Did anyone else get this spam to an address they gave to Red Hat?

On November 2nd I received this spam:

(some headers removed; xxxxxxxxxxx@strugglers.net is my censored email address)

Received: from mail15.soatube.com ([])
        by mail.bitfolk.com with esmtp (Exim 4.72)
        (envelope-from <bounce@soatube.com%gt;)
        id 1RLikr-00070I-6U
        for xxxxxxxxxxx@strugglers.net; Wed, 02 Nov 2011 21:53:57 +0000
Received: from [] (mail3.soatube.com [])
        by mail15.soatube.com (Postfix) with ESMTP id 6B324181CFF
        for <xxxxxxxxxxx@strugglers.net>;
        Wed,  2 Nov 2011 14:46:01 -0700 (PDT)
To: xxxxxxxxxxx@strugglers.net
From: events@idevnews.com
Date: Wed, 02 Nov 2011 14:00:40 -0700
Subject: BPM Panel Discussion: IBM, Oracle and Progress Software

BPM-CON: BPM Panel Discussion - IBM, Oracle and Progress Software
Online Conference

Expert Speakers:
IBM, Oracle, Progress Software

The email address it arrived at was an email address I created in November 2004 in order to take a web-based test on Red Hat’s web site prior to going on an RHCE course. It has only ever been provided to Red Hat, and has not received any email since 2007 (and all of that was from Red Hat). Until November 2nd.

The spam email contains no reference to Red Hat and is not related to any Red Hat product.

From my point of view, I can only think that one of the following things has happened:

  1. Spammers guessed this email address out of the blue, first time, without trying any of the other possible variations of it all of which would still reach me.
  2. One of my computers has been cracked into and the only apparent repercussion is that someone spammed an email address that appears only in an email archive from 2004/2005.
  3. Red Hat knowingly gave/sold my email address to some spammers.
  4. Red Hat or one of its agents have accidentally lost a database containing email addresses.

Possibility #4 seems far and away the most likely.

I contacted Red Hat to ask them if they knew what had happened, but they ignored all of my questions and simply sent me the following statement:


Thank you for contacting Red Hat.

we apologies for the inconvenience caused however we would like to inform you that we have not provided your email address to anyone.

Thank You.

Red Hat Training coordinator.”

That wasn’t really what I was asking. Let’s try again.

“Hi Red Hat Training coordinator,

Thanks for your reply, but I’m afraid I am not very reassured by your response. Do you have any suggestions as to how an email address created in 2004 and used only by yourselves for my RHCE exam managed to be used for unrelated marketing by a third party in 2011, unless Red Hat either provided my email address or leaked my email address?

For clarity we are talking about the email address “xxxxxxxxxxx@strugglers.net” which has never ever received any email except from Red Hat, until yesterday, when it got some unwanted
marketing email from a third party.”

“Hi Andy,

Please be assured that Red Hat does not circulate student’s e-mail address to any third party.

Red Hat Training Coordinator”

I’m not getting anywhere am I? I was only after some reassurance that they would actually look into it. Maybe they are looking into it, and for some reason decided that the best way to assure me of this was to show complete disinterest.

Oh well, I can send that email address to the bitbucket, but I can’t help thinking it’s not just my email address that has been leaked.

Anyone else received similar email? If so, was it to an address you gave to Red Hat?

Update 2011-11-10: Someone suggested I politely ask the marketer where they obtained my email address. It’s worth a try.

“Hi Integration Developer News,

May I ask where you obtained my email address
“xxxxxxxxxxx@strugglers.net”? I’m concerned that it may have been
given to you without my authority.


Also I have now been contacted by someone from Red Hat’s Information Security team, who is looking into it. Thanks!

My email marketing adventure with British Telecom

The saga so far ^

I have a phone line from BT. I only use it for ADSL (which I get from Zen Internet). I gave my email address to BT because they offered to tell me useful things about my account via email. I now wish I had never done this.

