Improved Security at Memverse
There has been a lot in the news recently about security flaws in the internet. We decided to take this opportunity to upgrade the security of Memverse. All traffic to and from the Memverse servers is now encrypted using a technology called SSL. We don't have any reason to suspect that Memverse was compromised previously but, as you've no doubt heard from other websites, this would be a good time to change your password. (You will need to log out first, then follow that link to go through the forgot password process, which will let you reset it.)
This change was also responsible for some of bugs that have caused the site to not function properly on older versions of Internet Explorer. We're still trying to fix that, but this might also be a good time to switch to either Google Chrome or Mozilla Firefox. Microsoft announced today that there is a fairly serious security flaw in all versions of Internet Explorer.
Memverse's Referral System
There have been a lot of questions about the current referral system at Memverse. We have been remiss in explaining both the motivation behind it and the recent changes we have made.
First, we'd like to explain the context. As many of you have no doubt experienced, memorizing the Bible is hard. It requires sustained discipline over a long period of time and the benefits tend to accrue slowly. Consequently, attrition is very high. Well over 90% of people who sign up are no longer active a few months later. We have spent a lot of time trying to make the site more intuitive and easier to use and we will continue to do so. The reality, though, is that "life's worries, riches and pleasures" frequently intrude and users disappear. The valleys in my own consistency chart could be annotated with life events like new babies, moving house, and sometimes just sheer laziness.
When we started Memverse we spent a lot of money advertising the site to attract new users. It cost roughly $10 for each new user. It soon became clear that it would be prohibitively expensive to continue advertising since we had committed to the site remaining both free to use and largely free of advertising (apart from a token ad slot on the blog). Part of the problem was that it was very difficult to target advertising to people who are likely to use Memverse over an extended period of time.
This was the genesis of the referral system: who better than our existing users would know whom to tell about Memverse. We coupled the referral system to the level progression since any such system requires some element of 'reward'. The usual method is to offer a subscription discount, but since we don't charge users, that wasn't possible.
Four months ago, in response to the dissatisfaction that many had expressed, we changed the way referrals are counted. Whereas before no credit was given for inactive referrals, we now give 50% credit. 25% credit was also given for 'referrals of referrals'. We never got round to announcing these changes which unfortunately perpetuated the perception that we were unresponsive on this issue. Sorry about that.
Second, we can assure you that the referral system is essential to Memverse's ongoing existence. Users referred by existing users are far more likely to persist in memorizing. Our hope was that people would be creative in finding ways to spread the word. That was indeed frequently the case and it has been great to see the influx of new users from mini campaigns on social websites and blogs. Advocate marketing can be powerful but we have learned that it is not for everyone.
So what is the path forward? Over time we will likely continue to make the referral system less of an obstacle to level progression as we observe the effects of the change earlier this year. We might also add a page which will allow users to make a financial donation and skip over the referral quests. To be honest, though, we would prefer to work on features that benefit all users.
Finally, growing the number of users is not merely for our own vanity. There are many features (live quizzes is one example) that are only possible at a certain scale. Thanks to all of you who have helped spread the word. Thanks also for all the praise and encouragement -- it more than cancels out the occasional disparaging comments. We have come a long way on a shoestring budget but we still have a lot to do.
Inactive Users & Memory Verse Links
Last night we went through every memory verse in the database to track down and correct the broken links between memory verses which have been causing issues for some users. While that was successful it had the unfortunate side-effect of converting the status of many inactive users to active. This will take a month to resolve itself automatically. In the meantime, this will be a great opportunity to earn some referral badges ;)
Update: the status of most users should be correct again.
memory verse linkage, active users, referrals
We have a new "God Has Spoken" flyer available for download here. I encourage you to take a look at it and print some copies to share!
January is always a great time to invite people to Memverse. Everyone is making a fresh start for the new year and there is a lot of excitement about memorizing scripture.
Thanks to Emeka Rajis for doing an amazing job on the flyer design!
A Zippier Memverse
This weekend we rolled out a global content distribution network for Memverse. In the past, all the web pages were loaded from our data center in California. We are now using Amazon's content delivery network which allows a lot of the content on each page to be delivered from Amazon's (much faster) data centers which are distributed all around the world. Those of you living outside the US should notice substantially faster page loads now.
If you aren't using one of the latest browsers, it is always worth upgrading. Web browsers almost always get faster with each new release. Many of you would get faster load times by using the latest version. Faster load times means more time spent memorizing your verses, and less time waiting around.
Changes to Memory Verse Tags
As many of you commented, the previous tag cloud had become a cluttered mess. For that reason, we have made the following changes in the hope that this will make it more useful.
