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Version 5

It’s here, it’s ready!

(Not that anyone knew to want or expect it; I’m just not much of a hype man and, like in the past, I’ve kept this project very much on the down low.)

So what’s Version 5 all about?

Beauty and joy of using.

And if we’re talking of beauty, I suppose I’ve beaten this drum before in this very space: I just finished rereading the blog posts around the release of 2017’s Version 3, 2020’s Version 4, and 2021’s more modern design.  And in each there’s a sort of “Check out how slick it looks now!” proclamation, carrying with it an undertone of throwing shade on the old.

Now to my sensibilities, four rounds of that that feels like some sort of climbing of MC Escher’s endless staircase.  Can’t help but feel a little sheepish over what a common refrain this ostensibly is becoming, even if spread out over nearly 7 years.

But DANG, I really do like the pretty pixels of Version 5!  Steven Bannachan of Putty Design has done a fab job of defining the aesthetics this time around.  And I don’t mean to throw shade on the previous design yet again, but I can’t deny: the look of the last incarnation of CA just doesn’t look so hot under comparison1.

Such is the nature of sustained progress, I suppose.  May we all be proud of what we create today, and slightly embarrassed by it a year or two down the road. :)

But enough of waxing philosophical, let me show you the broad stokes of what’s new in Version 5!

» Continue reading “Version 5”

  1. To the ostensible competitors that tout themselves as a “modern” alternative to “dated” CoachAccountable: one, that’s rude, and two, I would say that notion itself is now dated.

So good, robots don’t believe what humans say about it

Ah, the reviews game, amiright?  That nigh on essential part of a business’s presence online.

This is a tale of our begrudging participation therein.

The reviews we already have around the internet make it clear: CA is well loved by its customers (I won’t link to any in particular here because I don’t wish to feed the machine, but you can find ’em easily enough).

We’ve never hustled much for reviews.  We once sent out an email to a bunch of our customers at the behest of one of the reviews sites (“We’ll give ’em a $10 gift card for filling one out!” they offered… eh, okay, I guess), but beyond that they’ve just organically trickled in over the years with no real prompting on our part.

Then, for better or worse, as a marketing experiment we signed on with TrustPilot.  Became a paying customer and everything with a year long contract for… whatever value doing so is supposed to provide.

We dipped our toes into working with them, but during the first 2 months only ever got around to inviting 3 folks to leave us a review (you could say the endeavor was not managed with vigor).  Anyway, one of those invitees did, and they left us a lovely 5 star missive.  Which is pretty good!

The rub is that, by some curious math, a single 5-star gives you a 3.7 average.

Here’s what it looked like then when you searched “coachaccountable reviews” with Duck Duck Go:


See that second hit?  That’s the one I’m talking about.


I didn’t want to bother with this any further.  Trustpilot told me “there is no way to hide your page as Trustpilot is a public facing platform”, which is odd, because I’m pretty sure we didn’t have that page out there before becoming their customer.

So there we were, ostensibly committed.

So I asked the CoachAccountable users group for a favor.

I told them 3.7 isn’t consistent with the vibe we generally get.  So it would mean a lot to us for them to take a little time to leave a review about what their experience has been like with CoachAccountable on our Trustpilot page.

And they did!  Within 48 hours we had 36 reviews, overwhelmingly glowing and, as one observed, “they read like love letters”.

So there we had it, problem solved: the notion that CA was a “3.7 star platform” was no longer hanging out on the internet.

Then a funny thing happened a few days later…

An excerpt from the community thread about reviews being flagged

Uh oh.

Here was a bunch of people, all of them quite real and genuine customers (there are receipts, yo’), moved to share their experiences based on a simple request.  And then this supposed arbiter of truth and authenticity within the reviews game emailed about half of them, subject line “[reviewerName], your review has been removed”, citing “our software has flagged your review for having unusual features”.


Then they didn’t make it easy for my customers to prove the legitimacy of their reviews:

Difficulty in proving legitimacy

Evidence that was sufficient for some was insufficient for others. So much for objectivity.

