Another way to make sure nobody sends you feedback


I wanted to report an issue about a problem with our building, let's say that the widget frobnicators were not working. I went to the internal Widget Frobnicators Web site, and it was very pretty, with an FAQ about the current supplier of widget frobnicators, where to look up more information about how the widget frobnicators work, how you can buy your own widget frobnicator for home use, and even how you can become a Widget Frobnicator Ambassador for your building. Widget Frobnicator Ambassadors receive additional information about widget frobnicators and get to participate in the widget frobnicator selection process, among other things.

I didn't find a link on the Widget Frobnicator Web site that let me search for a Widget Frobnicator Ambassador in my building, or even a list of all Widget Frobnicator Ambassadors. However, I did find a link called Contact Us. Awesome. It is a mailto link addressed to the Widget Frobnicator Ambassadors distribution list.

I composed a message explaining the problem I was observing and hit Send.

The message was returned as undeliverable.

"You do not have permission to send messages to this distribution list."

Nice going, Widget Frobnicator team. Apparently you don't want to be contacted at all. Maybe it's a front for money laundering.

(I was able to report the problem by other means, and it was resolved later that day, so everything worked out okay in the end, but as far as I can tell, the Widget Frobnicators Web site still provides no way for you to contact them.)

Comments (28)
  1. Jimmy Queue says:

    This reminds me a public wifi service in the UK called "The Cloud". When it first launched you had to register with your email address – no problem.

    After using the service on and off for about 18 months suddenly they started emailing me with promotional emails (spam!). The unsubscribe link took you to a web page which said if you wanted to unsubscribe you would have to write and send them a physical letter made out of dead tree. Unsurprisingly, I wasn't the only one who noticed this. I think after they received several tonnes of 'mail' to their address they went back on this and let you close your account/unsubscribe from the promotional emails online. So this isn't quite as bad as the Widget Frobnicators company above, but it was pretty close!

  2. You discovered in 2015 what I discovered in 1995! Until very recently, Microsoft was famous for not accepting feedback. Either it didn't have a venue for taking them, the said venue was unusable, or Microsoft didn't know how to react to them. In case of the latter, being buried under a mountain of them didn't help.

    Recently, Microsoft is attempting to resolve the first and second, but the third is still the biggest problem of the software giant.

  3. Adrian says:

    You have a problem with a Widget Frobnicator, and you decide to report the problem.  Now you have two problems. :-)

  4. Gumpy Gus says:

    That's funny, I typed in a comment about this on my iPad, pressed the "Post" button, and nothing.    Ironic?

  5. alegr1 says:

    Those Widgets aren't going to Frobnicate themselves, are they?

  6. Amita says:

    Reminds me of this Dilbert comic:

    dilbert.com/…/1998-03-19

  7. Mathias says:

    I also know another way to make sure that nobody sends you feedback: add a feedback app to your new OS preview, but make it so slow that sending feedback or searching for existing feedback sometimes takes several minutes.

  8. Anon says:

    The idea that Raymond Chen doesn't have access to a mailing group within Microsoft is almost as disturbing to me as the idea that some of us would like to give him access to all those groups probably is to him.

  9. JZ says:

    Anon: way to go, you planted a garden path sentence.  en.wikipedia.org/…/Garden_path_sentence

  10. Let me try to un-garden-path-ify Anon's statement.

    Consider the following function:

    amount disturbs(idea i, person p)

    Let i1 be the idea that "Raymond Chen doesn't have access to a mailing group within Microsoft."

    Let i2 be the idea that "some of us would like to give Raymond access to all mailing groups within Microsoft."

    Anon's statement is that (disturbs(i2, Raymond) – disturbs(i1, Anon)) is a positive but small amount.

  11. cheong00 says:

    I'd think that it's their strategy of getting as much people into "Widget Frobnicator Ambassadors" as possible. It you're not "Widget Frobnicator Ambassadors", I don't want to hear from you.

    "Widget Frobnicator Ambassadors receive additional information about widget frobnicators" so by only listen to "Widget Frobnicator Ambassadors", you hopefully can hear less "non-sense" complains, hence reducing the support effort.

  12. Sven2 says:

    So how do you send feedback to Microsoft for non-preview versions then?

    I recently found a bug in the CHM help viewer but found no way to report it. There's "Microsoft Connect" but it only has a small number of selected programs.

    I know Microsoft would probably get lots of bogus reports. But I'm sure there would be some way to filter only usable reports and it would be better than having no feedback option at all?

    [That "some way" would be, what, going through all the reports looking for ones that aren't bogus? -Raymond]
  13. @Sven2 for released products, open a support case at http://support.microsoft.com – since it is a bug in the Microsoft product, you will not be charged a support fee.

  14. foo says:

    >> You do not have permission to send messages to this distribution list

    > I was able to report the problem by other means

    Sign of a good debugger.

  15. Anon says:

    @Maurits

    Yes, exactly.

    @cheong00

    This is more a strategy for ensuring the eventual elimination of the Widget Frobnicator team when a VP tries to contact them, can't, and is having a particularly bad week.

  16. alegr1 says:

    @Maurits:

    Talking to the first (and sometimes second) level of tech support is as much pleasure as having your teeth pulled. It appears they intentionally drag the case to clock more hours (those contractors must be on hourly wage).

  17. Anon says:

    @sven2

    I know you're not here for support on that issue, but since it rings a bell……

    There's a double-free in hhctrl, if you're referring to that. But we found out it is only exposed by one version of a help file creation tool whose name I won't mention here. Make sure you're on the latest version of whatever you're using to create help files.

