Podcast Episode 53 - Where We Are and What 2019 Will Look Like

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Podcast Episode 53 - Where We Are and What 2019 Will Look Like

Well, we've finished v8.5, and we're on to new things!

Core updates:

As usual, as we're going down the roadmap of what's going to be included in the next version of Rock, we're also adding some features that churches have wanted. Version 9 is going to have some really incredible new registration features.
Some of the registration features to look forward to:
  • Conditional fields on a registrant (such as a field that only appears with another option is picked). The conditions can even be based on multiple fields- they're really powerful
  • Limits on fees, so that only a certain number of people can choose a specific fee. (Maybe you have a limited number of small T-shirts, for instance).
  • Have attributes for the registration itself, not just registrant attributes. These will show up either at the beginning or end of the registration as you choose, and will be really useful for things like getting information about childcare needs.
We're also officially making good progress on volunteer scheduling. Some of the blocks should be wrapped up this week and there are a few more to go, but we're making good progress.
The only other feature we've promised for this release is new digital signatures. We have some thoughts on how that will work, and also some challenges ahead to make sure that it's going to have everything the community will be looking for.
Looking back, it's neat to see how these features really align with what the community is telling us. And we really value the community- we love that you're here, talking with us about how you're using Rock, because that helps us understand how these features are going to be used. And we think that the new features are going to drive desires for even more advanced registration features that we're going to start sketching out in January. Stay tuned for more on that though, because we're probably going to need some community help in ideas and funding.
As you can see, we're really excited about version 9 and we think you will be too, but we're even more excited to start work on version 10.

Community:

Speaking of fun things for the community, as we record this we're right in the middle of Chip's 12 Days of Christmas. We have 12 gifts, ranging in size from super huge gifts, to some little fun things. A lot of these are things that we've wanted to do for awhile, and this has given us a reason to get them done and out the door now.
  • The new Ideas page, where your ideas are public and people can vote on them. We'll devote some of our development time each release to work on the most popular ideas. Each church gets 20 votes every 30 days, so if you use your votes wisely, you can maybe get the things you want added to Rock. And it brings parity in that large churches and small churches all get the same number of votes.
And we really appreciate the people who have been putting detail into their ideas - some people are including screenshots, and more importantly, some people have been telling us _why_ they have this idea, which is really important in helping us understand the goal, and helping others understand it as well to get the votes. Don't just give a one- or two-sentence idea; really sell why it's a great idea!
  • You can get a really great, soft Chip blanket
  • We offered a Chip sticker, although that was only a one day event.
  • And today, we announced that we're moving off of Slack and moving over onto RocketChat. This is a platform that we're maintaining now, so we can keep all of our history. We've even been running it for several months, so you'll notice when you get in that there's already more history than was available in Slack. We really loved Slack, but with the way our community is growing we just really outgrew it. There are even additional customizations we have the ability to use now; we've integrated your login with your rockrms.com login on the desktop and on the web. We've even got an iframe chat experience on our website for more casual users, and the power users have all the options of full apps you're used to.
  • Lava color filters - now it's really easy to build a complementary color palette using Lava. This item, as well as a few items next week, are actually directly from community suggestions and ideas. 

Wrapping up 2018:

As you can see, there's a lot going on around here- it's a busy time and not just because of the 12 Days of Christmas. But this is also the time of year when we review the pledges and actual donations from the last year- this is what lets us keep doing the work we're doing! So we wanted to give a quick pledge update.
First, we've heard from some members of the community that our pledge system could be a little confusing (pledges being for the calendar year rather than a 12 month cycle from when the pledge is made). Also, we always know that situations arise at churches, where for whatever reason the balance will need to change at the end of the year, and we build in a little bit of room for that.
But right now we're aware of a balance of about $34,000 of pledged money which will not be met this year, plus about another $50,000 where we're still trying to make contact to find out the status. So in all, we've been given about $84,000 less than we were planning on this year. That's a really big number for our small team. So if you've received a pledge update communication and it's a little bit short, even if the money is already on its way, would you mind dropping a line to us and letting us know that it's on the way? And if you've got a little bit of money left over in your budget that you're just going to lose, would you consider making a contribution to our team?
Now, in response to the sometimes confusing nature of the pledge system, we're rolling out a new pledge system for 2019. We're calling it "Commitments". We're just asking you to tell us how much you're committing, and when you plan to start. Hopefully that will make it much more straightforward for you to use. And we won't have to come back every year and ask again- we'll just assume everything is "status quo" until you tell us that something's changing.
And it's easy to access- if you're logged in to rockrms.com, you can click on your organization. Or you can go straight to rockrms.com/commitments if you're the pledge contact for your organization and access it there. This page will also help you see whether you're donating at the recommended level of $1.50 per average weekend attendee per year, which will also give you early access to new major releases of Rock as they're released.

Community-driven initiatives:

Rock Mobile App
We're working with Southeast Christian Church to provide a community-supportable version of Avalanche, which they developed and showed at the Rock Conference this year. We're kicking off that project with them mid- to late-January when they fly out to meet with us. We hope this will make it really easy for churches to build their apps off of. We have a new developer starting at Spark next week who will be helping us on our side of that. We know there's a huge buzz and interest in this, and it's nice to finally have it in a project that we can work on.
Hosting.
We're still working very hard on this project. The latest challenge is all of the hurdles around sales tax- even this small item has required some ongoing meetings and conferences with multiple other companies. There are so many regulations for small businesses, it's just taking time to navigate our way to doing the right thing. We're also working through the technical issues around SSL, over-provisioning servers, the signup experience, and we're making progress every week. We just wanted to share some of the complexity behind this project.

Core Team

As we mentioned, we have a new senior developer coming on next week. As we've talked about, we've been working on a hiring push for awhile, and it's really starting to come to fruition, which is exciting. As we talked about a few episodes ago, we can't blitzscale like the community is, but we do have to keep up somewhat. So we're probably always going to function like a startup, which means our org chart is constantly changing and being re-evaluated. We don't want to turn into a big, heavy, and slow organization, but we need to make sure that as our company expands we are building it out in the right way. So some upcoming hires will get the full responsibility of quality, project management, and roles that we've never had in a single person before. We're excited because that's going to increase our capacity a lot. And the new people joining the team are really high caliber.

We are looking forward to 2019!

Sponsors:

This episode of Rockcast is sponsored by Rock Partner Impact Factors, provider for mobile solutions, customized mobile and TV apps.