I had my mounting dissatisfaction with TrustPilot amid the circumstances I described above, but making my customers jump through hoops so that their earnest missives remain published was so deeply distasteful to me on many levels.

My deep appreciation went out to those that replied back, supplying evidence of the legitimacy of their review in order to get it reinstated.  And to those who thumbed their nose at the robot-initiated insinuation otherwise? They have my emphatic understanding and support.

So what of it?  Let’s look now to the cheeky silver lining.

If the algorithmic flagging of so many of the community’s generous reviews drives me nuts (and it does), there’s one thing about it that I take serious heart from, and that is this:

The community’s assessment of CoachAccountable is hardly to be believed.

I take great pride in the fact that how they described the platform and their experiences with it (and with us) were SO outside the bell curve that they triggered sophisticated machine learning models to scream “Gah, that can’t be right! Flag it! Shut it down!”

A marketing tagline comes to mind:

CoachAccountable: so good, robots don’t believe what humans say about it.

I’m not saying I’m gonna change the homepage to weave that one in, but I figure it is, at very least, a tale worth telling.

And if TrustPilot doesn’t want those reviews, well then I’m taking ’em back.

Whiteboards in Happenings Reports

Over the weekend we got an email to support that reads as follows:


I’m not receiving notifications when my clients create whiteboards. It looks like I have my settings correct but is someone able to please give me a hand and let me know if I’m missing something?

Thank you!

She’s right!  Everything was turned on in her Notification Preferences, but indeed, among those settings there are no switches to opt to receive notifications about new Whiteboards as added by your clients.

On the surface this might seem like a glaring omission, but it turns out this is intentional.

Unlike Actions and Worksheets, which have a clear “This is now done” (that makes an unambiguously fitting occasion to send a notification about), Whiteboards are generally always in a sort of “work in progress” state, admitting numerous drafts over the days and weeks (or even in a single writing session!).

So, by their nature, they’re never really “done” in a way that makes it clear “Okay, this would be a great time to notify coach!”.

They do have a clear starting point, of course.  Actions offer a “Notify me whenever my client creates a new action” setting, and by that logic we could make one for a Whiteboard.  But a freshly created Whiteboard is a blank slate, and so is not terribly interesting to notify about.

But this support request got me thinking: there WAS, it turns out, a good way to keep coaches in the loop of client Whiteboard activity: Happenings Reports.

» Continue reading “Whiteboards in Happenings Reports”

2-Factor Authentication via SMS

Last week we got an earnest inquiry Andrew Hinkelman of Priority 1 Group that was very simple:

Do you offer multifactor authentication (MFA) for client credentials/login? If so, I assume one factor could be a code sent via text message?

When Morgan replied the truth of the matter, no we do not, we got back:

Is multifactor authentication on your roadmap? If so, roughly when?

Well, at the time it really wasn’t.  Morgan let him know the full scoop, and got back the following:

I’m an executive coach working with leaders in tech. I’m also a recent CTO and managed a team responsible for information security. So… I think not having an additional authentication factor is a deal-breaker for me. I simply cannot direct my corporate clients to use a SaaS service that is not hitting baseline security measures and expect them to use the platform for sharing/storing our 1:1 coaching work.
I really loved everything else I saw about coach accountable so I’m bummed to have to restart my search…

“Not hitting baseline security measures?!?”  Well now, that’s really throwing down the gauntlet, isn’t it? :)

And far be it for me to make Andrew have to restart his search!

In truth, adding 2-factor authentication isn’t terribly hard, ESPECIALLY if we skip over authenticator apps and just start with SMS-based.  CoachAccountable is already set up to transact via SMS in countries that represent over 90% of our users.

I’ve had MFA come up as a request a few times over the last several years (expressed interest has been really quite rare, actually).  I didn’t jump on cooking up SMS-based 2FA on account of cutting edge security researcher reports that SMS was technically not a fully secure channel, owning to the possibility of various SIM card attacks and other niche weaknesses.

