Wednesday, June 13, 2007

Dumb, or Just Annoying?

Some years ago, when I was experiencing technical difficulties with my then-provider of e-mail, I opened up a Hotmail account. Today it's primarily a spam-magnet, but I keep it alive with a couple-three newsletter subscriptions and generally check it every week or ten days.

There are many reasons that Hotmail is the least favorite of my freebie e-mail accounts (it's slow, it's clunky, it fills up with Microsoft junk mail, etc.), but at the top of this list is this: It has a stupid sign-in procedure.

Yeah, yeah, I can have my Mac, or Firefox, or Hotmail itself remember some of the sign-in stuff, at least for awhile. But I prefer not to do that. Which means that whenever I sign into Hotmail I have to let them know I'm signing into Hotmail!

Here's what I mean: When I sign in to my Yahoo! Mail account, I type my username in one box and my password in the other. When I sign into my Gmail account, I type my username in one box and my password in the other. Heck, when I check my ancient Netscape Mail account, I type my username in one box and my password in the other even though it's now AIM Mail or something else these days.

Get the pic? Then riddle me this:

How's come when I sign into Hotmail, I have to add to my username?

I mean, at the top of the page it says MSN Hotmail. Below that it says MSN® Hotmail® is changing... to Windows Live™ Hotmail®. (I'm thinking some of those proper nouns might be trademarked or registered with the U.S. Patent Office. But it's just a guess.) At the side of the page it says WindowsLive Hotmail. Above the sign-in fields it says Sign in to Hotmail.

In short, it seems to know that it's Hotmail.

But if I foolishly type my username instead of the whole address, it says Please type your e-mail address in the following format: Need help signing in?

Um, no, I don't need any help...but it seems the folks at MSN/Windows/Live/Hotmail do, for implies that they have suddenly and inexplicably forgotten who they are.

This surpasses what I had some years ago considered to be The Dumbest Thing in E-mail, when AOL swallowed up Netscape. One fine day I received notice that I would have to change my username, which I had had for years and years, because it "conflicted" with a username at AOL. That piqued my interest, since my Netscape username was the same as my old and long abandoned AOL username. So I sent e-mail to that AOL address...and it came back with a no-such-user notification.

So that was dumb. But the Hotmail deal is dumber.

And while I'm at it, here's some similar but unrelated cyber-dumbness:

I have long since lost track of the number of times, in filling out this or that form, survey, etc., I am asked to input my date of birth. Fine, but ever since the turn of the century, the request--nay, demand--is always that it be in the form "mm/dd/yyyy." Now, stop me if I've said this before, but the yyyy part is silly. See, there is no one alive today who was born in 1856, nor is there anyone alive today who was born in 2056, so if I were to fill in, say, "56," would it not be pretty safe to assume I mean the 20th century version? I realize that now we do have among us people who were born in the 2000s...but, in the first place, I'm not sure too many five-year-olds are entering the Publisher's Clearinghouse Sweepstakes online; and in the second place, I'm not sure too many 95- or 100-year-olds are either, so I think it would be safe to assume that someone who filled in "02" as date of birth was not born in 1902 and probably not born in 2102 either.

I'm sure there's a perfectly swell computer-y explanation for having to indicate which century I was born in. That doesn't make it less silly, however.

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