Tuesday, June 06, 2006

Blogger down - sort of

If you're reading this post, then you're probably doing it through an RSS feed reader. Congrats! That's the only way anyone has been able to read my posts for several days now. It seems that Blogger (a/k/a Google) has been having problems for several days. Near as anyone can tell, it all began last week. Paul Thurrott posted a frustrated comment on June 1, 2006:
Blogger has been inaccessible for at least 48 hours, which is outrageous. It's finally back up, but WTF.
At the time, I wasn't affected. Three days later, on June 4, 2006, I made a post to my blog. Afterwards, I went to look at the blog and respond to comments only to find that none of my posts appeared. In addition, the right hand margin of my blog was missing my archives headings as well as some banners for programs. The first thing I did was to check via the Blogger dashboard to make certain that my older posts were still available - they were. Next I attempted to republish the entire blog. This had no effect. My browser cache is cleared each time I close the browser, so that wasn't the problem, but for kicks I tried the old clearing the cache and reload thang anyhow. Still, no fixy for Dicky.

For the first time I began to turn to Blogger help. I checked the status page which was less than helpful (a problem had been found and resolved before my problem appeared). I browsed around looking for answers. There were none. So, for another first - I contacted Blogger Help via email and got a very unhelpful automated reply suggesting that I do all of the things that I had currently done.

Not for the first time, but maybe the second time, I went to the Google Group dedicated to Blogger. This is the official Blogger help group. Lo and behold, many people were having problems. Photos weren't being uploaded for 5 days. Some folks were in the same sinking ship that I was in and so on. With all of the commotion and confusion on the site, someone who went by the name of "Blogger Employee" finally posted the following message:
Hi there,

As many of you have noted, some users are currently having trouble
uploading images. We're aware of this issue and are currently
investigating the matter.

Additionally, please note that some users have also reported trouble
with publishing in general. We're looking into this issue as well, and
will keep you updated on the situation.

We greatly apologize for the inconvenience and greatly appreciate your

Blogger Employee
Nice note and I appreciate that someone within the organization took the time to at least ACKNOWLEDGE their user's problems. But, unfortunately, there is very little information here. No indication even as vague as "server problems" is listed to salve the wounds of the users that are a little more tech savvy. Even so, at least it was a crumb from the Queen - we could survive another day on that crumb.

Which brings me to today. My blog still isn't working properly and the complaints continue to come into the Google Group. Apparently, according to the status page (as bereft of proper information as the post above from Blogger Employee), a photo posting problem had been tracked down and Blogger was to be fixed for that last night. For those of us with no ability to publish, no word has been sent from on high.

And therein lies the real problem with Blogger's relations: communication. The irony being that Blogger is a communications tool used by millions of people, but that they seem to be friggin' stingy on actually communicating with their users. How hard would it be to actually post some useful information on the status page? How painful would it be to compose a "we're sorry and we're still trying to track it down message"? Surely some employee in the vast Google empire could take the time to acknowledge the issue and offer up an even vague technological description as well as assurances that they are working round the clock to resolve it.

That is asking too much, apparently. Instead, the Blogger folks are treating their customers as pets or serfs and feeding them information only so much as to stifle the current rebellion. They can't even be bothered to just say "Working on it!" on a regular basis. That's a shame. In the long run it's going to cost them customers, too.

Having worked in the technology field for some time and being an observer both in and out of such companies, I understand how one might not want to divulge too many details. Such things can overwhelm some customers while in other cases it just brings out the smarmy smart asses who want to prove that they could have it fixed in 2 minutes. However, it must be understood that even given that fine line to walk, one must still communicate with the customers. Give them some hope, as it were. When you have people like Robert Scoble co-authoring books on the topic of blogs and the importance of communications internally and externally and using blogs as the basis of that communications, you'd think that the good folks at Blogger would understand this. They might even enthusiastically embrace it! They might try to be better at it than any other company around in order, if nothing else, to promote their own product. But such are the apparently Utopian visions of a poor blogger who, having been abandoned by his partner, is considering switching services or giving up altogether after being swallowed by the cynicism of the Blogger rulers.

OK, that last bit was too much. It was sarcasm. Still, folks, c'mon. Talk to us. If you do, I think you'll find the majority of your users to be patient and sympathetic.

As noted in the earlier portion of the post, RSS readers will still see this post after it's published. One of the quirks of the problems that Blogger is having is that the Index is still published and the RSS (or ATOM) feed is still supplied from the Index. Readers who go the old fashioned route by visiting this site will have to wait until Blogger resolves it's hardware issues. No word on when they might resolve their customer service issues. If it takes as proportionately long as the hardware problems, then the customer service issues might prove more damaging in the long run.

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