But really that was an instance of me letting perfect be the enemy of good.

The fact remains that even humble SMS-based second-factor authentication is a practical step up: in a world where defense-in-depth matters (and indeed it does, for we don’t ALL live in a spy movie being targeted by nation state actors), even mostly secure measures make a meaningful difference!

So I’m happy to report CoachAccountable now supports 2-Factor Authentication over SMS, i.e. for all our users in the US, Canada, UK and Australia1.  Let’s see how it works!

» Continue reading “2-Factor Authentication via SMS”

  1. Or, more precisely, users who have a US, Canadian, UK, or Australian phone number capable of receiving SMS messages.

Delightful Collaboration XII: Smarter Links to Course Items

The impetus for this instance of delightful collaboration came as a simple question.

In wanting the experience of doing her Courses to be a smooth as possible for her clients, Katharina Hille asked:

When I set up a new action for a client, the clients gets an email with a link (“View this online”) that brings him/her directly to the corresponding action.

But when I design a course I can only add a general login-link. Therefore I have to explain to new clients, that they have to got to “Actions” etc…

Is it possible to add this “View this online”-link in courses also?

I sat with this question for a little while, realizing how perfectly reasonable and natural the request was.  After all, one of our express aims in the design of CoachAccountable is to remove every last bit of friction from the client experience that we possibly can, making it as easy and seamless for them to show up for the life-changing work they’re engaged in.

So put in those terms, Katharina was absolutely right: if she (or anyone else!) needs to explain to clients how to find a given item in their system (when they could’ve been simply taken right to it), that’s a problem, or at best, a real missed opportunity on CA’s part.

With Course Pages, a login link in the notification email for a new section of the course has the spiffy behavior of taking clients directly to that section of that course“Brilliant!”, I thought, “I’ll just extend that ‘go-right-to-the-item-in-that-course-page’ behavior to items of all types [for page-enabled Courses]!”

So I did!

And it was good.

And then I realized Katharina wasn’t using Course Pages at all in her Courses.  Therefore that spiffy enhancement, though a step forward, would be meaningless to her use of the system.

Now since the beginning of CoachAccountable Courses, the login link for notification emails about Course Worksheets took clients right to that Worksheet, so a client was always just one click away from being able to work on it.  Course Files have also always been similarly accessible from the notification email.

So really what Katharina was asking for was to extend this spiffy behavior to the other types of Course Items, namely Actions, Metrics and Whiteboards.

And this is now done: [loginLink] magic tags in notification emails for Course Actions, Metrics and Whiteboards now just work better for everyone, no changes to the design of any Course required.  A nice win for all!

Thank Katharina for asking the question in the first place, coming from an understanding that those links could (and should) be better.  Sharing that little bit of perspective–the slog that is having to explain more to new clients–was a real gift, one that made clear the right thing to do to make CA better for all.

Introducing Company Engagements

If you’re coaching multiple people at a company, you’re likely already using CoachAccountable Companies. And if you productize your coaching into packages, you’re probably taking advantage of CoachAccountable Engagements. Now you can also put Companies into Engagements, in order to:

  • Automatically invoice the Company on a regular basis
  • Track how much of a package the Company has used
  • Distribute the allocated appointments evenly over all coachees at a Company

Let’s take a look.

» Continue reading “Introducing Company Engagements”

Delightful Collaboration XI: Client Present Mode

It’s been a while since I’ve written up an entry in the Delightful Collaboration series.  Though it may look like it’s only the 11th time (judging by the roman numeral above), acting on the input of our community to make CA better happens roughly once a week!

This one comes from Michiel Bosman of Open Forest Evidence-Based Online Coaching.  He wrote:

I am probably asking for the impossible, but this is very important to me from a privacy/NDA standpoint: I do a lot of CA screen sharing with my clients.

I would love to have a Single Client Mode: I click a checkbox, system will not show anything related to any other client, until I click that checkbox again.

