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Friday Report: September 15, 2023

Hi everyone.

This week there was the Apple event, of course, and most of it was what I expected. Except the release date of Sonoma, which I had hoped and assumed would be more than a month away. Surprise! September 26. So I’m working on the version 1.1 update of Take Control of Sonoma and many other authors are working on many other books, some of which will be released as soon as Monday when—hey!—iOS 17 and iPadOS 17 are coming out.

But even in the midst of all these urgent updates, I had to put everything on hold to work on some issues involving our payment system.

You may recall that we’ve been having some problems with FastSpring and Apple Pay. Those remain unresolved. But this week even more problems cropped up, of which the most serious and widespread was that whenever a customer tried to buy more than three books at the same time, they’d click Check Out and…nothing would happen. (FastSpring simply didn’t respond to that button click at all.) I wish I could say that FastSpring’s tech support is all over these problems, but that would be a fib. I send in support requests, they acknowledge that they have received them, and then I wait, sometimes for many days, for a more meaningful response, and when that response eventually comes, it’s often “We don’t know. Everything looks OK here.” Or “We’ll see if we can maybe get to this in a month.”

In the past couple of days, multiple people have successfully bought four or more books at a time, so either FastSpring fixed whatever was wrong and didn’t tell me, or the problem mysteriously went away on its own, or…I’m not even sure what. It’s hard to declare victory when I don’t know what caused the problem in the first place or why it seemingly stopped.

UPDATE (September 18): FastSpring did eventually acknowledge fixing the “can’t buy more than three books at a time” problem, though the Apple Pay problem is still unsolved.

In any case, I have received an astonishing number of complaints from unhappy people having one problem or another with FastSpring’s payment processing, but of course, as far as our customers are concerned, they’re having problems with us. This is completely intolerable, and let me assure you that no matter how unhappy you may be about this situation, I’m unhappier still, because I have to bear the burden of everyone’s complaints.

What can be done? For over two years, I have been planning to move us to a different payment processor—one that actually has their act together and will pay attention to us. I’ve settled on Paddle, which is used by many fine Mac/iOS/iPadOS software companies you’re undoubtedly familiar with. I started the process back in 2021, but then got a wee bit sidetracked when I had to (checks notes) pack up and move to another country. Since then, that project has been back-burnered due to other priorities. But I think it can wait no longer.

So, this week I’ve spent probably 40+ hours coding, testing, and chatting with Paddle about how to make their system work with ours. I’ve made significant progress! But there are still many things to test and fix, and the devil is in the details. Although simple transactions go through just fine in our test environment, I have to account for a bunch of weird edge cases. What if someone buys a dozen books with nine different discounts (it happens!) and then for some reason we have to refund just a portion of two of those books, but there’s a delay in receiving a notification from Paddle’s servers? Everything has to work, no matter what I throw at it or what goes wrong.

I wish I could tell you it’ll be ready to go next week, but I think that’s excessively optimistic, especially given all the new and updated books we’re rushing to complete. We will turn it on when we’re sure it works, and not a moment sooner. (Writing to tell me to hurry up will have the opposite effect.)

I will continue staying up late, waking up early, and working as hard as I possibly can in between to get all the books out and solve all the problems. Success is not guaranteed. I appreciate your patience and forbearance.

One thing I can promise is multiple updated books next week! Beyond that…it’s hazy. I’ll check in again next Friday.