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One of our customers recently contacted us to report a strange issue whereby booking requests made through their MIDAS scheduling system were seemingly vanishing from their system.

The “Booking Request” features of MIDAS, allow people to submit booking “requests” which then require approval by an administrator before becoming a “confirmed” booking.

There are a number of reasons why a booking request may legitimately appear to “vanish” from the system; first of all, another administrative user may have already rejected the original booking request, or the original requestor may have changed their mind and canceled their own request.

When a person makes a booking request, MIDAS automatically send them an email notification containing details of the request they’ve submitted. These email notifications also contain a “booking request cancellation link” allowing them to cancel their request if for whatever reason they’ve changed their mind before their request is approved.

Inspecting the provided “Recent Activity Log” for the customer’s MIDAS system, there was no evidence to suggest that another user had simply rejected the missing booking requests.

There was however evidence that the booking request cancellation links, contained within the notification emails sent to original requestors had been clicked.

The customer was confident that no-one had clicked these cancellation links in their emails.

Now, the “Recent Activity Log” within MIDAS is very useful – not only does it record actions performed within a MIDAS system, it also records the user who performed the action (where applicable), the time/date the action occurred, and the IP address of the device which performed the action.

This allowed us to correlate booking request cancellation link clicks with the IP addresses from which each originated.

Interestingly, the IP addresses could all be traced back to Barracuda Networks, Inc, a company offering security products, including email security and spam filters.

So what was going on?

Once upon a time spam filters could easily detect spam email messages, as spammers tended to the same domains in their spam. As a result, spam filtering software could simply scan the content of an email message, and cross-reference any links contained within against a list of known spamming domains.

Many spam filters still behave in this way, however, in an attempt to stay one step ahead of the spammers, some spam filtering software/services – such as those provide by Barracuda Networks, Inc, go one step further and actively “click” EVERY link in every email they scan. The purpose behind this is to analyze the content and domain every link points to.

Whilst this will most likely help reduce spam further for the recipient, it can have a number of undesired consequences for users!

For example, if the recipient subscribes to any newsletters/mailing lists which contain a one-click unsubscribe link at the bottom, they will be automatically unsubscribed simply by receiving the email itself, before they even open it – let alone click the unsubscribe link!

The same thing was happening for our customer’s booking request notification emails – the booking request cancellation links were being automatically “clicked” by the spam filtering software/services which were scanning the recipient’s email.

Balancing user convenience vs aggressive mail scanners

We’ve always believed in making things as easy as possible for users – which is why we originally made canceling booking requests as simple as a “one-click” link – click once, and your request is canceled.

However, in light of these recent issues, we’re making a small change for MIDAS v4.12. Canceling a booking request will now unfortunately be a two-step process. Clicking a booking request cancellation link in a notification email will take the requestor to a web page where they will need to then click a confirm button in order to cancel their request.

The introduction of this second confirmation step, whilst less convenient for the end-user, will at least prevent aggressive mail filtering software/services which automatically “click” every link in every email, from automatically canceling booking requests without any human interaction.

The same “two-step” behavior will also be applied for links in booking/invoice reminder emails to suppress future reminders from a MIDAS system.

In the meantime, if you’re running an earlier version of MIDAS, and notice your booking requests being automatically canceled without any intervention, please check and adjust the settings in your mail scanning/filtering software. You may need to add email from your MIDAS system to an “allow list”, or prevent the automatic following of links within email.

The next update to our Web Based Room Booking and Resource Scheduling software MIDAS is fast approaching, and throughout March we’re giving you a first look at some of the new features and improvements you can look forward to in MIDAS v4.12..

A growing selection of templates are available and editable within MIDAS, allowing you to customize and tailor the appearance of various parts of the software, as well as printouts and emails.

Templates are constructed using a combination of common HTML code and special MIDAS variables – don’t worry if you’re not familiar with HTML, we’re produced a handy “What is HTML and how do I use it within my MIDAS templates?” guide, complete with simple examples.

MIDAS also includes a visual WYSIWYG (what-you-see-is-what-you-get) template editor where you can simply drag/drop/insert elements into your templates, rather than entering raw HTML code.

Since the introduction of templates, email templates in particular contained a special %CONTENT% variable. This variable would be automatically substituted for generated content when an email was sent. For example, here’s some simplified content for a Booking Confirmation email template in MIDAS v4.11:

Dear %CLIENT_FIRSTNAME%,
Details of your confirmed booking at %DATABASE% are as follows:
%CONTENT%
We look forward to seeing you then!

In the above template, when a booking confirmation email is sent, the variable %CLIENT_FIRSTNAME% is automatically substituted with the forename of the client the notification is to be sent to and %DATABASE% is be substituted for the name of your MIDAS database (usually your organization’s name).

The %CONTENT% variable is then replaced with details of the client’s bookings, and would include the booking fields that had been selected via MIDAS Admin Options → Manage MIDAS → Fields → Show In → Booking Confirmation.

Using the above template, the resulting email content may look like:

Dear Joe,
Details of your confirmed booking at St James are as follows:

Date/Times: 21/03/2016 @ 09:00 – 10:30
Venue: Room 1
Resources: x1 Laptop, x1 Data Projector

Date/Times: 21/03/2016 @ 09:00 – 10:30
Venue: Room 2
Resources: x4 Tables, x20 Chairs

We look forward to seeing you then!

