Thursday, April 22, 2010

New Cafetalk Sneak Peek

Hello all, This announcement is a little sudden, but the long promised new version of Cafetalk is finally here! It's still not available to the general public yet, but we're giving you pre-release access to log on and play around with it. For more information please watch the videos below.

Some of the more notable features in the new system are:
  • Fully bilingual Japanese/English interface for both tutors and students. With more languages planned in the future. (Yes, we're going global so you'll be able to reach out to students all over the world!)
  • All times displayed in your local timezone with daylight savings time support.
  • You can let everybody know that you're "online" and ready to take lessons.
  • Other self-promotion features available and many more in the pipeline.

Please take this opportunity to login and check out the new interface.

You current email and password should work. If it doesn't, please let us know. Chances are your profile wasn't migrated properly and needs some manual work.
Sorry. There's a five minute time limit to our video capture software so we're doing this in two parts...
Finally, we just want to say that many more features are in the pipeline. We know many of you have given us valuable ideas for improvements and we will try to incorporate them soon. That's it for now. Please feel free to leave feedback on this blog post or just email us through the inquiries page. Thanks again to all of your for your patience and support!


  1. Congratulations! The new site looks FAB, can't wait to start using it.....

  2. Hey all.

    Oh, I've just noted something disturbing. Is it true that Cafetalk will no longer make automatic payments to our PayPal accounts each month and that we must request the payments each month? Also, the 5000jpy minimum is disturbing. There are months that I would not make that. Though I realize that the account would pass over from month to month until I have the minimum in my account, I must say I am not very happy about this change.

    This is an important change for tutors and should be highlighted and totally explained. Although I've been a tutor on Cafetalk for several years, I can say I don't care for this change at all and would consider not continuing with the platform if I must wait to accumulate money and also have to request payment myself. I'd rather, as up to now, collect every month directly and automatically and have it in my bank account earning interest rather than sitting in another's bank account earning interest.

    I have done the lesson, I have marked it as completed, I should be paid for that lesson promptly, without having to ask for the payment or having to wait for it to accumulate at Cafetalk.

    I hope someone responds to this at once.

    Thanks for your reply.

    Mr Spears.

  3. Oh, no, another aspect that I don't care for.

    If the responsibility for marking a class completed is in the hands of the student, the teacher loses control over his/her payment. Although it is automatically credited 7 days later, that 7th day may be too late to request the payment. I highly disagree with this policy, I'm afraid. If I neglect to mark a class completed, that is my problem and I will have to wait to collect because of my own lack of responsibility to myself. However, if I must wait for a student to mark the lesson completed, and if the student does not do so, and if I must wait 7 days to be paid for that class, and if this is outside of the payment request period, or it was the quantity that I needed to reach the new 5000jpy minimum, I find that quite unfair to the tutors.

    If any tutor has abused the "lesson complete" system of the old Cafetalk and collected for lessons that were not given, then that tutor should be penalized. Tutors must be responsible for the management of the classes on ALL levels. Students are there to study or practice their English (or whatever language), not to administrate the platform, I believe.

    I hope other tutors will speak out on this, perhaps to convince me that this is the best way, or to request that Cafetalk reconsiders this policy.


    Mr Spears.

  4. Hello Mr. Spears,
    Thank you for the comments. I see where you're coming from and think they are valid concerns. We'll need to consider the points you brought up with the whole team and get back to you in a day or two. Whatever the decision it should come quickly.
    I just wanted to add that we didn't intend to inconvenience tutors in any way. We had the 5000 yen limit because we found that we were having to do wire transfers for tutors making less then a thousand yen per month. Sometimes the transfer fees can amount to 420 yen or so (although this is 0 for PayPal) we were in fact losing money through these micro payments. But again, I do see your point and hopefully we can arrive at a healthy compromise both with respect to the minimum payout and the need to make the payment request.

    Right. As for the second point of the "lesson completion" being shifted to the student side - yes, some tutors did abuse this system before but many more probably completed a lesson by mistake. This resulted in a LOT of angry customers and required painful communication to both the student and tutor to sort them out. Not good at all for customer satisfaction. What we aimed for with the new Cafetalk is a fail-safe system where tutors can make few mistakes. We guessed that this may cause a little inconvenience to tutors, but we decided that giving students a better user experience should be the underlying priority for our service. More students means more business for you, after all. That being said, your comments have given me cause to rethink the whole process. Perhaps we can find a better way to do this too. Will need to discuss with the team first.

    Thanks again and will get back to you soon.


  5. Hello Mr. Spears and all,
    Just a quick update:
    1) 5000JPY minimum payout.
    We decided we can bring this down to 1000JPY which we think is fair considering the 210-420JPY transfer fees. But if other tutors have strong opinions about this we're open to suggestions.

    2) Having to make a "payment request".
    Okay, we will make an automatic payment option which you'll be able to select in your profile.
    If that option is set, we'll have the system automatically create a payment request (provided it exceeds the minimum payout. We want to still leave the option of being able to request payment at will, because some tutors have actually told us that they want such control. However this functionality will take maybe a month to put in place, so in the meantime you'll have to make payment requests manually.

