Archive for the ‘Boring Stuff’ Category

AT&T Customer Service nightmare

Tuesday, October 19th, 2010

I’ve been an AT&T customer since ’97 and since moving to Florida, I can count the number of calls I’ve missed due to AT&T’s network on one hand. While there are areas where coverage isn’t great, I’ve rarely had a problem getting a signal that was strong enough to make or receive a call.

However, I’ve been looking at new phones for a while and both are on competing networks. While my experience with Sprint many years ago that wasn’t good, I’ve been told by many people that their network quality has improved. T-Mobile is an unknown to me, though, I’ve had employees and clients that have used them and haven’t had any complaints. Switching carriers won’t be as much of a leap of faith as it once was.

However, today at 3:24pm I received a text message that was odd. I’ve been an AT&T customer since 1997 and haven’t had too many issues where I’ve needed to deal with customer service. Normally, customer service is fairly responsive if you know what to ask, but, today was just ridiculous. The SMS message received was:

AT&T FREE MSG: AutoPay Enrollment Change Confirmation - conf #APAPAT1604xxxx. Your change request has been processed.

Since I hadn’t been on the computer, hadn’t made any changes, I was curious. The first customer service representative told me that it was an FCC law that they had to notify me when I was billed or changes were made. Since I hadn’t logged in to make any changes, I assumed that I had been billed automatically. As it turns out, my bills are paid on the 14th, not the 19th.

At 8:36pm, ET I received the following:

AT&T FREE MSG: AutoPay Enrollment Change Confirmation - conf #APAPAT1599xxxx. Your change request has been processed.

So, after an 8 minute wait on the online help, I’m connected with a rep and after about 15 seconds, disconnected.

After reconnecting to their live help, I’m connected with a customer service rep that answers questions in circles. I asked what the messages were for and I’m told, the entire text of the message is contained within the message. So I said, rather than send these to my phone, please send these to the email address I have on file. I’m told:

Melinda Simon: To confirm you wish to opt out of notifications sent via text messages, is that correct?
Melinda Simon: Thank you for waiting, Mr. Davies. The FCC mandate does not allow account notifications to be optional.

So I asked what the title of the FCC mandate was:

Melinda Simon: I am going to send you a link where you can research the FCC mandate.
Melinda Simon: Please click here.
Melinda Simon: Please let me know if you were able to view the link.

It isn’t until a supervisor finally gets online that I’m given more detail:

Melinda Simon: Good evening this Brian Thomas one of the managers on duty.  How may I assist?
Melinda Simon: Thank you for your patience Mr. Davies.  I took a look a little deeper and we are not permitted to make the changes.
chris davies: What is the title of the Mandate?
Melinda Simon: I do not know the title of the Mandate that governs this policy.  The FCC would be able to provide more information regarding Customer Proprietary Network Information. 

In some digging, it appears that the credit card number I have on file expires this month. Somehow, the expiration date of the card on file was modified twice today by AT&T. They added two years to it (which didn’t match my card) and prompted the first message, then added another year to it which matched. I made a modification to my profile just to see if they followed the law and 45 minutes later, still no FCC Mandated SMS message sent to my phone.

It appears that AT&T doesn’t actually require a client to confirm charges or to make modifications to expiration dates – as long as they follow the mandate that requires them to alert you. So, it isn’t illegal to commit credit card fraud, but, it is illegal to do so without notifying you that a change was made.

AT&T, thank you for making my choice to change networks a little easier.

Not cool, Cuil

Tuesday, June 22nd, 2010

Not that it impacts this site, but, here’s another fine example of a company that doesn’t quite understand distributed computing. - - [22/Jun/2010:12:22:40 -0400] "GET /robots.txt HTTP/1.1" 200 102 "-" "Mozilla/5.0 (Twiceler-0.9" - - [22/Jun/2010:12:30:12 -0400] "GET /robots.txt HTTP/1.1" 200 102 "-" "Mozilla/5.0 (Twiceler-0.9" - - [22/Jun/2010:12:31:57 -0400] "GET /robots.txt HTTP/1.1" 200 102 "-" "Mozilla/5.0 (Twiceler-0.9" - - [22/Jun/2010:12:32:55 -0400] "GET /robots.txt HTTP/1.1" 200 102 "-" "Mozilla/5.0 (Twiceler-0.9" - - [22/Jun/2010:12:33:52 -0400] "GET /robots.txt HTTP/1.1" 200 102 "-" "Mozilla/5.0 (Twiceler-0.9" - - [22/Jun/2010:12:37:30 -0400] "GET /robots.txt HTTP/1.1" 200 102 "-" "Mozilla/5.0 (Twiceler-0.9" - - [22/Jun/2010:12:37:51 -0400] "GET /robots.txt HTTP/1.1" 200 102 "-" "Mozilla/5.0 (Twiceler-0.9" - - [22/Jun/2010:12:40:05 -0400] "GET /robots.txt HTTP/1.1" 200 102 "-" "Mozilla/5.0 (Twiceler-0.9" - - [22/Jun/2010:12:40:27 -0400] "GET /robots.txt HTTP/1.1" 200 102 "-" "Mozilla/5.0 (Twiceler-0.9" - - [22/Jun/2010:12:41:25 -0400] "GET /robots.txt HTTP/1.1" 200 102 "-" "Mozilla/5.0 (Twiceler-0.9" - - [22/Jun/2010:12:42:52 -0400] "GET /robots.txt HTTP/1.1" 200 102 "-" "Mozilla/5.0 (Twiceler-0.9" - - [22/Jun/2010:12:43:01 -0400] "GET /robots.txt HTTP/1.1" 200 102 "-" "Mozilla/5.0 (Twiceler-0.9" - - [22/Jun/2010:12:43:37 -0400] "GET /robots.txt HTTP/1.1" 200 102 "-" "Mozilla/5.0 (Twiceler-0.9" - - [22/Jun/2010:12:52:25 -0400] "GET /%7Emcd/crossovernext.html HTTP/1.1" 404 354 "-" "Mozilla/5.0 (Twiceler-0.9" - - [22/Jun/2010:12:55:37 -0400] "GET /robots.txt HTTP/1.1" 200 102 "-" "Mozilla/5.0 (Twiceler-0.9" - - [22/Jun/2010:12:56:53 -0400] "GET /robots.txt HTTP/1.1" 200 102 "-" "Mozilla/5.0 (Twiceler-0.9"

