Thursday, 29 December 2011

Merry Feast of the Pig!

Well, I've just been reading a fascinating account of a truly moronic example of "How to Lose your Customer in One Easy Lesson" ... an email exchange between a game controller supplier and a customer who pre-ordered in time for Christmas.

You can read it for yourself, here.

The parallels to SalonFugly will be immediately obvious to any reader, but just for fun I'll list them:

  1. Overblown promises made in epic terms
  2. Failure to deliver on said overblown promises
  3. Complete silence from management over said failure to deliver

I guess Salon Core Members should feel grateful we haven't been directly threatened yet ... but then, there was that new clause inserted in our membership agreement, the "We Can Kill You Any Time, For Any Reason, or For No Reason" clause.

Yeah, I guess that's Parallel Number Four.

Oh, and of course, tonight, Salon's comments are down ... again.

Looks a lot like new work being done in the background, but no, dont bother to warn your customers beforehand not to waste too much time trying, or explain afterwards.

Silence is working so well for you; keep it up.



Put down the weapons, and get Zen with some Martin Page:



Friday, 2 December 2011

In Just Two Months ...

In just two months the US Congress has managed to completely gut the last remaining shreds of the Constitution, the European Commission has taken over the "management" of two modern democraciesAngela Merkel has almost singlehandedly destroyed the bond market of the strongest economy in Europe, one of the most productive in the world, and Salon still cannot provide two pieces of simple web technology that have been standard fare - even on free sites - for a decade; Preview and Edit.

Somebody, somewhere, is seriously taking the Michael.

Oh, and in just 7 days ...


Monday, 21 November 2011

An Open Letter To Salon Management:

Another fellow regular UT commentator, bystander, wrote the following letter on the 16th of November 2011.

He reports that, as of today - the 21st of November 2011 - he has not received any reply.

(You're all lulzing, I know ... stop it!)

He has graciously agreed to my reproducing it here. It says everything I would want to say, far better - and an incredible degree more courteously - than I can say it.

I encourage other UT regulars to follow his lead.


Dear Mr. Talbot and Mr. Lauerman,

I have just recently submitted updated credit card information to Salon, thereby, formally rolling my subscription from a Premium account to a Core account. However, mine is a conditional kind of support. Frankly, I'm fairly unhappy with Salon at this point, and have made the decision to persevere on the thin hope that, within the coming months, you will demonstrate that you have your customer's interests at heart.

You've certainly unnerved a number of people by forcing them to subscribe with personal sources of information which are then managed by an unknown third party. Some "introduction" to that third party acknowledging people's privacy concerns might have indicated that you're aware that your readers have actually read the columns and reports regarding internet privacy you've published! As a paying subscriber, I've side-stepped that point of discomfort for now, but if/when I decide that Salon is as unresponsive as my elected congressman, I'll choose a different strategy for accessing Salon - if I even care to view it.

Your comment threads are essentially unreadable. I was agnostic on the issue of threaded comments, but I always believed that if they came they would come with the ability to collapse them, and some change-in-color/coded scheme to identify comments one had already reviewed. Clearly, that's not what we have. And, paginating this unreadable mess only serves to make the reading experience worse. The amount of white space devoted to individual comments, coupled with the narrow column these comments are allowed, the inability to collapse them, AND your insistence on paginating them makes reading them one of the most aggravating experiences I've ever had online. It is simply awful. And, who needs to pay/compromise their privacy for awful?

Then there is the nearly laughable experience I had trying to update my credit card information. Upon submission I was greeted by a totally blank screen - yards and yards of white space without a word to be seen. The only indication that this submission of information went anywhere was the URL https://[redacted] that appeared in the address window. Some affirmation that the submission had actually been completed would have been appreciated, and a Thank You would have been a real bonus.

Finally, I am undecided how to cope with your intent to bill my credit card account automatically each subscription cycle. I want out of that liability. It's astounding to me that you don't make your intent to recycle that charge every 12 months obvious and plain. It's taken me two phone calls and an unanswered email to confirm my suspicion that this was your intent. That unwillingness to make plain the financial liability your subscriber assumes is nothing short of creepy. I'd almost go so far as to say it's fraudulent.

Clearly, you have undertaken a major project. And, clearly, someone failed to understand the breadth and depth of the problems that would be encountered in doing so. Clearly, there would be bugs and, clearly, you would need time to sort them all out. But, what I'm describing are not bugs. These are, in my estimation, major design flaws which demonstrate an utter disregard for your subscribing readers. Clearly, I am unhappy. Clearly, I am trying to be patient. And, clearly, I have a thin hope that if I identify why I am unhappy, you might consider my complaint as a "canary in the coal mine" indicator for others who might be having a similar experience, but who might not take the time to email you. They might simply disappear, instead. And, before all is said and done, I might be one of them.

