Much ado about scripting, Linux & Eclipse: card subject to change

2007-07-12

Real World Bug Reporting

I've seen some kvetching lately in #eclipse that people (Eclipse users/customers) open bugs which never get resolved. Also, last night I saw an article from earlier this year discussing whether or not Vista would be fit for purpose, which spawned further kvetching about Microsoft and IBM and how much/little support there is from large organizations with large customer bases.

That said, let me present a real life example I just went through of how much worse life would be in OSS if we, the developers, treated our customers (the world at large) as if we were a monopoly with nothing to gain from helping you out, with an insipid insistence in NOT working together as a community.

Without further ado, I give you ... reporting a bug to Rogers Communications (unabridged).

 Original Message Follows:
 ------------------------
 name: Nick Boldt
 emailId: nickboldt
 replyEmail: nickboldt@gmail.com
 issue: account
 subcategory: other
 problemdescription: Logging in using Firefox or Konqueror browser
 (which normally works), I periodically get this error:

 Microsoft VBScript compilation  error '800a03e9'

 Out of memory

 /web_auth/verifpwd.asp, line 0

 Given you're running a Microsoft server -- maybe it's in need of a
 reboot? ;-)
Dear Nick Boldt,

Thank you for your email.

We understand your concern with this issue.

Rogers Yahoo! Hi-Speed Internet technical support representatives are qualified to diagnose and troubleshoot issues relating directly to our client software. We will therefore not be able to assist you with this matter, as it is beyond the scope of our support parameters.

For assistance regarding peripheral devices and other software products, we recommend contacting the vendor of the software in question. We apologize for any inconvenience.

If you have any further questions or comments regarding our service, please fill out the online form on our Customer Support page listed below or contact us by phone at 1-888-288-4663.

Regards,
name removed

There's nothing more annoying that people who tell you to solve your problem by repeating what you've already done (namely, to contact the software vendor, who in this case is in fact Rogers).

Guys, this is either one of two problems:

a) your webserver has a memory leak

b) your website relies on activeX controls and therefore doesn't (consistently) work with anything but Internet Explorer

In either case, it has nothing to do with my "client software" -- it's a website/webserver problem.

Please escalate this to your webmaster for review.

Cheers,

Nick

Granted, I was wrong about what the problem here was, but that's why I was suggesting escalation. Besides, I don't do ASP anymore.

Thank you for taking the time to write to us, we appreciate your use of online customer service.

We would be more that happy to assist you with your concerns.

We appreciate hearing from our customers and thank you for your comments and feedback. However, please note that the Rogers Yahoo! Hi-Speed cable internet service, currently supports only Internet Explorer and the Rogers Yahoo! browser. We apologize for the inconvenience.

Please let us know if we may be of further assistance to you.

If you have any further questions or comments regarding our service, please fill out the online form on our Customer Support page listed below or contact us by phone at 1-888-288-4663.

Regards,
name removed

I think the point you're (once again) missing is that it's not the browser (client) that's the problem but the website/webserver (server). Since this problem is intermittent and happens with multiple different browsers, I'm reasonably certain it's not a browser issue.

Further, since VBScript compilation occurs ON THE SERVER, not in the client browser (we're not talking about Javascript or another client-side scripting language, but a server-side one), and since my computer (and thus browsers) have ample memory to load other websites (2G of RAM and a 2G swap) an "Out of memory" error must be caused by a problem ON THE SERVER.

A quick Google search confirms that this is a known problem in VBScript, with an available workaround provided by Microsoft:

Microsoft VBScript compilation error 800a03e9 Out of memory
http://support.microsoft.com/kb/174634

That said, if you don't feel this issue needs to be escalated to your web server support staff for review, or that it's perfectly reasonable to expect that at least once a day your website won't let customers sign in (it worked fine a moment ago but not when I first filed this bug report), then by all means, please send me another FOAD "we only support MSIE" note. After all, it's much more fun (and costly for you!) for me to call your support staff instead of using the website for self-service every time it won't let me log in.

Yours,

Nick

Dear Nick Boldt,

Thank you for your email.

We sympathize with your situation.

Please provide further information on the nature of the problem you are experiencing and we will be happy to assist you in any way we can. Information such as error messages or codes you receive may be helpful in determining the source of the problem.

Please include when you are recieiving the error message as well, including the full URL of the site and any other information you can provide about it, may be useful as well.

If you have any further questions or comments regarding our service, please fill out the online form on our Customer Support page listed below or contact us by phone at 1-888-288-4663.

Regards,
name removed

Fine, if you need me to do your job for you, I will.

