Why I'm leaving classmates.com

Trying to reconnect with someone, I was pleasantly surprised that it would let me email him without upgrading to a paid account. But after it let me compose a note to him the catch is that it then said "Your message was sent! Become a Gold Member so XXX can read your message!"

Talk about bait and switch, it is unconscionable!

customer service as brainstorming tool

OK, this makes twice in the past few weeks that I've been in a situation with my PC where I felt I needed to contact customer service for technical support, only to solve the problem during an interactive chat or phonecall before the tech could do so.

The first time was when my vista machine stopped letting apps like IE connect to the net, and it turned out I needed to completely uninstall Norton 360 to get past the issue.

So I bought and installed Norton 360 v2, and noticed after a while that my backups weren't running at all. Tried various things, gave up, went to Norton online support. They wouldn't let me email a question about it so I had to do interactive chat. 20 in queue, and when after 20-30 minutes someone came to help me, he lost the connection and disappeared after "hello". Back to square 1, 15 in queue, another long wait (but not AS long), and the tech tried to help me sort out why it said it couldn't "connect" to my external drive. As he poked around it hit me, I'd had v1's backups set up, but could it be that v2 didn't work with the same config and didn't update? Sure enough, I'd already moved the old config directory out of the way, but I hadn't tried telling 360 to use a *different* drive and then go back to the one I was really using. The switch back and forth tricked it into reinitializing the drive, and away we went.

What. A. Waste. Of. Time. Hard to believe a product could fall over on its face so badly over a version upgrade.

Get Well Soon, Arthur Bisguier

Because my son has started playing in chess tournaments, I have been following the USCF blog, and a recent posting caught my eye: Get Well Soon, Arthur Bisguier

In fact I was just discussing Mr. Bisguier with another parent at the National Elementary championships because I recalled an incident when I was about 9 or 10 and playing against him in a simultaneous exhibition in NYC.  He was playing about 50 boards at once.  I was at the end of a row of boards and so, and someone knocked over many of the pieces.  I wasn't keeping score and wasn't sure of the layout, but I did my best.  When he returned, I pointed out the possibility that the board was wrong, and he looked at it for just a few seconds, cocked his head, and shifted a piece.  I looked at it and had to agree he remembered it right. 

He did better remembering the position while playing 50 games than I did while staring at it the whole time.  Granted I was only 9, but still it was clear what makes him a grandmaster and me a patzer. 

Get well soon.  (And yes, I plan to send him a card, at the address in the blog, recounting this.) 

kudos to cablevision

I never thought I would be in this position, but I have to give Cablevision a pat on the back.

In February I switched from verizon to voice over cable.  While ordering the "triple play" I was asked (a) do I want a free DVR ("yes") and (b) do I want flat rate international calling ("no"). 

When I got my first bill I was charged $20 for international calling and $10 for DVR service.  Turned out the box was free but the service (like a poor man's tivo) was $10/month.  It took me about a half hour of bouncing around through customer service hell before I finally got my worldwide calling plan canceled and a credit on my account, and I filed a complaint with the NJ utilities commission about the deceptive information and attempt to add a service I explicitly denied.

I thought that fell in a black hole, but the other day I got a postcard from the state acknowledging the complaint and voicemail from Cablevision wishing to deal with it.  Took until today to connect, but after I explained my complaint I was given one free year of DVR service.  Very nice, and quite reasonable compensation for all the hassle.

I'm not happy that the situation arose, but I think they deserve acknowledgment for handling it very professionally. 

Wait Wait redux

If you skip the "draft Al" blog posting, the two before that are about Gary Gygax and Wait Wait Don't Tell Me.  So it's amusing that on this week's episode, they tested the US Secretary of Education on her (lack of) knowledge about the late great D&D god.  One of the questions posited that someone from my hometown of Basking Ridge ran for city council on the platform of being a 39th level paladin .. or something like that.  Fortunately that wasn't the right answer :). 

Draft Al!

There's a  Newsweek piece that suggests that if Hilary and Barack are virtually tied, maybe the delegates will go to a compromise candidate, and the natural choice is Al Gore.  Since I fervently hoped he'd run in the first place, I would be dancing in the streets if it turns out this way.