Thank you for your time.

Respectfully,
"bystander"

Please, nobody, hold your breath waiting.

But, there's still Kiwi rock music:

Tuesday, 15 November 2011

Occupy Salon

There's not much point in my talking to you about how fugly Salon still is, yea these many moons after the glowing promises of unicorns, or promises of glowing unicorns, or whatever the hell utopian peyote visions David Talbot is currently immersed in while reality completely passes him by, since you all know it, hate it, and some of you still try to make a silk purse of that pale piece of pigs ear that is Salon.com today.

(I am constantly awed and humbled by how often many of you succeed in piercing the sheer solid stupid of the place with your trenchant, lucid, and profound commentary on life in the modern imperium.)

So I thought I'd give big shout out to the people of the #OccupyWallStreet (and other places) movement instead, who've just been viciously assaulted and robbed by our erstwhile masters, while being daily vilified for their courage and persistence.

In comments at UT today I observed that, while most of us feel as if we'd have kicked that damned pervo-coach to death had it been us that caught him buggering a young boy in the showers, most of us have stood idly by while the good people of the #Occupy movement have been "proper fucked" (HT to Richie Guy / "Snatch") by the Man, not in some quiet deserted shower stall, but right in the middle of - dare I say it - fucking Wall Street!

It is true, I am a dreadful hypocrite for even writing these words, because in Zurich last night the police also cleared out the local #Occupy protesters, and I was at home in bed, sleeping the undisturbed sleep of the almost totally indifferent.

And while I have supported a number of such protests, in ways other than physically showing up to have my head handed to me by some jackbooted thug with a badge, I will not claim that I have done enough.

I will keep my cowardly excuses to myself, and repeat some things I've noted many times in UT comment threads:

“Find out just what people will submit to, and you have found out the exact amount of injustice and wrong which will be imposed upon them; and these will continue until they are resisted with either words or blows, or both. The limits of tyrants are prescribed by the endurance of those whom they oppress.”

 Power concedes nothing without demand. It never has and never will."
and, finally:

“The thing worse than rebellion is the thing that causes rebellion.”

Both these quotes come from Frederick Douglass, a great man whose life, struggles, and writings I strongly encourage everyone to study.


I urge everyone who reads this - yes, both of you! - to support these people in whatever way you can. Even if it is only rhetoric, it is better than nothing; which is itself more than what a lot of people are doing, many being actively opposed to anything that might disturb their stupidly saccharine view of themselves and our silk-lined iron maiden of a civilisation.


I also quoted today the words of a song by Nickelback (I know, not to everyone's taste) but the words deserve to be contemplated because they are not only true, and timeless, but profoundly true in this time of all times, now, and today:





One more depending on a prayer
And we all look away
People pretending everywhere
It's just another day

There's bullets flying through the air
And they still carry on
We watch it happen over there
And then just turn it off

[Hey, yeah, yeah, hey, yeah…]
We must stand together
[Hey, yeah, yeah, hey, yeah…]
There's no giving in
[Hey, yeah, yeah, hey, yeah…]
Hand in hand forever
[Hey, yeah, yeah, hey, yeah…]
That's when we all win
[Hey, yeah, yeah, hey, yeah…]
That's, that's, that's when we all win
That's, that's, that's when we all win

They tell us everything's alright
And we just go along
How can we fall asleep at night
When something's clearly wrong
When we could feed a starving world
With what we throw away
But all we serve are empty words
That always taste the same

[Hey, yeah, yeah, hey, yeah…]
We must stand together
[Hey, yeah, yeah, hey, yeah…]
There's no giving in
[Hey, yeah, yeah, hey, yeah…]
Hand in hand forever
[Hey, yeah, yeah, hey, yeah…]
That's when we all win
[Hey, yeah, yeah, hey, yeah…]
That's, that's, that's when we all win
That's, that's, that's when we all win

The right thing to guide us
Is right here inside us
No one can divide us
When the Light is nearly on
But just like a heartbeat
The drumbeat carries on…

And the drumbeat carries on…

[Hey, yeah, yeah, hey, yeah…]
We must stand together
[Hey, yeah, yeah, hey, yeah…]
There's no giving in
[Hey, yeah, yeah, hey, yeah…]
Hand in hand forever
[Hey, yeah, yeah, hey, yeah…]
That's when we all win
[Hey, yeah, yeah, hey, yeah…]
That's, that's, that's when we all win
That's, that's, that's when we all win









Monday, 7 November 2011

The Long Dark Tea-Time of the Soul

I hope Douglas Adams (and, more pertinently, his estate's lawyers) will forgive me for stealing his title, but I feel that this is where we are right now in the SalonFugly Clusterfuck Slow-Motion-Train-Wreck Internet-Boondoggle Commercial-Suicide-by-Staggering-Ineptitude saga.

