By the Comradery Development Team
Welcome to the Comradery Alpha! This project is where you have the option of supporting us during development so we have more time to dedicate to building the project. Check out the video above for a walkthrough of some of the features, and below are full development reports of our progress.
Any donation made here will be billed monthly and will continue through alpha, beta and beyond until you decide to unsubscribe on the Manage Subscriptions menu. Payments are secured through Stripe and none of your financial information is stored on our servers.
As you explore the site, please keep an eye out for any bugs, inconsistent features, strange wording, or incorrect alerts and click the Report Issue button to submit a bug report. Every bug report helps us build and polish features during alpha to make Comradery a better platform - owned and democratically controlled by creators.
Something many users don’t think about while using a subscription service is what happens when their card expires or is declined. Payments can fail for a lot of reasons, some are expected like not having enough money in your bank account, but some aren’t what you’d expect, like if the United States suddenly declares sanctions against your country and your bank is cut off from global banking networks.
We use Stripe as our payment processor, and for the most part they do a lot of the hard work for us. If you have a credit or debit card with a major bank like Chase, they have a partnership with Stripe where Stripe can automatically detect if you’ve updated your card’s expiration date, and Stripe will communicate that to Comradery and your subscription is uninterrupted. If your card is declined, it’s possible it may have been a fluke or isolated problem, and Stripe automatically re-tries the payment a handful of times during the month until either the payment works or 30 days passes.
Up until now we have been relying on these Stripe features to make sure Creators get paid without requiring a lot of extra steps from supporters. Since global financial systems are complicated, there unfortunately were a number of things that Stripe didn’t catch or fell through the cracks. If a supporter’s payment failed many times in certain cases their subscription would be silently canceled and we didn’t have a good way to handle that. We needed a robust system for communicating payment failures, expired cards, canceled subscriptions, and how to re-activate subscriptions that have lapsed in the past.
Today’s update fixes many of these problems. If any subscription goes into a state of failed payment, we now have clear email contact for what that state is and how to fix it. Even better, if a supporter lets a subscription completely lapse (no payment for over 30 days) and Stripe wipes the record of their subscription, Comradery will keep a record of what Creators and tiers a supporter was previously subscribed to. Once they decide to re-subscribe, there is a brand-new checkout flow for quickly and easily reactivating all subscriptions.
Our primary goal is always consistent, sustainable payments and income for Creators on Comradery. This is a big step to eliminate the messiness of failed and lapsed payments and giving supporters a clear way to resolve these problems without needing any hands-on intervention from the tech team or outreach committee. Ultimately this will mean more money for Creators and a more consistent and less confusing experience for supporters.
We’re looking forward to a great summer with more updates coming soon,
Apologies for letting the devlogs lapse for a while, we’ve been working hard on some underlying architecture improvements that have been preparing us for a better future roadmap. Much of this work has now been accomplished and we’re excited to share about it.
Over the last few months, one of the biggest changes is that Comradery now works with many more types of users, from more places, more reliably. Payment processing and financial systems are (shocker) a very complicated part of web development, and while we’ve been using Stripe to make this simpler we still have to handle lots of different kinds of users and edge cases from a global banking system.
A huge number of these problems have been addressed and we’re very happy with the broader range of users who are reliably able to make payments to creators, and the stability that creators have been able to expect from Comradery. The bugs addressed were numerous and mostly within the payment system.
We’ve also begun partnering with an outside development studio to address future difficult payments processor challenges, and to develop better diagnostic tools for monitoring how Comradery is working at any given moment. The purpose of this is to allow us to shift focus to what everyone wants to see - new features.
We have planned a roadmap for several highly desired new features and payment options that creators have been asking for, and we’re looking forward to sharing these features as they go live. We’re looking to address areas all around the site, from small UX changes to adding major ways that users and creators can communicate.
Hello everyone, a new update has been released!
This time around, our goal was to focus on improving the creator experience by making it easier to manage project pages. In addition to that, many areas of the supporter experience were improved, especially for supporters with multiple subscriptions.
Below is a short list of the new features added -
The highlight to this update is the new configurator for creators to manage their projects.
I’m very excited to share that even though Comradery has been a part-time work of passion for me while my day job is teaching at a technical college, this summer my finances and schedule has worked out where I can work on Comradery full-time until late September. This will hopefully mean speeding up technical releases and onboarding, as well as unblocking some delayed tasks that were put on the backburner this past year.
Our next update is focused primarily on handling errors and lapsed subscriptions. (I know, exciting right?) There are numerous areas where the platform might silently fail a task without giving the user a reason for what went wrong, and these will be fixed. Additionally, we want to address and automate handling situations where a subscription has lapsed because a card was declined.
