Support Portal Upgraded

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I mentioned back in November 2010 that I was a licensed developer for Maian Support, but some of you may have noticed since then that I haven't upgraded $7 Tools Support to Maian Support from Ticket Desk Pro. Unfortunately, MS 2.0 didn't allow me to create tickets programmatically, which is important for me when a customer purchases a 7DSS installation, so I put off upgrading until that feature was available. (A bug in TDP allowed me to do this, a bug that MS doesn't have.)

Several days ago, though, version 2.1 of Maian Support (which I helped beta test) was released, which—among other things—offers an API for adding tickets via an XML data post. Several other features in MS 2.1 (improvements from 1.0 and TDP) that make this a great product:

  • ReCAPTCHA — much better spam suppression
  • Per-reply attachments — much easier to share files with customers
  • Ticket portal — customers can see all their tickets
  • Forced selection of departments and hidden departments — some things I asked David for and got
  • Admin notes on tickets — make backend notes for future reference or to share with other users
  • Multi-language interface — customers can choose the language for the system
  • Custom fields — although I'll be waiting until this is a per-department option before I use them

One other thing was holding me back from the upgrade, too: all of the tickets in TDP and eTicket (the system I first used) that I wanted to move into MS but didn't have a converter for. I spent several days writing a converter for each and I'm happy to say that all my tickets are now in Maian Support.

When I get around to it I'll be putting up a page where you can order an installation of Maian Support. The software itself is free (unless you order a commercial license), but installation can be a little tricky. And as an added benefit, I'll convert any data from your existing support system at no charge (some restrictions apply). Until I get that page up, just shoot me a ticket on my brand new support system!

$7 Tools Acquires Download Padlock

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I am pleased to announce that $7 Tools is now not just the exclusive reseller of Download Padlock; $7 Tools has acquired full rights to the product from its creator, Bjorn Persson.

Download Padlock expands the number of files protected in your $7 Secrets Scripts installation from two to a virtually unlimited number. We're proud to be able to continue development of this crucial addition to 7DSS.

Download Padlock 1.2 Released

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Version 1.2 of Download Padlock for $7 Secrets Scripts has been released. This plugin for 7DSS provides multi-file protection for your downloads.

The only change in this version was to provide compatibility with (and require) SourceGuardian and provide compatibility with PHP 5.2.5+. Previous versions were protected by Zend Guard, but were not compatible with the latest versions of PHP.

Updates to Download Padlock are free to all users who have purchased in the last two years.

Changing My Web Host

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After my web host, 100 Megs Web Hosting, once again brought my website down, I'm switching hosting companies for 7dollartools.com. Let me gripe just a little bit and tell you the story.

[Let me be clear that I've been a customer of 100MWH for since early 2003 and I've been greatly satisfied with their exemplary service for most of that time. That's why my conversations with them over the last three days and this post don't convey how ticked off I am at them over these events; I'm attempting to moderate my tone.]

Tuesday afternoon I received a support ticket from a potential customer for Expansion Pack, letting me know that they were getting a SourceGuardian error when they loaded the web page. Indeed, when I checked the server I found that SG—which I use to protect my products and use on this site—wasn't present on the server and thus somewhere around 95% of my site was inaccessible.

This was odd. I asked 100MWH to re-install the extension, just as I had back in November 2010. But this time they refused to install SG. After 11 hours, someone from support told me that they had moved my account to another server (unannounced) and would not be able to reinstall SG.

This was not what I expected. After all, SourceGuardian is a common piece of software; it's similar to Zend Guard and ionCube, and web hosts often install it by default on shared servers. I've only heard of one host that wouldn't install it for my customers upon request. And, of course, they'd already installed previously it at my request.

But, as the owner explained (19 hours after my "That's not acceptable" response)...

"...it's just hard to compile custom things for people in a shared environment. We kind of have to get things standardized here. Otherwise we end up in a situation where we have 30 different clients with 30 different customized items on a server, and it just isn't possible for us to keep track of that sort of thing and keep it all upgraded and in line over the years and upgrade cycles."

I guess I can understand. Except that they had it installed already. Along with ionCube.

Such news, of course, would alone be enough to cause me to move 7dollartools.com to another server. However, I chose to move all four of my accounts with 100MWH and a number of my customers' accounts to a different web host for different reasons.

Did you notice my first statement, that 100MWH brought down my site again? And that the change they made was unannounced? In the last year or so they've made changes to their servers on 5 different occasions that were detrimental to my sites and they failed to warn their customers about the upcoming changes.

That's unforgivable. I understand the need to make changes to hardware and software. Or networks. But to do so without notice to your customers, to prepare them for changes that may affect the software that they're running, is inexcusable.

I can't continue to leave my sites at the mercy of a company doesn't respect their customers enough to give them a "heads up" regarding upcoming changes. 7dollartools.com has already been moved; if you see anything broken as a result, please let me know.

Why An Installer?

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I love programming. I won't say I hate providing support, but I'd rather program. That's why I created an installer for all my Expansions.

The only problem users seem to have when installing is in ensuring that the Source Guardian loaders are installed. The installer checks out the server and gives easy-to-understand instructions if the loaders aren't available. This should eliminate 90% of my support requests. (The remaining 10% are actually now directed to the forum, where users might find their questions already answered.)

The installer also makes sure the user is actually using $7 Secrets Scripts, and I can require a minimum version be present for a specific Expansion. And the installer looks for the files that are required for each Expansion, too.

