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Why Venmo is a Win - for You

Last year we did this Shakespeare thing. It was cool. Don't knock Shakespeare - especially when it's three guys doing all his plays.  

Oddly enough, it was three of us that had seen 'The Complete Works' before, decided to see it again, and figured we could invite a few friends. We ended up with a group of 30.

Purchasing the tickets was a blast: "Hey, I'd like to order 20 tickets." 

The next day: "Yeah, I called yesterday and bought 20 tickets, can I add 2 to that order?" 

A few days later: "I was wondering if I could add another 4 tickets to my order of 22?" 

A week or so: "How about make that an even 30 - okay? Oh, and I get an extra ticket for large groups? Yeah, we'll probably use that."

As you can imagine, getting all the funds together was amazingly fun as well. Cash here, checks there, and even Paypal and Amazon.

Did you know you can send money with Paypal and Amazon using text messaging. You can, and it's cool. You know that time where no one has cash and you're trying to split the bill? Just text people the money. Easy as that. 

Well, there are a few catches. You need to setup your account to send money via text. But I guess that's not too hard. But there's only other problem.

They charge you.

That's right. If someone pays using a credit card - you're charged. Even though I had a separate PayPal account for business, and all Shakespeare funds were sent to my non-business, completely personal PayPal account - I still paid transaction fees on every payment. Because everyone funded the payment with a credit card.

Really? Who keeps a PayPal balance.

So much for splitting up that dinner check. It's cool to tip the server, but tipping PayPal too? Not so cool. I'm not quite sure how Amazon handles things, but from what I remember, it wasn't a smooth process either.

Yeah, I understand that card transactions have fees, and they're just passing them on to me. I'm not saying it's unfair - just that it makes 'paying by text' unattractive in most of the situation where it would be useful.

Enter Venmo.

They do the pay by text thing too. You can even pay by twitter user name. And they don't charge individuals to use a credit card. It's 'pay by text' that is actually useful, and easy to use. 

The interface is dead simple. You can pay a phone number, charge a phone number -- and here's an interesting feature, 'trust' a Venmo user. Trusted users can take money from you're account (you can review and reject), making splitting that check (or charging for that domain you registered for someone) even easier.

Venmo is currently in beta, but if you need an invite, just let me know. Yeah, I have connections. But more importantly, invites.

Tim Lytle [03/25/10 12:54:30] | 4 Comments | Point

Chile and RSS Feeds

So The Kid is in Chile. Nope. He didn't rush there upon news of an earthquake. He went the day before. Yeah, take that Red Cross.  

Needless to say he was surprised by the earthquake (no, sarcasm-intolerant reader, he didn't know that the quake was going to happen, ignore that first paragraph). However, sine he and others were there, they started the outreach and relief efforts pretty quickly. 

Understandably there were plenty of people back here wanting to know what was going on. Since The Kid knows I dig this internet stuff, he called me looking for some help. (As an aside, he called when I was in New York City at the drop.io headquarters hanging out when them, twilio, and other developers - see, he knew who to call.) 

The basic need was to relay reports via e-mail to those interested in staying up to date. 

Years ago I rewrote an e-mail list server that I originally wrote even more years ago. It somehow limps along. If you ever wondered why there are Twitter clients for every language, platform, and device around, but barely 5 e-mail discussion servers -- don't. Email is horrific. It's like FTP. Only not as old.

So setup a list on my aging list server. Arg. Yeah, doable. But pretty? Not so much. Not if you want to send photos. Video? I 'lol' in your face. 

But there are services out there - right? Someone does this - I now they do.

Enter posterous. No, I don't know how to pronounce it either. They take your lowly e-mail and turn it into a well formatted blog. Well, the content is well formatted, if you don't know how to clearly express yourself you're still out in the cold. But trust me, there are plenty of blogs like that - you'll fit right in.

So now we have a nice e-mail to blog conversion. Important because firing up the AJAX html editor on a phone probably isn't going to streamline the process. Yes, we've found what e-mail excels at, many clients, many platforms, dead simple to use. 

No, I don't know what FTP excels at. 

Those who want to follow a RSS feed, or check a site for updates are now covered. But what of those that want the updates e-mailed to them? Is there a blog to e-mail conversion? 

Of course there is. There are a ton of services, and posterous offers one internally. But - from what I could find - all of them are daily updates. Not real time. Not cool.

But wait. I have that e-mail list server limping along. I also have an rss feed. And from time to time I've been know to do this thing called 'programming'. Seems like this problem should be solvable - just grab the feed, and send the content as an e-mail. Oh, and probably should keep track of what has been sent. Don't want to resend e-mail every time we check the feed.

So a little while later, with a few lines of code connecting Zend_Mail to a SimpleXMLElement and we have it. A simple RSS to e-mail relay that e-mails the listserver new blog posts. But why is this better than sending updates to the posterous e-mail and the list e-mail? For a few reasons:

  • Blog posts can be added via the web interface and still be sent to the list.

  • The post converts all attached images to links, so HTML e-mail readers show the images without any attachments.

  • The e-mail's contain a link to the post online.

Not bad huh? If you're interested, here's the basic code

A more elegant solution would have been to setup a script to 'pose' as a blog, and use the posterous support of MetaWebLog to 'autopost' new content to the list. But that seems hard. And who wants hard?

Tim Lytle [03/10/10 08:54:25] | 0 Comments | Point