I use extension addresses to identify what the email addresses are being used for. This is not a new idea and I didn’t invent it. For those who don’t know what an extension address is, it’s an email address like andy+foo@example.com. It ends up at the same place as andy@example.com. The point is that if I receive an email to andy+foo@example.com then I know that it’s either from whoever I gave that address to, or it’s from someone they gave/lost my address to. It’s handy for working out who’s sold their database to spammers, or had it stolen.

I used to prefer using “+” in the extension address just because it looks nicer to me than other popular alternatives like “-“. Unfortunately, some web developers are idiots and don’t believe that “+” is valid in an email address, so they try to help by refusing to accept the address. For that reason my email servers accept both “+” and “-” and I used to use “-” when “+” wasn’t accepted.

After I started doing that, I began to experience an even more annoying failure: web sites that accepted “+” in my email address when I signed up, but later got redeveloped by idiots who think that “+” is no longer valid. That means that I can no longer log in to those sites, and predictably customer service is not trained to deal with situations like that.

It seems that BT is an example of such a company, and I am having unbelievable difficulty finding anyone there that can understand this.

When I signed up with BT, the email address I gave them had a “+” in it. They accepted it at the time.

March 2011 ^

I start to receive marketing emails from BT for extra BT services, as well as BT group companies such as Dabs and Plusnet.

29th March 2011 ^

I receive another marketing email from BT, decide I don’t want to receive them any more, and follow the unsubscribe link. The unsubscribe page at http://bt.custhelp.com/app/contact/c/769,978 tells me that the email address (which BT is emailing me on) is invalid.

I contact BTCare on Twitter to ask them how to opt out and to opt me out on my behalf. Also sent a request via BT’s site for someone to call me back about it.

Am called back by a polite BT chap who totally failed to understand the problem, told me I was opted out (funny, I never opted in…) and advised that I sign up to a no commercial email scheme.

18th April 2011 ^

Receive more marketing email from BT. Ask BTCare on Twitter why that is. Am told that it can take a month to take effect.

18th May 2011 ^

Receive more marketing email from BT. Ask BTCare on Twitter why that is.

29th May 2011 ^

BTCare tells me on twitter that they opted out the wrong address last time. Apologises and says it may take a further month.

25th July 2011 ^

BT sends me a marketing email on behalf of Plusnet.

2nd August 2011 ^

I (somewhat exasperatedly) ask BTCare if, since they can’t opt me out of the emails, we can come to a more formal arrangement for my proofreading services of £50 per future email.

BTCare replies that “We can’t opt you out of emails for other companies” and that “no compensation is available sorry.”

I point out that Plusnet is a BT company, that the emails are sent by BT on an email address given only to BT, and contain a BT unsubscribe link which does not work.

3rd August 2011 ^

BTCare asks if the email was from BT, and advises the use of a US-based commercial email opt-out site.

4th August 2011 ^

BTCare tells me that their unsubscribe link works now and that I should try it again. I try it again. It fails the same way. I tell BTCare.

5th August 2011 ^

BTCare tells me that I need to contact Plusnet directly: “the link may be BT related but its seperate to us and we have no control over them

PlusNet (on twitter and identica) disagrees with BTCare and says BT sends those emails and operates the unsubscribe facility. They give me an email address at Plusnet to forward the marketing to anyway.

I have forwarded the email there and have so far got nothing back except an out of office email bounce. Oh well, it’s not really their problem anyway.

What to do now? ^

I would quite like to send a snail mail letter to BT to complain about this cluelessness. Does anyone know the best postal address and entity within BT for that to be directed to? If nothing else perhaps I can start sending the £50 a time invoices there?

I’d also quite like to not be a BT customer after this. I’m not too aware of my choices on that front though. My DSL is currently through Zen Internet, who I’m fairly happy with. I’d like a bit faster but don’t want to become a Sky or Virgin Media customer.

