support posts

Put your money where your meme is: #dollars4boobies November 10th, 2011

Two nights ago I (and 194 others) received a Facebook message from an old friend. It outlined instructions for a post with the noble intentions of raising breast cancer awareness (spoiler alert) with instructions not to share with men. This conjures up a saying that has become something of a personal mantra for me: We often judge others by their actions and ourselves by our intentions.

It was undoubtedly with the best of intentions that someone sent me the message below; with the quite noble intention of raising awareness about breast cancer.

 

 

Sadly, I must turn a critical eye towards the ensuing actions because I genuinely believe they failed to support the noble intention. Why? I hypothesize that, in some ways similar to previous year’s viral FB booby-supporting memes this generates a flurry of chatter that is unfortunately decontextualized from the cause. In fact, in my case it was directed at all of the possible things I could/should or could not/should not do for 18 months in Amsterdam¬†and numerous requests for clarification. And, for the record, I am certain that they do not let you on a¬†plane from Amsterdam to the US with seeds. Fortunately, I believe Steve is still in the midst of a Facebook Fast (and boy, he ain’t alone) and has yet to ask me just how I intend to continue working here if I am overseas. (see? we’ve gotten a little far afloat from breast cancer here)

 

I recognize that my actions here (i.e. demystifying the meme) may derail the breast cancer awareness mission, but my intention is simply to direct some energy towards activities that have a more direct impact on the National Breast Cancer Foundation’s mission “to save lives by increasing awareness of breast cancer through education and by providing mammograms for those in need”. So, to walk my talk, I just made a (modest little) donation to support the National Breast Cancer Foundation.

So I’d like to offer up a reframe of this whole meme business: If you love boobies (and quite frankly, who doesn’t?)¬† make a donation and use your FB status to celebrate your own actions! And you can tweet that, too, if you are feeling meme-y and aren’t up in a fuss about the word boobies (because some actually are). Come on people, get a pair. Or give a couple bucks to support someone else’s. #dollars4boobies

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ChittahChattah Quickies July 13th, 2010
  • [from julienorvaisas] Facebook gained only 320,000 new U.S. users [Wired.com] – [Significant shift in uptake for Facebook. So…. what follows saturation?] Have we reached the Facebook saturation point? That’s one possibility suggested by monthly growth data from Inside Facebook, which reports that they gained only 320,000 new U.S. users in June after a gain in May of more than 7.8 million. Moreover, the net’s dominant social networking site lost active users in the 18-25, 26-34 and 35-44 ranges, while gaining users in their mid-teens and middle years. One possibility is that the May and June controversies over privacy policies and dominance have kept the company from tremendous new growth and even led some to curtail their use. Another possibility is that it’s just a statistical aberration, or a result of changes to the advertising system, where Inside Facebook says it gleans its numbers. But there’s also the possibility that almost every American who has any interest in joining Facebook already has.
  • [from steve_portigal] You Shouldn’t Have to Pay to Talk To Your Own Customers [AustinStartup] – [Emerging issues and best practices in online customer support forums] A focus on great customer care has become, in the era of Zappos, not just a requisite checkbox, but an opportunity for differentiation, and a primary means of acquiring and retaining users (customer care as a revenue generator, not just a cost center). Those interactions are not just happening on customer care platforms – they’re literally happening around the web…Whether you are a brand, a developer, an entrepreneur, or a well-meaning customer or user, welcome to the wild wild west of customer care and the nasty underbelly of passionate user communities, where who owns the data is a very political issue, and there are more questions than answers, unfortunately.
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Portigal Consulting Philanthropy, 2009 January 8th, 2010

In 2009 we supported three organizations:


Locally, we once again gave to Coastside Hope

the “primary provider of safety net services,” providing a “monthly food harvest, emergency shelter and rental assistance services, crisis intervention and referral services, clothing vouchers, Christmas Adopt-a-Family program, [and] citizenship services.”)



home_logo
In tribute to the winners of our Reading Ahead design contest (conducted in partnership with Core77), we donated to 826 Valencia, a San Francisco nonprofit that helps kids with expository and creative writing



url
Finally, we were excited by the opportunity to support StoryCorps who we regard as fellow travelers in the story business: telling stories, gathering stories, and listening to stories.

