I had to post this in The Synner’s Lounge

I had to post this in The Synner’s Lounge. Please have a read. We’re looking for support.

“Hey everybody. I’m here with some bad news.

As you know we’ve moved payment providers for Simply Everything. That meant everybody had to sign up again. Unfortunately less than half of our previous subscribers actually did it. That means that there isn’t anything like enough money to run Simply Syndicated.

So here’s what’s going to happen. Over the next month payments will start to fail and various services will switch off. First our Amazon payment will fail so Simply Everything is just going to stop working. Next the payment for the site web hosting will fail and the site will go off all together. After that my Adobe CC payment will fail and soon I won’t be able to edit shows to put them on SoundCloud.By the end of April at the latest, but probably the end of March, Simply Syndicated will be nothing more than the episodes of shows that currently live on SoundCloud.

Right now the Simply Syndicated bank account sites at -£200. At this point in the month it should be at around £250. Because of the reduced income I haven’t been able to get the account into credit so I’m being hit with over £100 of bank charges per month.

I’m really sorry that I’ve let you all down. I certainly never expected Simply Syndicated to just switch off one day but that’s probably what’s going to happen.

I intend to keep trying to get people to give us £6 per month to keep us going and for Simply Everything. If everybody in this group signed up we’d be set. Heck, if even ten people from this group supported us it would make a difference.
If there’s anything I can do to make Simply Syndicated worth supporting that I’m not doing now please tell me. I’m totally working in the dark having never received any feedback about the new Simply Everything.”

Some people have started to support us and I’m extremely grateful to them. I have some other things to add. If you’d like to support us with a one off donation rather than signing up to Simply Everything you can do so by visiting paypal.me/SimplySyndicated or if you’d like to donate a couple of dollars you can now visit our new Patreon page at www.patreon.com/SimplySyndicated.

We cannot make Simply Syndicated without you, and we’re dangerously close to that actually happening.

Delaying Simply Everything

With four days to go until the launch of the new version the Simply Syndicated website and a new version of Simply Everything it’s time to be honest and look at things realistically.

Quite simply, it isn’t going to be ready in four days. There’s just no way, there’s far too much still to do. So this is me officially announcing that the launch will be delayed by a month.

I have chosen to delay for a month to make sure that the new system works and is good. I could get a version of it ready in the next week but I’m not changing the site to a system that isn’t complete. When the new system comes out I promise the wait will be worth it, and it’ll be even more worth it if actually works and can be used.

I apologise for the delay but it’s completely necessary.

The Road To Everything – 22 Days To Go

I’ve been promising a refresh of Simply Syndicated and related services to go live on September 30th, as I write this it’s the 9th. I had planned to do a daily blog article about what I was working on up until the release but quickly realised that you can spend as much time and energy writing about what you’re doing as you can when actually doing the thing you’re doing. With that in mind, here’s my 22 days to go update.

Ooh it’s going to be good. If I were Google, Apple, Microsoft, or any of the big named tech companies, I’d probably have a plan of action and I’d know what I wanted to end up with. I’m not any of those big name tech companies so I have absolutely no plan and the only thing I know about what I want to end up with is that it should be better than what I currently have. It’s an interesting, and some would say irresponsible way of working. However I enjoy it because it means that the end result is almost as much of a surprise for me as it is for you.

At the moment there’s a rough design for the main part of the website. It doesn’t look that rough, but it is because it’s probably going to change dramatically. The front page of the site won’t change all that much because it doesn’t have to. Of course the front page of Simply Syndicated should be a way to quickly access the latest episodes of shows, and to present the best way to reach other parts of Simply Syndicated. That’s working as it is.

The most significant changes are going to come to the individual show pages and to Simply Everything. The main web page of a podcast can be a tricky thing. I suppose it would be easier if there was just one podcast to worry about. If that’s the case you only need a basic website. Simply Syndicated has loads of shows and they all have their own web page. There are even pages for shows that haven’t been running for years. All those pages have to stay because they’re part of Simply Everything.

In the last version of the website Simply Everything was integrated into the show pages. There’s a list of episodes you can listen to, each with their own “listen on Simply Everything” button. I really don’t like that way of doing things, especially those Simply Everything buttons. A new way of organising data is required, and that’s what I’m working on at the moment.

Sadly things aren’t that simple. The new ways of presenting this data need to fit in with what I can do with the new subscription system. Currently I’m using the Cart66 WordPress plugin to run our store system and Simply Everything. The new version of the site will use S2 Member, which comes with all sorts of different functions. Of what I know so far I can tell you the following. First of all PayPal is going. We’ve used it for years as it’s a great way for people to pay for things, and it’s handy for running subscription services. For a long time they were pretty much the only gig in town. Yes there have been other online payment systems but none of them are aimed at smaller digital retailers. If I want to pay £250 per month my bank has a brilliant online payment system I can use. I don’t want to pay £250 per month so we use PayPal. From the 30th of September we’ll be using Stripe. You’ll probably run into it right away when you sign up for the new Simply Everything. The thing that you’ll notice first is that you don’t have to have any form of special account to use it. With PayPal subscriptions you have to have a PayPal account. That’s a major barrier for some people. It’s also not possible to pay for your subscription with anything other than your PayPal account. Really that’s not the ideal way to do business. Traditionally services add PayPal payments later, they don’t make it the only way to pay for something right away. With our new system you’ll be able to sign up for Simply Everything using your credit or debit card. You don’t have to have an account with Stripe, you just need a method of payment. Heck, I could even accept Bit Coin as payment (I’m not going to though). Just this simple change in merchant services means paying for things will be quick, easy, and painless for you, and it means that Simply Everything is going to make more money because of all the things I just said. A shoddy payment system really puts people off. Not only because they can’t figure it out, but because it’s difficult to trust. Is it really going to work? Will it take my money and leave me with nothing? Until now, the answer to those questions has been a solid maybe. Soon it will be yes and no. I have to point out that Simply Syndicated still will not be storing your payment information. Credit card data is some of the most important information you can request from your customers and I simply don’t want to have it. I’ve got enough to worry about in life without taking on the task of protecting your credit card number. Stripe will take care of all of that. Your data will be safe.

