Bits and Chaos


Between bits and chaos, a sysadmin stands.

A web site that sucks, badly:

Imagine you have bought a Net App filer, as we have done (online backups and document sharing for clients). Imagine that you want the documentation manuals, because you want to see how to install, configure and administer it. You will be disappointed when you don’t find any manual in the package shipped by Net App, on printed form or on a documentation CD.

Ok, but on some on the enclosed sheets, you read that you can go to, register and have full access to the documentation. I have some difficult understanding why you must register to read documentation (which is one of your best marketing agent, if you are confident enough on your product), but I can live with that.

Are you on the Net App website? Ok, now you can create an account. Please choose the level of your account. Yes, you can be a guest, which means you can have very little access, or you can register your product (via serial number) and be a member of this hallowed community.

First, I register myself as a guest, believing that I can upgrade later. No way. As a guest, you can see the astounding home page, where every link you click gives you an “Anauthorized access” courtesy page. Included, the “Register my product” page. I’m sure that the home page looks astounding, because it will be the only thing from Net App that you can see, and they can’t be stupid to limit themselves in something less that astounding.

Net App web site is made with the philosophical assumption that “first impression counts”, so if you start as a guest ad then spend 1 million on their product you can’t upgrade. And we spent a lot less than 1 million, so I’m picturing myself Net App executives angry and furious for a guest that is trying to gain access to the support for the product it has bought: how would I dare?

Ok, let’s try another way. We start with a new account, and we immediately choose to register it, because as the web site states, you will have a shorter evaluation phase before being member of the hallowed community of the people that can see the documentation. Indiana Jones, as an example, he’s not, but I’ve heard about a fifth film of the saga, so hold on your breath.

After two working days, we still don’t have access. So we have this brand new filer that is sitting idly, because no one wants to try to configure it without knowing how it works (how strange, like we are engineers).

Now, dear Net App executives in charge of the web site, I’d like to address you directly with a quick recap:

  1. You don’t know how to use a web site to market your product;
  2. You don’t give access to your products documentations, which means that you don’t trust your product and/or your customers;
  3. You are not helping your customers in getting the most out of your products, which is really, really, deeply irritating;
  4. You are unable to process your customer requests according to the dadaistic workflow you have defined in your web site;
  5. If you believe that this will force me, as a customer, to buy your technical services, you are a wrong, wrong way wrong.

I suggest you to see how IBM, Red Hat, VMware, HP (just to name some I know and profitably use in my everyday’s work) are dealing with this strange phenomenon called “web”. Some of them are even using public-accessible mailing list for their customers. They are fools, clearly.

In the meantime, please believe me: even a good product with a bad or zero documentation won’t be good enough. I was tempted to play around with the web interface as long as I would reach a “no more working” configuration, and then send the filer back to you asking for a manual to fix it. Don’t tempt me more.

Filed under: rant, , , , ,