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Wed 18 May 2005
A Workflow that looks like it may work. Plus other things
Category : Technology
I've added an SSL cert (try it) to our web site so that we can help guide people who paid for Postfix Enabler back to the page that contains their serial number. Until we did, a dialog box often pops up that interferes with the process. The dialog box helpfully explains that you're going back from a secure page (PayPal's) to a non-secure page (ours) but we're finding that many people click "Cancel" at this point and totally miss their serial number. Adding the ability to serve secure pages of our own allows us to keep the whole transaction in secure ("https") mode, at least until the serial number has been safely delivered.
We're also sending the serial numbers out via two routes over e-mail, just in case one fails. About 5% of mail servers will reject mail coming from a dynamic IP address. This may be OK in correspondence but even that 5% would be fatal in real-time e-commerce. Even one irate user who didn't get his serial number is one unhappy customer too many.
There are various ways to solve this, including using a smart host and routing it through another mail server that has a static IP address. But the long term solution is to have a static IP address of our own, at which point a lot more fun things get to be possible to do. But we'll come to it when we come to it.
I'm glad that this is stabilising. That cut down a lot of support calls. In the first few days since Tiger launched, I was swamped with support calls. And so I added that note about using the Red Cross in Postfix Enabler (to give the application a chance to force-check through all the configuration). I featured that prominently in the Postfix Enabler web page, in Version Tracker and in MacUpdate. And I was amazed at its immediate effect in reducing the chatter.
What I learned over the last two weeks is that designing a McDonald's-like workflow involves a blend of both the high-tech and the low-tech. I couldn't have done it without Hai Hwee's very fine system to channel all the transactions through. But it needs a touch of the human - to survey the kinks in the system and decide what needs to be done next, and to be able to provide something as simple as instructions written in good plain English, inserted at the right places in the workflow. Machines can't do that. Only humans can.
I've always been interested in thinking about ways to use technology to drive a business in all its facets - communicating with a user base, offering goods and services, delivering the products on time, providing support, and accounting for the flow of money. And, in particular, about exploiting the Mac as a technology platform, for which I feel there is a vast hidden potential.
Doing this - this web site and getting mail from the people who've downloaded the stuff I've put up - has put me in touch with a lot of people who're thinking along the same line. There's a whole mass of people who're using their Macs for their businesses. You don't see it in Apple's advertisements about iPods and all that stupid talk about keeping the user base in "silos" as one Apple guy here propounded. It's a huge market - this business market - waiting to be served.