All that for a 404 on a page that hasn’t existed in 10 years.

Netflix, king of the popunder, declines me as an advertiser

Friday, May 28th, 2010

A newspaper site is allowed to do a popunder ad that captures any click on the page. Social media sites are littered with Netflix ads, yet, a Facebook application that brings in a reasonably decent demographic, is declined. At first I thought the problem was the fact that their signup form asks for three pieces of information then submits the application to connectcommerce (Google Affiliate Network) which fills in all of the fields with N/A. Once I attached my Google Adsense/Adwords account, and filled in the proper contact information, I resubmitted my request and received the following:

Dear xxxxxx, Inc., 

Thank you for your interest in working with Netflix. Unfortunately your request to join the Netflix affiliate program was not accepted by the advertiser. 

This action is not necessarily a reflection of the quality, value or traffic of your Web site. Your application may have been declined because it's not a good match for Netflix. 

We apologize for any inconvenience and encourage you to apply for other Google Affiliate Network advertiser programs that may be a better fit. Click here to apply for additional Google Affiliate Network advertiser programs today:

The time from application to decline was 38 minutes. The application did not receive any type of review based on a quick scan of the logs. A dismissal without even viewing the site – even though a sample URL was requested.

Oh well, plenty more advertisers to choose from.

Google Voice Call Log Time Warp

Monday, May 24th, 2010

While I have been using Google Voice more regularly, I haven’t made the switch to using it as my primary number. It is a little odd to place a call from the web, have my office phone ring, then hear the ring on the other side, but, having my numbers in one place, a call log and many other useful features is quite handy. While I’ve only ever given out one phone number for the last ten years, I’ve maintained that with creative use of busy call forwarding, ultra call forwarding and a number of other calling features over the years. While it works, Google Voice does handle things a little better.

However, on a recent call, it appears that I made a call that was 13 minutes long, 12 minutes ago. Google knew when my call would end.

While there are quite a few odd things about Google Voice, I am getting closer to using it for my permanent number.

Journalistic Responsibility

Monday, December 14th, 2009

A week or two ago, a story broke regarding a security upgrade in Windows. In the race to scoop the story first, facts were not checked, the validity of the story was based on a blog post at a security company.

Ed Bott @ Ziff Davis covered it in What the “Black screen of death” story says about tech journalism.

Even TechCrunch falls into this with a spoofed Eric Schmidt joins Twitter. Post first, ask later. Rather than correct the incorrect article, let it run for the adviews.

Since the introduction of the Internet, journalistic accuracy has dropped substantially. While spell-check should eliminate most of the errors, typographic errors occur frequently. The number of journalists that get your and you’re confused or their and there is staggering. Tribune Media, CNN/Turner, ABC, Fox and MSNBC are not immune. Associated Press, Reuters and United Press International remain news leaders with accurate, verified and grammatically correct articles. With the downturn in paper journalism, competent writers have been replaced with less expensive writers that are more interested in the number of bylines they can generate than the quality of their work.

To test a theory, a mock-up of a Facebook Beta application, a ruse posted on a few news sites with corroborating evidence and a ‘hot tip’ to two media outlets resulted in 31 different locations picking up on the post, 2700 or so retweets and precisely one site validating the facts.

The first site it was posted to, Hacker News, suspected it was fake almost immediately. However, they missed the significance of the names chosen, the times that the other comments were posted and the sequence of names. Hackers indeed. A spoof post about a hamster falling into the LHC stayed within the top 210 posts for almost four days before enough ‘news’ displaced it.

In the end, it took a security person from Facebook to post and the thread was subsequently killed. Did Facebook violate someone’s privacy to get to the bottom of this? There sure wasn’t much red tape for the Facebook engineer to peer into someone’s profile to get to the bottom of it.

TheNextWeb suspected something was amiss and updated their post throughout the day clearly indicating the updates. Martin Bryant contacted me via email to ask quite directly whether the information was true. This is good journalism.

I suppose most of the sites that ran the story are just pulling RSS feeds from somewhere with no editorial oversight. A trusted syndicated source could distribute a hoax fairly widely and the remnants would be available on the web and search engines for years.

Do sites knowingly run with incorrect headlines in search of ad dollars associated with a hot story — hoax or not? Three sites that picked up the story clearly wanted the the hysteria and hype to drive adviews.

In the end, the glut of news available at our fingertips means that the overall quality of news has diminished. Is there a solution? With automation moving at breakneck speed, it is a problem we’re going to have to deal with for quite some time. Even Google’s news site presents stories without any editorial control and would be a difficult, but not impossible vector to exploit.

Peer reviewed news isn’t the answer as so many sites have proven and editorially controlled sites contain bias no matter how independent they claim to be.

Want to design the killer app of 2010? Fix news distribution.

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