We're at the point where we are emotionally dry, and our own complaints bore even ourselves, but we're too stubborn to give in, and so we simmer resentfully, lurking in the undergrowth like angry rattlers, primed to bite the heel of the next heel who steps on our tail.

Well, that's how I feel, anyway.

There's really nothing new to report.

  • Salon is still fuglier than it ever was.
  • Glenn is still (presumably) as embarrassed by his inability to do anything about it as you and I are.
  • Salon's management - if I might dignify that benighted crew by such a term - is still completely invisible; "unchanging, unhasting, and silent as light", as the old hymn (almost) goes.


The real point of this entry is to note that since the advent of the Great Leap Backwards we've lost a number of seriously stellar commentators from our community.

So I wanted to ask those of your who have commented here recently, and so will presumably read this, to please drop me an email. Many of you have commented or emailed that you find the comment threads at Salon simply too onerous to follow and participate in, and so will be around less often in future. Therefore, I offer to maintain a list - privately - of those who would like to be informed of significant events, should any ever actually occur.

My own is the same as my Salon username, at gmail. (OK, it's at the bottom, where it says "posted by ScuzzaMan")

(I thoroughly recommend this practice to all of you. I dont kid myself it is private, just moderately secure enough to discourage the casual opportunists. That's about the digital analogue of a padlock.
[he he ... "digital analogue" - not often you get to use a complete oxymoron like that. </geek>]
However, it is convenient for our purposes.)

I, ScuzzaMan, do solemnly swear not to spam any of you, nor to sell your identity to the lowest or the highest of bidders, but only to use it when - if - anything actually improves at Salon, or some other notable and relevant event occurs, like Glenn finding a competent venue, or suchlike.

If you know or know of others, who dont read here, please invite them to do the same.

And, if you cant be bothered ... well, I could hardly blame you.

Have some of this:



and as Dave Allen used to say: "May your God go with you!"

Tuesday, 1 November 2011

A Month Is A Loooong Time...

Dang! I notice that Salon CEO David Talbot has time to roam the continental USA engaging in various public debates, but insufficient time to tell his paying customers when the fuck he is going to get off his arse and deliver what he promised them ... one month ago!

Or, even write them a polite note with some details as to when the joy of internet nirvana is going to rain down from the celestial heights?

Maybe a rude note, with some vague promises, ambiguous timeframes, and airy platitudes?

No?

Is this guy really a businessman?

Is this how a modern CEO behaves? How he treats his paying customers? With contemptuous lies and patrician silences?

Do the people who own Salon really believe this kind of reckless incompetence is going to make the thing self-funding?

(Hmmm, intriguing possibility: David Talbot eats the same funny mushrooms as Salon's owners. Or, vice versa?)

Just to re-cap:
-Many still have no access to their Salon archives
-Many still have troubles logging on at all (seems plausibly related to 'special' characters in the login-name)
-None of the promised* improvements have been delivered
-No sign of anyone with any authority, intelligence, or sense of responsibility making any attempt to communicate with their customers
-UT thread comment numbers still way down on pre "Great Leap Forward" norms

*Rumoured to have been promised. We cant even get an insultingly implausible, vague, and self-contradictory reassurance out of these ass-clowns.

Amazingly, David Talbot has an option to purchase 400,000 Salon shares at 45cents per share, with 100,000 option rights vesting every 3 months, the first vesting date being October 31st 2011 - one month after the very day he so royally screwed the pooch, the website, all his customers, and (if there is any sniff of justice & karma left in this world) himself.


Having myself previously owned multi-million dollar share options that were worthless by the time they vested, I know it is hard to get excited about money you never really had, so couldn't really lose.


But the people who own the majority of the shares ought to care about the damage being done to their property by their employee.


Yeah, you gotta fight for your right to set fire to the party ... but that's ridiculous.


Me? I'm just letting the days go by




Nearly forgot:

Fuckit!

Wednesday, 26 October 2011

WordPress?

Word is that Salon have adopted the WordPress "blog tool and publishing platform". I dont know that this is true, but it seems plausible.

