Friday, April 11, 2008

Too Much for Coincidence?

A brace of eerily similar occurrence in the past couple of days deies coincidence.

First: I received notification the other day that, whose remailing services I have found to be handy on a couple of occasions when I've needed to switch mail accounts, had tried to renew my subscription via a credit card that had expired, and to I would need to go online and give them new info. (Actually, I just needed to tell them when the card would next expire, but either way...) Okay, I follow the instructions helpfully laid out in the e-mail...well, they would have been helpful if they worked. They took me right where they said they would, but there was nothing there in the way of updating billing information, as had been promised. Being fairly independent, I tried "My Account" and the online Help file, but no luck. Indeed, the Help file repeated precisely the same instructions that didn't work. (This is not the first time I have detected irony in the sobriquet "help" file.)

In the interests of completeness, I tried the procedure on both a PC running Windows XP and my new iMac running Leopard, with identical results. On the Windows machine I even logged in with Internet Exploder, in case it was a Firefox issue. But no.

So I dashed off a few lines to Customer Service, which this morning replied with instructions that sounded suspiciously like the old instructions. But I can be a sport, occasionally, so I went through the exercise again...and, interestingly there now were a couple of clickable buttons next to my "service options," buttons that were not there yesterday. (And I know this for a fact, since I took a screenshot to send along to for reference. Also, I clicked around on the page on a couple of my expeditions yesterday, just in case I was overlooking something. I wasn't.)

Bottom line, as near as I can conclude: Something got changed between yesterday and today, even though there was nothing in's e-mail to indicate they had found a problem on their end and fixed it.


But now here comes that Eerily Similar experience I mentioned above.

Last evening I came upon an item in the New York Times that I decided to submit to Digg. So I click the link and all the usual stuff, and--also as usual--get the screen that says they think it might duplicate an essay already submitted. (Anyone else notice that when Digg says that, it's almost invariably wrong?) But the part of the screen that usually lists the other stories, and gives you the button with which you swear your contribution is original, was blank except for a couple of lines indicating an "unknown fatal exception." I tried a couple of other stories, tried the Windows/iMac bit again, and kept getting the same results.

Sort of forgot about it till this morning, when the same thing happened, so I clicked the ink to report the issue to Customer Service. This evening they replied, suggesting I wipe out associated cookies and I forget what-all else.

Which I didn't do. So imagine my surprise a few minutes ago when I clicked to send a story to Digg ("Anti-Choicers Are Communists!," on AlterNet)...and it worked!

Oh, sure, I had to go through all the usual we-think-this-might-be-a-duplicate balderdash (as usual, it wasn't) but otherwise everything was up and at-'em again. Without my having done a blessed thing.

Bottom line, as near as I can conclude: Again something got changed between yesterday and today, without any indication to me from the party in question that they were doing anything to fix anything. Weird, huh?

Well, okay, it could all be coincidental, especially the Digg case. Stuff happens and unhappens all the time in the computer world: How many times has rebooting the computer solved the problem? But the instance smells a lot like someone fixing a problem and then not admitting that there ever was a problem to be fixed in the first place!

I have to say, I've been tempted along those lines--as recently as yesterday--but have always resisted. The case yesterday had to do with someone rather hotly insisting that they had made repeated requests for an update to a web site I handle. A search through back e-mail--going back some five or six months--revealed no such thing. It was indeed tempting to make the update, backdate the page, and then strongly suggest that the complainant see an optometrist. But I like to think I'm bigger than that. (I'm not, but I like to think so). I made the change, then e-mailed the Offended Party that the change had been made.

And, yes, I do think I'm a better person for it.

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