November 15th, 2008

work, headset, nerf bat, working

Layers upon layers of wrong.

I present this as a cautionary tale. Usually, when you have people who are new to the internet, or whatever field they're just coming into, there is a selection of normal mistakes. Most people will wind up making a few of them over the weeks and months that they are getting comfortable with this new experience. Usually this is one or two at a time, and when it is one at a time, it is usually something that can be recovered from with relative ease.

This poor customer? Not so much.

He wrote in very confused and upset, stating that he had purchased something, a domain or hosting (he wasn't sure which, because he said he didn't quite know the difference between them) but it was supposed to be [his organization's initials].com, but although his card had been charged for a certain amount, there was nothing within his customer account, and the email that he got free with it was not working, so could we please contact him at this alternate email, and if he was in over his head could we please just refund him as he was starting to think this was too complicated and all he wanted to do was put up a website for his business.


I looked in the customer account he had provided. No purchases. I looked at the customer account he had provided, and saw right off why the email was not working. Sure enough, he had set the email associated with the customer account, the email to which we send all account notices, as [his organization's initials]@[registrar name].com -- which addresses are reserved for employees, so he will never receive mail at this address, because he does not have the power to create it, and our admins will not create it for him. Leaving aside the problem of not knowing that the email address free with domain is not created automatically, and must be set up.

A common new customer problem involves the accidental creation of multiple accounts. Our system makes it very easy to make a purchase and create a customer account -- a new account is created upon purchase if you haven't signed in to the existing account that you'd like to use! It just prompts you for account creation information and off you go! So people will create new accounts, have their login cookies time out, and then purchase something, blissfully unaware that they've bought it in another account until they get that email message saying that their purchase has been made, here's the customer number, and they're looking at the new customer number wondering what the actual fuck.

I looked for the domain name he thought he'd purchased. Not registered. At all. Anywhere. Even with a competitor. Couldn't find the account that way. Dammit. Must have been hosting. I was on the verge of asking him to provide any email receipts he'd received for the purchase, and the last 4 digits of the payment method associated therewith, so Billing could sort him out.

... email receipts. Right. To the address that doesn't exist.

Happily, our good fellow had entered the same nonexistent @[registrar name].com email address for his second account in which he'd actually made the purchase, so I could find the account. Oh, good, and it was a domain (which does not require further setup to locate) versus hosting, which requires setup with a domain name before you can use our account recovery system to find the proper account.

...wait, he'd registered a domain, but the domain he said he wanted still existed? Yep, misspelled. And he was blissfully unaware that he'd misspelled it. And you've got to know the domain name to use the account recovery system, and you've got to have an accessible email address on the account to use the account recovery system.

Happily, the security code he had included was the one that gave me the power to change the frakking email address associated with his customer accounts. I told my team lead that I wanted to change this guy's email address on his behalf NOW, rather than faffing about with asking him if he'd like to, because the email address he had upon his accounts was impossible and he would have no other choice but to change it. My team lead is a sane god among excellent team leads, and granted me permission to do so. So I did so. And then I used the misspelled domain name in our automated account recovery system to send the guy account information about the account in which he'd actually purchased the domain, and then I sat down to explain to him, in exhaustive detail, just exactly what he had done wrong and what he needed to do to fix it, but in language that acknowledged that all of these mistakes were in fact normal newbie mistakes ... just he happened to have picked a winning combination of them. I also recommended our WYSIWYG website program, because NO EARTHLY WAY did I want to attempt to explain HTML to this fellow.

All told, it took about half an hour to resolve this.

Since these things require follow-up just for sanity of the techs involved, I did check back on that ticket before leaving. The guy had written back, thanking me for sorting everything out, and sounding far more confident about his ability to actually do this website thing. Warmfuzzies.
ieee coin

Twitter, and how it works for me! Also, Twitter vs. IRC, and how that works for me.

So, Twitter. It's been around for a while, but there are evidently enough people curious about it, and specifically how it works with LJ, that I ought to hold forth upon it.

Twitter is a stand-alone microblogging service -- you don't have to have an LJ to use it. You make teeeeenytiny posts to it. You can do this from their website, from text message, or from a dizzying variety of clients. Twitter was not originally intended to be fed into LJ, but people are just crazy like that, so naturally things evolved.

In common use, stuff gets posted to Twitter that one might never consider making a full LJ post about -- location of the moment, weather, fleeting moods, passing thoughts, and daily trivia. museumfreak sums it up quite accurately:
The original function of LJ was to answer the question "What are you doing today?" Twitter answers the question "What are you doing right now?" The former is of course the integrand of the latter. I post these to LJ because I want to archive them better and I want my LJ friends to know what's going on with me even when I don't have time/energy to post.


I find that since starting to use Twitter, I post much of the same content to Twitter that I would ordinarily save up for a link soup post, and the same not-topic-focused thoughts-of-the-moment that I would usually unload irrelevantly to whatever IRC channel I happen to be in. It's not often important enough for its own post, but put it all together and you have a post. However, since I am a feedback junkie, I want to get these thoughts out there NOW to my people, not wait for enough content, or focus long enough, to have an actual LJ post. It's only after tumbling things around in my mind for a while that there's enough coherent to create a real post.