The next thing I can tell you is that the entire subscription system will be different. You’ll have an account page that you can log into and make changes to your subscription. That system will happily work with Last Pass, 1 Password, or any other password protection system, unlike the current version of Simply Everything. I use those services too and I’m also annoyed by the fact that they seem to struggle with our current sign in process. It is being fixed.

The price of Simply Everything will be increasing from £4.99 per month to £5.99 per month. I know I put something out yesterday about what will be happening to current subscribers but I didn’t include that little bit. Ideally I would like to offer all current subscribers a coupon that will continue their subscription at the lower £4.99 price, however I’m not sure that that’s technically possible so there’s no way I can promise it. All I can say is that it’s something I’d like to happen and if there’s a way to implement it then I’m going to. There’s a lot hinging on what I can get S2 Member to do. It’s an extremely clever system but that just means it’s harder to work out what I can do with it.

Speaking of price, the two week free trial is returning. I must be honest and say that I never wanted to get rid of it in the first place. It was removed because the Cart 66 and PayPal never once handled it well. The idea was that you’d pay an initial payment of £0 and in two weeks time you’d be charged £4.99. The real world experience was that you’d pay £0 and in two weeks your account would shut down. There will be no more of that.

With just 22 days to go panic has set in. I’m reminded of decorating our living room a couple of years ago. Sure you can just start pulling off the wallpaper, but that doesn’t mean you aren’t going to pull off some of the plaster with it, and moving those wall plugs is going to be much harder than you thought because there’s not actually enough wire in the walls. I have actually been through the process of looking into nuking the entire Simply Syndicated site and starting again from scratch. We’ve been running off the same WordPress install for six years. It’s not that I’m pushing it to do anything that it isn’t intended to do, it’s just that over time crap builds up. There are database tables that don’t do anything. Loads of folders on the server that have nothing in them. Piles of images that are no longer part of any active website. You get the idea. Basically instead of decorating the living room I was willing to demolish the house and rebuild it with the living room I wanted all along. It’s a dumb idea that would have resulted in Simply Everything being completely broken for everyone trying to use it. I’m just going to have to clean things up as best I can.

I know there’s nothing too exciting about this particular update. I haven’t even started talking about new content, and all the content that hasn’t managed to make it on to Simply Everything yet. That information will be coming in a later update.

In the meantime if you have any questions, suggestions, or anything else, just give me a shout on Twitter and we can chat.

Survey Results

Remember that survey we recently did about Simply Syndicated? Well, we have a few results, which I’ve been reading with great interest. There’s a question about what people feel the website is missing, and it seems that lots of you are missing the forums.

It’s very reassuring to know that there are so many of you around from the days when we had a forum. It’s also terrifying that there aren’t more people around from the days after we had a forum. But that’s not my point. I wanted to talk about the forum that we used to have.

The Simply Syndicated forum lasted for many years, and went through many changes. In its best days, it wasn’t just a forum, it was a haven for reasonable behaviour on the internet. There was a set of rules that ensured the forums were a happy and fun place to be. Beyond having conversations about show episodes, we talked about all kinds of things. It was also a great place to get listener feedback, and make people aware of what we were up to.

But the forum went away for a reason. If it was so good, why shut it down? Sadly, it wasn’t very popular in the end. People kind of just got bored with it. We went from getting loads of posts each day, to getting a few posts every month. Forums can be great sources of information to sit and read, but unless somebody is adding that information, you don’t get much of an experience.

When the forums first launched, there was no such thing as Twitter or Facebook. There simply weren’t the huge number of services that people enjoy checking every day. It’s much easier to remember to check a forum, when social media doesn’t exist. Speaking of how much has changed since Simply Syndicated was born, when I started podcasting, I had a Nokia 5110 phone, and a laptop with 128mb of RAM. They’re the days that forums come from. Things are more than a little different now, most of our computing is done on mobile devices, and forums have never worked well on phones. I know that there are websites out there that try to include their forums in their mobile apps, but I’ve never seen it done well enough to compel me to use it.

So things have moved on, and we no longer have a forum. That doesn’t mean that there’s no way to interact with us, and other listeners. If you want to comment on an episode, then there are comments on SoundCloud which are actually very good. We also have a group for listeners on Facebook, where we make a post for every new episode, and people can have a conversation about it. The good thing about the Facebook group, is that you were probably going to check Facebook anyway. It’s all about fitting into your life, rather than trying to get you to do something new.

I’m always prepared to be open to opinions other than the one I currently hold. It’s going to take a lot to convince me to go back on the removal of the forum. The Simply Syndicated forum had some wonderful times, but it was a ghost town by the end. If I thought it was worth putting resources into creating and running, then I’d do it. Until that time comes, I’ll see you on our Facebook group. There’s a link to it on the front page of our website.