Product Update - June 2022

Hi everyone :wave:,

In the last few months, we’ve welcomed lots of new members to our community and have seen growth in both house sitting opportunities and new sitters. As always, our product teams have been busy behind the scenes. Here are some of the latest updates:

  1. CCTV :video_camera: - When new owner members create their listing, we make them aware of our CCTV policy. This states that they must disclose if their home has any external cameras or recording devices, and that we don’t allow internal devices (and if these are present, they must be deactivated during the sit).

  2. Account Security :lock: - we have had a few cases reported where a member is worried somebody else is using their TrustedHousesitters account. We have now added the functionality so that if a member resets their password then all other active sessions on the web or app will be logged out. If you have any concerns or believe your account has been compromised, then please get in touch with Membership Services to report this.

  3. Updates to our Codebase - We have been running on an old database version and now need to upgrade key parts of the site. This is still ongoing and is a big piece of work. At some point over July/August, we are likely to have to schedule some maintenance updates and the site may be down for a short while. Of course, we will confirm this nearer the time.

  4. Improving our iOS & Android App - This is another priority, as members who use the app see an increase in success. Most recently, we have made the following changes:

  • We have added a ‘download app’ prompt to the order confirmation page, and have added a prompt in the member inbox. This is to build awareness and drive more people to use the app.

  • Loading notifications. We’ve made some updates to our app notifications, so they are now quicker and easier to load. This will also reduce some of the poor performance we’ve been seeing.

  • We’ve removed the ‘suggested’ tab, and re-ordered the ‘Find a sit’ tab to appear as the app homepage. We wanted to make it as easy as possible for sitters to find and search for a house sit. This has led to more searches, views of more listings and more applications and success.

  • We also fixed a number of bugs :beetle:, where the iOS app was crashing for users on iOS12, the navigation bar not showing on Pixel 4 phones, and the Welcome Guide was appearing blank. Nearly all of these issues were also reported on the forum, so thank you for bringing these to our attention.

  1. Pausing Applications - we have been looking at limiting the number of applications an owner receives. When an owner receives 5 applications, the applications are paused and the owner is asked to respond to the sitters, confirm their favourite or if they aren’t happy, put the listing live again for more applications.

We are wanting to do this to:

  1. To drive a higher owner response rate
  2. To remove housesits which are not going ahead, but have not been updated by the owner.
  3. Redistribute applications and improve success
  4. To stop owners from being overwhelmed with applicants

We have just run a test on auto-pausing and 29% of owners went on to confirm a sitter that had applied, 12% put their listing back live, 10% deleted the dates and 6% modified the dates within 7 days of being paused and notified.

We have received positive feedback from members to say that this has helped prompt owners to confirm a sitter, and amend or remove the dates. We are now implementing these changes and this should go live in July.

Finally, we have been running member interviews and conducting research on invites and the calendar. We should have some more updates on this over the coming months.

Many Thanks,

Ben

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That’s great news. We love the auto pause feature, which will put an end to the “popularity contests” where sometimes there 50+ applicants for a single sit. Thank you @Ben-ProductManager and the entire THS team for all you do!

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Thanks for the detailed update, @Ben-ProductManager!

Really love the auto pause feature, that’s a very thoughtful update and a fantastic way to keep things moving for everyone.

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That’s great news about the pausing applications and how it’s been working in the trial.
@Ben-ProductManager, you mention member interviews have been happening about the calendar and invites but I also believe you no longer have as a priority changing the review/feedback system that has been strongly asked for by many members. We have been told it was a priority for this year but I’m now thinking this isn’t the case. What is the situation re this please? I believe satisfying the many new owners to get sitters has taken over the priorities!

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Something I should like to know also as it was discussed initially well over a year ago….I understand this is an enormous piece of work however and TH has fewer employees

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is it already working ? i saw more than 40 applicants on an advert this morning…

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Making sure every Owner and Sitter members has success and has an amazing experience is our main focus. We don’t have any updates on the review system as of yet. We know it’s one of the most requested changes and it’s still on our radar and we will keep you posted when we have any further news.

