The CoachAccountable Blog

Master CoachAccountable and become the best dang coach you can be. Also, news.

Build That Course

When it comes to cross-promoting outside commercial offerings to the CoachAccountable community (requests I get often), I am generally, as a rule, an immediate and hard “no”.  We’re all of us inundated with marketing, and I aim to always keep the relationship with CA customers respectfully pure.

But when Morgan (CA staff alumnus and my Number 2 of four years) shared with me the program she’s cooked up to help CA coaches build and sell their courses online, I figured letting folks know about it was very much aligned with the mission here in CA land: empowering coaches to have thriving practices by elevating the experience they give their clients.

I keep hearing good things from folks who work with her about how they’re getting more out of CoachAccountable for it, so for that, and her years of expertise, she get the exception to that rule.

Take it away, Morgan!

CoachAccountable - Morgan MeredithGreetings, CoachAccountable community!  As many of you know, I’ve created AccountableHero, a boutique setup service exclusively for CoachAccountable users.

Throughout my time at CoachAccountable AND AccountableHero, I’ve learned there’s a real desire in the community for accountability and support around how to build a course.  If you’ve been struggling with building a course, or even where to get started on one, despite all the great CoachAccountable resources available… you’re not alone.

If you’re ready to finally get that course built and launched and making you money, consider joining the small group course building experience I’m offering.  It starts January 18th and we’ll meet weekly for 6 weeks.

We’ll dive into:

  • Course Basics (including Metrics)
  • Powerful Assignments
  • Easy Videos
  • Surveys, Feedback, & Testimonials
  • Courses Funnel: Upsells & Resources

You also receive a 60-minute deep dive with me, going through all your burning questions and hammering out details one-on-one.

For the first round, I’m offering a one-time discount in exchange for your candid feedback and a testimonial.

This group is open to a maximum of TEN CoachAccountable users, with more opportunities to come.

Will you finally get that course launched in February?  Only one way to be sure: sign up here.


Working with Students

While many coaches work with fully independent adults, and others with corporate entities as their customers, many CoachAccountable users work with students. Whether it’s tutoring in a particular subject, college study habits, or ADHD focus points, coaches often ask: how can I involve parents in the coaching process without breaking confidentiality?

Family Tutoring with CoachAccountable

Use Companies.

It may seem weird to use CoachAccountable Companies for relationships that aren’t… well… companies. However, the Companies feature is exactly what you’ll need. Each family will be a company. 

Clients and Personnel

In this case, the student is the client within CoachAccountable. They’re the ones doing all the coaching work – completing assignments, viewing files, showing up for appointments, and so on.

The parents, on the other hand, usually have a less direct role. They’re generally paying for the coaching, perhaps with a view into some of the work that’s going on, but not all.

You can use the permissions levels for personnel to allow the parents to:

  • View and pay the invoices (or not)
  • View and sign agreements (or not)
  • View appointment reports (or not)
  • View the actual work of their student (or not)

And more. For some parents, it might make sense for them to see Actions but not Worksheets, Metrics but not Whiteboards, and so on. All of that is accomplished with Companies, using the permissions for Personnel users (parents).

Company Engagements for Regular Payments

If you bill the parents on a regular basis, or use package pricing (i.e. 10 appointments for $2500), you’ll want to use Engagements. Company Engagements allow you to automatically bill the parent, rather than the student.

Other Common Questions

What about appointments with both parent and student?

If you plan to do any coaching stuff with parents, including Agreements (contracts), appointments, intake forms (Worksheets) and so on… the parent must be a client as well.

For joint appointments, you’ll put parent and student into a Group, then create a Group Appointment.

What about double-notifications?

If you want the parent to get notified of the student’s appointments, Actions, and so on, the student can set that up using forwarding rules within their email account. It’s not possible to have reminders go to more than one SMS text number or email address UNLESS, like above, you put the parent and student into a Group and create Group Appointments (which, for certain relationships, is exactly the right solution).

What about additional students or family members?

No problem! Use the same Company, add any additional parents/responsible parties as Personnel, and set up different Engagements if desired for additional students in the same Company. You can also add school administrators, therapists, or anyone else who should see part or all of the coaching relationship as personnel, so they’ll have their own login to the system and customized visibility based on how you set them up.

Any other tips?

Like you would with any client, take the time to customize the page for the students and eliminate any unnecessary tabs. That way, you’ll ensure they see only what they need.