The word amongst web developers of my acquaintance is that the classic mistake made by neophyte site-owners is to do all the work themselves, in order to save money.

You see, WordPress is open source; there's no charge for the code itself. However, much like the Red Hat Linux business model, there are people and organisations that specialise in adapting the software installation to your specific needs. Of course, as well as having some experience doing this work, these people cost money.

I'm sure the IT folks at Salon are technically competent: that's very likely not the issue here.

This is about a false economy, "saving" money from a highly visible business project budget by pushing the costs into IT, and/or onto the customers.

The consequence is a gross under-estimation of the complexity of the new software, and the associated learning curve that has to be negotiated before the in-house IT folks are sufficiently up to speed to deliver all the promised benefits.

Those benefits typically don't come "out of the box" but in the form of plug-ins, add-ons, and other features that have to be customised, tweaked, and cajoled into operation. That remains true, typically, no matter what software product we're talking about.

None of this inference, speculation, and guesswork does anything to improve matters, however, and nor is it intended as any kind of defence of Salon on this point.

I've had recent communication with a Salon staffer who was very frank about the issues facing them. I've more or less begged them to plead in turn with their management, to get them to talk to us about this.

As always, I'll keep you posted.

But Dont Hold Your Breath, ok?



Monday, 24 October 2011

3 and a 1/2 Weeks ...

So, it was 01.10.2011 when I received the letter from the Salon CEO, letting us know that all manner of wonderment was about to descend upon us.

In spite of talk about communication, none has been apparent thus far. Even the perfunctory "To our readers" button is now gone from my browser (If you can still see it, let me know, please). As too little, too late as it was, it was at least some attempt to make it look like Salon wanted to do the right thing.

In spite of talk of improvements, focus seems to remain on bug-fixing. I am still receiving and reading elsewhere significant volumes of complaints about simple login troubles, access to archives, and intrusive banner ads.

As a general principle, I would hold it a cardinal rule that you never take functionality away from your customers, and especially so you never take away control over their own reading experience. So, for example, restoring access to our own archives counts as a good thing; losing the simple ability to re-order them for convenience is a minor detail, but in the circumstances strikes me as symptomatic; there's just no reason to take such a function away, and many good reasons to maintain it.

I still read the UT comment threads... I still find much of value in them.

But each time I do so I find myself caring less and less about making any comment, or attempting to construct any kind of conversation therein.

The system as it is currently structured lends itself well to the drive-by shooting type of snark and bait, but the addition of threaded replies has actually made the process of holding a conversation more difficult than it was.

I thought early on that perhaps the good people at Salon had never heard of the work of Jakob Nielsen on web usability, or studied any of the theory or history of the art. Now I begin to suspect they studied and deliberately chose to do the exact opposite ... well, not really, but at this point I'd more likely forgive the Salon reader who thought so than I would Salon themselves.

UT comment numbers are slowly recovering, as people adjust to the present system. Then again, the people of the Soviet Union took over 75 years to rise up against their oppressors; in the meantime, they adjusted. The people of the USA, as Glenn writes about regularly, have adjusted to unreasonable search and seizure, to due process-free presidential murders, to grand larceny on an unimaginable scale, and to torture as official policy. Sure, people will adjust to the deficiencies of Salon's techo-gaffery.

But that doesnt validate the idiocy of those gaffes.

Nor answer the more pertinent question: but why should they?



Tuesday, 18 October 2011

Land of Hope and Gory ...

In comments, and at his GGDrafts blog, Glenn Greenwald advises that Salon is planning on being substantially less fugly in the very near future.

Upcoming features are the return of Preview and a new Edit feature, both of which would be very welcome.

Also mooted is some kind of threading system.
(I note that comments are already individually numbered, apparently a benefit of the new Wordpress server engine, but yet to be exploited.)

Most significant is that the Editors are planning to communicate on these features and on how to maintain a Salon membership without dropping your digital drawers in public.

That particular point is long overdue in my opinion, and I'll be watching closely to see what comes of it.

All that said, I still have major concerns over the lack of communication around the whole change-over, and particularly with people having ongoing trouble with basic access, archives, login names, and privacy issues.

These would seem to me to be quite vital to the trust necessary to operate a fully digital online business.



Sunday, 16 October 2011

Tick Tock Tick Tock

The mayhem continues.

Still no archives for many members.
Still no Preview function.
Still no Edit function.
Still no threading.
Still nothing of substance from the management.
Still no acknowledgement of the scope and severity of this catastrophe.
Still no acknowledgement of the incompetence behind it.

Even Glenn has gone into an embarrassed silence.

Who can blame him?

