writes: Thinking on the topic of consumer frustration and our increasing reliance on tech. Currently brainstorming a solution to corporations providing IaaS/SaaS/PaaS type services with no way to bring technical issues to their developers' attention (customer support drones reading from scripts who don't even know what an RFC is — not the solution). (In the past, when your POTS line went out, Ma Bell rolled a truck; when your cable went out, Time Warner rolled a truck... What do you do when you've "cut the cord" and suddenly Hulu stops working with your WiFi-equipped Panasonic DVD player?)
Thinking something akin to a DMCA Registered Agent system, where if a tech company provides an email address that at least ties in to their bug tracking system, they get a safe harbor for interoperability liability or something... (At the moment, one-sided terms of service provisions mandate ~$10,000 arbitration, limit damages to what was spent on the service ($8/month?), and eliminate the ability to bring class action suits, so the service providers have basically immunized themselves from liability anyway; not sure how to handle that...)
As our world becomes increasingly complex and interconnected, accountability and reliability are becoming more and more critical. It's soon going to be essential that there be a mechanism where the providers of services can at least be made aware that their stuff is broken...
Two situations I've had recently highlighted this (and caused hair pulling); both ultimately minor in the grand scheme of things, but both point to harrowing futures:
- Sending a PDF to fax via email was failing from my iPad. TrustFax.com (an eFax service) just wasn't seeing the attachments. The script-reading customer service drones kept saying (once I got past the stock answers about how I had to send a message to @trustfax.com, etc., which I was obviously doing since their system was reporting back to me a specific issue — no attachments found) they didn't support Apple, didn't support the iPad, etc., but I knew it had to be a problem on their end, as I'd sent PDFs from Pages on my iPad before and they'd been picked up and sent successfully by that service. Turns out the issue was with a longer filename; Pages and/or Mail on the iPad uses RFC 2231 sect. 3 multi-line encoding for parameter values, and TrustFax's email-to-fax system evidently wasn't written to support that standard. A relatively simple fix, once / if the developers are aware of it, but how to get it to their attention?
- My AppleTV won't play Netflix. Just reports "Netflix is currently unavailable." Apple says it's a Netflix problem. Netflix, after swearing up and down it was because my Apple TV "couldn't connect to Netflix" (demonstrably not true) finally pointed the finger at Apple. Finally I ran 'tcpdump' on my DD-WRT router and fed the results into Wireshark to see what was going on: api.netflix.com (actually an Amazon AWS instance) is reporting "X-Neftlix-Error-Cause: Error from API Backend." Seems like a Netflix problem to me, but it could be that Netflix isn't properly handling bad input from the Apple-supplied application. Customer support drones on both sides are useless, so how do I get this into the hands of someone who can look at it, see what's broken, and put it in for a bug fix?
If you were going to design simple, effective legislation to address this lack of accountability / access to developers' attention, what would it look like? (From a consumer's perspective, and/or from the other side of the corporate firewall.) Is legislation the answer? Can corporations be shamed/spotlighted into voluntarily agreeing to some sort of industry-specified "best practices" when it comes to these issues?
I'm ready to agitate, but I don't want to go off half-cocked without considering, well, those aspects I haven't yet considered! Hence, I'm Asking Slashdot... :)