For MIDAS v4.12, we’ve overhauled email templates to give you far greater flexibility and control over the generated content of emails. The rigid %CONTENT% variable has been replaced with more useful variables. For example, a new booking confirmation email template may now look like this:

Dear %CLIENT_FIRSTNAME%,
Details of your confirmed booking at %DATABASE% are as follows:

<bookings>
Dates/Times: %START% – %FINISH%
Venue: %VENUE%
Resources: %RESOURCES%
</bookings>

We look forward to seeing you then!

…as you can see, the original %CONTENT% variable has been replaced in v4.12 with a <bookings> … </bookings> section, in which you can add your own text and variables to customize the generated content exactly as you’d like. You can also include content from any custom booking fields you’ve added to MIDAS – for example, if you’ve created a booking field named “Test Field”, you can insert the variable %CUSTOM_TEST_FIELD% into the <bookings> … </bookings> section. (This brings email templates in line with the format of templates in our optional Digital Signage and Web Calendars addons, which have always supported <bookings> … </bookings> template sections)

We’ve also added support for a couple of new variables too; %BOOKING_COST% and %TOTAL_COST%.

%BOOKING_COST% can be added within the <bookings> … </bookings> section and will be substituted for the cost of the individual booking (including both venue and resource usage).

%TOTAL_COST% can be added anywhere in the template and will be substituted for the total cost of all the bookings listed in the email.

When editing templates via MIDAS Admin Options → Manage MIDAS → Templates, a complete list is displayed of all available variables that can be inserted into the current templates.

We believe replacing the limited %CONTENT% variable with a flexible <bookings> … </bookings> section in email notifications will give customers far greater control over the appearance and content of emails sent through MIDAS.

MIDAS v4.12 is expected to be made available to Beta Testers later this month, with a general release shortly after. We’re currently looking for additional testers to help test and provide feedback/bug reports on pre-release versions of our software. Becoming a tester is free and no experience is required, and what’s more we’ll reward you for your participation! Find out more about becoming a MIDAS Beta Tester here.

If you would like to be notified when v4.12 is fully released, then why not join our Mailing List?

The next update to our web based room booking and resource scheduling software is just around the corner, and so over the coming days on our blog we’re going to give you a first look at some of the new features and improvements you can look forward to in MIDAS v4.11..

The first new feature of v4.11 we’d like to unveil is the ability to send a “Booking Cancellation” to a client when their booking(s) are deleted from the system.

When bookings are deleted, users will now be presented with the option to send a booking cancellation notification, along with a brief reason why the booking has been “deleted” (canceled):

Send Booking Cancellation Notifications

This functionality is available when individual bookings are deleted, or when multiple bookings are deleted via the “Delete Similar Bookings” function.

Like other email notifications that MIDAS is capable of generating, you also be able to customize the content of the “Booking Cancellation” email template too.

MIDAS v4.11 will soon be generally available, however for now it is only available to Beta Testers. We’re currently looking for additional testers to help test and provide feedback/bug reports on this and future updates to our software before release. It’s free and no experience is required. Find out more here.

If you would like to be notified when v4.11 is fully released, then why not join our Mailing List?

Multiple Email Addresses For ClientsThe next release of our web based room booking and resource scheduling software, MIDAS is just around the corner, and we’re giving you a “sneak peek” at some of the new and improved features coming with this next update!

Today we’re excited to tell you about an improvement coming to client records within MIDAS. Until now, it’s only been possible to associate a single email address with each client record. This has meant that booking confirmations and reminders as well as invoices can only be sent to the single email address on record for the client in question.

In MIDAS v4.09, you’ll now be able to specify multiple email addresses for each client record, and accordingly, email correspondence (such as booking confirmation/reminder notifications, and invoices, etc) can be automatically sent to multiple email addresses.

Why might this be useful? Well, we’ve had a number of requests from customers for such capability when it comes to client email addresses. For example, some customers have clients where the email contact for the booking itself differs from the email contact for invoicing. This new improvement to email addresses in MIDAS v4.09 will allow you to assign both the booking contact’s email address and the invoice contact’s email address to the same client record, so that all email correspondence from your MIDAS will go to both!

Similarly, if you have a booking for an external organization, for which there is more than one contact person, you could create a generic client for the organization, and add all their contact email addresses to it, thus ensuring that correspondence is distributed to them all.

Important information for our “Hosted Customers”:

  • Hosted customers who have their MIDAS system configured to send email via the built-in “Sendmail” option (MIDAS Admin Options → Manage MIDAS → Email) will be limited to sending email to a maximum of two email addresses per client record.
  • Hosted customers who have their MIDAS system configured to send email via the external “SMTP” option (MIDAS Admin Options → Manage MIDAS → Email) will be limited to sending email to a maximum of five email addresses per client record.
  • To avoid these limits, and be able to assign as many email addresses to an individual client record as you’d like, please consider switching to a self-hosted edition. These limits on the number of email recipients are not applied to self-hosted editions.