I was the state champion, and undefeated school record holder (I still hold the school record… 30+ years and counting) Embarrassing prank call you fell for: oh boy…. one of athletes pranked me real bad once. I’d rather not tell. My wife will be mad if she has to relive it… he got us pretty good.
To learn more about CoachO, check out their website. We hope you enjoyed our Spotlight, and if you (or your company) want to be featured, send us a txt or email and tell us how YOU use SendHub :)
Unofficial job: Author of the ‘How To Read For Dummies’ book series, & Executive Director of Pixel Engineering
Fun fact: If you brought the Sun down to the size of a white blood cell, and then brought everything else down to scale, our galaxy (the Milky Way), would be the size of the continental United States.
Best prank call you pulled off (or want to pull off): In middle school, I bought a programmable TV remote control watch that could turn on/off TVs, adjust volume, and a host of other tricks. My school only had Sony TVs, so my watch would control every TV in the school. Needless to say, I never told a soul, no one ever suspected anything or found out, and people thought the school TVs were haunted.
What’s your biggest texting pet peeve?: when people don’t finish their thou-
I think we can all agree that it has been a busy few months for us since we left our cushy, warm home at Y-Combinator… we raised a $2M seed round, moved into a new office in downtown Menlo Park (with a green wall), launched our iPhone app, added the call & voicemail feature, and now… we have another new exciting announcement for you :-)
As of 5 minutes ago, SendHub’s website is rocking a new outfit. What? Oh yeah… we redesigned the entire site, added landing pages targeted toward professionals in education, non-profits, coaches and small business owners, and updated the homepage video. Wanna go check it out? That’s ok… we’ll wait right here.
Because SendHub is such a flexible communication tool, we added these new landing pages in hopes that they will help indicate productive ways different people can take advantage of different features:
Business - with texting, phone and voicemail service, SendHub is making having a business landline increasingly irrelevant.
Education - Teachers can send updates and reminders to students and parents without giving out their private number.
Non-profit - Meeting reminders and encouragement over text, instead of relying on, and waiting for emails.
Coaches - Keep your players on schedule using group texting.
But that’s not all we have to share. As a team, we’ve been working hard on getting new features out and making SendHub better than it already is. This past weekend, we saw some of that hard work pay out by reaching a new milestone.
Thanks to all of our amazing users (yes, I’m looking at YOU!) we have now sent over 1 MILLION text messages! Yup, you read right - ONE MILLION. Or as Dr. Evil would say….
We’re really excited to share these news with you. If you have any suggestions for features, or thoughts on the new homepage, do let us know - we’d love to hear your feedback. Text, or email us :-)
Unofficial job: Food supplier for the SendHub team (aka the person who orders lunch/dinner/treats and keeps everyone fed). Gym rat and health fanatic.
Fun fact: Born and raised in Gainesville by two die hard Gator fans (parents both went to UF and never left Gainesville), only to attend Florida State University and become a Seminole (probably one of the very few people in the world that like the Gators and Seminoles). Clearly remember telling my parents “Go Seminoles”, when I was 10 :)
Best prank call you pulled off (or want to pull off): When my friends and I were bored at volleyball tournaments when I was younger, we would call the operator on pay phones and pretend to act like we were interviewing them for a project of “who we want to be when we grow up.” We were really cool, obviously.
What’s your biggest texting pet peeve?: CANNOT STAND when people respond “k” to me!
Hometown: Rochester, N.Y (phonetics of an upstate New Yorker - RAH - chest - er)….. and I know what you are thinking - no - I am not from anywhere close to New York City. I live is 334 miles away from NYC (Thank you Google Maps); the part of New York that gets over 100” of snow a year, people talk like the mom from Bobby’s world, and is home to the Nick Tahou’s Garbage Plate.
Unofficial job: I don’t have any unofficial jobs but my hobbies include legal reading, taxidermy, lifting up heavy things and amateur chiropractic care <—— Only 2 of the 4 are true.
Fun fact: I will give you two! My brother broke my hand with a 5lb sledge hammer when I was eight and I met my wife when she slapped my butt while I was walking through a bar in college. <——— Both of these are true.
Best prank call you pulled off (or want to pull off)?: I have never really been one to prank call. However, I may or may not have been recently implicated as an accessory before the fact to a “cat facts” messaging prank. BTW, did you know that a large majority of white cats with blue eyes are deaf? Fascinating!