And that’s the gist of working with families using CoachAccountable! As tutors, teachers, and independent instructors, rest assured that your business model is well-supported within the system.

Company Agreements

Since 2019, CoachAccountable has allowed you to issue and manage Agreements with your individual clients (think contracts and other such documents that beg signatures, initials, time stamps and so forth).

Now you can use CA to manage them with your client companies as well, allowing you to issue contracts to key company personnel to formalize your working arrangements with the companies that hire you.  Let’s see how it works!

Who Can Sign These Company Agreements?

The first step is to be certain you’ve got one or more personnel of the company who are allowed to be party to agreements for that company.  This is done by setting the permissions for a given personnel, like so:

UI of Personnel permissions, emphasis on the Agreements setting.

Three levels of access, either the second or third will do!

Once you’ve got a personnel who can be on the receiving end of a Company Agreement, you’re all set to issue one.

Because companies are apt to accrue more of a collection of agreements on file than an individual client typically would, Agreements for companies have their own section on a Company Page:

Agreemnts section of a Company Page

Three sections for the 3 phases of a Company Agreement: draft, issued to the company, and completed by the designated personnel.


Issuing Company Agreements

Issuing an Agreement to a company is about what you’d expect: clicking the +Agreement button brings up the editor, from which you can choose from your Agreement Templates as a starting point:

UI of drafting a new agreement for a company

Your agreements are likely going to feature language that is a little more serious and a little less silly. I just like putting Easter eggs in documentation like this to keep things fun. :)

You’re able to keep a Company Agreement in mere draft form while working on it, perhaps over several sessions.  Whenever it’s ready, click the “Issue” button to actually issue the finalized agreement to the designated personnel.

When you do, CoachAccountable will offer you the option to send a notification:

UI for sending a notification of the new company agreement.

Best to let them know! The [magicLink] will bring them right to it.

Want to change the default verbiage of this notification message?  You can!  That’s found in Settings >> System >> Message Templates, under the new “Agreement Notification” template.

That template is just a starting point: you can further edit what appears here prior to sending.


Managing Issued Agreements

Once issued, it’s still possible to make last minute modifications to the agreement, including to whom it is issued.  But once the person who you’ve issued it to has logged in (and thus ostensibly accessed it), edits will no longer be allowed.  In that case, you can simply delete and re-issue a new agreement.

Agreements that have not yet been agreed to will remain in the “Issued” tab, and once agreed to they’ll be found in the “Completed” tab.

For agreements that have been issued but not yet agreed to, you can bring up the editor and click the send button (found in the lower right to send) another notification.  This a nice way to gently remind and nudge someone towards addressing the outstanding agreement.

Once completed by the designated personnel, whomever originally issued it will be notified of as much (assuming they’ve opted to receive agreement notifications, as found in Settings >> System >> Notifications).  Other members of the team who are set to receive notifications of all agreements will be similarly notified.

And that’s all there is to it!  Completed company agreements will live in the Completed tab of the Agreements area, visible to both the coaching team as well as the company personnel who have been granted access to agreements (either their just own, or all company agreements).


CoachAccountable’s First Decade

Birthday cake with numeral 10 candles

I sprung for the fancy 10 candle that has TWO wicks. Pullin’ out all the stops.

Well now, that’s a milestone that many businesses do not meet.

And what a delight to have done so!  Goodness, how time can fly.  I still quite vividly remember taking a deep breath and clicking the button to officially “launch” CoachAccountable from my kitchen table in Cusco, Peru so long ago, wondering if the 2.0 go around would take.

Oh, how it has.

Today I am as honored and humbled as ever that my creation serves the work of thousands of coaches, and contributes to the experience and results of tens-of-thousands of their clients.

A couple of notable things happened in CA’s tenth year:

Overall the lion’s share of coding I did on CA this year was further refinements that make it that much more elegant, intuitive, user friendly, powerful, and perfect.

What’s strange (but perhaps this is just a great sign) is that after such a long time of listening for what would be useful from our community and evolving CA accordingly, there really weren’t many big new features that stood out as worth adding these past 12 months.

Make no mistake, there are still worthwhile advances to be made.  It’s just that with the maturity and completeness that CA has attained over the years, “new features” is now more a matter of chasing a long tail of increasingly disjointed requests, rather than filling in the obviously beneficial-yet-missing pieces that a comprehensive coaching platform should have.  Gone, it seems, are the days of me having a burning desire to build and release X amid a steady stream of requests for it.  Those X’s are already done, launched, and well polished.

