Low-key Releases

Every Friday we publish release notes, a digest of features, improvements, and bugfixes (and videos and whatnot) that have trickled out of our office over the previous week. Sometimes there's a marquee release—some big new feature that adds something significant to Populi's abilities—but most weeks, it's all small-potatoes kinda stuff. But it's these minor updates that best depict what we're doing here. The small, iterative items that either improve how you do what you're already doing or smooth out the small interactions you have with Populi are more likely to impact your day than something that merits front-page news.

So, here's the inaugural installment of some periodic looks at some of these low-key releases.

Last September ↗️

"There's a new Unmask/Copy button for SSN's so you no longer have to edit the field to see a student's full SSN/SIN."

We've always been pretty finicky about Social Security Numbers. In addition to the security measures we have in place for all your Populi data, we added a few extra access controls and "masked" the SSN on profiles (e.g. displaying ***-**-1234 instead of 123-12-1234) to make them that much harder for unauthorized people to get at. But those extras also introduced some headaches in some legitimate use-cases. Before, you’d have to edit the SSN to even see the whole thing, and that introduced some potential issues—say you were trying to copy it for inclusion in a report, and you accidentally edited part of it. So, the unmask option lets you lay your eyes upon it (for 30 seconds, then it disappears again), and the copy option lets you easily copy-paste it, no risky editing required.

Last November ↗️

"The Advised Students report has the new checkbox functionality we've been rolling out across Populi reports."

In May of '22 we started adding checkboxes to reports around Populi. These handy little squares let you select specific people returned by your report filters to include in bulk actions or exports. They were initially developed to let you perfom apply/forfeit actions en masse on the Deposits report, but it quickly became clear that most of Populi would benefit from this kind of granularity. The initial rollout of this feature speckled checkboxes over a variety of reports in Academics, Admissions, and Financial, and now we're working our way through the rest of Populi. Checkboxes really come in handy for a report like Advised Students, where the more options you have to attend to the needs of individuals, the better.

Last December ↗️

"Awhile back we'd undertaken an effort to update the code underlying Populi's online payments features. That effort seems to have been completed with this week's rewrite of the online donation page to better handle credit cards and ACH charges that require two-factor authentication."

Periodically we rewrite swathes of Populi's back-end code to make it more efficient and compatible with the constantly-evolving requirements of web security. Thus with this rewrite, which we unfurled across three or four releases with barely a single perceptible change visible to regular users. Frankly, this is the kind of update that can produce a lot of problems—slapdash updates to online payments would inflict some stupefying headaches on our customers. We have a few defenses against that. First, we employ some truly nerdy coders who enjoy putting all the dots and dashes and brackets and whatnot in just the right places. Second, we have another group of nerds who perform QA, or Quality Assurance; their job is to find problems with what the coding nerds crafted and try to break all their stuff. Third, we have a cautious development philosophy here. That is, it's far more worth it to us to provide uninterrupted, consistent service than it is to rapidly modernize code we'd like to replace. In this case, we turned on the new stuff for a select few customers and watched it like a hawk; after enough time elapsed without any issues we updated everyone else's Populi sites. Even though this update didn't produce anything flashy, we're confident that it will nonetheless provide you with a stable, boring, surprise-free way to fetch funds from payers and donors for the foreseeable future.