What’s your biggest texting pet peeve?: My biggest texting peeve, not at the moment, but ever, was not understanding how to use the T9Word function. I used to feel like my friends each had 8 thumbs because of how fast they could carry on a text conversation with me. Thank gawd for QWERTY and a freakin’ keyboard. My biggest pet peeve now is when people refuse to accept a societal shift towards efficiency by failing to accept texting messaging shorthand like lol, ttyl, u instead of you and ANFAWFOS, which of course means “and now another word from our sponsor.”
Friday morning, the sun is shining, the office is quiet… what better way to get through the last few hours before the weekend, than with a new blog series to enjoy? :) Starting today, every friday, we’re going to give you a little sneak peek of what it’s like to be a part of the SendHub team.
Since graduating from YC we’ve grown a lot as a team - there are 9 full time employees now + a handful of interns, and while that has been amazing for us as a team, we realize a lot of you on the outside don’t know anyone except for Garrett and Ash. So, to start things off, we’ll introduce you to the rest of the team, starting with our fearless engineering leader, Ryan.
Yea, that’s right, we just used this years summer pop-sensation ‘Call Me Maybe' as a cheesy headline. But, we have a new update today that made this impossible not to do. Our goal has always been to simplify communication across multiple channels, and turn social, sms and voice into one - and guess what? Starting today, you can actually call us, on SendHub.
Last month we announced the first version of our iPhone app, as well as funding that we raised to be able to hire more engineers & designers, but today we’re super excited to take the SendHub experience to a whole new level with the launch of calls and voicemail features on our platform. These added features establish SendHub as a communication hub, and not simply a messaging platform.
With this added feature, you can easily use one phone for everything:
Get a free SendHub number to use as your business line
Place and accept voice calls from/to your SendHub number
See voicemails and missed calls inside message threads
Distinguish between work and personal calls
In addition to these benefits, the iPhone app has been updated to provide additional features that make using SendHub on your iPhone a much better experience
With push notifications, the app will alert you instantly when you receive a new message
Import contacts and create groups right out of your iPhone address book.
Send messages to groups of people on the go, no matter where you are.
Manage autoresponders and turn off inbound messages on the go
We’ve always been focussed on the business use, in particular allowing people to separate their work & personal lives, all from one phone. We’ve seen anyone from medical doctors, to real estate agents, to sales teams using SendHub because it’s a great way to organize customers, clients and broadcast, but now you can also use it as a business phone number. People our age can’t waist money on an extra cellphone and land lines are expensive and flawed, so we hope that the new call feature can especially benefit small businesses who are just getting off the ground.
The calling feature is now live. Try it. Call your mom to say hi (or dad…). Then tell us what you think, because we’d love to hear from you. No really, we would. Have thoughts on this update, or a feature you think would make your life a lot easier? Text, or email us :-)
Spotlight: the 116th Annual PTA Conference (and creating a contest on SendHub...)
Every year (for the last 116 years), hundreds of members of the National Parent Teacher Association from all over the country descend upon one location for a conference, where they attend workshops and meetings about how to grow their local PTA groups and further their mission. This year, the conference happened to be just down the road at the McEnery Convention Center in San Jose, California so we hopped on down to take part in the two-day exhibition of education-focused businesses.
For us, going to the PTA conference was a natural choice. The PTA is committed to advocating on behalf of the nation’s children and helping them become the best students possible. They work hard to encourage parental involvement with teachers and with students. Part of the difficulty is always improving communication, and as a company that provides an easy and useful mobile communication service, we fit right in. In fact, SendHub was founded to try and help solve the communication gap that so often is created between teachers, students and parents (you can re-read that original story right here.)
The conference was a blast. For two days, we set up shop in one of the convention center’s exhibition rooms, along with dozens of other businesses, which ranged from Two Degrees healthy snack bars - which donates a meal to a hungry child for every bar purchased - to the elaborate Neos play system of Playworld Systems, inc.
We chatted and discussed SendHub with people from all over the country. Teachers loved the fact that by getting a SendHub number they could now reach out to students over SMS without giving out their private number. “I am excited to use SendHub to connect with teachers and students in a new way, without having to compromise my personal number” said Alverta, a South Carolina native who has been involved in the PTA for 40 years. Eddie, from the Kentucky PTA, exclaimed further that “SendHub will allow me to easily organize meetings and send reminders to other PTA members. It makes my life so much easier.”
The green iPhone cases we were handing out were also a big hit. Those lucky PTA members touting iPhones got both our SendHub app and an attractive case for the price of…nothing! Some people came back for extras for their sons and daughters, and we were happy to oblige. (By the way… you know you can get one of these too, right? Just email email@example.com with your address and we’ll send you one!)