But opportunities for still further polish aplenty.

The new, more modern design was well received.

Further refinement to Appointments that further narrow the gap between CA and commodity appointment schedulers, including email invites to events (for folks who haven’t or can’t sync their calendars), more detailed rules for allowing scheduling, and unlimited splits in ones availability.  With these, CA is now truly poised to be the way to wow your free intro call prospects into paying customers in ways conventional schedulers simply can’t.

This year Jaclyn started the official CoachAccountable user’s group, which has taken off as a hub for coaches to ask questions and share ideas and experiences.  Set up as a CA Group itself, it brought with it some great dog fooding of CA’s own Groups feature1, leading to numerous enhancements like the Group Activity Digest, quick access to group member profiles, and comment replies.

Speaking of Jaclyn, she’s gone off on indefinite maternity leave.  I love that she chose family over work,  but I miss her all the same.  And speaking of team departures, Morgan, my number 2 of four years, went off to start Accountable Hero, a high level consultancy of helping coaching firms setup and better their practices with CA.  I delight in recommending her to folks, knowing they’ll be in very good hands.

Amid those change ups, I found myself in the unexpected position of having no team, and took the opportunity to give myself a break from being a manager of people and instead return to, metaphorically speaking, being an artist rather than art teacher.

My being in no rush to hire again may appear a curious decision2.  For now I’m genuinely pleased to be, paradoxical as it may sound, able to do more of the heads down creative work than I was before.

And on that note I’ll say what I always say in these annual missives: CA continues to be for me a thrilling labor of love and I continue to work on making it even better.  Can’t wait to show you what I’ve got in store for the coming year. :)

Here’s to the first decade; it’s been (and remains) an honor to serve you!

  1. “Dog fooding” is term of art in the software business: use your own product to see and empathize with what it’s really like, as opposed to just making it for others to use with no sense for how gross it might actually be.
  2. I promise the business is fine.  If you have concerns, I can assure you my accountant does not share them. ;)

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.

Delightful Collaboration XIII: Client Links from Happenings Reports

This is a flavor of feature request that I absolutely love.

Meet Sho! He’s an outspoken fan and has been for years. CA is better for it.

During an exclusive hangout between me and the kindly folks who heeded the call amid our online review problem (more on that later), Shorombo Mooij gave me a little window into his workflow.  It was approximately to the tune of:

…So I love the Happenings Report, being able to go through each day and seeing what my clients have been up to.  I do that, and it’s great to be able to click the little comment icon to comment on specific items, but sometimes what I really want to do is just go on into their client page, so I can easily get caught up and do a bunch of things.

The request here was simple.  Can you make it so that I can click right from the Happenings Report to get in to a client page in-app?  A fair ask!  Because otherwise it was cumbersome to bounce between that summary across all clients and carefully clicking to visit them each in turn within the app.

Well yes, yes I can!

I modified the output of Happenings Reports (as sent to coaches) to make client avatars clickable, a direct link to that client.

It took all of 4 minutes to do, and I LOVE that that little bit of insight, that tiny little feature of being able to quickly jump from a Happenings Report in one’s email to full-on client access in-app, turns a powerful ritual (namely, being interested in and offering feedback on the progress of clients between sessions) into an elegant and convenient one.

Why am I so fond of this type of feature request?

Because it amounts to bridging the gap between how someone uses CA, and how CA can be tuned JUST SO to make that usage slick and enjoyable.  When we get it right of one person, there’s easily a dozen or more who will be delighted, and more still that may come to enjoy more of the power that CA offers BECAUSE a given workflow works well.

Am I hungry for more of this perspective?  Absolutely.

Getting acquainted with people’s habits around using CA to do better work with their coaches is always a treat; and when that exchange of ideas reveals ways in which CA can be tweaked to better serve?  Well, I just might do such tweaking in very short order, like in this instance.

I suspect a forum to discuss this sort of thing might well be called for.

On this matter, my thanks to Sho for sharing!

CoachAccountable and Single Sign On

As we continue to refine and button up elements of CoachAccountable in service of our enterprise customers, we’re now getting inquiries about our SSO capabilities.  Namely: does CoachAccountable support Single Sign On?

The answer is no, not today.