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Hi @Candide :wave:

This is not live yet. We had done a few ad-hoc tests and expect to roll this out fully in July.

Ben

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Why the reluctance/hesitancy to move this to a top priority? Curious as it seems to be the hottest feedback topic.

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Thanks Ben, all of THS’s hard work to keep improving things is much appreciated.

My only concern would be the pausing at 5 applications. I’m a bit worried that as a sitter, I’d be having to make sure I’m in that first 5 people to apply to a more popular sit and not getting the opportunity because it got cut off right away (or while I was sleeping). Any thought to cutting it off at 10 instead?

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I agree. For some popular locations, e.g., NYC and Hawaii, a newly live sit can attract many applicants within a few hours (or used to).

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I do like the auto-pause feature in general, but just think maybe setting the number a bit higher might be better?

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Agree with @Kelownagurl I’m just wondering how pausing after 5 applications will affect sitters who are looking for intercontinental sits.
Due to the time difference, it might be tricky for people to be among the first 5 to apply, and therefore hardly “get a fair chance”
E.g. Europeans are usually asleep when Australian sits are advertised, etc…

I do agree that somehow limiting and “warning” owners is a great idea though!

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Updating the review system is a multifaceted and very complex project that will take a lot of research, time and project implementation. We want to ensure that any changes provide the best solution possible. We will keep you updated as this project progresses but it isn’t a quick fix and will take time.

Thanks, Ben

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Following up on the timing problem I mentioned earlier, why not set auto pause to trigger when two conditions are met:

  1. Five or more applications have been received, and
  2. 24 hours have elapsed from the posting of the sit.

This would allow everyone to have a reasonable chance of seeing and responding to a sit.

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Regarding Auto Pausing, we believe the way it has been described is a significant problem for US based sitters applying for UK sits. Or for any sitters applying for sits where the changes in the time zone are large. For example, a sit in California published in the afternoon might never be seen by UK sitters before it was auto paused.

In our case, my wife and I live in the US but frequently apply for sits in the UK. We have had 35 UK sits over the last five years with 17 being first time sits and 18 repeats. This change will seriously impact our ability to even see desirable sits, since we are five hours behind the UK. It will be noon or later in the UK when we first would see a sit posted early in the morning.

While we agree that prompt responses by owners and sitters are desirable, this approach seems likely to punish sitters in order to correct communication problems by owners. There must be a better way!

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As a sitter based in Canada that has done many sits abroad, pausing after only 24 hrs or 5 applications is a concern.

5 applications seems somewhat limiting IMO.

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Hello :wave:

Thanks for all this feedback on the pause functionality.

To provide a bit more detail on how the pausing will work, if an owner rejects a sitters application then the listing will not be automatically paused i.e. if the owner has received 8 applications but has rejected four Sitters, this would mean the Sit is still live and has not been paused.

Regarding the limit, we have set the limit to 5 applications, as the average number of applications to a Sit is 3 within 24hrs. On the owner side, those who receive less than 5 applications are more likely to confirm a sitter, have success and add new dates.

However, if any issues do arise and we do have any problems occur then we could increase the limit. We will keep an eye on the impact this has on all member behaviour.
Thanks, Ben

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This would mean the house owner has to make the decision to quickly reject some sitters with no knowledge of how many applicants could respond. While the perfect sitter might not be in the pool of applicants,s the rejected ones could be the best available for the particular sit. It also does not address time zone differences. In our experience on an especially desirable sit the number of applicants can rise very quickly so the average is not a good way to judge this.
While I agree there are problems when owners do not respond in a timely manner how big a problem is this? What percentage of house owners are actually in this category?

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If I was a HO I’d be pretty cranky about this change. Forcing me to make decisions before I might want to? Limiting the number of applicants that I can receive? HOs in popular areas get so many garbage applications and they might not have time to review them once the number reaches 5 (they do have lives). You’re forcing them to either make the time or be “punished” by no longer being able to receive any more applicants. It doesn’t sound right to me.

If a sitter isn’t happy with how long a HO is taking to respond or doesn’t like that a sit has many applicants, then that’s the sitter’s problem. They have the option to withdraw their application or not apply to super popular sits.

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