Welcome To The New AskFRED
Last Updated 26 June 2023 @ 9:30pm EST
Many of you already read this announcement several weeks ago, but for those that haven't yet - welcome to the new AskFRED! This newly launched version will slowly transition to be the primary way you interact with AskFRED as we sunset the older version over time. This new version is fully rebuilt from the ground up with more modern technology and a forward-looking trajectory.
Over the past months, it only became more and more clear how vital AskFRED is to the fencing community at large, and our goal with this rebuild and relaunch is to solidify AskFRED into the future for the benefit of the community at large. Below is a long explainer on what's changing, why, and how we're thinking about things moving into the future. If you read this earlier, the content below is not any different.
What We're Doing
Rebuilding AskFRED from the ground up. The current technology has taken us really far - 2 decades! But to keep moving into the future, it's time to rethink and rebuild the system from the ground up. We’re doing this for a few technical reasons, but the big one is to rework payments related stuff that we’ll discuss a bit later.
We're building a more modern app with more modern sensibilities. We're listening to community feedback and acting on it (see changes for more details). And we're developing a roadmap for the future with plans to continue to add and expand AskFRED beyond its original boundaries!
Additionally, we're investing in less visible things like platform stability and security. We're paying a bit extra for a top-of-the-line email provider to ensure AskFRED emails always make it to your inbox. And various other similar direct solutions to recent issues.
Finally, our goal is to set AskFRED up as a sustainable business into the future. This means things like not having a single point of failure - like one owner or employee. It means ensuring revenue so we can pay full time employees for support and software development. And more.
What's The Timeline?
Starting during Summer Nationals 2023, we're going to make the New AskFRED system the primary system of record. However, the old system will still run and continue to manage all ongoing tournaments. The old system will have its ability to create tournaments disabled, pushing all new tournaments to the new system. We'll evaluate all tournaments still on the old system one by one, and events very far into the future we'll migrate to the new system. We have a soft goal of sunsetting the old system in a few months time.
The exact dates currently anticipated are July 2nd for the Old AskFRED to have tournament creation disabled, and July 2nd or 3rd being the date the New AskFRED becomes the primary app that accepts new tournaments.
Our system is new - we expect issues, bugs, etc.. This slower roll-out where only a few new tournaments will be run on the new system while most older, in-flight events are still on the old system will give us time to address these issues as they come up while the new system has a lower tournament volume. If something goes really wrong, we'll undo the whole thing and make Old FRED the primary system again and fix the issues. Once the new system goes live, please proactively reach out through our support channels to report issues once you encounter them. We'll also be monitoring through various other means.
A lot of data from Old AskFRED will migrate to New AskFRED - but not all data. Payment-related data will stay with the old system, creating a clean break from old and new. Some data will be migrated in waves, such as the BC user's relationship to past tournaments run.
So, the main questions most people have will be - what’s changing? Here’s a rundown:
User Accounts and Registration
Old FRED was wide open, which resulted in a number of problems. New FRED will require a user account to register for an event, and the user account will require a verified email address.
Additionally, if you provide a USA Fencing membership number on your fencer record, we will validate that against current USA Fencing records and this info will override anything you might set by hand for USA Fencing sanctioned events. This is to provide a tighter integration with USA Fencing and to reduce headaches for our Tournament Organizers.
We’re thinking of other ways to handle further verification, but these are the only change in this area for now. We want to also balance these validations with the fact that not everyone will be using the system for USA Fencing tournaments.
Stripe Standard Accounts
We’re switching to a Stripe Platform-based system. The main difference here is that every BC member must have their own separate Stripe account. This will be seamless as a part of the Bout Committee sign-up process - you can use your existing Stripe account or create a new one.
There are a few reasons we’re doing this from the FRED standpoint, but the main three are: (1) tax compliance and fraud prevention reasons for FRED (FBO accounts, for those in the know); (2) direct deposit for Tournament Organizers (no more mailed checks, funds will be automatically pushed to your bank account in just a few days); (3) internationalization (tournaments in other countries will eventually be able to accept registration payments in that country’s home currency).
To get a bit more specific, Old FRED would hold your funds until the end of an event for many reasons, but some of the most important reasons were to ensure there were funds available in case of refunds, chargebacks, etc.. This also helps prevent fraud (i.e., a bad actor creates a fake tournament, does some registrations, gets a check, and then charges the registrations back - "free money"). Now, Stripe manages this directly with you, the BC business owner. You get the money quickly in ~7 days, but Stripe will transfer money back out of your bank account in situations of refunds, chargebacks, etc.. In situations of fraud, Stripe will terminate your account, which will terminate your BC account as well.