SSO is understandably desirable among IT teams because it allows them to efficiently and powerfully manage the ins and outs of security provisioning for all of their company employees across a multitude of services.  The convenience for employees to simply sign in once and get access to whatever company accounts they need in order to do their job is undeniable.

Here’s why we don’t support it, including what we have in place to close the gap.


On Administrative Convenience

Access in CoachAccountable is highly nuanced with fine-grain user access controls, and that’s even before factoring in coach-client pairing, the mechanism by which to grant a given coach access only to those clients they are working with (or ought to have read-only access).  An SSO scheme of user provisioning isn’t going to give you that sort of control over a landscape that fluctuates as client engagements begin and end.  (Ostensibly perhaps it could using SAML, but that would amount to a lot of work just to reinvent in-app functionality.)

And if members of your team come and go at such a scale in your organization that you require automation around that sort of provisioning, permissions granting, and pairing?  Good news: the openly documented CoachAccountable API allows you to do so for whichever parts you need.


On User Convenience

“We want our coaches to be able to seamlessly jump from our systems to CoachAccountable.”

Indeed, no one wants to futz with another login when you’re trying to get your work done.  To support this, what we recommend is for companies to put a link to the CoachAccountable app itself right within their company intranet/app/website/whatever, a big shiny button that says “Jump to CoachAccountable”.

Such a link, coupled with CA’s ability to “Keep me logged in” on a given device that has been legitimately authenticated on, makes the transition seamless.

If someone happens to not be logged in, they’ll be bounced to the login screen, and a login helper is there if they forgot their password (no one needs to nag you or your IT team for a reset).

This idea also works beautifully for home screen app shortcuts that your users can easily install on their devices.  It’s just a shortcut: nothing to find, install, download, upgrade, or trust from any app store.  It’s also branded as your company, with your own name and app icon, and not as CoachAccountable.

All of this balances security with convenience pretty much on par with SSO.  Perhaps “keep me logged in” seems fraught for your tastes, but if you can’t trust your employees to keep their devices secured, you’ve already lost the security game and SSO won’t save you.


What about for coaching clients?

We were once told by a prospective enterprise customer that SSO was required, not necessarily so much for their own company, but for the client companies they work for, that THEY demand it for THEIR users.

The problem with that is it conflates the notion of who owns the account.  If Company A uses an Identity Provider (IdP) to manage authentication for their employees, they can do so for access into accounts that Company A owns: Company A’s SalesForce account, Company A’s email domain, Company A’s enterprise license of Office 365.

But when you coach clients in CoachAccountable, they are a guest in your account.  It’s your account: you add them when they’re working with you, and delete or deactivate them when they’re not.   You can’t let some other company’s IdP provision their own people into your CoachAccountable account, nor would you want to.  That’s like letting a customer have the key to your apartment with the understanding that they can let in whomever they like, and, worse yet, it’s not your place to kick them out if you want to kick them out.  If you go with a platform that promises SSO, because they promise SSO, you’ll discover this quickly.

Aren’t you conflating authentication with authorization?

If that’s a meaningful distinction for you in the context of wanting SSO, that means you probably only care about the authentication side of the issue.  And if that’s the case, if your concern is to ensure a great client experience by taking login headaches off the table, know that we’re already your ally in that aim.

Making space in one’s life to be coached is already hard enough, and if THEY get distracted from participating fully because of login issues, we already know that as a platform we’ve failed you.

So we’ve engineered CoachAccountable to thoroughly remove all the friction to their participation as mediated by CA.  Alerts and notifications keep things moving, and replying to emails and texts allows them to participate without even needing to log in.  When they need to log in, like for example to do a Worksheet, they get a magic link that jumps them right on in.

In practice, the need for your clients to manually log themselves in is rare if ever.  We can give your clients a great user experience without SSO.


Trustworthy Security and Current Events

Identity Providers that make SSO possible have a tremendous amount of power and responsibility as the arbiters of authentication across so many companies, users, and accounts.  So they themselves have to be trustworthy and properly secured.  If not, every bit of access that they control is compromised.

Given that is their entire reason for being, we’d like to think they’ve got their security game on lockdown, and that a breach of the very infrastructure of trust would not occur.

Last month such a breach of Okta, the self-professed “World’s #1 Identity Platform” as provider of IdP and SSO solutions, was revealed.  The breach began over two months prior to that revelation, and they tried (and failed) to keep it swept under the rug.