The user is given a choice to manually enable Admin Expansion Lite (included with each expansion) if it isn't already (a process that involves editing 7DSS's index.php by hand) or allow the installer to do it. Very cool!

Finally, the installer creates default settings files, etc., for the Expansion before it deletes itself (with the user's permission).

Now that I think about it, I may eliminate the installer. Users are encouraged to ensure that Source Guardian is installed before they purchase, so the (same) code in the installer is redundant. And the other functions of the installer can actually be built into the Expansion—each Expansion already creates its default files.

Hmm, back to the drawing board…

Announcing Social Proof Expansion

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One of my newest Expansions came about as a result of seeing AWeber's "recent orders" widget (at the moment called "Who's Joining AWeber?") on their site. My first thought was, "How much would my sales increase if visitors saw that $7 Secrets was being purchased by others?"

So, I quickly whipped up some code to display my own "Recent Orders" widget, pulling in data from my purchase file to show not only names and relative dates, but also where the customer was located. And Social Proof Expansion was born!

I really had a lot of fun with this Expansion, since it was the first to have the in-place configuration feature that's now standard across my line of products. Tying in to an external service for location data and caching that data was new to me. And putting in some nice touches like hiding the "time since" if any sales were over a week old really gave me some pride in my work.

Social Proof Expansion is $7 and can be used in unlimited $7 Secrets Scripts installations. And, yes, I've seen a bump in conversions as a result of using it.

Announcing Landing Page Expansion

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Back in 2008, I was asked by a 7DSS user about using multiple sales pages, or landing pages, to funnel traffic from different sources. I offered a suggestion which involved pasting some code and which didn't track the page for conversion purposes. But it was the start of a new Expansion which has finally been released.

Landing Page Expansion gives you the ability to display multiple sales pages for your front-end product and define custom actions to show specific sales pages. Configuration is easy and takes place right in your browser.

Conversion data will be reported by 7DSS for each additional sales page you use with Landing Page Expansion, just as for your other sales pages. And affiliates will receive credit if they promote a specific page, too!

Landing Page Expansion is $7 and can be used in unlimited $7 Secrets Scripts installations.

Announcing Checkout Expansion

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You've spent a lot of time getting your site just right, but you probably haven't given any thought to the payment process other than "Okay, 7DSS sends the buyer to PayPal and then they come back after paying."

Depending on who's being paid for the sale and the type of PayPal account you or your affiliate has, though, the buyer can see a number of variations in the checkout pages, most of which don't have any relation to your site or product. It's understandable that the customer would have some hesitation in paying for your product when they've been taken to a completely different site that seemingly has no connection with yours.

Checkout Expansion has been released to combat the lost sales you've been experiencing. This Expansion for $7 Secrets Scripts provides customization settings for PayPal checkout, allowing you to define a custom logo, banner image and background color that display when your customer goes through the payment process. This adds credibility to your business and helps prevent order abandonment. And the branding appears on affiliate sales, too!

Checkout Expansion is $7 and can be used in unlimited $7 Secrets Scripts installations.

Announcing Expansion Pack

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If you've been with me a while, you may remember that my first Expansion for $7 Secrets Scripts was called Expansion Pack. Eventually, I renamed the product Giveaway Expansion—first, because I decided to limit the scope of that product to a single set of features relating to the giveaway function in 7DSS and, second, because I had plans for reusing the name for what I'm finally announcing today.

Expansion Pack is (now) a bundle of all the Expansions I've released up to today: Admin Expansion (the full version), Giveaway Expansion, Sell-Out Expansion, and The $7 Blacklist. But in and of itself that wouldn't really be anything new; I didn't want to release Expansion Pack until I had something more to give you.

So today, while these aren't yet individually available, I'm including three new Expansions in Expansion Pack, making it a real bundle: Checkout Expansion, Landing Page Expansion, and Social Proof Expansion. Briefly (you can click the links for more info), the new products offer some cool, new features for 7DSS:

But wait (I feel like a late-night infomercial announcer), that's not all! Also included are two more Expansions that you can only get with Expansion Pack:

  • Template Expansion: create additional, optional pages that tie into 7DSS actions
  • Snag Plugin: display purchase record data on any 7DSS template

If you've been keeping score, that's a total of 9 Expansions, with a total (counting released, soon-to-be-released, priced-as-if-it-were-released-separately products) retail value of $96. And, as you'd expect, Expansion Pack will be offered at a significant price savings. How much?

$67.

That's 30% off the retail value of the whole package!

But wait, there's more! (No, better than free shipping.)

Bonus #1: Instead of my standard free-updates-for-two-years policy, purchasers of Expansion Pack get all updates to these Expansions for life (the life of the Expansion).

Bonus #2: When (not if) I create additional Expansions, those products will be added to Expansion Pack and previous purchasers will get the new products for free.

I've pretty much rehashed the same deal over at the Expansion Pack sales page; feel free to investigate further there and by using the links above.

Operators are standing by.

The $7 Blacklist 1.1 Released

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Version 1.1 of The $7 Blacklist for $7 Secrets Scripts has been released. The Expansion, which combats affiliate fraud, now supports the in-place configuration feature of Admin Expansion. Setting options for The $7 Blacklist is now handled in your browser.

The $7 Blacklist is free for all users of $7 Secrets Scripts.

Recent Comments

  • Don Morris: If I have my way, it'll be sooner rather than read more
  • Mike: Good reminder. So when is version 2.9 coming out? read more
  • Ron: This is really cool. I just bought all the upgrades read more

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