    3) Lesson completion
    What Mr. Spears says makes sense. I'm building a "lesson complete" function for tutors right now, and should be available in a few days.

    Thank you Mr. Spears for the feedback. Hopefully we can make things better though not perfect. Again, we would like to hear what others think as well, so if you have any opinions please follow in Mr. Spears' lead.

    And I just want to thank Zoe for leaving a comment too. Glad you like the system. Hope we can get it to generate lots of business for everyone!

  6. Hey all, especially Mat.

    Take note, other tutors, that we are listened to at Cafétalk and taken seriously.

    I really appreciate your looking into my comments Mat (we have been working "together" almost since the beginning of Cafétalk, after all) and am very pleased with the attention they have received and the results.

    I suspected that it was because of the cost of wiring money that the minimum was placed. Remember, those of us who don't use JPY also pay to collect money through PayPal (seems like the real winner here is PayPal, but can't complain about their service), so for those who are collecting very little amounts of money could actually have an advantage in not collecting automatically but rather waiting until enough has accumulated to request payment.

    I am, as I said, pleased with this. Pity some tutors abused the "lesson complete" button. That would lead to embarrassing situations with clients and the unpleasant need to tell a tutor to "shape up or ship out". It is good, though, to have a possibility for the teacher to complete the class as well. For example, last week, for technical reasons, I could not hold a class. My student and I could chat but we could not speak. So we put the class off till the next week. She did not have to make a new appointment, I did not have to make a cancellation, we just used the already made appointment a week later than scheduled. Once we connected, and hand our class, I marked it as a "completed" class. This avoids the entire "cancellation" process, nothing was cancelled and everyone was happy. So, it will be good to be able to administer the classes by tutors. If students want to administer as well, okay, but this one of mine, for example, wouldn't have time, she's a busy business woman....

    Thanks again, Mat for your comments. Nice to see you again (it's been almost a year!)

    Mr Spears.

  7. Hi everyone

    First I want to say congrats, the new site looks great!

    I mentioned the new site to one of my regular students today(23 May) and he knew nothing about it. Have registered students been notified? I must say, this worries me a little.

    I also want to second everything Mr Spears has already said. I note that you have agreed to drop the payout limit to 1000 yen (although this isn't yet reflected anywhere on the tutor pages or agreement), but to leave class completion notification just to students is a bit dangerous. I know, through experience elsewhere, that this isn't a good idea. I would dearly love to see this changed.

    Good luck Café I'm with you!!

  8. Thanks Mr. Spears and Zoe for your comments.

    I've created another post to list out the changes discussed in the previous comments here:

    The Completion Function and reduced minimum payout have already been implemented in the system. And as for the minimum payout, we may reduce it even further if we can find a way to reduce the transfer charge. But please take that as an informal wish on our part and not a promise.

    Zoe's questions have also been answered in the same post.

    Thanks again to both of you!

    P.S. to Mr. Spears,
    Thanks for the welcome back. Yes, I've been in hiding for a while because I was creating another online service of my own. But I'm glad to be called back in for this renewal. We should have a full-time developer to replace me soon, but hopefully I'll be able to continue working with you to make things better. Cheers!

  9. Salutations,

    I do like the new site and the new functions, especially the rescheduling request.

    I think giving control completely to the student would have been a bad idea: A lot of students have difficulty just using skype, never mind anything more complicated. I certainly do want to have to chase up cafetalk or even worse a student who has forgotten to officially complete the lesson. I am glad that you listened to Mr. Spears and other users.

    I can understand your concerns about minimum payments and ¥1,000 seems a very reasonable figure. If tutors who receive payment through paypal object to this minimum, couldn't that minimum be only applied to those receiving payment through a Japanese bank (such as myself)?

    I also like the payment request function.

    Anyway, I'm sure everyone really appreciates that you take the time to respond to feedback.


  10. One small thing: Could you spell check the new website? I found a few obvious spelling errors, such as "Back to Biginners guide".

    Sorry to nitpick.

  11. > Dominic
    Thanks so much for the feedback. Glad to know more tutors are checking out the new site. About there being different minimum payouts for tutors using Paypal, well, it really does make sense but the problem is that it's a little hard to implement. I know that's a terrible excuse for not doing something good but we probably won't be able to do it in the near future. We've taken note of it, though and it will be addressed one way or another within a week or so. Can't speak for the whole team, but I do agree with you in principle.

    > Anonymous
    Arrgh! Thanks for pointing that out. I know the text on Cafetalk sloppy and it reflects badly as a site claiming to help people learn English. We got that one fixed but I'm sure there are many others. We should have someone more competent than us checking the site shortly so hopefully you'll find fewer glaring errors in a few week's time.

    Thanks again to both you!

  12. I like the new schedule system. Is there any way of subscribing to it with iCal or Google calendar? That would make it perfect.


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