So no, using SSO is NOT assuredly net-positive for your company’s security posture, and hints of that awareness coming into the zeitgeist can now be seen.  Stripe, for example, is a payments platform that we know and love to process our payments, and it has this alert on its page about its own (still in beta, invite-only) support for SSO:

Talk about reading the room.

A visit to the most recent snapshot of this page from January suggests this warning was a recent addition. It was probably added in within days of the Okta breach revelation.

The Hacker News discussion about the breach contains a pertinent observation:

And this is why I would ultimately never trust a centralized company with our authentication infrastructure: because something like Okta is an infinitely more attractive target than we are. Their offering is sweet, and I’m always tempted to just give in, but this confirms me in my decision.

Do I feel that SSO is forever unfit for CoachAccountable in light of this?  No.

But for now, I’m content to forego the added complexity for a very narrow sort of win.  Instead, I prefer to channel those efforts into enhancements that actually make coaching better, even if that decision comes at the expense of failing to make select IT staffers happy.

In light of the Okta hack, I feel good of making a decision that ultimately amounts to what’s best for the security of our users, for there simply are no junior engineers at CoachAccountable to make the sort of rookie mistakes that lead to the sort of high-profile hacks that large companies routinely suffer.

Ultimately, a coaching platform is here to add value to the work coaches do and to the experience of those on the receiving end.  SSO is, apropos of anything, a fine thing to have on your list of checkboxes when vetting the fitness of various solutions under consideration.

But, in practice, it might not be that essential for your coaching platform.


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.

Adding Support for Whiteboards in Happenings Reports

Since releasing them originally in 2014, Happenings Reports have never included support for Whiteboards as a type of “new happenings” to report on.  Here, 8 years later, that suddenly seems right for a change. :)

So now, as of this morning you, can check the box to include Whiteboards as part of your Happenings Reports into the usual set.

Here’s an example of a creating a Whiteboard that’s perfect for getting a routine summary of all recent Whiteboard activity among your clients:

UI of configuring a Happenings Report for Whiteboard notifications

The “Skip sending when there are no new happenings.” is key!

Note the following key parts of this setup:

  • Report on: Choosing to include all of your active clients allows you to get notified when any one of them is active in their Whiteboards.  You can, of course, narrow this down as needed.
  • Include: Naturally, Whiteboards must be checked.  This is great for a focused report that’s only to do with Whiteboard activity.  You can, of course, broaden this as desired.
  • Schedule: Note how this is set to every day, meaning you’ll always get notice of new Whiteboard activity within 24 hours of it happening.
  • Options:  Note how we choose to “Skip sending when there are no new happenings”.  This is key to prevent getting a daily email that might be empty (and thus a mere distraction) for likely-common days when none of your clients have been active in their Whiteboards.

Once created, congratulations!  You’ve just set up your own de facto notifications for new client activity in Whiteboards.

Here’s what Whiteboard activity looks like in a Happenings Report:

Whiteboards in a Happenings Report

This is a nice missive! Ripe for commenting on from the comfort of your own email.

Like completed Worksheets and Journal Entries, the complete content of the Whiteboard is included for easy review (no need to log in and find it first).

And just like other items in a Happenings Report, the comment icons allow you to comment right on whatever your client has written, all from the comfort of your own email client.

And there you have it!  By adding Whiteboards to your already-existing Happenings Reports (or creating a new one similar to the sample shown above), you can now be kept appraised of any work your clients do in their Whiteboards.  Thanks to easy commenting, this allows you to further be a supportive presence in their work with you.


On How We Handle Bugs

This is kind of a quirky topic, I admit.

But in the story of how we make the sausage here at CoachAccountable, this a fun aspect that I’m proud to share about.  It’s one that very few of our customers will ever experience firsthand (more on that shortly); PLUS holy moly do we keep hearing about how other companies (including our so-called competitors, ahem) DO NOT operate in this way.

So, bugs in software.  CoachAccountable is software.  Conventional wisdom is starting to hold that all software has ’em, and they’re just a part of life.  The very tracking and cataloging of “known issues” is a class of software unto itself, with vendors vying to create the best tooling for teams to manage their backlog of bugs to be fixed.

We don’t use any such tools, because we don’t track bugs in CoachAccountable.

It’s not that we’re derelict in our responsibility to do so, there’s just nothing to track.