I’m told I can get Zen to “take over the copper”. What does this mean? Would it cause me difficulty in switching to another ISP in future?

Finally I have a feeling that there’s some DPA consequences for failing to opt me out of marketing in 4 months of asking, and then saying that I can’t get them to opt me out of marketing from companies they have given my email address to. Worth dropping a line to ICO?

Just hit delete / block all email from BT ^

Yeah it’s not that annoying but hopefully you can agree that this run-around is ridiculous. While I remain a BT customer I would prefer not to bitbucket all email from them as they do sometimes send stuff related to the operation of my account.

On extension addresses ^

It’s a shame, but I now consider “+” as unusable in an extension address because of idiot web developers who turn sites that used to accept these completely valid addresses into sites that reject them.

Just use “-” instead. It doesn’t look as pretty but at least not even the most ill-informed developer can think that “-” is invalid. If your email address already contains “-” (perhaps because your name does?), shit, sucks to be you.

Why can’t a British company do something like Game of Thrones?

The first season of Game of Thrones finished this week and I have to say, I found it compelling entertainment.

Given its strong British cast (Sean Bean, Mark Addy, Michelle Fairley, Lena Headey, Emilia Clarke, …) and filming locations predominantly in Northern Ireland, why could this not have been a British production instead of an HBO one?

Outside the sitcom genre it seems like we have so few decent TV series in the UK compared to those in the US. There have been a few notable exceptions for me, like Luther and Sherlock. Other than that, what has there been?

I realise this is, as jwz would put it, farting in nerd church, but is Doctor Who the best we have to offer the world?

I feel like I am supposed to like that show. I want to like that show. Every time I’ve tried to watch that show, I’ve been disappointed by the poor story lines, script, acting and special effects. Yet as far as I can see this thing has a budget of £10million per series or something. I can’t like that show, sorry.

There, I said it. Are some nice men from Auntie going to come and confiscate my TV licence now?

Clue- Become Compliant

A nice email from Tuscany Networks in my inbox the other day:

Date: Mon, 26 Apr 2010 13:19:36 +0000
From: marketing
To: <elided>@bitfolk.com
Subject: DNSSEC- Become Compliant
Reply-To: marketing@tuscanynetworks.com

Your email client cannot read this email. To view it online, please go
<URL elided>

To stop receiving these
emails:<URL elided>

So what happened here? They sent me a marketing email that they obviously considered too whizzy and shiny to allow me to read a plain text version of, so they inserted a plain text version that just says that my email client can’t read it. There actually is a HTML version and my mail client can probably read it fine, if I chose to ask it to, but since Tuscany Networks can’t work out how to send email properly I haven’t bothered looking.

Dear Tuscany Networks,

I would suggest that if you want to sell me on your DNSSEC knowledge then first you should try not making assumptions about what my email client supports.

Next you might like to try just putting a sensible text version of whatever your HTML was, since that would actually go beyond the bare minimum level of competency and start to approach actual usefulness.

Finally you might consider ditching the HTML entirely, since you got my address from a technical presentation on DNSSEC that was hosted by Nominet and I doubt flashy HTML emails go down all that well with the sort of people present. Save it for your fellow marketroids, who are more adept at finding ways to make each other’s utter shite show up in a different and annoying new way in Outlook Express than they are at deploying a secure DNS infrastructure.

No love,

PS Thanks for the unsubscribe link though; my mail client was still able to follow it despite not being good enough for the rest of your work, so that’s a problem that neither of us should have to face in the future.

Confusing hardware issues at home

I’ve got this server in my loft at home that’s mainly a file server for the data we use/view/listen to here. It looks like this:

A bit of a beast. When I bought it over 4 years ago I somehow thought I’d be adding a lot more drives. Anyway.

