And now a totally off-topic raging rant about Facebook

Just about every website under the sun does at least the bare minimum for social media integration and sets up both a Twitter account and Facebook page. The Twitter account was a piece of cake and thanks to the totally awesome Twitter Tools plugin, I can get a weekly digest of interesting broadband news to publish here on the site. Aside from that time where it wouldn’t post anymore (which I suspect had to do with my slowly dying server at my old host), it’s been easy and mostly headache-free.

Facebook, however, seems intent on cheesing me off. Quite some time ago, I setup a group more-or-less around the website. I quickly realized that its usefulness was very limited since any member of the group had to actively keep checking back to see what changed. That even included me as the group admin, not a pretty setup. The obvious way to go seemed to be to setup a fan page and tinker with that.

So way back in August, I went to setup the fan page and was promptly auto-rejected by their Smarter-Than-Me code because my page name had “excessive capitalization”. I can see why; a lot of spammers and scammers like page titles like “FREE IPOD FOR LIFE OMG!!!!1!!!one!!!” to try and grab your attention. The form, though, provided the option to submit documentation that what you asked to use is legit. I figured “hey, using UTOPIA’s own website, its Wikipedia article, and a newspaper story with my website name ought to be enough, right?” It also seemed to imply that a human with soft skin would actually look at it, logically deduce that I was a real person with a real site, and get things moving for me.

Silly me.

Instead, I’ve been through the various circles of support hell that so many web companies have been getting infamous for. The first e-mail got a generic canned response of what the web page had already told me. A response to that got me the same e-mail, copied and pasted, that I had gotten in the first place. When I replied to that, I didn’t hear anything for over two months despite sending repeated e-mails. I finally got a response that they had reviewed and approved my request. Happy happy happy! Joy joy joy! All I had to do was go attempt to create the page again.

Except that it didn’t work. That was back in October. I’ve been e-mailing them since then to try and get some kind of action, but I might as well be tossing coins into the fountain of my local mall. I sent more e-mails today in the off chance that maybe, just maybe a real live person with skin and organs that eats and breathes will see it, take pity on me, and maybe let me make the page with the right name.

And I can already here you folks out there saying “dude, it’s free; shut your pie hole.” To which I have to say, so what if the product is free? That’s Facebook’s decision to offer a product for free. If it’s crap, so I lose the ability to complain because it’s free? Of course not. And… it’s not free. I’m sending my website subscribers over there to get their data mined so that the latest FarmWarsVille game can hawk virtual crap to them. If anything, Facebook should be doing its darnedest to get more content and pages, not put up barriers to getting it done.

And sure, I could use an improperly capitalized name, but that would look really low-quality and likely be confused as not being the real deal. Anything worth doing is worth doing right. That includes setting up a proper fan page, not a make-do hack.

If any of you knows people at Facebook or has some idea how to find a human that thinks instead of a script that doesn’t, please let me know. I’m ready for this frustration to end.

Return of the Forum

Good news: the forums are back! The bad news? None of the data from the old forum could be migrated due to the failed upgrade that tanked them in the first place. If you want to post on the forum, you’ll need to re-register an account. If you want to maintain anonymity, make sure you use an e-mail address not tied to a Gravatar, otherwise it will display.

Happy posting!

Hosting Move

As of tonight, Free UTOPIA! now runs on WebFaction, a new hosting provider. Basically, I got sick of the downtime and system maintenance at my old host and thought saving $30/mo on service would be a nice side benefit. As part of the move, I’ve updated the theme to a newer version and updated a number of plugins. If you notice anything wonky or non-functional, please let me know.

Catching Up

Yes, I’ve been very quiet around here for the last few weeks despite some news happening regarding UTOPIA. The short version is that I spent two weeks in Boston getting hand surgery for my infant son plus a considerable amount of time getting prepped for that trip. (On a side note, Southwest rocks for still allowing two checked bags at no extra charge.) As passionate as I am about broadband policy, family pretty much trumps it all. So now I’m digging through about a month of e-mail, getting back in the habit of reading my feeds (I had to declare Google Reader bankruptcy, so I’m sure I’ve missed more than a few things), and getting back on my feet from being on the other side of the country. (If anyone wants to come mow my lawn, I won’t refuse.) This doesn’t mean I’ve been totally out-of-the-loop, just that I’m aware of the major happenings and not much else.

So UTOPIA picked up an award from the Broadband Properties Summit for getting things back on track. Good on them. This is positive recognition that management is getting the ship sailing in the right direction, even if there are treacherous seas still left to navigate. I’m not surprised that they had to ask the cities to float them some operating capital for a while, nor do I think any of them were caught unaware. The unexpected nature of the refinance two years ago I think had more effect on the cities’ anger than being asked for money. I’m also not surprised that, again, the UTA was spouting off the same nonsense they always do. It’s fatiguing to see them trotting out the same failed and rebutted arguments every single year, blind to any kind of reality of the situation.

I’d like to give a special shout out to Mayor Mike Winder of West Valley by showing some real leadership on UTOPIA. As part of the city council, he was consistent in voting against UTOPIA. Now he sees that the decision has been made, the financial commitments already made can’t be erased, and they need to make the best of the situation. No, UTOPIA is hardly in any kind of ideal situation. They can’t cover operating expenses right now, much less the bond payments. It kind of sucks for someone like me who’s such a big supporter. I think now is the time to ignore the commentary and just do the work. The people who hate UTOPIA will always hate UTOPIA and at this point, and nothing I say or do will change their minds. Heck, UTOPIA could deliver every pie-in-the-sky promise out there while making the cities run tax-free and someone (probably Howard Stephenson) would still find something to kvetch about. It’s not worth the effort to reason with or attempt to disprove people like that.

With the short runway for this month, I’m going to skip May’s podcast. If you’ve been sending me e-mail, I’ll get back to you soon. If you’ve noticed a lot of downtime with the site (and I have), I’m working on moving to another host because I just don’t have the time or will to manage a VPS setup anymore. I’m not going anywhere, nor am I giving up the fight. I just needed a break for a while.