Previously:

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ChittahChattah Quickies August 19th, 2009
  • Summer Reading Programs Gain Momentum for Students About to Enter College – Nationwide, hundreds of colleges and universities, large and small, public and private, assign first-year students a book to read over the summer, hoping to create a sense of community and engage students intellectually.

    While there are no reliable statistics on summer reading programs, a recent survey of more than 100 programs by a student researcher at Gustavus Adolphus College in St. Peter, Minn., found that most had started in the last four years, although a few go back decades.

    The range of books colleges use is enormous, covering fiction and nonfiction. Classics are largely absent, with most of the works chosen falling closer to Oprah than academic.

    Still, a certain canon of summer reading is emerging: books that are readable, short, engaging, cheap. Often, it helps if the book is a best seller dealing with some aspect of diversity, some multicultural encounter — and if the author will come to speak on campus.

  • Canada Reads — CBC Radio – Canada Reads celebrates five Canadian books for three months online, on the air and at public events. It all leads up to a week-long show hosted by Jian Ghomeshi. In this annual title fight, five celebrity panelists defend their favourite work of Canadian fiction. One by one, books are voted off the list, until one panelist triumphs with the book for Canada to read this year.
  • Beyond the Book – Beyond the Book: Mass Reading Events and Contemporary Cultures of Reading in the UK, USA and Canada is a 3-year interdisciplinary research project.

    Our main objectives are to determine why and how people come together to share reading through a comparative study of selected mass reading events.

    The mass reading event is a new, proliferating literary phenomenon. Events typically focus on a work of literary fiction and employ the mass media as a means of promoting participation in the themed activities and discussions that take place around the selected book. Beyond the Book uses research methodologies drawn from both the humanities and social sciences to investigate whether mass reading events attract new readers and marginalized communities. We also wish to determine whether this contemporary version of shared reading fosters new reading practices and even whether it is capable of initiating social change.

  • <"ONE BOOK" READING PROMOTION PROJECTS (Center for the Book: Library of Congress) – "One Book" projects (community-wide reading programs), initiated by the Washington Center for the Book in 1998, are being introduced across the U.S.A. and around the world. Here's lengthy list of authors, communities, and dates.
  • The Big Read – The Big Read is an initiative of the National Endowment for the Arts designed to restore reading to the center of American culture. The NEA presents The Big Read in partnership with the Institute of Museum and Library Services and in cooperation with Arts Midwest. The Big Read brings together partners across the country to encourage reading for pleasure and enlightenment.

    The Big Read gives communities the opportunity to come together to read, discuss, and celebrate one of 30 selections from American and world literature. This initiative supports innovative reading programs in selected communities, providing engaging educational resources for discussing outstanding literature and conducting expansive outreach and publicity campaigns, and a Web site offering comprehensive information about the authors and their works.

  • Literary Reading in Dramatic Decline, According to National Endowment for the Arts Survey – (July 8, 2004) Literary reading is in dramatic decline with fewer than half of American adults now reading literature, according to a National Endowment for the Arts survey released today. Reading at Risk: A Survey of Literary Reading in America reports drops in all groups studied, with the steepest rate of decline – 28 percent – occurring in the youngest age groups. The study also documents an overall decline of 10 percentage points in literary readers from 1982 to 2002, representing a loss of 20 million potential readers. The rate of decline is increasing and, according to the survey, has nearly tripled in the last decade.
  • 15 Books That Have Stuck With You (yet another of those Facebook etc. "memes" that are more like chain letters than memes) – Pick 15 books that will always stick with you. Don't take more than 15 minutes. Tag 15 friends including me because I'm interested in seeing what books my friends choose.
  • My pictures from Belgium 2009 (345 of 'em!) – Here's the whole set on Flickr. I'll continue to blog highlights from the trip.
  • Google book project far from settled – As the deadline draws near for authors and publishers to opt out of a proposed legal settlement allowing Google Inc. to forge ahead with plans to scan millions of books, more opponents of the landmark deal are stepping forward, and the local literary world is growing more perplexed.

    "Smart people, major players that are sophisticated in the ways of publishing, are still at loggerheads," said Ted Weinstein, a San Francisco literary agent. He said they're not just arguing whether the deal is good or bad, "but still expressing disagreement about what exactly it will do. That's a problem."