You will still be able to tag your personal memory verses with whichever tags you wish. For each verse in a given translation, the four most popular tags will become part of the tag cloud and will also show up as the 'Memverse Tags' on verses. The tag cloud will take a few months to reflect all the existing tags and, over time, some of the tags currently in the tag cloud will no longer be represented as other tags become more popular.
Some of you have volunteered to help curate the tag cloud. For now, we are going to let the experiment run a little longer and see what emerges. I realize that many of you will have theological differences with the four most popular tags for any given verse. That is a weakness of any 'democratic' system.
You will notice that some verses don't yet have any 'Memverse Tags' i.e. the four most popular tags have not yet been calculated. Those will be updated as you, or anyone else, continues to tag that verse.
Remember that the tagging system is intended to capture the theme or key ideas behind the verse. In many cases, the best tags will not be words that are in the verse.
Finally, thanks for bearing with us as we complete the migration to our new server. We have solved many of the most fatal problems and will continue to iron out the remaining wrinkles over the next week or so. The change was more complicated and stressful than we had imagined! As we wolf down our turkey tomorrow, we are thankful that it is now behind us.
Moving to a New Home and Renovating
Once the National Bible Bee is concluded, Memverse is going to be simultaneously upgrading to a newer version of our framework (Ruby on Rails) and moving to a new hosting provider. The new framework will provide better performance. The new hosting provider will (we hope) provide more stability.
Here is what you need to know:
- We will give more details closer to the time but the current database will be migrated to the new server. There will probably be a brief period of down time during which Memverse will be unavailable. Our hope is that it will be no more than a few hours.
- We will be deleting from the database any users who have no memory verses in their account. If you would like to maintain your account, please make sure you add at least one memory verse.
- In future you will login using your email address.
Keep reading only if you like living on the edge
We would love people to try out the new site in advance. If you would like to do this, add the following line to your 'hosts' file:
You will know that you're on the new website because there will be a blog post that isn't on the current site. The database on the new site was copied over last night. Anything that happens on the new site will be overwritten when the migration happens. If you do try out the new site, please try and test all the various functionality and clearly report bugs. This will make the transition a less bumpy ride when it eventually happens. Remember that you will have to remove the line in the 'hosts' file to return to the original site.
upgrade, Rails 3.1, hosting
Volunteer on Memverse
We are hoping to do a better job in the future of helping volunteers get involved. In this blog post I'm going to outline some of the ways in which people can volunteer.
Like many organizations, there are currently three main components to Memverse:
- Marketing & Business Development
- Customer Support
One large, self-contained task that we can't seem to find the time to get to at the moment is the creation of an iPhone or Android application. If you would like to tackle this it would make us very happy.
The graphic design of the website (and print materials) is done by Emeka Rajis. If you are a talented graphic designer and would like to work on creating marketing brochures, letterheads, and improving the aesthetics of many of the pages on the website, let us know and we'll put you in touch with Emeka. He is putting together some design guidelines and you would work closely with Emeka.
Phil Walker is responsible for marketing and business development. He is currently focusing on two main areas: spreading the word about Memverse and creating partnerships with other organizations such as Bible Bee and Scripture Memory Fellowship. If you are interested in volunteering on this front, please contact Phil. This is a huge job and he could use a lot of help.
There is currently no one who is primarily responsible for customer support and this is a role we would really like to fill. Alex has been doing a stellar job responding to requests for help on the feedback forum and on the blog but I'd like to free up a lot of the time he spends doing this to work on the website and help implement new features. This role would be a genuine commitment to helping improve the experience of new users and interfacing with the engineering group to outline new features and understand existing ones. It would include all aspects of managing the community. Over time, we would hope to have a team of volunteers helping out with this role.
Finally, if you would have an idea for improving Memverse and would love to take the lead on implementing it, feel free to propose it. Email us with a short paragraph, a concept sketch, a plan, or anything that helps us figure out what your skills are and we'll be sure to point you in the right direction.
There is a lot to be done and we would welcome any help!
Help Verify the New American Standard
First, I'd like to thank those of you who are helping verify verses. It truly is a tremendous help and has freed up our time to work on other components of the site. At the moment, we are short of people to help verify the New American Standard version (NAS). If you're using that translation, and if you're the type of person with high attention to detail, then please consider helping to check that translation. Just visit the verse verification page and follow the instructions. The page does take a while to load since with all the new Bible Bee verses being entered we are struggling to keep up.
verify verses, check verses
Reminder about Referral Competition
The Memverse Referral Competition ends in about two weeks. Now is a great time to refer people because they're guaranteed to still be classified as "Active" in two weeks and they're still be able to refer new members themselves.
referral competition, referrals
Well, we couldn't hold off on upgrading the website framework any longer! You will notice a few minor changes:
One of the biggest reasons to upgrade was for a snappier, more responsive feel. You will especially notice this in the feedback you get when you are memorizing. It had always bothered me that I never knew whether the feedback had been updated (as I toggled backwards and forwards between 'Christ Jesus' and 'Jesus Christ'). For those of you on very slow connections, that should now be clearer as we've added a little icon that shows when the feedback is complete. For the rest of you, you will notice that the feedback comes much quicker now.