But, most discouragingly, what little attempts at communication have been made are focussed around bug-fixing the present level of dys-functionality, rather than on making the improvements that the CEO talked about in his brave brash letter of 3 weeks ago.

I will continue to post here as I am able.

I encourage all readers to continue to comment, to become members here, and to email Salon and let them know that we are not happy, not impressed, not satisfied, not gone, not forgotten, not sleeping, not going to lie down and die, not going to let them weasel out of taking some responsibility for the mess they have made.

I will also tweet and post links to this blog at Salon/UT, for as long as I am a member there.

My membership expires in March 2012. But to log in after the Great Autumn Fiasco of '11, like all of you I had to agree that they can cut me off for any reason, or for no reason, at any time.

I guess I will keep waiting for Glenn to explain how that clause comports with his principled objection to the President claiming the same prerogative in RL.

Thursday, 13 October 2011

Well, It's Thursday ...

... tomorrow it will be two weeks since this debacle began.

Still no communication from the Chief Executive Officer to his customers.

Still no communication from the Editor to her readers.

But, there is this snippet lurking under a "To our readers" button on the banner frame:

A message to our readers:

We know, we know! Recently Salon readers have been experiencing some technical difficulties as they click their way through our site. At the beginning of the month, Salon completed a long-planned migration to a new WordPress-based publishing platform. While this switchover from our antiquated system has streamlined Salon's operations in many exciting ways, it has also resulted in some short-term bugginess here and there, which we're working hard to correct.

Readers have been having problems with the comments section and with various RSS feeds. And yes, then there are the ads that appear where they should not. We're in the process of squishing these bugs as quickly as possible. But your feedback continues to be the best source for identifying the remaining issues. So thank you for your patience and for continuing to point out problems.
It could be from the Editor, or the CEO, but it's not signed, so I guess the plural means it might be from both?

I'm not exactly thrilled by the thing, by its tone or its content, or the implications thereof, but I am somewhat pleased that it actually exists.

The cynic in me says that it exists only to blunt the complaint that the management have been invisible and silent throughout this catastrophe, but whatever part of me is not a cynic is of the firm opinion that it is better for it to exist than for it to not exist.

And hey - they know! They know!

Progress - of a sort.

Feel free to comment, suggest, enthuse, rant, rail, curse, or whatever.

Update: In comments Susan Sunflower points out that the notice is not dated, either. Which might not be a bad sign, but is certainly not a good one.

Wednesday, 12 October 2011

New Terms & Conditions

So, today I logged in to Salon for the first time in a couple of days - like I said, even this blog is a "when I have time" affair, and I just haven't had any the last couple a days - and I got the new T&C's and Privacy Policy message.

Fortunately, it worked for me, but it did prompt me to actually go and read the darn things, in full, which was a first.

There's little that is particularly startling or original in them; they're basically pages and pages of indecipherable lawyer-speak vulture gobbledegook proprietary jargonising, most of which could be replaced (were we to live in a sane world) with the words:

"Don't Fuck About - Awright?"

But I have two main points I wanted to make. The first is that precisely this drab corporate button-down bullshit unoriginal quality of them tells you quite a lot about the grey monoculture Harvard Business School mindset that is running Salon Media Group, Inc.

The second is about this bit:

22.  REFUSAL OR DISCONTINUANCE OF SERVICE
You understand and agree that Salon may, in its sole discretion and at any time, for any reason, terminate your password, account or use of the Site, or prohibit you from accessing the Site, in whole or in part.  You understand and agree that Salon may take any one or more of these actions without prior notice to you.  Should Salon take any of these actions, it may, in its sole discretion, immediately deactivate and/or delete any or all information about and concerning your account.  Any violation of this Agreement may result in restrictions on your access to all or part of the Site and may be referred to law enforcement authorities.

Well, that this 22nd paragraph is not nearly the last of their T&C's is a bit of a clue, but the content itself is despicable. It basically says that you agree that we can assassinate you, any where, any time, for any reason or for no reason, and that if you try to live we'll sic the real heavies on you.

Yeah, nothing at all mercenary in that, is there? Just business as usual for a liberal progressive civil liberties mom and apple pie operation.

Really, Glenn?

I mean, really?

You dont think this might emphasise Morning's Minion's point, that what is wrong with this entire Salon debacle is a microcosmic replay of what is wrong with the whole country?

You know, the whole executive fiat kill anyone anywhere any time for any reason thang that you quite properly rail against on a regular basis?

You wanna make the case that we can trust Salon with this untrammelled power because they're good guys and they wouldn't really do it without good cause?

