Where’s My Game Invite Email…part 2

I recently read over my previous post “Where’s My Email Invite?” and I wanted a redo on that post. Consider this the TL;DR version of that post.

via GIPHY

You only need to know two things.

  1. As soon as you are invited to any game on our platform, that game will be listed in your dashboard’s “Invited” list. You do NOT literally have to find any emails, just login to your 20Skaters account and you will see all your invited games there. You can click into them and accept, decline, grab sub spots etc.

2. In order to ensure you’re receiving your actual invite emails, try whitelisting our domain “20skaters.com” and “www.20skaters.com” along with the sender email address…

“brydon@www.20skaters.com”.

If you’re unsure how to do that, search for “how to whitelist email addresses {insert name of your email client}”. That search should find you the most recent information for how to whitelist effectively for your email client.

If that doesn’t work, feel free to email us at team@20skaters.com and we’ll take a look on our side to see if we can spot any reasons your emails aren’t getting through.

Automatic Decline Issue Solved

The quick story

For games in which you are a full timer or a goalie, when you accept/decline to that game on a device which you are not currently logged into 20Skaters on, you will have to click “Confirm action” on the resulting page. It will now take 2 clicks under those conditions.

If you’re a paid sub or you are logged into 20Skaters on that device, nothing changes and you can accept/decline with 1 click from your email invite.

Update: We are rolling this out in two stages. Today, you will have to login to accept/decline. After we complete some testing and validation, you will be able to accept/decline without having to login but with the ‘confirm action’ click.

The longer story

We’re making a change that we hope will only impact you positively. Over the past several years, we’ve seen an increase in players being automatically declined from games within seconds of being invited.

You would likely only experience this if you are a full-timer in a game and your email address is hosted with a large institution such as a bank, university or municipality.

The short story is that some email virus checkers are now clicking the links in your emails. Our accept and decline links are unique to that invite and allow us to know who you are and which game it’s referencing. This makes life simple for our players as you can accept and decline from any device without having to worry about logging into our site on that device.

The impact for some of our players is that they are invited to their weekly game and within seconds they receive an email confirming they have declined. For them, this seems like someone has declined on their behalf which is the case since that’s exactly what the virus checker has done.

Up until last Friday, this issue seemed to be isolated to auto-declines and only a few players which means it was annoying but low impact. Last Friday we had an incident where a goalie was auto-accepted into a game without them knowing. The result being one of our games was short a goalie.

That, as we all know, is not cool and we take this very seriously. We decided we have to make changes and address this asap.

The change?

First, if you’ve been experiencing this issue as a player then here’s what should change for you. You should immediately stop receiving these auto-decline actions and emails. Assuming you are logged in on the device you accept or decline from then you’ll notice no changes beyond that. If you sometimes accept or decline on a device you are not logged into then you’ll now need to click a “confirm action” button before we accept it.

TL;DR

In order to address this, we are making the following changes. If a full time player or a goalie accept or decline a game through their email invite link but are NOT logged in on that device then it will now require one more click on their part.

It’s only a click to “confirm the action” you are taking. You do not have to login to the site so you can still take this action from any device.

The reason this should eliminate these issues is simple. The virus checker is never actually logged into our application. So we’re assuming that 100% of the clicks from a virus checker will be unauthenticated.

As well, if you’d rather not have to double confirm on that device then you simply have to login to 20Skaters.com on that device.

Our hope is that this removes 100% of these virus checking issues from our system with minimal impact to you, our players.

Our New Pickup Hockey Video

Hey, welcome back to hockey season. Fingers crossed, this may be our first full season after a few years of pandemic impacted ones.

A few quick updates. We are operating and more importantly we are hungry to add more weekly pickup hockey games to our platform. If you play in a weekly pickup hockey game where the organizer is still sending around emails and texts by hand, collecting cash at the rink etc….tell them about 20Skaters!

To help with that, you can share our new video with them using this link.

We will also be posting more videos about pickup hockey and our platform to our Youtube channel so please subscribe there as well.

Where’s My Email Invite?

We get asked this one fairly often. Getting an email from us through and into your email inbox is no easy task. Between us and you, a lot of computers have to receive the email, review it and then decide if they’re willing to pass it through to it’s next stage. Any of those players along the route may decide to break the chain and hang onto your email.

If you’re having issues receiving emails….

First, if you ever feel you’ve been invited to a pickup hockey game yet haven’t received an email, simply login to our website. You will see all upcoming games you’re invited to listed for you once you login. Yes, it’s a pain if you’re not getting those emails to remind you but that will immediately answer your question “Have I been invited to Dan’s game yet?”. Please take this step before sending emails/texts to your organizer.