I do not have a tremendous fondness for Facebook but they now represent a quarter of all page views on the web and are the biggest source of new users for Memverse. You will notice that the blog pages now have Facebook 'Like' buttons. Over time we will roll out social buttons on some of the other pages which will enable you to push a link directly to your Facebook news feed. It's a great way to promote Memverse. One minor thing to note for now: it's better to click through to the blog post and click the like button on the actual post page. The 'Like' button on the blog front page is just a general link to the Memverse blog. For those of you who don't eat, breathe and sleep social networking, clicking on one of these buttons will push out a news item on your Facebook page.
upgrade, Rails 3.0, social buttons
We will very shortly be upgrading the website to a more recent version of the framework software (Ruby on Rails 3.0). You probably won't notice much difference but it is a very big change that has required months of work. We're very close to being able to deploy the new version. Unfortunately, as happened this morning, there is a chance that as we test the new framework, the current site will come crashing down. We're hoping to minimize the outages as much as possible but if you see cryptic error messages and can't login, it's because we're stuck halfway down the upgrade path. Sometimes it's difficult at that point to know whether to try to revert back or keep pushing forward.
Update: our hosting company has decided to upgrade the entire server now so there is a small chance Memverse will disappear for a short while. Fear not, we'll be back.
Volunteer to Verify Verses
As both the number of users and the number of translations has grown, we have more and more memory verses being entered each week. After returning from Christmas we realized that the number of verses that need verification had become very daunting. So there is now a new page where you can help verify verses.
The page takes a while to load but you will get a list of the verses in your translation that haven't yet been checked. There are instructions on the page on how to do this. Once you have made any corrections, the verse will go to a final verification step. We have been testing this out with some early volunteers and it has already dramatically reduced the time we spend correcting verses.
Over time, we will add alerts for when there are verses that need to be checked. For now, NIV and a couple of the other major translations are already up to date.
P.S. We're thrilled at the response to the referral competition. We have a record number of new users the past two weeks.
verse verification, checking verses
Announcing the Memverse Referral Competition
As we all know, the start of a new year is a great time for resolution making and it is a great time to refer people to Memverse. We are going to run a competition from now until Easter, April 24th 2011. The more people you refer to Memverse, the more chance you will have of winning one of the three prizes:
- A Silver New Beginnings Pendant
- The $100,000 Word by Daniel Staddon
- A $25 Amazon gift certificate
The winners will be chosen randomly from the Referral leaderboard but the higher your referral score, the more chance you will have of being chosen. If you have a score twice as high as someone else you will have twice as much chance of being chosen. Three people will win and the one with the highest score will get to pick their prize. The second highest score will pick next and the third highest will get the remaining prize.
I'm hoping that people will be creative in finding ways to refer people. Feel free to post links on your Facebook page, post a flyer in your church, email people you know, add a link from your blog, buy Google Adwords (there are lots of free coupons available on the web). Remember to use your referral link to make it easy to get credit. However, please do not spam people and give Memverse a bad reputation. Targeting a few influential people who have a passion for memorizing will be much more effective.
Remember that you will also benefit from the people they refer so the sooner you start the better.
Memverse & the Home of New Beginnings
As we approach Christmas, Memverse has partnered with the Home of New Beginnings, a safe haven for the victims of human trafficking in Thailand. We are selling silver and gold pendants with all the profit going to support the work of the home.
I would love it if you would consider supporting this ministry. We know the couple, Roy and Bonita Thompson, who started the home in Thailand and endorse what they are doing with great enthusiasm. My wife, Erin, has been working on this project since the beginning of this year and her friends who founded RedStart Design very kindly agreed to offer the pendants below cost, with all profits going to the Home of New Beginnings.
The silk bags that the necklaces ship in are made by the girls who now live at the Home of New Beginnings. If you order in the next few days, we'll make sure that the pendants arrive in time for Christmas. More importantly, we'll make sure that the profits get to the Home of New Beginnings in time for their Christmas party where they invite girls to come and learn about the freedom we all have in Christ.
To learn more, watch the video, read the article, and then buy someone you love a pendant with a purpose. :)
Home of New Beginnings, pendant