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ChittahChattah Quickies July 21st, 2009
  • ColaLife is a campaign to get Coca-Cola to open up its distribution channels in developing countries to carry much needed 'social products' – …such as oral rehydration salts and high-dose vitamin A tablets (that might retro fit into existing shipping hardware)
    It was launched by Simon Berry, who had an idea while working on the British Aid programme in 1988 "Maybe by dedicating one compartment in every 10 crates as ‘the life saving’ compartment?" Having made no progress with the idea for 20 years, Simon decided to try once more but this time using the convening power of the internet. Since floating the idea on his blog in May 2008, he has managed to create a huge community around the campaign, through a Facebook group and appearances on Radio 4’s iPM programme. He is now in discussions with Coca-Cola and is looking to engage with an international NGO to move the project forward.

    ColaLife is an independent and purely voluntary movement backed by thousands of supporters on its Facebook Group. ColaLife is not an organisation.

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ChittahChattah Quickies July 13th, 2009
  • Japanese robots not finding their market, recession and high prices blamed (but not fundamental mismatch between need and solution?) – Roborior by Tmsuk — a watermelon-shape house sitter on wheels that rolls around a home and uses infrared sensors to detect suspicious movement and a video camera to transmit images to absent residents — has struggled to find new users. A rental program was scrapped in April because of lack of interest. Though the company won’t release sale figures, it has sold less than a third of the goal, 3,000 units, it set when Roborior hit the market in 2005, analysts say. There are no plans to manufacture more.

    That is a shame, Mariko Ishikawa, a Tmsuk spokesman, says, because busy Japanese in the city could use the Roborior to keep an eye on aging parents in the countryside. “Roborior is just the kind of robot Japanese society needs in the future,” Ms. Ishikawa said.

    Sales of a Secom product, My Spoon, a robot with a swiveling, spoon-fitted arm that helps older or disabled people eat, have similarly stalled as caregivers balk at its $4,000 price.

  • Chris Anderson on the differences between scarcity thinking and abundance thinking – When scarce resources become abundant, smart people treat them differently, exploiting them rather than conserving them. It feels wrong, but done right it can change the world. The problem is that abundant resources, like computing power, are too often treated as scarce.
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ChittahChattah Quickies June 4th, 2009
  • Reasonable Consumer Would Know "Crunchberries" Are Not Real, Judge Rules – Judge England also noted another federal court had "previously rejected substantially similar claims directed against the packaging of Fruit Loops [sic] cereal, and brought by these same Plaintiff attorneys." He found that their attack on "Crunchberries" should fare no better than their prior claims that "Froot Loops" did not contain real froot.

    (via BoingBoing)

  • A Manhattan Writing Of Six Therapists – “Everybody comes in with their own stories, and they can be so staggeringly original,” said Bonnie Zindel, the psychoanalyst who started the writing group seven years ago. “We all need stories to make sense of our lives, we’re all wired to tell stories, and nature gave us that. For us, we wonder, ‘What is the story that our patients are telling?’ There are mother stories, father stories, ghost stories and the eternal universal story of a child trying to separate from its mother.”
  • 50 Scientifically Proven Ways to Be Persuasive – Read this post now, it won't last long! Most of our readers – including people like you – are already choosing to look at this post.

    (Lone Gunman, I'm giving you folks credit for this and look forward to you reciprocating, thanks!)

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Portigal Consulting Philanthropy, 2008 January 22nd, 2009

Our giving in 2008 was in support of two organizations. Locally, we gave to Coastside Hope

the “primary provider of safety net services,” providing a “monthly food harvest, emergency shelter and rental assistance services, crisis intervention and referral services, clothing vouchers, Christmas Adopt-a-Family program, [and] citizenship services.”)

We also gave to the American Cancer Society, acknowledging a loss in our firm’s extended family.

Previously: Portigal Consulting Philanthropy, 2007

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Squeaky Tweets Get Grease October 28th, 2008

This article relates how a Comcast VP started using Twitter to track down and resolve customer problems, after a lot of bad news began appearing on blogs and websites.