IRC is designed to support multiple channels on multiple focused topics, even though we stray from them and stray from them badly. Since a lot of the usual suspects on IRC are now also on Twitter, the general focus in the usual channel has improved, while conversation has dropped off somewhat. IRC will generate side-channels to support conversations that the general channel isn't interested in following, although when moving to a side-channel a lot of the conversational momentum gets lost in ensuring that everyone is on board.

IRC is for my topics. Twitter is for my people.

Granted, a lot of my people on Twitter are also my people from IRC, and I don't think that's a coincidence. In turn, IRC has pretty much replaced most of the single-person chatting I used to do (there are exceptions).


How To Use It (technically), and Stuff You Should Know

To get started, first you sign up for twitter here: http://twitter.com

Figure out whether you're going to want it to feed into LJ or not. If you are, find a service that will do that. One of the most popular is LoudTwitter: http://www.loudtwitter.com/ -- but you can also run a script on your own server if you prefer that, and have a server available.

You can choose to make your Twitter updates Twitter-friends-only, however, doing that generally interferes with your ability to post them to your LJ unless you're doing something really fun with your scripting.

If you don't mind a public Twitter, but your journal is friends-only, you can post stuff from Twitter friends-only; the easiest way that I know of to do that is by setting your minimum security, which you should do if you have a friends-only journal anyway.

Regardless of your settings, you then update from Twitter, and make sure that stuff is coming through when scheduled to (sometimes Twitter, or LoudTwitter, or both, are flaky).

People on your friendslist who also use Twitter will notice that you are now doing this, and either add you on Twitter (or not). Socially, some people may choose to not follow you on Twitter on the grounds that they will be reading it all on LJ anyway. On Twitter, it's called "following" rather than "friending". You can also block someone from following you, unlike LJ. Like LJ, however, public is still public.

The convention for Twitter usernames is to preface the username with the @ symbol. Twitter will autolink this for you. If you want to flag someone down on Twitter (comment to them), start a tweet with the @ symbol and their username. They will see it if they check their replies. (If you just put @whoever in the body of it, even if it is the second thing like there are 2 people, they won't necessarily get it, even though it autolinks. Them's the breaks. Other things that don't work: @ whoever, because they're not touching.) Some people also don't check their replies on Twitter, so it's not safe to assume that someone has actually seen a Twitter-reply. Some people choose not to watch the @somebodyelse updates in their Twitter stream, so don't assume someone has seen something if you've put it in a message to someone else, even if they're watching you and it's public (unless, you know, you know otherwise).

You can get the firehose of twitter-friendslist via text message, nothing via text message, or many settings in between.

Twitter allowed subscription to certain words. This isn't available via the web right now; I'm not sure if it's still available via SMS. Stuff has grown up around that, though, to allow somewhat of the same function via different routes. If you are making an announcement to the world on a topic, you can include the symbol # in front of the name of the topic to make it easily searchable. Optionally, add @hashtags as a friend. This was notably pioneered during a 2007 California fire, with tweets including the keyword #sandiegofire. The syntax is reminiscent of IRC channel definitions, but can be used anywhere in the tweet.


Some commentaries and utilities:
http://twitter.pbwiki.com/ -- huge wiki of Twitter-related stuff
http://a.wholelottanothing.org/2008/11/why-im-blocking-you-on-twitter.html -- good rules of thumb for dealing with spammers and the like
http://paulstamatiou.com/2007/01/26/stammy-script-rss-to-twitter-using-php -- syndicate stuff (from LJ) to a Twitter account. (Note: I do not recommend syndicating stuff from your LJ to your Twitter, and then importing your Twitter right back into your LJ, because the scripts will keep each other going until something dies, albeit on a daily basis and not realtime like an email loop.)
http://tweetscan.com/ -- search public Twitter and other microblogs
http://www.twittermail.com/ -- post by email (why?!)
http://twittervision.com/ -- view random recent tweets mapped
http://www.hashtags.org/ -- search opted-in twitter accounts (people following @hashtags) for topics marked with #topic
http://twemes.com -- hashtag search without opt-in
http://twitterless.com/ -- track twitter defriending
http://userscripts.org/scripts/show/17139 -- LJ Twitterless Greasemonkey script for stripping LoudTwitter posts from your friendspage
http://flourish.livejournal.com/253762.html -- excellent introduction
http://jott.com -- transcribe voice stuff and send it somewhere (like twitter. or LJ.)
http://ping.fm -- update multiple places at once
  • Current Music
    Eve 6, "Inside Out", in my head
running, bomb tech

Tweets for 2008-11-15

In the last 24 hours, I posted the following to Twitter:
  • Saturday, 0745: I got some ribbon candies from Sprouts even though it is before Thanksgiving.
  • Saturday, 1448: dot dot dot. @mayerman, I blame you? http://legorobotcomics.com/?id=27
  • Saturday, 1644: PSA: #livejournal will be moving data centers on Tuesday, so it will be down an estimated 4 hours
  • Saturday, 1723: @coffeechica wtf twilight.
  • Saturday, 2145: http://is.gd/7Gor Via @purpure, NYT article, presidents not allowed email. *shudder* Probably not LJ either. Would *die*.


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