Steps to reproduce:

1) Go to http://www.shoprogers.com/homeen.asp?CustomerType=Consumer&Language=En

2) Enter username / password; check box for 'Rember my username'; click go or hit enter

3) Marvel at the following error which tends to occur at random intervals but particularly the second or third time I try to log in using the same browser session:

Microsoft VBScript compilation error \'800a03e9\'

Out of memory

/web_auth/verifpwd.asp, line 0

4) Per advice in http://support.microsoft.com/kb/174634, fix this bug.

5) Send me a $50 account credit for helping you fix your website. (Hey, I can dream.)

Cheers,

Nick

Dear Nick Boldt,

Thank you for taking the time to write to us, we appreciate your use of online customer service.

We would be more that happy to assist you with your concerns.

Although we thank you for your input regarding the Corporate Website, for further issues related to the Customer Service feature, we recommend contacting the support number 1-877-343-5745. They may then escalate such matters to the network administrators, who manage the server.

Please note that the email support team, addresses issues related to the various Rogers Cable services (such as Hi-Speed cable internet, Home Phone, Digital Cable TV, etc.).

If you have any further questions or comments regarding our service, please fill out the online form on our Customer Support page listed below or contact us by phone at 1-888-288-4663.

Regards,
name removed

1. It's not the Corporate Website, it's the public customer website. I'm not a corporate user, I'm just one of your many regular customers. I would have thought that would be obious from the URL: http://www.shoprogers.com/homeen.asp?CustomerType=Consumer&Language=En -- note the "CustomerType=Consumer" part.

2. Why should I have to report this issue a second time to yet another unsympathetic ear when you can just forward this email chain to the appropriate people for resolution? Not only do you need me to document (twice) the problem, but you now want me to report it twice as well? Are your webmaster(s) so afraid of email that they need a buffer of phone-answering lackeys around them to protect them from valid, documented, and solvable bug reports?

3. If your staff "addresses issues related to the various Rogers Cable services", then why can't you deal with issues related to me checking my Rogers bill online -- namely, the fact that about half the time I try to log in, I get the aforementioned error? Shouldn't supporting the website on which my bills reside be part of supporting Rogers Cable services?

Thanks,

Nick

Dear Nick,

Thank you for contacting us again, we appreciate the support you are providing us.

I have read the history behind your e-mail requests along with your current e-mail. First I would like to mention that the Rogers corporate web site is www.rogers.com. I'm sorry if that information was confusing to you.

Second, my question to you is why are you logging in 2-3 times in the same session? (from e-mail sent 7/11) You only need to log on once to do all your maintenance, bill viewing and reviewing of your account. This may be the root cause of the problem.

Third, you need to call the staff in our Internet support office. We are not qualified to help you. We do not do any technical troubleshooting via e-mail. Please understand that we are not equipped with this type of knowledge, we answer a limited range of questions about billing, sales, general inquiries. Please call 1-888-288-4663, they are available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, and would be very happy and able to help you.

Thank you for contacting us, we hope that this issue will be resolved by our technicians.

Sincerely,
name removed

So, the moral here is that even when you provide steps to reproduce, solve the already-documented problem (via Google and the Microsoft KB), and request multiple times that they simply forward the email chain to someone who can address it, the oh-so-diligent lackeys at Rogers' email support desk refuse to help while claiming they're "happy to assist." Yeah, right.

Contrast that with the 1000s of bugs closed this year for Europa, and I'm sure you'll agree Open Source is much better than dealing with the close-source, closed-process, closed-access monopolies. Not only do we have several documented way to ask for support (bugzilla, newsgroups, mailing lists, IRC), but we actually use them, and the projects & member companies share information and collaborate to solve issues. Oh, and all this without having to pay $100+/mo for "service."

Really, what more could you want?

3 comments:

Andrew Overholt said...

That's hilarious! Sad for you, but hilarious nonetheless. I've never had a good customer experience with them and I'm planning on moving to a different ISP as soon as I get my home renovations all finished.

My personal favourite Rogers experience: when they gave away my primary email address and then reset that person's password when I couldn't log in :)

Anonymous said...

I have gone thru in the last 2 weeks exactly what you relate ...although I didn't take it as far as you have... I e-mailed their support and explained to them it was THEIR issue with their website, not an issue with my computer or software.. and they sent me a load of crap about deleting my cache, cookies, etc.... I still have the problem.. and in fact found this site doing a search on "Microsoft VBScript compilation error '800a03e9' while trying to understand why they don't deal with their problem...

The said...

Hmm, I do not agree with you on that one. Sure the problem was on their side and sure they should have treated your inquiry more "reasonable".

OTOH, open source bug/issue tracking hugely depends if developers are motivated to get in contact with their user base. In the worst case you may not even get any response from the people in charge.

And how many bug reports/RFEs/... have been invalidated for obscure reasons?

So, at least how I see it, open source "support" is neither better nor worse than commercial support. Each time it depends if the people behind scenes are willing to react "reasonably".

... just my 2EUR¢