But no conference booth is complete without a giveaway. So we used SendHub to create one in three easy steps:
We set up a conference keyword, in this case “PTA”, and made a sign with our SendHub number and the keyword on it
People joined our group (text-to-join feature), and then we asked them to text us how they would use SendHub to make their lives easier. One simple rule: the most creative answer wins the prize; this time - a brand new Kindle fire!
We sifted through some amazing answers (which was definitely my favorite part!) and picked our lucky winner, Isabel, a mom & PTA delegate from Santa Clara, CA!
… then we used SendHub to notify our winner, got her address, and this shiny new toy is on the way to her right now :)
All in all, there was a lot of energy and excitement about SendHub among PTA members, and we had a blast attending. Look out, you may be able to spot us at these more often…
Everyone knows organizing college students can be quite a challenge – between the classes, the sports (and the partying…), it’s hard to get them to respond, or sometimes even read, emails. No one has more experience with this, than Suzi Townsend, who leads the charge for the FSU chapter of Chi Alpha.
Chi Alpha is a Christian campus ministry on universities throughout the United States & around the world, and Suzi leads the charge for the FSU chapter. While organizing weekly meetings, bible studies and reminding members of upcoming events, emails became useless as no one ever checked them. “We started sending facebook messages, and creating events on facebook but even those weren’t effective – students don’t check it on the go”, says Suzi, “so we asked them – ‘what’s the best way to reach you?’ and texting was the unanimous answer.”
Now on SendHub, Suzi uses SendHub’s group texting feature to organize the leadership group and keep everyone in constant communication. She also set up text-to-join groups for bible studies, general ministry updates and uses a big broadcasting message to send out last minute group event activity invites. “Sometimes we decide to go to the park to play frisbee, or see a movie on the whim, and broadcasting lets me send a quick message like ‘going to the park @ 10am, meet us there’ and I know everyone gets it because it goes right to their phone.”
Fav tech gadget: my HTC Thunderbolt
Fav part of SendHub: broadcasting & text-to-join feature
Fav Chi Alpha memory: I’d say it’s a toss up between a game called “Murder in the Dark” (a combination of mafia and hide-and-seek, in the dark) and just getting together to eat/chat/catch up with each other
Most embarrassing SMS moment: haha… I can’t share that. It was with my mom though :)
To learn more about Chi Alpha at FSU, check out their website (and be sure to like their facebook page!). We hope you enjoyed our Spotlight, and if you (or your company) want to be featured, send us a txt or email and tell us how YOU use SendHub :)
Ricky Sailor loves football and everything that comes with it. As a retired football player himself, he says the most exciting day is when a high school player makes his decision for college ball. This inspired him to start his non-profit, unsignedpreps, which helps unsigned high school athletes secure college scholarships. His mission is to create opportunities that maximize the student athlete’s ability to succeed athletically, academically, and socially. And of course, he uses SendHub to help achieve his mission.
Every summer Ricky takes a couple high school students on a tour of colleges, to meet with coaches, other athletes, and potentially try out for scholarships. With 40+ parents worried about their student athletes though, the need for updates can be incredibly time consuming. “My Blackberry lets me send group messages to 8 people at once”, says Ricky, “so I would have to write a message, send it to a group, forward it to another group, and do this over and over again, all while on the road trying to keep 40 kids in check. It was impossible for me to manage”. With 10+ stops on some of these trips, the complaint is highly understandable - keeping one set of parents in the loop would be a lot, but 40? Impossible.
As some of you may have noticed, SendHub was unavailable for 2 hours yesterday morning. This was on top of 4 hours of downtime last week. Embarrassing? Yes. Fixable? Hell yes. Downtime sucks, especially when the causes are outside of our immediate control. Not cool.
Yesterday morning, Heroku ran into some problems related to how they route requests to our application (which impacted many more sites than just us). I’ve already said being down isn’t cool, but what *is* cool is how our team handled this incident.
Spotlight: Brandon Nappy, Tactical Marketing Director at Swamp Head Brewery
Brandon Nappy loves beer. In fact, he loves it so much he made it his carreer, as one of the key people at Florida’s Swamp Head Brewery. What makes Swamp Head special? The six amazing people behind it, who are passionate about craft beer and the state of Florida!
But as some of you may have guessed, Swamp Head also uses SendHub on a regular basis. Their famous tasting room, “The Wetlands” has 10 beers on tap, with 5 of them changing daily to showcase new brews. They’ve implemented SendHub to send daily updates to customers with exactly which beers are on tap, and what specials they have going on that day. If you ask me, waking up to an SMS that tells you your favorite beer is on tap is pretty much a perfect start to the day.