Really, Glenn?

I mean, really?

Fuck, at least Obama warned Awlaki that the heavies were coming to get him ...

Monday, 10 October 2011

Disappearing Comments

I've had some complaints of disappearing comments here.

I find this less than credible for a couple of reasons:

1. Glenn made the observation that it was somewhat ironic this happened to 2 of his 3 intended comments, but once I discovered the spam trap and published the comments trapped there, all the comments he says that he made were immediately visible.

There were also a number of comments from Morning's Minion, who had also noted the same problem.

I am still not sure what criteria Google uses to decide your comment is spam, but they are the kings of the sneaky algorithm so I guess I'm just grateful they stick the stuff in a folder I can rescue it from, rather than junking it.

In sum, the error was mine, and has been rectified.

2. Google owns blogger.com and has some millions of blogs hosted here. If there were a problem of disappearing comments then as-yet-undiscovered tribes in the heart of the Peruvian jungles would know about it by now.

There just isn't.

However, it remains barely within the realms of possibility that my blog is the only one of all of those that is having such a problem and so I ask you to let me know if you suspect this is happening to your comments.

You can use twitter (@ScuzzaMan) or Gmail (ScuzzaMan@gmail.com).

The management would like to apologise for any temporary inconvenience our experiments with thermonuclear land-clearing may have caused you.

"Share & Enjoy!"

Sunday, 9 October 2011

An Open Letter to Salon.com

In spite of the name - which is half tongue-in-cheek, and at least half deserved - SalonFugly is not an attack on Salon.com, nor intended to replace it or damage it in any way.

The author has been a follower of Glenn Greenwald for several years, and became a Salon reader and subscriber - aka "Salon Core Member" - as a direct result of Glenn's work and presence there.

Glenn is the sole reason I am a subscriber at Salon.com. I suspect the same is true for many of his followers and regular commenters.

The frustration and anger you will sense in the posts and comments here have to do with the perception that as paying customers we have been treated with a dismissive disdain that is both offensive and unwarranted.

But all of us, paying and non-paying alike, have these frustrations because we want Salon to be a fully functional forum for discussing the political issues that Glenn blogs about and that we care about very deeply. Some of us begin to suspect we want this more than you do, which would be a depressing conclusion indeed.

We dont want special treatment.

We dont expect anything other than what is the standard state of the public website art today.

We are not asking for more than you can find free at many sites - like this one hosting this letter - all around the world.

We are asking to be told in advance about changes to the system that affect our ability to follow the conversation, to comprehend the evolving debates around it, and to comment as we would. Not being informed about such disruptive changes as have occurred recently also affects our desire to follow the conversation, as you will also glean from several comments here.

We are asking that we not be fobbed off with second-hand excuses about the under-capacity of the IT team. As a 25 years + veteran of the IT industry I understand more than you will likely ever appreciate just how heavy is the load they're asked to bear, and that there are never enough resources to do what is demanded of them.

I do not see this as being a valid rationale for the total silence of the management in the face of widepsread dissatisfaction amongst your customers.

Thus far, apart from the initial announcement of impending changes by the CEO, the only public comment we've seen on the problems introduced by these changes has been by Glenn in his normal engagement with his regular UT commentariat.

Somehow, as a demonstration of commitment to customer satisfaction, this leaves something to be desired.

Rest assured that we do desire it, and that we will continue to say so.

I would rather say so at Salon.com, in the Unclaimed Territory comment threads, but that's not really proving very satisfying this week.

Please, whoever you are, come out in the open and engage the matter at hand with the people directly affected by it.

That's what a Chief Executive would do ...


What's Wrong: What Needs Fixin

The first imperative is the archives. The commenters at UT have made it what it is (which Glenn has graciously emphasised repeatedly). They deserve to have access to their own archived comments. Plus, of course, being able to search those archives is of enormous benefit to other commenters & lurkers.

The second imperative is the functional issues to do with comment composition and presentation, most significantly preview.

Then come HTML tagging capabilities that are standard in such comment facilities and have been for some years. They dont necessarily have to be provided in the now-standard toolbar form, but there is no good reason not to support the standards, and very good technical and operational reasons to do so.

But the overwhelming sense of outrage, for me, derives from the tone-deaf arrogance of the announcement that the changes were all going to be good for us, and the blanket refusal to even acknowledge that this has not been the case, and indeed that Salon has not attempted to ask us what changes we consider would be good for us.

Apropos, Glenn has a current post up on the War on Drugs, in which he argues strongly that people know what is best for them, far better than any centralised bureaucracy can ever do.

