ILD Teleservices – Telecom Bottom Feeders

We are some of those very rare communication consumers that have actually gone back to having traditional plain old telephone service (POTS, or the colloquial ‘land-line’). My wife and I both for many years prior to being in our current house were cell-phone only customers. But we are just far enough out to be in a limited service area for cell service. In the winter it’s ok, in the summer when the leaves fill out, the service is not even reliable enough to be sure we could make an emergency call.

So after weighing options, we went with POTS service with our local monopoly provider – Embarq.

The service has been reliable and the customer service good actually. Their web service for billing/payment is horrendous, but I expect that from the monopoly providers. One of the issues that we’ve run into is that we apparently inherited the phone number that belonged to a person with some, “financial difficulties” – so we get robocalls from creditors (some of which are just awful. The continued “if you are not this person, then please hang up” calls are the worst).

It was all well and good, until this bill this month, where we had a $7.70 charge – $7.20 + $.50 taxes from a “third-party provider” named ILD Teleservices. For a three minute “collect call.” That happened when we were out of town for the weekend.

I called Embarq. Who actually blamed it on me. “It must have been a service you signed up for”

UM, NO – I WAS OUT OF TOWN.

“Well, this isn’t our charge, there’s a customer service number for ILD Teleservices on your bill, call them, and they’ll credit you.

HOW DO I GET THESE TO STOP?

“We’ll put a block on that company for you”

I WANT A BLOCK ON ALL THIRD-PARTY CHARGES.

“Ok, we can do that. By the way, do you have television service?”

I AM NOT INTERESTED IN ANYTHING YOU HAVE TO SELL.

“Well, okay, we have Dish Network for $9.95”

Sigh.

I then called ** ILD Teleservices**. After searching in Google and finding hundreds of similar reports. I was on hold for 15 minutes or so. And without actually any explanation on my part – the person said “I see you have a charge, do you remember taking a collect call?”

NO.

(without skipping a beat) “We’ll be crediting you, and your local phone company will refund the taxes, it will take 1-3 billing cycles”

This is nuts. Absolutely nuts.

This has to be one of the most corrupt industry practices I can imagine. ILD Teleservices and Embarq have joined together into this “Let’s just randomly bill people, and see if they notice”

When Google finds this post – and you have found yourself billed by ** ILD Teleservices** and Embarq in the same manner? It’s a scam – a corrupt and unethical business practice. Pure and simple. So get your money back.

Now this is what I’m talking about!

Yes, Yes, Yes!

MEMORANDUM FOR THE HEADS OF EXECUTIVE DEPARTMENTS AND AGENCIES SUBJECT: Freedom of Information Act

“The Freedom of Information Act should be administered with a clear presumption: In the face of doubt, openness prevails. The Government should not keep information confidential merely because public officials might be embarrassed by disclosure, because errors and failures might be revealed, or because of speculative or abstract fears. Nondisclosure should never be based on an effort to protect the personal interests of Government officials at the expense of those they are supposed to serve.

Priorities

The day started normally, though a bit late. Truman and I went for a walk, and I ended up calling in to the staff conference.

Meanwhile, my wife is browsing the pets section at Craigslist. Apparently there are multiple pups at the Harnett County shelter that are not going to make it beyond the next morning. Some folks from NCSU are posting all over Craigslist the pictures of the dogs (and cats) offering to bring them to Raleigh.

She has a feeling – like the feeling she had with Truman. About a lab mix with a sad face with a tiny little picture.

sadwinston

I’m not so sure. I like our life. Married almost 15 months. Our first house together. Our first pup. He’s great. He was a complete impulse rescue from the Johnston County shelter. But he’s doing great. We’re doing great.

And the holidays are coming up. Stress for her and me both at work, stress about the holidays.

I’m Mr. Conservative. Can we take on another dog now? Sure, we talked about getting Truman a friend. But later right? I’m running the budgets. Thinking about travel. Worrying about schedules. She knows that weren’t going to do this yet too. She understands my hesitance. She’s worried too.

Yeah, we have the budget. We’ve got the room, the fence is in. I stare at Truman, completely zoned out in the chair. I’m just not sure. I want to be the realist. I want to say yes. But I want to say no, too. The line between logic and emotion is hard to hold when there’s a shelter pup and a life on the the line.

She’s sending the link to friends, posting in forum posts – hoping to find him a home before, well, there’s not a chance anymore.

Heart strings are tugged, but for most, there’s no room at the inn. For others, well, it’s just not the time.

She calls, he’s still there. I finally say “let’s do it” We drive to Lillington and meet the most timid dog imaginable. We avoid looking at all the other dogs. There’s a few questions. He’s not Truman. But there’s still a feeling.

A vet visit, shots, dewormers, an appointment for a neuter, and a very much needed bath later – the pup is beginning to perk up. He gets a name – Winston.

He looks a lot better after a bath and some play time.

