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Friday, December 01, 2006

WWW: May Contain Gluten

I got a spam from American Airlines today, which really annoys me because I quite explicitly signed up only for my monthly mileage statement from them, no regular blastings of Vacation Packages for the Whole Family in a Fine Hotel in Florida with a Hertz Rental Car and Complementary Gift Basket or whatever other crap they're severely misdirecting my way. But whatever, marketing people will be marketing people. You just carry a plastic bag with you to clean up after them, and try not to let them instill into you too much hatred toward the company they're supposed to be positively representing.

But I digress... The real point of this post is that at this point I expect the web to fail more than half the time I use it. And this was just another typical example--because when I went to click the unsubscribe link, I saw that it was a "visit your preferences to unsubscribe" sort of link instead of a "get me off your stupid list the moment the last electron of this click hits your servers" link, and I just knew I was in for trouble--or, more to the point, for wasting my time futzing with the broken web.

To make a long story long: The link brought me to a page with both provided a direct unsubscribe method and a set of instructions for how to review my email subscriptions in general. I chose the latter to make sure they hadn't signed me up for anything else, and discovered this particular spam was of a flavor not listed in my options (all of which were checked NO). So I went back to the direct unsubscribe link and it reported that my email address was not on their list (pretty remarkable considering I was just two clicks away from the email they sent me). So I filled out an extensive customer service complaint, which resulted upon submission in:

Microsoft VBScript runtime  error '800a0046'
Permission denied
/consumer/contact_custsvc1.asp, line 414

Which is pretty much the end of the line, isn't it. You would think a company the size of American Airlines could afford better help.

I wonder if the web is this way because when people finally twig out and go postal, it's only their own computer that suffers?

Someone should start a web site called "YouWastedMyTime.com" where you can submit the url of another web site, and then enter the number of minutes of your life they cost you, plus check one or more boxes explaining why they wasted your time, with options like Spam, Broken Forms, Microsoft/ASP, Needless Forms, Opaque UI, etc.

And then when enough evidence has amassed, maybe someone could go after the worst offenders with a class action lawsuit, or just pool donations and hire a hit man*, or an evil pie-throwing clown, or something. But if nothing else, the website could blare a big dollar figure on its front page saying: THIS IS HOW MANY BILLIONS OF DOLLARS unscrupulous marketing people, sloppy web technicians, and upper management who make crap decisions have cost the world. That's just money down the toilet--sloop. Not to mention the associated stress and anxiety.

To be fair, much of the fault lies with the web itself, which at this point is just a huge technological dung heap of patched and evolved protocols with no underlying coherence whatsoever--a couple dozen distinct attempts to make Turing complete text files without admitting a proper programming language is called for, and we're now stuck with all of them such that a whole new field of elaborate expertise has materialized in support of end results that are a crippled, monstrous version of twenty-year-old technology.

Hmm. I just started eating gluten-containing foods again yesterday after a long experimental abstinence. Maybe I do have a gluten allergy.

[* BB please note: I was only joking about hiring a hit man. If I were going to hire a hit man, I would not blog about it. Thank you for listening.]

Addendum: I haven't even uploaded this journal entry yet, and I get a spam from Consumer Reports saying they'd love to have me back even though I haven't been a customer of theirs in years (perhaps because they sent me too much spam!) and when I just now clicked on the unsubscibe link I was brought to an error page saying "You can visit the page only by clicking on the link in the email. Thank you." WTF! If you never hear from me again, it's because I just gave up and unplugged the cable.



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Simon Funk / simonfunk@gmail.com