That’s not to say that CoachAccountable doesn’t have any bugs.  There are a few.  I fix about one a week.  With tens of thousands of users, you’re not likely to be the one who finds one this week.  You might be, but it’s not likely.

But it does come up!  Here’s what happens when we get a bug report:

  1. We look into it.  A genuine bug is ALWAYS news to us.  There’s no “Oh yeah, we know; here’s the workaround until we ship a fix in Q4”.  So we check.
  2. If it’s just a matter of confusion, we’ll let ’em know and clarify to get the person back to good.  (Even then, there’s a decent chance we’ll make some small change to the UI or in-app copy to clear that up for everyone.)
  3. If it’s a genuine bug (or could well be), I get tagged on it immediately.

Here’s what DOESN’T happen when we get a bug report:

  1. We don’t assume PEBCAK1.
  2. We don’t advise they clear their cookies, restart Windows, or whatever.
  3. We don’t punt and dodge with gatekeeper-like scripts, hoping the issue goes away and they never get around to escalating beyond “tier 1”.

Once I’m tagged in, it becomes my immediate priority to fix.

“Doesn’t that make for a terrible drain on your time and attention when you’re trying to run the company, John?”

No.  It would if it were common, or if the fixes took a substantial amount of time.  But happily it is neither: the discovery of a bug is rare, and they seldom take over an hour to fully iron out (the median resolution time is probably 5-10 minutes).

Here’s what happens next:

  1. We’ll acknowledge the issue, something to the tune of “You’re right, that’s a bug!”  No mincing words, no excuses.
  2. The issue is actually fixed.  Not noted for a resolution at a later date, fixed NOW.  “Reload the page now and you’ll find things working as they should.” is an instruction we delight in typing.
  3. More often than not, we’ll issue a small credit to their account.  $10, $20, maybe even $50 if it was a genuine nuisance. “Thanks for letting us know!  I’ve put a $X credit on your account as a small token of thanks, for both the heads up and for your bearing with.”  is another sentiment we love to type out to folks when wrapping up these issues.

I just love #3: when people clue us into a bug, it really is a gift that we appreciate.  It’s the chance to make CA slightly better and more perfect for all.  Platitudes are nice, but this for me is a delightfully real expression of owning my mistakes.

“Wow, issuing credits whenever someone discovers something wrong.  Gee John, does that cost you a lot of money?”

Not at all.  It would if, say, 100 users all found the same issue before I could fix it, but… that doesn’t happen.  Any bug found these days is pretty niche, and very seldom is even close to being a showstopper.

Here’s an example that came up just this weekend:

I’m trying to enter the Hex Code for my highlight color and I can’t enter the information because this phone image is blocking the location where I enter it. I am trying to enter #204699. Thank you.

This was to do with the orientation sequence that occurs immediately after the initial sign up for a new account, specifically the part that lets coaches set their branding.  The part of the color picker pop up that lets you type in a hex code directly was being occluded by the smartphone image to the right.  Whoops!

In the style sheet, I changed the z-index of that pop up from a 1 to a 3 and all was well again.

My reply:

Ah, I see what you mean!  I just changed that phone image and remixed a few things about the design on that screen just yesterday, and indeed I added that flaw in the process of doing so.

I’ve put in the fix and if you reload that page, assuming you’re still logged in and able to access that initial onboarding flow, you’ll find it’s now working as it should.  AND once you’re logged in, you’ll find you can set those branding colors in app as well, under Settings >> System >> Branding.

Thanks for the heads up!  I’ve put a $10 credit on your account as a token of my appreciation. :)

It made me smile to get back:

Woah!  I was NOT expecting such a fast response.

And that was that.

“Is that typical of the sort of bugs that do get found these days?”

I’ll let you be the judge.  Let’s look back at every bug that’s been reported so far in 2022:

1/5 – “Generate a different default avatar” link didn’t work for a coach modifying the user settings for a Personnel (2 minute fix, $10 credit).

1/6 – Button to reopen a past Company Engagement didn’t work (2 minute fix, $10 credit).

1/21 – If you were in a time zone sufficiently ahead of the server timezone, and set an invoice to send out to your client tomorrow at a time that was sufficiently early to make an effective sending time that came before midnight in the server’s timezone, the invoice would send immediately rather than at that time tomorrow (20 minute fix, $30 credit).

