Published by Josh Turcotte
Hello, folks. This is Joshua, running all things tech here at NumbersUSA, with the first in a series of technical posts aimed at keeping you in the loop as we make changes to our online activism toolkit. I mean, I’m on social media (probably too much), and I’ll admit to the occasional curse whenever a site I regularly visit does so much as move a button. But, in time, I often find the change really was better after all. (Rinse and repeat!) It was that it was unanticipated and unexplained that bothered me, more than anything else. So, I’m taking steps to mitigate that with you, our stalwart membership.
To be blunt, we’re running on some pretty old technology still, and while that isn’t necessarily a bad thing — consider, for example, voyager 2 still plodding along quite reliably 41 years and 8 months later on the same relatively small codebase it always has. In our case, however, the very fabric of the online universe itself is rapidly changing out from under us, whether we want it to or not.
There’re options we have today we didn’t back in the early aughts when I was first getting my hands dirty in our code. There’re security considerations that evolve on a daily basis, much to our delight (he said sarcastically.) Some of the old code just doesn’t play nice with newer hardware, newer (but more secure) operating systems, and/or newer partners who have ideas of their own. And, as our membership grows, so too do the demands on our servers and on the limitations of ye olde code written during much simpler times.
First up, we’ve replaced our donation system. That was a little while ago, actually, ’round about mid-October of 2018. As one of the most integral facets of our online operation most in need of security and integrity, it took a lot of work, tentative and sometimes temporary experimental rollouts, and the like.
It’s up, it works, and it protects both yourselves and ourselves much better than the previous system, and a lot of that is in thanks to our having switched to Braintree (a Paypal Company) as a payment processor. They’ve offered a means of ensuring that your credit card data is protected better than was feasible before while also allowing our forms to look and work better than ever.
Braintree is a favorite among the big names like Uber, StubHub, Arriva, and OpenTable. A little more ‘newfangled’ than PayPal itself, Braintree better understood the nature of donations (over online shopping, that is), has a much smoother integration, better data analysis, and a phenomenal tech support staff themselves. This is something we’ve grown to appreciate enormously during the transition.
That said, we’re not entirely done, either. You’ll probably have noticed, if you’re a regular donor, that your donation history display page is ‘down for maintenance.’ It will remain so for a time, until other major overhaul projects (the subject of later blog posts), are also released and the two new technologies can sync up.
Further, our old paypal accounts are also in a transitional phase. Due to limitations in how they could work oh so many years ago, we had to have more than one account, and now that we’re no longer constricted by that problem, we’re consolidating BACK to one again, for those folk who prefer it (more in a minute.) For folk who are monthly donors on one of these accounts to be consolidated, we will be encouraging you to restart your monthlies through our donation portal or on the surviving paypal account… A one time, mildly annoying corrective blip to make the most of your generosity, if you will, and smooth out your future experiences in donating.
On that note, fairly soon, our new donation page will start accepting PayPal as a payment method through braintree, alternative to credit cards, for those of you who prefer PayPal as a payment method. Following that, we’ll have the option to add Venmo, Apple Pay, and similar, should those be options you’d prefer.
So, there you have it. The first in a series of tech blogs. Check back here for details on other major changes to bring the action board, emails, your user accounts (and the challenges of balancing their security with ease of use), the gradecard system everyone loves so much, and other tools we’ve created up to modern snuff, so to speak. Don’t be surprised if we link to the occasional survey, as well, to see what it is you think we’ve done right, wrong, or haven’t yet thought of.
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