But in portraying this as a big success, with social media mavericks working inside the enterprise to really solve customer problems, the article is missing the larger point: these companies (in this case Comcast, but substitute anyone else you like) are so bloated, bureaucratic, inefficient or corporate that the regular system can’t work. This is the problem resolution system that is available to the greatest majority of the customers, those who don’t know what Twitter is, who don’t start anti-Comcast blogs, those vast majority of customers who have either surrendered entirely or who only have access to the resources the company offers them: a toll free number to call. If Comcast (or equivalent) can’t solve problems that come in that way, they shouldn’t be lauded when customers are driven to the brink and complain in other channels that Comcast isn’t really and truly supporting.

While it’s great that there are motivated and creative folks at Comcast that are pushing the envelope of how to reach and support customers, it smacks of elitism to be applauding this thin veneer of problem resolution when what it reveals is the rotting timbers of the support infrastructure.

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Portigal Consulting Philanthropy, 2007 January 22nd, 2008

Our primary giving in 2007 was in support of two organizations: one local, and one in support of developing nations.

Coastside Hope is the “primary provider of safety net services” in our local area. They provide “monthly food harvest, emergency shelter and rental assistance services, crisis intervention and referral services, clothing vouchers, Christmas Adopt-a-Family program, [and] citizenship services.”

The Free Wheelchair Mission has taken an innovative approach to producing wheelchairs for developing countries: “to use components that are manufactured in high volume for other products…He removed every extra feature possible, ending up with the least expensive design that will satisfy a large portion of the world’s need for wheelchairs. This wheelchair design lends itself to manufacture by highly efficient companies where assembly costs are relatively low.”
chair_new.jpg

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Communication Confusion over Confirmation Confusion October 12th, 2007

Andrew points out that Kyoto and Osaka are near each other and that was probably behind the offers from Expedia that I had complained about. Helpful info that I didn’t have, but unfortunately, it got worse.

A few days later I received email from Expedia

To: Steve Portigal
Subject: Steve, here is your itinerary confirmation for your 01/02/08 Osaka trip
[deletia that makes reference to our Osaka trip multiple times]

Even more concerned than before, I wrote them and received this message

Dear Expedia Customer,
Thank you for contacting us.

We regret that your experience with Expedia.com was not satisfying. Comments such as yours are read by numerous people within Expedia and help shape our policies and practices as we learn and grow.
If you have further questions, feel free to reply to this e-mail or contact Expedia customer services at 1-800-397-3342 and reference case ID 36793797.

In other words, I submitted a complaint and they aren’t going to act on it, unless I submit it AGAIN. Okay, I do that.

The next message is even worse.

Dear Expedia Customer,

Thank you for contacting us.

Kyoto, Kyoto-fu (Change name) Expedia.com itinerary number: 121380781812

If you have further questions, feel free to reply to this e-mail…

No actual communication. Is anyone out there? I try again.

Dear Expedia Customer,

Thank you for your immediate response.

Please accept our apologies for the misunderstanding with your hotel reservation. We regret any inconvenience this may have caused you.

Your itinerary serves as a confirmation of your purchase, and we’ve sent an updated copy of it in a separate e-mail. You can also access your itinerary online at any time. Here’s how:

Again, no one is addressing my key question: why does my Kyoto reservation keep getting referred to as my trip to Osaka? Once more into the breach…

Dear Steve,

Thank you for your reply.

Please accept our apologies in regards to the misunderstanding with your reservation. We regret any inconvenience that may have occurred and would like to assure you that every reservation is important to us.

Your problem may stem from incompatibility between your browser and our system. We have already escalated this technical issue to the appropriate department.

In the interim, your hotel reservation at the Hotel Monterey Kyoto is confirmed while the “OSAKA” tag line have caused you such inconvenience, the printed itinerary of your reservation is still binding and a confirmed reservation for a hotel in Kyoto, Japan and not in Osaka.

So somehow my browser is causing them to send me email messages about a different city? The crucial piece of info (thanks, Andrew), that these are nearby cities, never appeared, and a spurious technical issue was blamed (it’s not a browser issue; perhaps they want to blame the model of car I’m driving for the emails they are sending?) but at least a human being intervened and confirmed that what I thought I bought was indeed what I bought.