It’s been a good, reliable bit of kit and had no problems for a long time apart from overheating in the old house, but that was a problem with the room it was in. It’s never even lost a disk. A couple of months ago though the PSU went pop and ever since then it started occasionally giving me this sort of thing:

Mar 21 13:53:16 specialbrew kernel: [5875576.400044] ata3.01: exception Emask 0x0 SAct 0x0 SErr 0x0 action 0x6 frozen
Mar 21 13:53:16 specialbrew kernel: [5875576.400095] ata3.01: cmd c8/00:50:9e:a2:1d/00:00:00:00:00/f2 tag 0 dma 40960 in
Mar 21 13:53:16 specialbrew kernel: [5875576.400098]          res 40/00:01:01:4f:c2/00:00:00:00:00/10 Emask 0x4 (timeout)
Mar 21 13:53:16 specialbrew kernel: [5875576.400167] ata3.01: status: { DRDY }
Mar 21 13:53:16 specialbrew kernel: [5875576.400196] ata3: soft resetting link
Mar 21 13:53:16 specialbrew kernel: [5875576.719196] ata3.00: configured for UDMA/33
Mar 21 13:53:16 specialbrew kernel: [5875576.759036] ata3.01: configured for UDMA/100
Mar 21 13:53:16 specialbrew kernel: [5875576.759075] ata3: EH complete
Mar 21 13:53:16 specialbrew kernel: [5875576.800851] sd 2:0:0:0: [sdc] 625134827 512-byte hardware sectors (320069 MB)
Mar 21 13:53:16 specialbrew kernel: [5875576.801386] sd 2:0:0:0: [sdc] Write Protect is off
Mar 21 13:53:16 specialbrew kernel: [5875576.801418] sd 2:0:0:0: [sdc] Mode Sense: 00 3a 00 00
Mar 21 13:53:16 specialbrew kernel: [5875576.808855] sd 2:0:0:0: [sdc] Write cache: enabled, read cache: enabled, doesn't support DPO or FUA
Mar 21 13:53:16 specialbrew kernel: [5875576.810058] sd 2:0:1:0: [sdd] 625134827 512-byte hardware sectors (320069 MB)
Mar 21 13:53:16 specialbrew kernel: [5875576.810452] sd 2:0:1:0: [sdd] Write Protect is off
Mar 21 13:53:16 specialbrew kernel: [5875576.810482] sd 2:0:1:0: [sdd] Mode Sense: 00 3a 00 00
Mar 21 13:53:16 specialbrew kernel: [5875576.867347] sd 2:0:1:0: [sdd] Write cache: enabled, read cache: enabled, doesn't support DPO or FUA
Mar 21 13:53:16 specialbrew kernel: [5875576.871943] sd 2:0:0:0: [sdc] 625134827 512-byte hardware sectors (320069 MB)
Mar 21 13:53:16 specialbrew kernel: [5875576.873744] sd 2:0:0:0: [sdc] Write Protect is off
Mar 21 13:53:16 specialbrew kernel: [5875576.873770] sd 2:0:0:0: [sdc] Mode Sense: 00 3a 00 00
Mar 21 13:53:16 specialbrew kernel: [5875576.873966] sd 2:0:0:0: [sdc] Write cache: enabled, read cache: enabled, doesn't support DPO or FUA
Mar 21 13:53:16 specialbrew kernel: [5875576.874062] sd 2:0:1:0: [sdd] 625134827 512-byte hardware sectors (320069 MB)
Mar 21 13:53:16 specialbrew kernel: [5875576.874125] sd 2:0:1:0: [sdd] Write Protect is off
Mar 21 13:53:16 specialbrew kernel: [5875576.874148] sd 2:0:1:0: [sdd] Mode Sense: 00 3a 00 00
Mar 21 13:53:16 specialbrew kernel: [5875576.874195] sd 2:0:1:0: [sdd] Write cache: enabled, read cache: enabled, doesn't support DPO or FUA

There’s 6 drives in there and the above messages have been seen referring to all of them at one time or another, so I don’t believe it’s as simple as a broken disk.

The incidences of the above have become more and more frequent, so today I spent some time trying to work out where the problem lay.