This immediately jumped out at me as interesting.  CoachAccountable has always had the power to serve as a de facto shared, virtual workspace between coach and client.  Coach sharing his or her screen with client (or vice-versa) is a powerful way to invite structured collaboration (e.g. during a session, when actions are being planned, insights are being captured, and so forth).

But I really appreciate the abundance of caution that this request entails.  Indeed, when it’s coach doing the screen sharing, well, there’s a LOT of other data that coach can bring up with a click or two (a convenience that is quite intentional!), yet much of it is data that’s NOT suitable for a given client to see.

So I get the desire for a sort of “single client mode”: that power to accidentally wander over into another part of the system not meant for a client’s eyes could make the prospect of sharing your screen nerve wracking.

We’re always keen to make CA more thoroughly accommodating to expectations of privacy and confidentiality, for they are expectations that such sensitive work truly merits.  To that end, I present to Michiel and the rest of the CA community what we call “Client Present Mode”.

» Continue reading “Delightful Collaboration XI: Client Present Mode”

Nudge Clients When They Haven’t Scheduled an Appointment

Engagements are CA’s way of allowing you to track a clients progression through an allocation of appointments (e.g. 10 hours or 12 sessions), with the option to add recurring invoicing and timely notifications along the way.

When we first launched Engagements, Engagement notifications only came in one flavor: coaches could schedule a notification based on progress through the Engagement allocation (e.g. “Hi Morgan, you have 3 appointments left. Here are the ones you’ve had so far…”).  Later on, and by request, we added the option for time-based notification (“Hi Morgan, you’re now 30 days into your Engagement…”).

Based on the feedback you’ve given us we’ve now added a third flavor of Engagement notification: Schedule Nudge.

A Schedule Nudge will notify you or your client when it’s been a certain number of days since the last appointment, specifically when there’s still nothing else scheduled on the calendar. Setting these serves to alert you (or your client) when things are ostensibly stalled out in your coaching relationship and prompt scheduling of the next session, and you can use this to keep the momentum in the coaching relationship going. The automated nature of these nudges means the system can now step in so you don’t have to.

Let’s take a look.

» Continue reading “Nudge Clients When They Haven’t Scheduled an Appointment”

Customize Client Access to Appointment Types

With CoachAccountable Engagements, you can allow only certain clients to book appointments within a package, and with Offerings you can let prospective clients book an Appointment Type that established clients can’t see (and vice-versa).

Emma, Chief Organizational Officer at Action Edge Business Coaching, asked about yet another level of appointment access customization:

Is it possible to restrict which clients are able to book a certain appointment type?

For example, we do 15-30 minute check in calls with employees of some of our clients. We don’t want all our clients to be able to access that. Is there a way to specify who can see this within the appointment types?

Introducing client-specific appointment access settings!

This is perfect if you, like Action Edge, have different types of coaching clients, where only some clients should have access to a particular type of appointment. Another great fit is coaches who have different levels of access (i.e. higher-paying clients get longer sessions), different areas of coaching, or even different locations (perhaps in-person meetings can happen, but only for certain individuals nearby).

Let’s take a look.

» Continue reading “Customize Client Access to Appointment Types”

Version 4

(It’s Friday as I write this, and they say it’s a bad idea to release to stuff on a Friday, because it means the poor folks who wanted to enjoy a weekend are apt be be saddled with the fallout from whatever goes wrong with the release.  But… speaking as the guy who did it all and will handle whatever fallout… well, I gotta good feeling about this. :)

It’s done!  It’s here!  And it’s ready for everyone to check out.

Version 4 ISN’T a huge mix up of things.  Truth be told, unlike Version 3 I have NOT been laboring in silence over it for the last 21 months doing a comprehensive rebuild.  The switchover from 3 to 4 is utterly seamless, with virtually everything in it’s place exactly as it was.

But Version 4 DOES feature some substantial changes. Let’s take a look!

» Continue reading “Version 4”