Engine Room Refit at Attainable Adventure Cruising

Phyllis and I are just about to start making some major upgrades to the software that makes this site work.

Our goals for these changes are:

  • Make the membership system more generic so that in the future we will be easily (relatively) able to upgrade and improve. (We like our current membership software, but being tied to one vendor by the difficulty of changing is not good business.)
  • Improve the way we present our content to search engines, particularly Google. (Vital because half our new members find us initially through a  Google search.)
  • Make it easier to market and sell to non-members, while shielding members from any of that. (We already do this, but we want to make it even better.)
  • Make it easier for existing members to renew and non-members to join.
  • Change our primary credit card processor from PayPal to Stripe, which will allow us, in the future, to offer even easier ways to join and renew.

Improvements You Will See

We are calling this an “Engine Room Refit” since, unlike two years ago, when we improved the design, most of these changes will be invisible. The exceptions are:

  • Members will no longer need to type in their email (and website) each time they comment.
  • Our best deals on membership, that automatically renew, will no longer require a PayPal account, although that will still be an option for those of you who prefer PayPal.

Small stuff initially, but the refitted engine room will let us roll out more good stuff in the future—if you have suggestions, please leave a comment.

This Might Not Be Fun

That’s the good news. Now the cold reality: Despite the fact that we have spent a good chunk of the winter planning and testing every step, the chances of us pulling this off without breaking something, or more likely several somethings, is slim to none.

Or to put it another way, I suspect that the next few weeks at AAC will feel like a shakedown cruise after a major refit on a boat—not that much fun, but we know it will be worth it in the end.

Rest assured that we will be working our butts off to fix stuff that we break.

Passwords

We know for sure that each member will need to log in again, as this change will clear the “remember me” cache. Sorry, there is no way around that.

(Don’t forget to check “remember me” when you log back in.)

The good news is that, except for about 15 members who have special characters in their usernames, everyone’s login will remain the same. (We will work directly via email with those 15 to make the change as painless as possible.)

Keeping the same passwords was not a trivial thing to pull off since your passwords are encoded—hashed and salted, for you techies—so even we can’t see them. So this required some kinky database manipulation.

Talking of passwords, we have made the automated passwords that you get if you have forgotten yours much easier to type, particularly on mobile devices.

Downs

We will be taking the site down for maintenance several times while we make these changes. Most of these outages will be short (5-10 minutes) but there will be at least one longer one of a couple of hours or so.

Site Speed

We also know that the site will be a little slow while we are doing this since the old and the new will be running in parallel for a week or two.

Tell Us

Let me close by asking for a favour: If you experience anything at all that does not work properly, or even that’s just inconvenient or irritating, please tell us with a comment to this post, or an email. We will get right on it.

Posting

One more thing, our posting schedule may be a bit erratic while we do this.

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Meet the Author

John

John was born and brought up in Bermuda and started sailing as a child, racing locally and offshore before turning to cruising. He has sailed over 100,000 miles, most of it on his McCurdy & Rhodes 56, Morgan's Cloud, including eight ocean races to Bermuda, culminating in winning his class twice in the Newport Bermuda Race. He has skippered a series of voyages in the North Atlantic, the majority of which have been to the high latitudes. John has been helping others go voyaging by sharing his experience for twenty years, first in yachting magazines and, for the last 12 years, as co-editor/publisher of AAC.

15 comments… add one
  • Dick Stevenson Mar 20, 2018, 6:47 pm

    Hi John,
    I wish you and yours the best of luck with this transition.
     Just an FYI: You wrote, “Members will no longer need to type in their email (and website) each time they comment.”
    I do not need to nor have I ever needed to in my memory, type in my name and email address when I comment. It is always done for me (and many thanks for that).
    My best, Dick Stevenson, s/v Alchemy

    • John Mar 21, 2018, 7:55 am

      Hi Dick,

      I wish I could take the credit, but I think it’s your browser doing that. Anyway, when we get done, you won’t even be asked for those fields.

  • GmA Mar 21, 2018, 8:10 am

    Good Luck with the upgrade – I know how tricky this can be but I am sure with your attention to detail the bugs will be minimal

  • Myles Mar 21, 2018, 8:21 am

    Well, I’m sure that change is good. Though I’m glad I can still use PayPal and hope there will be no problems on that. (disclaimer: I own a small amount of stock in PayPal)

    Just curious…what is driving your change (and others such as eBay) away from PayPal?

    • Rob Gill Mar 21, 2018, 5:49 pm

      Hi Myles,
      As an international member renewing just this week, I needed to take the three year package rather than the annual renewable option, as I don’t have PayPal nor want to.

      From my perspective, Visa or MasterCard work just fine and offer protection against fraudulent transactions should my details get in the wrong hands. Our bank rings us if there is a transaction that appears out of place – the few times it has happened being transactions somewhere in North America for less than $10 (apparently the scammers first test the card and then hit it with a big $ amount).
      So I am happy with this change – I would have taken the annual renewable option had it been easy for me. Hope this helps.
      Rob

      • John Mar 22, 2018, 7:12 am

        Hi Rob,

        Yes, it is mainly for people that feel the way you do that we made this change. The whole idea is to make renewals just as easy and painless as they can possibly be.

    • John Mar 22, 2018, 7:10 am

      Hi Myles,

      We will be keeping the PayPal option, just as it is, but adding the ability to pay for a automatically renewing membership via credit card without the need to join PayPal, so the best of both worlds.

      As to why we are changing to Stripe for credit card processing. For many years, PayPal had pretty much a monopoly on payment processing for small companies like ours, and, like most monopolies, they got very difficult to deal with. They have got a bit better in recent years, but Stripe, as the newcomer, works really hard to be easy to use for merchants. They also have some really cool features that will help us improve our renewal rate, which is vital to our long term survival.

  • Steve Mar 21, 2018, 7:44 pm

    Please allow us to change our login name in the new system…

    Good luck with this – they are always tough. I know I will be patient.

    • John Mar 22, 2018, 7:20 am

      Hi Steve,

      Unfortunately changing user names is not on the cards. AAC, like most sites these days, runs on an SQL database, and so their needs to be one field that used used to link everything together. In our case, and most any site with a login, that field is the username, so it can’t be changed without breaking all the links.

      That said, why would you want to change your user name? You are the only person (other than us) that ever sees it. Maybe we can solve the issue another way.

      An thanks for the encouragement.

  • Marcelo Mar 21, 2018, 8:12 pm

    Hi John

    I am sure everything will work out with the upgrades to the engineroom, but please do not change the hull color or shape.
    The current set up, including font, layout and table of contents are excellent and pleasing to use.
    Best of luck
    Marcelo (Tatia II).

    • John Mar 22, 2018, 7:23 am

      Hi Marcelo,

      No, no big changes planned for the layout and design. That said, we always wonder if we need to go over to one of those modern flashy magazine type layouts, so it’s comforting to get your endorsement of the current design.

      • Marc Dacey Mar 23, 2018, 5:35 pm

        In my experience, “modern flashy magazine type” means “way more bandwidth” and those of us transiting to living aboard tend to want simple and easy to read on phones, etc.

    • AlbergSteve Mar 22, 2018, 12:40 pm

      X2.

  • Ronnie Ricca Apr 1, 2018, 3:26 pm

    Just auto-renewed recently again, thanks for the great job y’all are doing! Just wanted to say thanks!

    Blessings,
    Ronnie

    • John Apr 2, 2018, 8:12 am

      Hi Ronnie,

      Thanks for the kind words and the renewal.

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