Interruptions on hold

Quickly rising on my A-list of pet peeves: “advertising” interruptions and intrusive music on telephone hold systems.

Sometimes it’s necessary to wait on hold. I can live with that. I would, tho’, like to work while waiting. Recorded messages frequently repeated are irritating. As is any music that doesn’t disappear into white noise. I can be a real bitch when it comes to bad customer service: don’t give me a head start on a head of steam.


Microsoft chooses Word 2007 HTML Rendering Engine for Outlook 2007

As Gary Larsen’s classic cartoon illustrated, it’s another case of “too many scientists and not enough hunchbacks” at Microsoft. I admit I’m late to the bitch fest regarding HTML rendering in Outlook ‘2007, but it was only recently that I got my first complaint about munged HTML email after a user upgraded to Office 2007. That I’ve had only one is no comfort since that person sign my checks.

The problem for those of you who have been living under a grindstone, as have I, is that Microsoft changed Outlook 2007 to use Word’s HTML rendering engine instead of IE. If you support software that creates and emails HTML content, then you’ve either hit this problem, or will do so.

I’ve found some web posts from marketeers proclaiming the second coming with the change. By far, the majority of hits are blog posts (developers!) complaining bitterly about this change. I guess Mr. Ballmer no longer loves us. *sniff* But I digress.

The saddest part of searching is that the posts are almost all more than a year old, including one that states the usual Microsoft deflection “we want to hear about your issues and will listen.”

The only result I can see is a Microsoft CSS/HTML validation tool. I’ve installed it (in Visual Studio 2005) so I can validate my HTML against Word’s HTML engine. Yikes. It tells me “media”, “form”, “input”, “onload”, and so on aren’t supported commands. Oh, joy.

I’m not posting just to vent, but because I’m finding there are few practical suggestions for how to redevelop HTML so it doesn’t look putrid in OL’07 at the very least. Ideally, it will look identical between browser and email client preview.

By the way, the Outlook ’07 ribbon* apparently has a button “Other actions,” from which users can chose to view the email in the browser. (Um, doesn’t this seem, oh, I dunno, sorta ironic?)

In this case, I have a Visual Studio 1.1 Aspx application that collects some info on an HTML form, lets users select who to email copies to, and then emails the page (without some of the controls like buttons) as an HTML attachment. I remove some elements now. I will have to do more to transform unsupported elements like TextBoxes (which aspx renders as input elements, and seem to be the biggest problem) into supported elements.

As I redevelop the page, I’ll post with suggests of what works and what doesn’t. And if any of you know an Office ‘Softie, thump ’em upside the head for me, would you?

Relevant links:

The Party Line

Campaign Monitor’s Guide to CSS Support in Email Clients

Samples of HTML Rendering in Outlook 2007

Some Dolt Who Thinks Only Spammers Are Affected

* Ribbon? Give me a break. Since when does “ribbon” mean “menu that takes up a lot more screen real estate, thus hiding more of what you actually care about?”

And while we’re on the subject…

Another (minor) annoyance with Microsoft’s Open and Save dialogs…they don’t respect my File Explorer setting for how I want to see files listed. List view is useless as far as I’m concerned, but that’s what I get every time.

I can’t find any registry hacks for this, either. Rats.

Not-So-Minor Annoyances: Slow Open (and Save) File Dialogs in Microsoft Products

I spent some time today hunting down why using the Look in: field in the open and save file dialogs in Microsoft products murders flow. The “fix” is even more annoying than the problem.

First, the problem is caused by disconnected network mappings. Second, the “fix” is to remove the disconnected mappings. Brilliant.

For the love of petunias, people. We’ve been a mobile society since even before the PC.

I’m posting because it was somewhat difficult to find the actual cause. There was a wealth of aren’t-I-smart replies that were totally useless. “Press Ctr-Alt-Del and see what’s using all your processor time.”

If anyone knows of any tweaks, please, please, please, let me know. Otherwise, would someone slap an MS developer upside the head and suggest they fix it? Pretty please?

When a vender spends a lot of time envisioning the house of the future but can’t seem to imagine that I will use my notebook on different networks and will not want to have to recreate my mappings every time I move around just baffles me.

Or maybe this will be in Web 3.0?

On being treated like a criminal

One of the things that really gets my shorts in a knot is being treated like a Bad Guy without any cause. Case in point: automatic rejection of emails.

More and more legitimate emails are being either rejected out-of-hand or returned with a message that the sender (me) has to double my work because the recipient isn’t willing to deal with their own spam problem.

Spam is a problem, and I sympathize, really I do. But to treat everyone by default as a spammer is insulting, not to mention short-sighted. (I am being polite in my choice of adjectives starting with the letter “s”.) Why short-sighted? People aren’t getting emails they’ve actually requested or that are in response to a process they started.

For example, one of my fall back error handling routines on a web customer’s site allows a user to email me an error report. Sunday afternoon I got just such an email, found and fixed a bug, and emailed a reply to the user telling them they should try again. The reply bounced with the message that the mailbox doesn’t accept any email from unexpected addresses.

Even if I squelch my human reaction of feeling slapped after responding quickly to a bug report, and on a Sunday, it’s irritating, and has caused me unnecessary work. And, the user, who had waited until the deadline to do this task, doesn’t know that the problem is fixed; was fixed, actually, within an hour of getting the report. That will cause him extra work. His very human, very likely reaction will be frustration with the system. And round and round we go, because a small number of people feel righteous in perpetrating nearly all the spam we’re forced to deal with.

This same website has the ability to email account holders password reminders. I’m frequently getting automated responses from accounts that say the following:

I apologize for this automatic reply to your email.

To control spam, I now allow incoming messages only from senders I have approved beforehand.

If you would like to be added to my list of approved senders, please fill out the short request form (see link below). Once I approve you, I will receive your original message in my inbox. You do not need to resend your message. I apologize for this one-time inconvenience.

Click the link below to fill out the request:

Now, allow me another gripe: this is supposed to be an automated system, and the user has asked for this email. It’s automated, sent via the SMTP server on the website and the user will have no way to know beforehand what email address it will come from, even if they remember to add the address to their “approved” list.

Frankly I don’t have the time or the inclination to beg permission to send email to someone who as already asked for it. Is that snarky? I admit it. (I did say my shorts are in a knot, right?)

This sort of bounce seems to come exclusively from Earthlink. They used to be my ISP years ago until I became disenchanted with their service. This sort of thing doesn’t do anything to improve my opinion of them.

What in the world are they thinking? Some people are trying to intelligently build rules for filtering the majority of spam using Bayesian filters. Others are building tools tools that at least helps up cope with it. Earthlink’s option is the equivelent of razing the village to save the village.

Honestly, I wish people would consider how much they might be compounding a problem, or causing new problems before implementing a solution.

Is Earthlink the only ISP/Mail host using this technique? What do you think about it? Perhaps there is some positive aspect of it that I’m not seeing. I’ll be hard to convince, but I would be interested in hearing the other side.