I'd really like him to relay that bit of actionable intelligence to Salon's management.



Friday, 7 October 2011

A Week Of It

7 days is a long time for:
-living on water alone
-watching Deep Space 9 reruns
-politics
-internet development, and
-reading Salon comments.

In keeping with Einstein's explanation of relativity, some of these things are merely tedious as a rural trip to the grocery while some stretch out before you like contemplating next month's appointment for a root canal.

It's now (or will be in a few hours) one week since Salon began their deadly serious effort to completely destroy their own business. One can always admire obsessive dedication to achieving a goal, even as we might not find the goal itself particularly worthy or desirable.

Certainly it is hard for any reasonable person to imagine how being attacked, hacked, and defaced by Anonymous or lulzsec (not that they would do such a thing) would have been worse than what Salon have done to themselves.

At least in that case there'd have been some sympathy from their customers and readers, rather than the disgust and hostility they have bought upon themselves.


There's an empty street, in an empty town
There's an old boutique, selling ageing gowns
Some words on the walls
that were written
By the light of the moon so bright
Can you hear me? Can you hear me, tonight?
Take me out of this darkness and into the morning light...

The rain that falls, doesn't make me cry
And the wind that blows, cannot hurt my eye
But the things that I see
when I turn on TV
Make me wanna lay down and die

Can you hear me
? Can you hear me, tonight?
Take me out of this darkness and into the morning light...

-Chris Rea, Out of This Darkness, from Water Sign [1983]

Kia Kaha!

Thursday, 6 October 2011

Organise, organise, organise

Well, it's coming up to a week since this madness began.

Still there's been no acknowledgement from Salon.com that there even is a problem, let alone what an unmitigated disaster this thing has become.

I fully expect a virtual "yes, mistakes were made" at some point, basically a meaningless statement of mild regret at any inconvenience, allied to a complete disregard of the substance of our complaints, and a persistently brazen happy happy joy joy let's look forward not back rousing speechifying to cap it all off.

I encourage all of you to become a member here. The only thing that is going to make any impression on these people is numbers. Right now there's just me and ... well, my shadow.

As voluminous as that is, is wont cut it.

This site needs members or it becomes just my lone voice crying in the wilderness.

I promise you, the members function here actually works.
+++++++

On a positive note - sort of - we saw the first overt signs of discontent from Glenn Greenwald in his comments today. That's encouraging.

I fully realise that the tendency will be for people to adjust, and for the boiling rage to become simmering discontent ... so dont forget to stoke things up every now and again.

Remind yourself that there are free solutions that work better than what we've been asked to pay for, that dont sell your privacy to the highest bidder, and dont insult your intelligence or condescend to you in marketing wonk dissembler-speak.

Remind yourself that you're mad as hell.


Wednesday, 5 October 2011

Spread The Word ...

Already the regular UT commentariat is talking about setting up alternate sites and boycotting Salon unless/until circumstances improve.

I have no objection to that, whatsoever.

Indeed, I would be a highly enthusiastic supporter of and participant in such an effort.

I would ask that before we get to that point, we use this blog to organise ourselves.

Please do use the comment section, use the Members function, use the space for the purpose for which I created it.

For the Murder President and the Salon Management both, here's a hit with you in mind:

Bring down the government, bring it to its heel
sure it a hoot when they prosecute you for doing what you feel.
Bring down the government, bring it to its knees,
if you want your rights you're gonna have to fight,
so bring down the government please.

Bring down the government, bring it down for fun
God only knows they've had their time, it's about time it was done.
So bring down the government, get them on the run,
we'll bake their heads to ginger bread,
and eat them one by one.

Bring down the government, do it now for love,
do it for your mother and sister too and do it for God above.
So roll on my brothers we can find out how,
to walk hand in hand to the promised land,
if we bring down the government now.
Bring down the government now.

-Lindisfarne, Dingly Dell [1972]

Helen, if you're out there, you're very welcome to become a contributing editor here. Let's not fracture our efforts any more than necessary, eh?

Tuesday, 4 October 2011

The Remover of Inconvenient Things ...

... is the name of a character in a book I read once. We could sure use one of those, eh?

I'm sorry I cant post more often here; my work has taken a sudden upswing (right sort of problem to have) and it is putting a serious crimp in my online habit.

Please encourage your fellow UT & Salon friends and acquaintances to pop in here. I figure that (A) we might be able to assemble sufficient moneyed and un-moneyed mass to have some kind of influence, or (B) perhaps more likely, at least we'll have somewhere to bitch and moan where our bitching and moaning can actually be read by other people without them going stark raving mad in the process.