1/24 – Someone else’s rogue implementation of the iCal calendar data interchange feed was providing “Opaque” rather than the spec standard of “OPAQUE” to indicate an event time as busy instead of free, and thus CA was interpreting those event times as free instead of busy, leading to scheduling times erroneously showing as available (60 minute fix, $50 credit).

1/31 – The app exploration map, which registers what you have and haven’t already tried in the course of exploring CA’s functionality, was not properly registering the completion of a client agreement that included a signature by the freebie client (5 minute fix, $20 credit).

2/7 – ICS files were not being attached to the “Your appointment request has been accepted” notification emails to clients for those coaches that take client schedulings as requests that need to be approved (10 minute fix, $30 credit).

That’s it!  $150 later we have a CoachAccountable that is slightly better and more perfect for all.  AND we’re proud to have made a point of honoring and thanking everyone who brought even the least consequential of flaws to our attention.

Bottom line: if you find and report a bug in CA, you’re being a blessing, not a nuisance.  It is our joy to make you feel that way AND to get the issue sorted for good.

  1. “Problem Exists Between Chair And Keyboard.”  Sometimes an issue IS just plain user error, but assuming as much is dismissive, rude, and unhelpful.

Group Activity Digests

One of the most powerful things about CoachAccountable Groups is they allow you to foster a real sense of community among your group members.  Among other ways, this happens via messages and comments posted by members of the group.

If you’ve got an active community wherein the conversation is lively among participants, it’s great to keep the conversation going by way of notifications: group members can opt to get emailed anytime there’s a new message posted.  This allows them not only to stay aware like in a group chat, but also the convenience of replying right from their email to comment back (and have that comment, in turn, go out to other group members).

But sometimes, sometimes, the group is too big and the conversation gets a little too lively.  You don’t want to overwhelm anyone’s email inbox, yet members outright unsubscribing from those notifications poses its own problems to participation.

Happily, there’s now a middle road that nicely accommodates this situation: Group Activity Digests.

As manager of a group, under Settings >> Participation for a given group you’ll now find the ability to enable Group Activity Digests for your group.

The checkbox control to enable Group Activity Digests

Group managers can also set a template for the digest emails: a suitable subject and a preamble message that will precede whatever summary content will be sent.

Subject and preamble message controls for Activity Digest emails

Here you can see what we’ve got for our own community group.

Beyond mere enabling, you can set a “Suggested Activity Digest”, which serves as the default schedule for members to receive digests:

Controls to set a suggested schedule for activity digests

Weekly on Fridays at 10am, sounds reasonable! Like elsewhere, these times will be relative to the recipient’s time zone, i.e. in this example, everyone will get it at 10am in THEIR time zone.

When a suggested schedule is set in this manner, group members can individually opt out OR customize the schedule further to their own tastes.  When one is set, group members can still opt for some alternate schedule they set for themselves.

Group members can themselves see and set their group membership preferences by clicking the “Membership Preferences…” button found at the bottom of the left column menu of the Group Page.  Coaches can themselves see and update the membership preferences of client members (from the Membership >> Client Members tab, clicking the gear icon reveals the option to do so).

Here’s what it looks like for coach to set the preferences of one of their client group members:

Controls for a client's membership preferences

If one of your clients can’t be bothered to set this for themselves, no worries: you’ve got the power.

And that’s all there is to setting it up!  Once set in motion, group members who have opted for it (either by being set to follow the group suggestion, when applicable, or by their own schedule) will receive digest emails of group activity at the appointed times.

Group digest emails will consist of comments and messages posted to the group since the last time the recipient got a digest.  Note that they WON’T contain other activity like Worksheets or Actions, because those generally go out to group members with their own timely notifications.

Here’s an example of what one looks like:

A sample of a Grou Activity Digest email

Same one-click access to view and respond as individual item notifications!

Faded comments are ones that AREN’T new since the date range covered by the digest, they’re just there for context.  (At most only 2 or 3 earlier comments are included; for longer threads the number of earlier comments is indicated by that grey button, which is clickable to visit the whole thread in-app.)

Just like notification emails of individual comments and messages, the digest emails make it very easy to either to view an item in-app, or post a comment on a given thread right from the comfort of your own email inbox.

And that about covers it!  If you’ve got a lively group and folks are feeling overwhelm in their inbox, setting a routine digest of group activity offers the perfect balance to keep members informed and engaged.