Great job, Expedia people! Ridiculously poor support to go with a rather silly system! Let’s hope we don’t have an actual problem at any point.

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Keeping spam out of your brand? June 26th, 2006

eud5c7-htm-6-16-2006-10-51-40.jpg

I imagine many folks are familiar with the email newsletters from Constant Contact, that feature the SafeUnsubscribe logo above? I’ve received any number of newsletters sent via their service always from business or people I know. Their unsub mechanism has always seemed reliable, and I’ve felt good about the company as an alternative to other ways of sending mass-email that get flagged as spam, etc.

I was surprised, therefore, to get this:
eud5c7-htm-6-16-2006-10-51-12-am.jpg

An ad for some online pajama sales. With someone else’s name in the body of the ad (where my name presumably would be). I tried to unsub but the link didn’t work.

[Perhaps this was some sort of phishing scam, like those fake emails we receive from eBay, PayPal and every bank imaginable, asking us to log in and verify our accounts – those messages are clever fakes and don’t come from the companies they appear to come from].

I thought this was semi-legit and so I contacted the company about this messed up message they were sending out. Their less-than-helpful reply.

Dear Steve,

Thank you for contacting Constant Contact Customer Support.

We checked the account from which you received the campaign email and found that you have received a test email of one of the campaigns created in this account.

We understand that you tried to unsubscribe from this listing by clicking on the Unsubscribe link in the campaign but were unsuccessful.

Please be informed that certain features like “Unsubscribe” link do not function in the test email. If you wish to be removed from the mailing list please respond to the person who sent this campaign with your concern.

We are sorry for any inconvenience caused.

If you have any further questions please send us a note.

Upendra
Constant Contact Support

What? So they aren’t responsible for what is sent out? And send me off to someone else? As far as a test email, that’s absolute bunk. I received three more of the pajama ads, all from different From: addresses. Someone is spamming either with or without the consent of Constant Contact.

If it wasn’t from them at all, you’d think they would have identified that, rather than the ridiculous “test email” story.

I contacted their abuse address, which I should have done in the first place. This was a few wees ago, and they’ve completed ignored me.

Of course, bad customer service is always a bad reflection on your brand, but this company’s core brand seems to be that they are a trusted delivery vehicle for email – their stuff is screened, bonded, whatever, to be NOT spam. They’re used for spam, and they drop the ball, entirely.

How could anyone trust them, or in fact, permit them to send us email, if this is what we are letting ourselves in for. Maybe they are known widely as a spamhaus (as they are called) but I’d never been aware of it. I’m going to assume they are, however.

My second run-in with bad support around service abuse comes from LinkedIn, a social networking site. People connect with others they know; of course, what it means to know someone is up for interpretation and LinkedIn’s own version of what those links should represent has been ignored by many people. A few weeks ago someone appeared to be running amok and sending linking invitations to as many people as humanly possible. I received a direct invitation which I declined (this is not someone I knew at all), but saw them connecting with others I knew later that day.

The next day I received another connection attempt from the same person, this time through the “school colleague” feature of the system. At this point I was fed up; the system expects people to behave reasonably, this person wasn’t, and now I was getting repeated unwanted solicitations. I contacted LinkedIn about it:

Thank you for your email. We apologize for the experience you have had. LinkedIn is very concerned with member experience.

LinkedIn can assure you, LinkedIn was not the source of the spam you received. As stated in LinkedIn’s Privacy Policy:

“Your privacy is our top concern. We work hard to earn and keep your trust, so we adhere to the following principles to protect your privacy:

  • We will never rent or sell your personal information to third parties for marketing purposes
  • We will never share your contact information with another user, unless both of you choose to contact one another
  • Any sensitive information that you provide will be secured with all industry standard protocols and technology”
    • Would you please tell us what spam you received? Is it possible for you to forward copies of the emails (including full header information) so we may investigate the source of the emails?

      Regards,

      Loretta Thomas
      LinkedIn Customer Service

Of course, I described the situation clearly in my first message, but they obviously didn’t read that. I used the “spam” word and that clearly blinds support staff from reading the rest of the message. I sent in the message in question, and of course, have heard nothing weeks later.