Stripe’s standard payment processing rate (in the US) is 2.9% + $0.30 per successful credit card charge. This varies based on country, and we’re also discussing allowing other payment options that would also vary in pricing. Additionally, you can potentially negotiate direct with Stripe for a better rate depending on things like your transactional volume, whether you’re a non-profit, your country of origin, types of payments accepted, and others.
We might experiment with this over time, but for now, this is the payment integration we're launching with.
Bout Committee Access
Previously, BC access required manual approval. Manual approval is still a part of the process, but optional. Another way to gain immediate BC access without any manual intervention is to attach a Stripe account and complete the Know Your Customer (KYC) process on Stripe. We believe this will be sufficient to ensure whoever has signed up is serious about being a TO and is not looking to scam or spam anyone. If Stripe decides to trust you, we’ll grant you trust as well.
However, worth noting is that we’ll also be changing our review policies and will be more proactively banning bad actors on the platform, as well. Trust, but verify.
User Fees, Pricing, Advertising, etc..
In the short term, we’re going to slightly increase the Platform Fee on paid user registration from $1.50 to $2.00. 1% of this fee will go to Stripe Climate in order to reduce our carbon footprint.
Short term, we’re going to experiment with disabling display ads. We may revisit this choice later. We'll be experimenting with more contextually useful ads and/or referral programs, like travel-related suggestions based on your registered events.
In the medium to long term, we’re going to experiment with a few things. More details on that will be forthcoming.
Our goal is to set AskFRED up to be a long-term sustainable business that provides a quality service to the community, and some of these changes we believe are required to support that goal.
We’ll be temporarily disabling the API (AskFRED WebServices). It was not under heavy use and we’ll certainly be rebuilding it in some form eventually. But in an effort to meet our relaunch deadlines, this is something that won’t make the cut. We’ve reviewed the list of active users of the API, but if you’re someone we missed, please drop us a note.
We've replaced Points Lists with the concept of Leagues. They operate similarly, but the new version is more streamlined, and sitll incomplete. We decided to go ahead and launch with this new functionality despite it still being a bit incomplete in order to solicit further feedback ASAP.
Editing Raw Fencers and Clubs
We’re disabling the ability for BC to edit fencer and club records completely freely. We’re going to rework this process to something more flexible without it being an open-access system to the entire database for almost anyone to view and change. Details to be announced in the future.
There will be a bit more reliance upon demonstrable data from verified sources, such as USA Fencing's Club and Fencer Membership database, in order to try and reduce the need for editing raw data.
Bulk Email Lists
We’re removing the mailing list functionality as it exists in AskFRED and replacing it with a few different things. This is largely to reduce abuse, as well as increase the deliverability of FRED’s emails overall. But also, the functionality is simply dated. This functionality leaned heavily into just forwarding emails to existing listserv-style email accounts, so removal of this shouldn’t be too painful for now while we rethink it.
Similarly, for a few reasons, we’ve introduced in-app messaging. This will allow individual users to talk to Tournament Organizers in a semi-anonymous way (i.e., without needing to know their email addresses), and will require user registration.
Overall Design and User Experience
Our goal with this rebuild is to produce something that similarly to the Old FRED app and to also set ourselves up for the future. We've spent some time improving the app for release with an eye for rough feature parity and familiarity, but after the transition has settled down, we're going to spend some time and effort punching up our workflows.
One of the first things we've been paying attention to is the experience on mobile - we’re not exactly mobile-first, but we’re certainly doing our best to make sure that people can use FRED on their phones. We’ll also be paying a lot more attention to some of the current user workflows. A good number of them will be getting some thought and TLC that they haven't seen in a long time.
Our logo is currently under some revision as well, but the goal is for it to be an in-house owned representation of the fencer emoji (🤺) which we'll be using a lot in our email subjects.
We're going to be developing and publishing a public roadmap for the future of AskFRED once the launch and migration are complete. A few example topics: a mobile app, e-signing waivers, alternative authentication methods, and much more!
And that's it! Hopefully, this has given everyone a bit of context and confidence in the upcoming changes and new direction of AskFRED!
If you have any outstanding questions, you can reach out to our support team via the chat bubble in the lower right corner of this page or by just clicking here!