There are many reasons for card declines, including low-balances and expired cards, but also because of Stripe assessing bank risk and other problems that can be fixed by contacting your bank. Some more exotic problems can come from the United States declaring war on or enforcing sanctions against your country suddenly. As anti-imperialist as I want to be there’s not a lot we can do about that one if it comes up. However, in all of these situations we can generate emails to send to users so they can (hopefully) fix the problem and not interrupt payments or subscription service.
If a subscription has completely lapsed, it’s currently not easy to restart it either. We are planning to add a new checkout flow that can restart a subscription that has completely lapsed to make it easy to return to the same subscription state the supporter was at before the problem showed up.
In addition to addressing more bugs (thanks for filing bug reports!) We also hope to sneak in a couple of feature upgrades to improve the creator and supporter experience, but I can’t promise anything yet.
We’ve got a ton of exciting things planned, thanks for sticking with us during the alpha and for all your help in making Comradery better and better.
We spent a lot of time trying to decide what is the soonest we can bring in more creators in to go live on Comradery, and recently we’ve crossed a major milestone that finally differentiates Comradery from other options like LiberaPay (which is a great service, but for reasons below only allows donations and not exclusive tiers.)
Sales tax, especially in the United States, is unbelievably complicated to deal with as a small business online. Almost every state in the US not only has (at least) one tax rate, but they all require individual tax return filings at different intervals with different kinds of documentation and bookkeeping. This is functionally impossible for small online sellers to deal with, so it protects huge corporations operating “CRM” systems (Etsy, Shopify, Patreon) that have the economies of scale to afford the complicated compliance requirements for these laws. If you’ve ever wondered why you don’t see too many online stores just process their own credit cards without the middle men, this is why.
Services like Liberapay, and other recurring donation services that companies such as Paypal offer, don’t process sales tax for the USA or any other country. Sometimes this leaves the option open for a seller to do it themselves, or sometimes it means you are limited to only accepting donations (known to the IRS as “cash gifts”).
Even though Comradery is microscopic on the scale of internet tech services, it was very important for us to find a way to offer sales tax processing, because this covers ALL exclusive rewards for any creator as far as the US Government is concerned. Through a thread of different services we’ve finally set up a stable way to do this (with some improvements to be made in the future) where Creators won’t have to worry about collecting, remitting, or filing sales tax at all, everything will take place easily and cleanly during checkout for each Supporter.
Long story short, being able to offer exclusive/paywalled posts (aka “digital rewards”) is a pretty special thing to be able to do as an organization even if it isn’t that complicated on the technical side (aside from getting multiple APIs to play nice with each other).
Best of all, it works! Creators have had the option for almost a month to post paywalled content for supporters and post public posts for everyone. We’ve gotten great feedback from people testing this and we’ve addressed most of the specific use cases where people had problems, and we have a couple of more fixes coming out to do with upgrading/downgrading subscriptions. This means that from a technical perspective, we can begin to accelerate the very slow speed that we’ve been onboarding Creators. More invitations are going out each week to creators who are inside the USA and meet the specific criteria set out by our payment processor. Creators outside that group will be able to join with a future version of our payment system.
What’s next? Creators on the platform already know that a lot of features Supporters don’t see are very rough or absent, and much of the backend is handled manually by Majed and myself. We’re working on rolling out a more robust creator dashboard so creators can edit their own project pages whenever they need without going through the dev team. We are also improving email alerts for different platform features, such as better invoice receipts.
The Taxes-and-tiers update was our biggest undertaking yet, and now that we’re past it we are looking forward to releasing features that are a lot more fun for Creators and Supporters.
Until next time,
Welcome to the Alpha!
We’ve soft launched the Comradery alpha and have been running it successfully for a couple months now. Thank you to everyone who has submitted bug reports from the small grammatical fixes to large functionality issues. We’re working through the backlog of bug reports and have addressed many with more slated for an upcoming update.
So what’s new? The big news since the last dev log is of course that real-life creators are now live with their projects. As of this writing we just passed 10, (with more than $5000 processed for creators) with many more invitations going out soon. If you haven’t yet, I really recommend you browse the Explore Projects tab and kick a few dollars in to any projects you think are interesting. Every one of these creators has deeply helped us improve Comradery and they all really deserve your support for their effort.
At launch, we were only able to go live with donations, no exclusive rewards or tiers. The reason for this is because in 2018, sales tax law changed in the United States, requiring platforms like Patreon to collect sales tax on "digital goods". We had a lot to learn about how that worked and needed to partner with an external service who could calculate if a supporter needed to pay sales tax- and to file that sales tax with every US state, not to mention VAT for Europe (most other countries do not require sales tax collection for international digital purchases).
How Sales Tax Works
We ended up going with TaxJar, and have been working through their processes to build out a system where Creators can indicate what tax category their "digital goods" fall under, and then for tax collection and remittance to be handled mostly automatically. For Creators, this means that each tier you set up will be either a Donation (tax-free, cannot provide most exclusive rewards) or taxed under a handful of relevant categories. We are still not set up to handle any physical goods. For Supporters, this means they will have a tax line item at checkout if it is relevant, but otherwise is totally seamless.