  1. Check your email client spam folder and policies. The simplest solution is that you did actually receive it but your email client decided the email wasn’t important enough for you to actually read. Check spam folders, add us to whitelists etc. How you do that is dependent on your email client.
  2. Talk with your email server admin. If you’re using a corporate email then your server admin may be holding our emails back. Submit a support request with details to your server admin.
  3. Not much after 1 and 2 actually….but keep reading…and please send us an email at team at 20skaters.com, including your username and email address. We’ll do out best to diagnose for you.

Our Approach To Sending Emails

We send all our emails using our partner Sendgrid. We do this because they spend their days helping partners like us get our emails delivered. We send tens of thousands of emails every month and we do our best to ensure our emails have their best chance to getting to your inbox.

As an example of this, our stats for the past month are:

  • 99.95% emails delivered.
  • 0.05% emails bounced.
  • 99% reputation.

While those are strong stats, I fully understand that you could care less if you’re once of those 0.05% not getting your emails.

We’ll keep trying to get emails through but I thought it may help to shed some light on the work we do in attempting to achieve this.

Pickup Hockey Etiquette

I recently came across this great post by Justin Bourne. His post is about how you should handle playing with off-season pros but almost all of his points directly apply to your weekly pickup hockey game. I’ll highlight a few here with some weekly pickup hockey commentary….

DO try, DO Compete

It’s easy to slow down, layoff in pickup hockey but it ruins the game. The best games are the ones with a roster who continues to hold each other accountable to still go into the corners and keep the compete level up. It’s too easy to slump into the “ah it’s just pickup, who cares?” mindset. The answer is that all of us do. We care about competing and having a great game NOT the results or ‘winning team’, although some of us still care about that as well.

DON’T try too hard there, Hustles

His example here is great. If you push too hard in the wrong spots then you put other players at risk. In pickup we all need to commit to keeping us all healthy and sometimes that means laying off if you’re risking injuring yourself or other players.

DO try to score

Again, we’re here to compete including the goalies.

DON’T try to score through traffic

This is dependent on your skate but generally speaking, no one’s going be happy getting injured in pickup hockey from someone blindly trying to hammer pucks through crowds.

DON’T exceed a courteous shift length.

Oh, hellz yes! Obviously, if you’ve got your 20Skaters then you likely have nice even numbers and change in lines which allows peer pressure to keep this in line. There’s still always that guy who just can’t get to the bench almost every shift. We all know who you are.

Hockey is back (in Ontario)

We’re back!

After months of closed rinks where we’re located in Ontario, we’re back playing pickup hockey as of this Friday July 16, 2021. It’s been a long time coming and we have pickup hockey games up and running on our platform Friday.

It’s been a slow, quiet year for us but our platform is up and ready to go. If you’re running, or playing in, a weekly pickup hockey skate then please make sure you’re organizer knows about us! We will make their lives simpler while helping you skate ensure you have consistent and full attendance.

Pickup Hockey in 2020/2021

Hey folks, just a quick update as we’ve been almost silent on our blog of late. We completely shutdown our platform this past March to support the closing of rinks across the world due to Covid-19.

Yes, we are back up and running in order to support our pickup hockey organizers who are getting back up and running. If you’re local rink is back open and you’re planning on running weekly pickup hockey in some form, let us know and we’ll get you setup for another season!

Welcome back and let’s hope we can all get back to some form of ice hockey this year.

Spring Cleaning

Hey, spring is in the air. Personally I ski and play hockey so I’m happy for winter to drag on for a few more weeks. On the technology side we just went through a huge spring cleaning ourselves. I won’t bore you with the details as it mostly involved upgrading packages and frameworks etc. Our primary web framework is now fully up to date. As well, our integration with Stripe is now the latest and greatest once again. Both of those help us ensure security and payments are handled well.

All of these upgrades put us in a position where we can move faster on new features and updates we have planned over the summer season. As with any massive update like this, there are some unintended consequences. There were only a few but if you ran into an issue over the past week, sorry about that but know that we have it in hand and it’s all part of moving our platform forward. If you run into any problems, just email us at team@20skaters.com.

If you are running summer games with us, send us your schedules now. If you play in a summer pickup hockey game then please talk us up to your organizer as we’re growing and need your help with that.

Time to Grow!

20Skaters is the only software platform built to make weekly pickup hockey games better for players and organizers. We’ve helped organizers collect hundreds of thousands of dollars in sub fees and we’ve been a part of running thousands of pickup hockey games across North America.

Now we want to grow 20Skaters, and take this homegrown Canadian hockey solution to the world. That growth will allow us to develop new optional features like auto team selection, game credits, paid waiting lists etc. All of which will improve your games and make them more fun to play in. We think that everyone who runs a game of pickup hockey should give us a try. We’ve learned that the best way for an organizer to learn about 20Skaters is for them to hear it directly from their players and friends!

