Monday, October 17, 2005

Dear TypePad

Dear TypePad:

Here's hoping this letter finds all well with you. It's been an interesting time here at Castle Basil. Or at least, at Basil's Blog.

You remember Basil's Blog, don't you? I'm one of the folks that signed up for your most expensive Web hosting package back in January. The account that'll be coming due again in January 2006.

Unless I find another host.

You know, I might just do that. Because right now, I'm not happy.

Oh, I know, your company can very easily do without my little bit of money in your coffers. If I take my money elsewhere, it's not a big loss to you, is it? No, I didn't think so.

In fairness, the people that I've dealt with at TypePad have been just as nice as can be. So it's not a matter of customer service. It's actually a matter of needing customer service.

Here's a tip for you: The best customer service call is the customer service call that doesn't have to be made.

Now I certainly appreciate your attempts to reduce spam, particularly TrackBack spam.

Your efforts to reduce comment spam are much appreciated, although many, many people do not like your TypeKey registration product that you offer for TypePad.

But I realize you're looking beyond that. I thought I saw (though briefly) evidence of a "validation code" process that you were working on. It appeared to be the type where distorted letters or numbers are read and typed into a box. Many will appreciate that, I'm sure.

Your efforts to reduce TrackBack spam aren't going very well, though. True, you recognize it ... after the fact.

Did you just not test things properly? There is no excuse for improper testing. Did the scenario of using a third-party form not cross your mind? Have you never heard of HaloScan? Are you not aware of the Wizbang and Kalsey forms?

It's sad to say that I must use them on occasion. There are many times where I can't send a TrackBack to another TypePad site. That tells me there's a problem with TrackBacks at TypePad. Read that last sentence: "a problem with TrackBacks at TypePad." The irony of TrackBacks being a SixApart development and TypePad being a SixApart company isn't lost on me. Is it lost on you?

Anyway, when I can't send TrackBacks via TypePad, I use the 3rd party forms. Or I did until you blocked them.

And the thing is, I don't think you meant to block them. I think you overlooked them.

Either way, that's pretty bad. You should not find that acceptable. I don't.

If you need somebody to help you troubleshoot new products, or anvil-test them, I'm here. I'm sure we can come up with some adequate compensation. Like full a MovableType site. Or sites, since I have multiple blogs. Essentially, the TypePad deal on a MovableType platform. I'd offer my expertise in alpha-testing and beta-testing functionality for that.

You'd come out ahead on the deal. You can certainly afford a site like that. You'd get excellent analysis of your processes. Let's put it this way: this problem would never have made it to production. I'd have caught it.

I'm actually pretty good at this kind of stuff. You could do better, but not for the price I'm asking.

As we enter the fifth day of your TrackBack issue, be aware that I'm unhappy. So unhappy, that my presence will be scarce for the next few days. While I won't be around, there will be something new here every day. No, I'm not sitting in the corner pouting. Others will be offering posts for our loyal readership. In the meantime, I'm preparing this little blog for a move to another host. I've already downloaded the WordPress software!

Yes, I'm unhappy. And I think other TypePad sites may be unhappy, too.

I'm encouraging all TypePad sites that are experiencing this issue (lots of them, isn't it?) to write you a letter sharing their thoughts.

Happy reading!

Your friend,


  1. If you're looking at different blog software, I am particularly fond of Serendipity ( over WordPress. You might want to have a look at that and see what suits you best. Each has its ups and downs...

  2. and i thought it was on my end .. gee that explains why I had a problem last week ..

  3. Attention TypePad Users

    basil of basil's blog, who is much more of a techie than I am (I guess that's not saying much), has a message for TypePad here. If you're a TypePad user, check it out, and let the people at TypePad

  4. I linked you, but THE TRACKBACK DIDN'T WORK. Go figure.

  5. Basil, sorry that you're frustrated. We're definitely aware that tweaks need to be made to our TrackBack spam blocking; Most users are really happy with the overwhelming majority of spam now being blocked.

    Since we have the vast majority of our users not reporting a problem, I'd guess there's one of a few situations going on (maybe you can give us more info) and we'll make sure to track it down and get it solved.

    First, we've done a *lot* of testing. I'm certain we didn't get every possible combination, since there's about 50 million TrackBack-enabled pages on the web and millions of sites that can send TrackBacks. But yep, we probably did miss some cases and thanks for taking the time to let us know.

    Next, there's a couple of different ways that TrackBacks can be sent. Most are sent through auto-discovery, where your TypePad posting form automatically finds the place to send a ping on the other site. But if you're manually sending a ping, it can sometimes be blocked if a link to that page doesn't appear on your blog.

    In addition, open TrackBack forms like Kalsey's and Wizbang's (and yes, I've talked to both of them) can be (and are) used by spammers, so we perform some additional checks on pings that come from those forms to verify that they're legitimate. I think the checks on those services might be something we can tweak, and that could help with this problem as well.

    We'll make sure and do right by you; If moving to Movable Type with one of our hosting partners is the right option, I'd be glad to help you take advantage of that. But the problem here isn't a lack of testing, it's a combination of the massive complexity of software in the wild on the web (did you know Microsoft's MSN Spaces sends TrackBacks in a completely different format than most other tools) combined with the cleverness and dedication of spammers who want to abuse TrackBack.

    I'm sorry you're not satisfied with what we're doing to fight spam; Rest assured, we'll keep working on it 'til we get it right. I hope you'll be patient enough to give us the chance, and feel free to email me if you'd like to get in touch.

  6. Okey dokey... this is the second attempt to leave a comment (TypePad doesn't seem to be cooperating... but given I'm in France they get one free pass).

    Personally, I use WordPress. I switched over from MovableType a few months ago (yes, MovableType is from the same folks you brought you TypePad), because MovableType had "broken" and I couldn't make it work any longer on my host.

    I have had a very good experience with WordPress, but I have been willing to take a chance and install plug-ins to fight spam among other enhacements to the basic application.

    For me, more control is preferable to "ease of use" that services like TypePad promise but often do not deliver upon.

    My opinion, I'm a technology geek and am willing to puzzle out problems myself if *I* am the one in control instead of allocate that ability to a service.

    It all depends upon your preferences.

  7. Yeah, all things considered WordPress is probably the best choice in this case. Despite my earlier expressed preference for s9y, I still haven't figured out how to make it display "inline" trackbacks (short of hacking the code).

    I don't know, though. To each his own...

  8. Bearded Ladies, Carnies

    It is Sunday once again and time to give thanks to the following sites who have included us in their Carnivals this past week:Carnival of Crazy VIII- Stuff Cats = Awesome Edition at File It Under Carnival of the


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