The next day – there’s no dogs listed for adoption any longer at the Harnett shelter. And Truman and Winston seem to be doing just fine together.

Awwwww

I twittered his name last night, and a fellow dog-loving friend from Iowa said “Winston and Truman, eh? They should be able to change the world!”

Yes, I think so. They’ve already changed ours.

It’s about the details

My default feed yesterday switch back to RSS 2 from Atom (and a huge thanks to Sam for pointing this out) because of a upgrade to WordPress 2.3.1.

It was another reminder of how things fail because of a cascade of missed details.

The immediate detail, was that I completely forgot my own quick hack to WordPress 2.3 to force the Atom default. That’s the danger in making “one-off” changes to software that you use. Quick one-offs don’t become part of one’s standard workflow, they are too easily missed later, and upgrades will usually wipe out one’s changes. The old axiom applies here – “just because you can, doesn’t mean you do, because it will bite you in the rear later”

If I’m going to make changes like this, I probably should do what I do with MediaWiki at work, and pull things from Subversion and merge them into my own trunk. But that’s just flat out silly for a few lines of changed code.

The second mistake is that I should have – at the least – taken Mark Pilgrim’s advice and put together the two liner plugin to remove the rss2 action.

That’s just complete laziness on my part. I had it working and I didn’t bother it again – I wanted to spend more time investigating how the whole “actions” thing works in WordPress, and had grand dreams of extending that idea into a plugin that could be configured from WordPress itself. Then I decided I’d rather play with the dog.

There’s this continuum of solving problems that starts with hacks and goes to solutions. And the problem is, solutions take a lot of work. So the happy medium is somewhere in between. My change was hack that bit me in the rear later. Mark’s change is something that will likely work across upgrades. And that’s what I should have done right then, and I absolutely knew better than to continue with my own podunk modification. There’s another axiom there “just because it works, doesn’t mean it’s right, especially if isn’t going to work later”

So, the default feed format changing is completely my fault. If I care, and I do, I have to make sure that the things I really care about keep working. There’s an ongoing maintenance cost to my commitment.

But the third detail in this, not that it excuses my mistakes in not being diligent about my details, is that this really should be part of the core of WordPress. It really doesn’t make sense that the Atom feeds are there now, but the software is so bent on making RSS2 the default and not letting folks change it easily. There’s really no excuse going forward, especially given the patches available.

(and yes, it works just fine, as my own patch -p0 and plugin drop-in can attest to – that I’ll have to do again for 2.3.2 – Mark’s plugin is there as a backup this time 🙂

I’ve been on the WordPress dev’s case about this a long time. Always in this blog, and I’ve never put code where my mouth is. I should have put up or shut up. Sam and Mark, and dozens of others thankfully have, with WordPress, and in dozens of other places that matter.

But even if I should have shut up already – there is something core that I’ll repeat here. I know that the users don’t care. I know that it doesn’t make a dang bit of difference to Aunt Millie whether things are RSS 2.0 or Atom. But RSS 2.0 is the IE 6 of data interchange. WordPress’s continued traction on making it easier to allow the software’s users to make the Atom feed the default is like continuing to excuse IE 6. Sure, we have to put up with it, but we don’t have to keep making it hard to choose other things.

As developers, we have the ultimate responsibility to make sure that we are laying the foundation for how we ship data around – now, and 5 years from now. I sure hope that the WordPress core devs run with the patch this time. It really does matter. You’ll still have a successful business model without it, but don’t make us continue routing around the damage.

[ed. note – I read this again after Sam added his second paragraph about the patch and my own post was a little unclear, so it was edited slightly for my actual intent. While I don’t think that RSS2 should be the default – I get not making the change right now, just stop making it hard to make a choice with the feed format]

The world “security”

In a conversation with a colleague today – who was wondering about the source for a question we had about web application security – I remarked to him that unless it was a banking site, or an e-commerce site (if even then) – anyone that uses the word security was most certainly an IT person.

IT people care about security, users care about privacy – and web applications should be written for users, not IT people.

Quote of the Day

I’ve been helping an Extension specialist with some MediaWiki concepts the last few days, even very loquacious answer to how MediaWiki links are constructed (by going into the values that MediaWiki is designed on) – I broke references to WordStar: “ [MediaWiki] was meant to remove the barriers to “editing” any given page. While some of the syntax can be challenging – especially for those of us that have gone from things like wordstar to word perfect, to word, to html, to graphical editors, only to be challenged again with weird characters that are nothing like we’ve used before – the barrier to changing content on a page is removed.”

They responded

Talk about blast from the past – you must be older than I thought to be able to pull ‘Word Star’ out

Ha. I’m much too young to feel this damn old 🙂

(someone is going to read this and make some obscure reference to AtariWriter or something even earlier – that’s okay, if you do, just think how many will read this and go “what’s wordstar?” or “what’s wordperfect?” in 5 years they’ll be saying “what’s word?”)