While you're here, please think about adding a comment to the effect that you are a fellow dis-satisfied UT or Salon subscriber/reader. Their business model runs on eyeball counting, so the more eyeballs having some kind of affiliation here, the more likely we'll be able to have a positive effect.

I work as a consultant (i.e. bandit in a suit) in the IT industry - a bloody good one, I might add - and I've been involved in it since way back when we used to call it Data Processing. I've project managed the construction of purely marketing web-presences, online shopping sites, online banking systems, and business-to-business websites. IOW, I know a bit about what to do and what not to do. In my professional opinion there is:

1) No relation whatsoever between the contents of the letter sent out to subscribers by David Talbot recently, and the horrific mess that has been made of the Salon.com site.

2) No reason why this had to happen. No technical requirement for this to have been done this way, and in a business that actually has a concern for the interests of its customers, no good commercial reason to do this to them.

3) No remotest connection between the practice of professional web content management and what has been happening at Salon for the last year at least, but culminating in the truly outrageous catastrophe currently ongoing.

Well, anyone who is a customer or reader of Salon.com now knows a fair bit about what not to do, as well. Everything you never wanted to know about web content management but have been forced to find out.

Please do leave a comment, suggestion, or statement of moral support.

This aint over!


Monday, 3 October 2011

SalonFugly Naming Rights

I've been informed that the proper attribution for the SalonFugly term goes to Little Brother, a former UT regular who quit commenting there some months ago.

If anyone has contact with him, I'd love to hear from him.

The basic intention of this blog is to collect sufficient paying - now also known as "Salon Core Member" - and formerly-paying customers of Salon to exercise some suasion over the process of these downgrades to the site.

Naturally, I have somewhat more affection for the UT commentariat than for those who visit Salon to read the Carey Tennis bits or investigate the mating rituals of the west coast metrosexual, but since every Salon customer/browser is suffering from the same affliction, my view is "the more, the better".

Like Robin Williams once said:

"Come on down! Bring the kids; get a grenade. Come on Down!"

Still very keen to hear from readers with ideas and suggestions.





Sunday, 2 October 2011

Background

For those who stumble over this blog by accident, and/or dont know what the hell this is all about ...

UT = Unclaimed Territory, the Salon.com hosted blog of Glenn Greenwald, one of the most valuable voices in political commentary today. His intellectual rigor, trademark direct mode of expression, and constant engagement with his readers in the comments section, have drawn many new readers, commentators, and subscribers to the site.

However, there now exists a long drawn-out and painful history of Salon tinkering with the mechanisms that support this conversation, making them less useful, less informative, less reliable, les attractive - i.e. worse - with every change.

The term "SalonFugly" was coined by a regular to describe this ongoing insanity, and hence it seemed appropriate for the name of this blog. (More than happy to provide attribution if anyone knows who deserves it?)

Over this weekend of the 1st & 2nd October, they have almost completely bolloxed the whole thing.

.sig entry field is gone.

Title field - gone.

Comments pages listing links are apparently gone.

Preview - Preview, for fuck's sake! - gone.

Greasemonkey scripts, like that created by long-time users to filter trollspam, no longer work.

The entire exercise is a disaster of monumentally suicidal proportions.

Recall that this is a business that exists entirely online. If it bolloxes its online presence - and that it is doing this is incontrovertibly so at this point - then it is not shooting itself in the foot; it is crawling head-first into the cannon's barrel.

Opening Volley

So, after the recent disastrous changes to the already infamous SalonFugly comments function, I wrote them the following letter:

Your changes to the comments section would be farcical, were you not charging money for memberships, which makes them nearly criminal.

There are free open-source solutions that work better (better: more reliable, more useful, more elegant, more attractive, less expensive, less offensive) but you have apparently managed to spend significant quantities of money on producing something much, much worse.

Whoever is responsible for your IT infrastructure - and let's remember that your IT infrastructure is your entire business model - needs a good swift kick in the arse.

Please - PLEASE! - sort this shit out.

Regards
etc.

I had no intention of making this letter public,  but on attempting to send it, I received this response:

We encountered an error sending your feedback, please email us directly at beta@salon.com
Ahhhh, no.

I am considering a more dedicated campaign to attack directly the core of the issue, but before I embark on it I'd like to hear from other "Salon Core Member"'s - and/or regular UT commentators - about how best to go about it?

 I figure I cannot be the only person who will seriously consider whether it is worth my subsidising such madness when my subscription next comes up for renewal.

Please do contribute any ideas, suggestions, etc, to the comments here.