blog.rupamsunyata.org

Decklin’s excuse for some blogging software. Est. 2006.

We could customer care less

(And now, a cathartic "I hate this company and I am never patronizing them again, please don't either" post. I should have done ones for at least Speakeasy/Covad and IBM's server division last year. Ah well.)

I went to go register a new domain yesterday (announcement soon! Probably this weekend). I've been using Joker for a while, IIRC on the principle that the cooks were using it so it must be decent enough. While registering, I had a bunch of problems with the horrid, useless "Verified by Visa" popup [1] that you see everywhere these days, and eventually this must have looked like suspicious activity to the bank so my card was declined.

I only actually found this out when I got mail saying my order was canceled. Okay, sure. I wrote back and explained what I thought was going on and that I'd like to resolve it. Another half hour later, I got this response:

Hello,

please use
   https://joker.com/goto/support/
for all support inquiries.

Regards, your Joker.com team

This is complete and utter bullshit [2]. If a company is going to mail me, I expect to be able to mail them. I have a mail client; it manages communication the way I want it to, and runs my preferred editor to compose messages (which is, in fact, how I am writing this very blog post). I am sick of dicking around on JavaScript-requiring web forms that all work differently and typing in postage-stamp-sized little textareas. Anything I do type in them is lost, because unlike my email client, web forms don't save sent messages unless the authors feel like letting you have a Cc:. When a company forces me to do this, I take it as a sign of disrespect. I tolerate a web browser [3] for reading pages; "applications" are universally painful [4].

One of the things I used to like about Joker was the PGP mail interface. AFAIK, they have not killed it (I didn't bother to check), but with automatic "we don't want to listen to you unless you inconvenience yourself" bounces like this, what's the point? I surmise that there is, or was, some smart person there who understood how (and more to the point, why) to hook a pseudo-mailbox up to a software system, and that they have been overridden by someone in management who realized it's much easier to have dime-a-dozen webmonkeys hook a form up to the same system since 90% of users just don't care (and even people who do notice and dislike this, but are not as inflamed as I, have come to expect it because everyone else refuses mail, so, y'know, pick yr battles son, etc.). Not the sort of culture I put faith my in.

The irony of it all was that I was registering this domain to run a service I had decided to create specifically because of another site refusing mail and directing me to an even lamer web form. That would take incoming mail and, you know... process it with software.

Suffice it to say, I am no longer going to be their customer. In deciding who to use instead, I figured I'd do a survey of where the domains in that "Subscription" column [5] on Planet Debian were registered, but... WHOIS is basically useless. Every server just returns free text, formatted differently by (apparently) every implementation under the sun. Cheaply parsing something out from .com/.org/.net is possible, but InterNIC kindly blacklists your IP after making more than a few requests in a few minutes. I guess I'm just gonna go with Gandi (but other suggestions would be welcome).

In somewhat unrelated developments, I went to nic.at to update my nameservers for Where the Bus At? last week. There was no authentication or anything on the request form, so I just filled it in and sent it off. I got some automatic mail saying I need to print out a PDF, sign it, and fax it internationally. Annoying, and hardly as secure as mailing them with PGP, but whatever. But then, also yesterday, I got another mail saying the update was complete (lo and behold, it was). I am now somewhat concerned about the security of my domain: it seems like anyone can come by and put something in the form and if I'm not around to notice the courtesy mail and ask that they stop the request, it'll eventually go through, no questions asked. I have not yet written them to figure out what the deal is, though. Kinda burned out.

I guess I didn't really have high hopes for dealing directly with a ccTLD registrar (this was the first time I've done it... I can't believe I blew €60 on a cutesy domain name) rather than a reseller who competes in a market, but then, I go and google "domain registrar" and look at all the AdWords dollars spent trying to compete with GoDaddy [6] and just kind of want to put my head in my hands. On DJB's DNS pages there's this bit about setting up a domain. It doesn't say "How to (buy|register|whatever) a domain name". It says, "How to receive a delegation from .com". Which is of course, how it works. And what I want to buy. I don't want "parking" or even gratis nameservers. Just a delegation from .com. Please.

No AdWords came up when I googled for that phrase to copy the link. Sometimes I guess markets just sink to the bottom.

Anyway. I feel like there's a free-software angle here. My continuing irrational hatred of using other people's forms, web-based mailing-list substitutes, nameservers, etc. stems not so much from their suckage but from the fact that there is no longer any software there, in front of me, for the four freedoms to possibly apply to. Being able to run your mail reader for any purpose doesn't win you much if no one uses mail. I don't really know what to do about this.

[1]It was only twelve dollars! If I go to hipster market or some other place with brand-new POS systems they don't even make me sign a paper slip for less than $20 or so. But this is the sort of thing dreamed up by people who think good security is setting a cookie to denote that I've answered "what was your first dog's name" or whatever. IF YOU WANT TO BREAK INTO MY BANK ACCOUNTS: I've set the answer to every single one of these questions to "security theater". Easy to remember.
[2]Not to mention a glaringly RESTless URI.
[3]Also, as a rule I normally try not to have anything up on my desktop that I can't close and re-open at any time, thanks to screen, MPD, emacsclient, actually using my browser's bookmark function and resisting the lure of tab-bar.js, etc. Web browsers are supposed to suck at preserving state; HTTP is stateless. See also here (and for further reading on that in the Haskell world, check out Yi. I'm hoping to switch to it someday).
[4]Debbugs, for example, may not have the slickest interface, but if I want to do flags, labels, archiving, threading, or whatever, I can; I'm not at the mercy of some front-end web developer. But we've all heard this litany before.
[5]Thanks, Hpricot!
[6]Even if GoDaddy's customer service were completely hacker-friendly, I would not use them, because their president Hates America.

Mass cynicism

"Obama had the additional skill of criticizing George W. Bush."

Basically: yes. And that's what passes for politics over here, folks. Sorry about your economies and all that.

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