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<bring me the head of network solutions>

The discovery that Network Solutions has once again loused up the records for A List Apart did not catch me on a good day — or even in a good quarter. My mother died at Halloween. My girlfriend has pneumonia. We're supposed to hit New Orleans next week, but she won't be well enough to accompany me. Meantime, I've re-contracted the flu that turned our vacation into ten days' sickness by the sea. My head feels like a helium balloon with a slow leak.

There's more, but you get the idea. All in all, it's been what you might call a tough year. The last thing I needed was for Network Solutions to undo three months' work with one stroke of its ... I'll say "pen," though that wasn't the first word that came to mind.

But that is exactly what they've done.

Stupidity, son of Stupidity

It's not simply that Network Solutions have screwed up their database and wrongfully accorded ownership of ALA to the people who used to host it. The muddle is even more Byzantine than that.

Yesterday I asked Webcore Labs to set up so ALA readers could write to me if they have any problems with the site (or even if they simply like the site). But Webcore Labs is not listed as mailhost for the site (nobody is). Nor is Webcore Labs hosting the DNS for the site; someone at Exodus is.

I did a quick check and discovered that Network Solutions' whois record still lists the former hosting company as technical and administrative contacts, and my former partner as billing contact (complete with non-usable email address; non-usable because we can't run mail until we are listed as mailhost — and we can't update the record).

I changed all that information two months ago, after filling out the appropriate forms five separate times. For reasons unknown and incomprehensible, Network Solutions has changed it back.

Infinitely recursive incompetence

It gets weirder. I can log into Network Solutions as the administrative and billing contact. Which means they've got me right in their database, even though they display other people in their whois lookup. But after logging in, when I attempt to change the technical and administrative contacts for the fifth time, I am no longer listed as the administrative and billing contact — so I'm not empowered to make these changes. [Screenshot] Apparently Network Solutions' database has a Sybil-like multiple personality disorder which, as far as I can tell, will prevent any of us from fixing or changing anything.

Just so you understand the infinitely recursive stupidity here: I am not listed as the authorized administrative contact on the public whois record. Yet I can easily log into Network Solutions' site as the authorized administrative contact. However, once I do so, I am again unlisted as contact, meaning I cannot correct Network Solutions' errors. If you're thinking that's impossible, makes no sense whatsoever, and no company on earth could be that hopelessly screwed up, then you understand the situation correctly.

Smite them, O Lord

A hospital with similarly abysmal record-keeping would be sued out of existence. A web designer half as incompetent at site construction as Network Solutions is at record-keeping would be reduced to selling pencils in Grand Central. Somehow, Network Solutions remains immune from the demands of basic competence to which any other business is bound.

Three days

I could devote the next three days to solving this problem. I could wait on hold until someone halfway intelligent takes my call, and hope that person acknowledges me as the contact. I could fill out the online forms a sixth time, though I'm not sanguine about that, since the first five changes obviously had little effect, and the process each time was ridden with computer errors. I could ask my former partner to write to Network Solutions on ALA letterhead, but for all I know he only shows up in their whois record — not in their actual database. I could petition the former hosts to act, but the same conditions apply there, and besides, they are so overworked that it took three months to get them to update their DNS record to point to Webcore Labs. I doubt they want to hear from me again.

In all probability, three days is a conservative estimate of how much time it would take to straighten out the mess Network Solutions has made of a basic five field database record.

And I don't have three days. In three days I leave for New Orleans. I need to prepare for the conference, work on my book, and try to recover from the flu.

Making soap

So I'm giving this one to Jesus, and focusing my energies elsewhere. I know there are thousands of web owners and developers who've experienced similar problems with Network Solutions, and I'm sure that a smart lawyer somewhere is rubbing his or her palms together in contemplation of a major lawsuit over the company's profound incompetence. But for now, I refuse to deal any longer with a problem I did not create and cannot solve. Tyler Derden, if you're out there, have I got a target for you.

The author and his opinions.
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