Interestingly, it is pretty easy to handle tax returns for every country outside the USA by hand. However, inside the USA every single state has its own laws with overlapping and diverging rules, rates, and highly complex paperwork down to the individual neighborhood you might live in. TaxJar is going to handle this for us, and since they were bought by Stripe will likely fold into the StripeTax system, which currently doesn't offer the features we need.
Now here's the good stuff - new features on the website. We're rolling out updates for several important pages, such as a project page view for supporters who are already supporting you having better access to posts, and for individual articles to have a better viewing experience that gives users an option to subscribe to creators.
The big one mentioned above is that creators will finally be able to offer subscription tiers to supporters, where you can lock posts behind tiers to offer the same exclusive media that can be offered on platforms like Patreon. This was always intended to be the 'minimum viable' state of Comradery and be the true differentiating factor from other awesome projects like Liberapay. It's not out yet but this system will allow us to offer creators the features that are really needed to make use Comradery the way it is intended.
Comradery will remain "In Alpha" until we have launched all the features we have planned, such as Discord and other integrations, a robust Creator dashboard, and more. Once Comradery moves into Beta it will be 'feature complete' and we will be focused on stability and robustness of the platform and the organization.
As we move through Alpha, we will be able to speed up how many creators we onboard. I really appreciate your patience if you're waiting, I promise we're doing this so we can keep everyone safe and engaged and keep everything working as we're bringing people online.
I'll be back with another post when these new features go up, talk to you then
What do you think about the new email design? It's not completely done, but is cleaner and works on more devices.
We’re in August now, and I have some new development updates to share. I’m going to talk a little bit about the creator backend along with some other fixes and updates that are going live. A lot of the changes aren’t ones you will see yourself for a few more weeks, but they are very important as we approach our Alpha milestone.
Finally, a deadline for Alpha!
We’ve set our tech deadline for Alpha for August 14th, where we will pivot to setting up the first wave of creators to launch in alpha in the days following that. Alpha will start with few features, and then have features added (such as tiers, locked posts, better emails, and more) enabled in the following weeks with testing from some early adopter Creators. We’ll be sharing on twitter and on our Creator Email List when we announce the first Creators who are launching on the site, so keep an eye out!
Attack of the bots
A botnet got us in their sights recently and bypassed some anti-spam measures. When thinking about fixing this problem, avoiding using Captchas is a high priority if at all possible, because none of the mainstream captcha systems that are available function correctly with screen readers or other accessibility aids. After 4000 bots registered accounts in one day, we were able to set up a honeypot in the signup forum that has prevented any more signups from completing successfully that were not made by humans.
Part of the essential experience of sites like Patreon is that posts can be centered around a specific type of media as a ‘hero asset’ instead of just blog posts. The blog posting feature is good to go, you saw it in the last update, this time around we’re completing the different kinds of post types. You will be able to make a text post, upload an image, post a YouTube video (we will automatically pull the thumbnail and insert it into emails), link to an audio file on a platform like SoundCloud, or link to a podcast player from your chosen podcast host, and you can upload your own album art for placement in emails and on the site.
You’ll need a place to choose what media type to post, and so we’ve started working on a project dashboard for each of your Projects. For now, this is a place to see basic information and create new posts, save drafts, and publish drafts, but in the future it will be the hub of settings, posts, tiers and more for your project administration.
More accessibility fixes
Numerous menus were not “tabbable” and couldn’t be read in the correct order by screen readers, this has been fixed. We still need to complete a full accessibility audit and fix areas that are missing ARIA tags, and other important accessibility features.
That's all for this post, we're going to be working hard on the remaining deliverables for alpha, so keep an eye on our Twitter and Email List for some exciting announcements soon
Hey there Comradery supporters -
A new update is live! I'm publishing this first devlog to kick off some new communication features that we just made live on Comradery. If you're receiving this in your email inbox, that's one of the new features! Project supporters now get post announcements and newsletters directly to their email. I am going to structure development logs with a brief description at the top with some bullet points for major feature releases, then in the next section I'll share some things we're working on for upcoming updates.
New In This Update
What We're Working On
Once again, thanks for your support! The development team has passed $200 in monthly donations to give us more hours every week to work on Comradery. Our next goal is $500 per month. Please consider pitching in a monthly donation to help us get future updates out the door faster (Link here: https://comradery.co/development ). These development logs are always available to everyone, but supporters who donate will get them in their email inbox as soon as they are posted.
Thanks again for everyone's excellent bug reports and feedback! If you encounter problems or want to let us know about a problem, please use the blue "Report an Issue" button found everywhere on the website. If you want to chat about anything else, drop us a line at [email protected]
I'll report back with the next update soon,