One More Organizer
Our ask: will you tell one organizer about us?

You likely play in other pickup hockey games that have yet to try 20Skaters. Or maybe you have friends that play in games that don’t use 20Skaters yet. We want those organizers to know about us. Help us grow by telling an organizer about us! They will have a few questions, some of which we already answered here.

One more thing, if an organizer already knows about us, please tell them again. It helps when they hear from multiple players in their game. It builds confidence that their players will use, and enjoy, our platform.

Other Cities
Please don’t keep this only to games you play in. Our platform is already running games across North America. If you know someone across the country who plays hockey, let them know and help us jump geographies and get started in new cities!

Thank You
We value your time and any help you offer. We do our best to ask any new organizers how they found out about us. In the case we can track it back to you, we’ll be in touch to send you a t-shirt or some swag as a thank you.

How We Got To Here

I had the idea for 20Skaters for a good five years before acting on it. While I’d never run a weekly pickup hockey game, I subbed and played in them a lot. I noticed the attendance at these games being all over the map. Some weeks 9, some weeks 23. I’d rented ice myself so I knew the costs to rent icetime. Everytime I played, I would do the math in my head and the numbers clearly meant the person running it was losing cash.

I also witnessed the weekly frustrations of the players in the room when you only had 9 skaters and 1 goalie, or worse 23 skaters and 3 goalies.

It was clear that you had a lone person spending a ton of their personal cash to organize a weekly game for friends. They were losing money, while having those same friends bitch and moan about attendance.

I remember one specific case where a friend decided to run two pickup games. I didn’t attend but I asked him a few weeks later how it went. Sarcastically he said, “great, I had 20 skaters committed for both skates. We had 9 skaters show up at one, 14 at the other, I lost $245 on them and I’m never doing that again.”

I sat on the idea for 20Skaters for years because I didn’t think it was the right time for hockey players to pay for pickup hockey online, ahead of time. It was too soon, not enough people had purchased items online yet.

Eventually it started to feel closer, the majority of people I knew were starting to make online purchases and use more online services. To prove the market was ready, I ran some tests. I purchased a few icetimes from the city. I built a very basic webpage that showed the game details along with the players who were committed to playing. I added a Paypal ‘buy now’ button to allow players to buy spots online for the game, directly from the game page.

Next, I emailed the link for the webpage around to some friends to invite them. The webpage was a static webpage. To make it ‘dynamic’, when I received an email from Paypal telling me that I had a sale, I would change the webpage on my laptop to include the person’s name into the ‘players attending’ list. I’d then ftp that new webpage up to the website. Boom, a dynamic gamepage.

I had the occasional keener who would email me right after purchasing to say “hey, I just paid for hockey but I don’t see my name on the site, maybe I did something wrong?” I would change the webpage, ftp it up, then email them saying “Sorry about that, issues on my side, have a look now, should be good”.

While the manual work to make the site appear dynamic was a pain, that was a solvable problem. The magic proof of those early tests was that I sold those games out and players grabbed spots without talking to me. They shared and invited players I didn’t know well. I had all my money collected before heading to the rink. I’d proven to myself that hockey doods would pay for pickup hockey online ahead of time.

I recall one particular evening where I was going to be without internet access for several hours the day before a game. I still had 5 spots open and was worried I’d be short. When I returned to having internet access, I had 4 purchase emails sitting in my inbox and was down to one spot left. It was that experience that sold me. The fact that my game was working, and filling itself, while I was completely offline, that was the magic!

At the time we started there were a lot of early sites built to help you run your team in a league. There didn’t seem to be anyone building for the unique use case of running a weekly drop-in style hockey game. After the successful experiments, I started to share what we were building publicly more. I got some other good folks involved, who have been pivotal in getting to where we are today, namely my cofounders Bill and Eric. Our early name was NoReferees Hockey, which we eventually changed to 20Skaters Hockey.

The final straw in getting our first working product launched was one of our now long standing organizers. I had pitched him the product in person at an event. Since that time he’d been emailing me asking questions about it. Jamie is a startup founder himself so he understood the journey. He phoned me the week before labour day and gave me a final kick in the arse. He basically pitched my product back to me, told me he’s tried everything, event sites don’t work for him, the team sites are built for leagues but are a pain for pickup hockey, email lists aren’t enough, he wanted our product and didn’t want to start his upcoming season without it. His season started in 3 days.

I spent most of that labour day weekend locked in my office building. I don’t think I pulled any full all nighters but they were long days and late nights. I managed to build enough of a beta to get Jamie’s game launched with us and we’ve been organizing his game ever since.

We’ve now run thousands of games and are heading into a growth season. While that’s the story of how we got to here, we’re hoping this is just the beginning so stay tuned!