  18. Erik F says:

    Where I worked, one of my jobs was to assist with Exchange duties and one of the main requests was the creation of distribution lists. Exchange has the wonderful ability to restrict senders to people listed in the DL (set by default), but the problem that I found was that most DLs are created so that people *other* than the senders can send to that DL. My psychic guess as to what happened: the DL was created but the person creating it forgot to turn off the check box, which is extremely easy to do! Apparently no one had bothered to report it before (or this DL receives approximately zero traffic outside of its member's own e-mail.)

    This is one example of a person with the same problem: social.technet.microsoft.com/…/cannot-send-to-distribution-group-emails-from-outside-exchange (it's far from the only example, however; the issue has existed for a long time.)

  19. [That "some way" would be, what, going through all the reports looking for ones that aren't bogus? -Raymond]

    Oh, yes. Exactly. Every software company on Earth is doing it, including operating systems companies. I do it for both a living and as the non-profit activity (on Wikipedia). Why do you make it sound like a difficult thing to do? Especially for Microsoft?

    [The way you phrased it, it sounded like you had something clever up your sleeve. "There's a giant haystack out there. There must be some way to see if there are any needles in it." -Raymond]
  20. Henri Hein says:

    @Fleet Command,

    Most software companies only accept bugs for current releases.  If it's a new Microsoft product, usually you can use the Connect portal to file bugs.  You can always use the support channel to file bugs; I have used it many times and several of my support tickets have translated into bug reports, so I can confirm what Maurits said.  

    Granted, the channels are not as open as some, but in Microsoft's defense, few companies are subject to as much vitriol as they are, so I can understand if they are reluctant to open the floodgates.

  21. steveg says:

    I worked on a website where the directive was to make contact information difficult to find, "Because people should read our content".

    "No" I said. "People want to call us to renew their membership which pays your salary."

    Being just a developer I lost the argument. Until the end-of-month financial results came in when all of a sudden Contact Us was back more prominent than before. As a side-effect member retention went up. Sometimes stupidity pays off.

  22. cheong00 says:

    @Anon: And I thought VP only will tell his/her secretary to call numbers on corporate contact list to tell the team leader to find him.

  23. Sven2 says:

    @Raymond/Bogus Reports:

    Well, there's the "Web 2.0 way" of having a community of people who may upvote proper bugs, collect reputation points, earn bug squashing badges, etc. The best reporters/voters eventually get goodies from the companies like moderator privileges, candle light dinners with developers, preview versions or even jobs at the company.

    Indie game companies often do it like that though they may be more popular among the people who have lots of time ;-)

    @Anon:

    No. The bug was that if .chm files have that "downloaded from the internet" stream attached, you open them and do not uncheck the "always ask me" box on the security warning, the viwer opens the file but shows only empty documents. Google search turns up people have similar problems with files from network shares. It's been there for some time so I wonder if the relevant people at Microsoft is actually aware of the issue.

    (I haven't checked in a while so maybe it's already fixed by now).

  24. Anon says:

    @Sven2

    That's not a bug. that's a security feature. support.microsoft.com/…/896358

    The Help viewer, by design, won't display content from untrusted zones.

    But you can (to make this thread relevant to the blog again) blogs.msdn.com/…/10463035.aspx

  25. Sven2 says:

    @Anon: It makes sense that the file is protected if the file type may contain malicous data. But I have already clicked "Yes" on the security prompt. I would expect my "yes" to be carried over to the help viewer so it can display the file. Why else would it ask me?

    There's lots of ways to work around it. For example, I can uncheck the "always ask me" box or I could use Raymond's tool. But, as a user, opening a file and just getting a blank document just feels wrong. And there's no indication what to do in this case. The blank document doesn't tell you there is some security clearance missing.

    [The first Yes was to tell Explorer, "Yes, you should execute the thing that I double-clicked (but just this once)." But hhctrl doesn't know who ran it. Maybe you ran it from a command line, or some other app programmatically executed it. So hhctrl says "Whoa, this content is not trusted." (Hhctrl cannot change behavior depending on whether it was run from Explorer because that could be spoofed.) -Raymond]
  26. Sushanth says:

    I like Raymond's approach to circumvent this issue, publish in his blog and I am sure a dev at Widget Frobnicator is going to read about it.

  27. Joshua says:

    [(Hhctrl cannot change behavior depending on whether it was run from Explorer because that could be spoofed.) ]

    I'm pretty sure this is another "other side of the airtight hatchway" again. Anybody who could spoof it can run code.

    [Not in this case. For example, one might have a Web site that downloads a CHM file then runs it, and a Web browser that thinks that CHM files are not dangerous. -Raymond]
  28. Marc K says:

    @alegr1: I've had the opposite experience.  With my cases, the support reps seemed like they were paid by how quickly they closed cases.  I had one case, that ultimately was resolved with a hotfix, attempted to be closed with "by design" and other similar reasons by numerous reps as they passed the case around.  When it finally was escalated high enough, I was told it was a known issue, but the patch was not yet available.  That rep said he'd close the case now and get back to me when the patch was available.  A few months later, I sent an email to check the status and it was returned undeliverable.  I finally did get the patch by opening a new case and explaining what had happened.  But it was a good lesson about not letting cases get closed until full resolution.

    @Fleet Command: Since Microsoft has defined "mainstream" support policies, they should accept and fix bugs for releases older than the most recent release.  However, I witnessed a Connect entry for an N-1 release get closed with "fixed in current release" even though the connect entry was created when the older version was the latest and greatest.  I had to open a support case and file a business use case statement to get it fixed in the N-1 release.

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