Privacy is becoming a ridiculously heated topic now, and it’s intersting to see companies who are offering different forms of introduction/connection services fail to – when it’s right in front of them – protect the privacy and quality of communication that their members receive. All the while, of course, proclaiming how they are indeed doing so. It’s pathetic!

Update: July 12 – I hear back

This account has been cancelled for abuse. It was cancelled on 6/15/06.

Thank you,

Leslie
Customer Compliance
Constant Contact

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Blogger Help : Known Issues? October 11th, 2005

Blogger Help has a sidebar entitled “Ask Support”

Can’t find what you’re looking for in Blogger Help?

First check Blogger Status and our known issues page, then write Blogger Support and we’ll see what we can do.

Of course, when one tries to write Blogger Support, ie, submit a report of something not working properly, there are really two choices:

  • Ask for help or instructions
  • Submit a feature request or suggestion

Telling them that something is not working is not an option. They don’t seem to want to know about problems. That’s one way to keep the bug list down, just keep the users at bay!

Thanks, Google!

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Recycling July 14th, 2005


(see similar recycling icons as well as what they mean here)

My hair gel comes in a plastic container that doesn’t have any such logo; rather it has a circle with the letters PET in it. For some reason, they aren’t using the standard symbols, and so I really don’t know if I can recycle it. Beauty product/consumer product companies are usually pretty responsive, so I sent an email describing the logo on the package, and the logos that I expect to find, and my concern about being able to recycle their product.

Here’s what they sent back

Thank you for visiting Garnier on the Web.

We do not have prepared information to send you in answer to your specific questions.

We want to assure you that we are committed to the protection and respect of the environment. If you are interested in learning about the significant efforts made by our company, we invite you to consult our website at www.loreal.com. You will find details on our environmental policy under About L’Oreal. The “loreal.com” website is the corporate site of the L’Oreal group of companies worldwide.

I was honestly expecting some info that I could use. Does anyone know the PET-in-a-circle icon? I don’t want to assume and ruin the batch or whatever happens if you send something non-recyclable through the system (and gee aren’t there a lot of mythologies and confused perceptions around what actually happens to stuff we put in the recycling boxes?).

Ah well.

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Unsupportive support July 8th, 2005

Have you seen this trick?

When using a website to report a problem (in my case, there was a new feature in Blogger that wasn’t working properly), you are asked to enter all your information (name, email, system used, description of problem), and then will receive an automated email almost immediately.

Sometimes those emails are simply acknowledgements. We’ve got your request; it’s in our system, a real person will get back to you ASAP once we’ve had a chance to look at it. Have you looked at our FAQ? But more often I’m seeing a little phrase stuck in at that bottom warning casually that if you STILL need help you have to do something (click on a link, hit reply, etc.). It’s very easy to skip over that warning since it’s buried and not part of the standard dialogue, in which case your request for help will be discarded.

I went through that with Blogger (or “Google” as they are also known) and many days later they posted on their status page that the problem was fixed (in fact, the problem had been in existence for several days but this hadn’t appeared on their status page, the fix announcement referred to the issue appearing briefly which was rather optimistic of ‘em). Several days after that, they send me a generic email in response to my support request, suggesting that the problem may be fixed, or it may be solved by a fix listed at a website they point me to (not relevant to my problem), and if it’s still a problem, I should just submit a help request again!

Wow. I mean, really the problem has been solved and that’s great, but to suggest I start all over again when it feels like I have to jump through so many hoops to get them to even acknowledge my request – yikes. Talk about frustration.

I acknowledge that Blogger is free for most, and there are some millions of blogger pages, and when a piece of the service goes down they are likely to get an incredible number of support requests, and so the logistics of actually providing support are tremendously demanding for them. Fair enough. But – just looking at the customer side of it, the chipper tone in the email doesn’t really help when it doesn’t feel like they are listening to me.

For Blogger support, I’ve mostly been using a third-party site – a community of Blogger users and experts and enthusiasts called BloggerForum – if nothing else, this allowed me to determine that my problem was widespread enough that others were experiencing it, and that eased my concerns significantly – I figured they are probably working fixing it if it’s a bigger problem than just me. But I couldn’t get that reassurance from Blogger (though if they had posted the problem on their status page immediately and not 3 days later, that could have helped), and that’s too bad.

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