The way it seemed to affect all ATA busses made me think maybe the (new) PSU was underperforming, but I tried two different ones and they seem fine.

The six disks are inserted into two 3-bay Icydocks. Here’s what they look like:

They’re pretty dumb devices which just let you fit three 3.5″ disks into two 5.25″ bays. On the back they have three SATA data connectors (one for each disk), two molex power, one SATA power and a fan. I bought them because I didn’t want to buy a really expensive disk chassis for home, but I also didn’t want to screw six drives inside the case where they’d be hard to get access to.

Inside I have four of the drives connected to the motherboard’s SATA controller, and two of them connected to an additional Si3112 SATA card. This setup has been in place for over four years.

When all the drives are removed from the Icydocks and directly connected to SATA and power, everything appears to be fine. When either of the Icydocks have three disks in, the problem reappears. I then put three disks in an Icydock, three disks directly connected, but popped one of the disks in the Icydock out. This appears to also work fine (the file systems are all RAID-10 so can stand to run with one disk missing).

I’m a bit confused by that. When I was testing the Icydocks individually, I was using the same set of three disks with each one (with the other three disks connected directly). I could believe that the disk I have now removed is bad in some way that causes the whole bus to reset, but I would have to ask why it affects the other busses, and why it doesn’t happen when it’s directly connected.

I know other people who bought Icydocks and had a real struggle getting them to behave reliably, but mine worked well from the start and have done for over four years. I could believe that one of them went bad when the power popped, even though they are very simple electro-mechanical devices, but it’s hard to believe that two of them did.

I can’t just remove the Icydocks from the picture and forget about it because that leaves six SATA drives running on the floor. 🙂 They need to be inside some form of enclosure, and I don’t want to fork out for a new enclosure or two right now if I can help it.

I’ve left it there for this evening, but I’ll have to return to it tomorrow afternoon. I’ll probably start by putting the other three disks back in their Icydock to see if the removal of that one really does fix it.

Any ideas for ways to narrow the problem down?

I hate hardware.

Update 2010-03-31

I tentatively believe I’ve tracked down the issue.

Joel wins: despite the new PSU being a bit beefier in max output than the dead one I was replacing (500W vs 384W), the new one actually had a lower limit on the 12V rail: 2.5A vs the previous 3.3A.

I scavenged a PSU from elsewhere that also had 3.3A and everything seems fine now and has been for 2 days.

I think that things worked fine outside the Icydocks because the Icydocks have fans, which are probably not very good, and suck additional power. Or else they maybe don’t do any kind of staggered spinup that might happen without them.

Coping with busy mailing lists with Mutt

I’m on a couple of fairly busy mailing lists which by their nature have loose or no moderation. It’s natural that some mailing lists work well with tight moderation, even perhaps requiring every post to be approved, but it’s more common for there to be little or no moderation. This is not a bad thing; people have very different ideas about what sort of posts are interesting.

As a consequence though, I tend to find that many (sometimes the majority) of posts are uninteresting. Clearly if they are all uninteresting then I need to just unsubscribe, but I’m on plenty of lists that do come up with gems from time to time. I find Mutt, the text-based (console) email client to be really helpful at quickly getting through these mailing lists without missing too many interesting things, and I thought I’d share some ways I do that.

These are primarily simple tips for dealing with other people’s sub-optimal mailing list behaviour. In some cases it’s the poster who’s clearly in the wrong, but asking people to give a toss about those reading their words of wisdom is apparently considered offensive in many places, and doesn’t actually modify behaviour.

First off, Mutt is kind of a culture shock for most people. This post is only really for people who already use Mutt, or maybe who were already considering using it. I’m not even going to try convincing the typical gmail web user to switch. Or anyone really. Depending on how you configure it, Mutt looks a bit like this:

Screenshot of Mutt; click for bigger version

(Click for higher-resolution version)

If that freaks you out, it may be best to stop reading, move along. Run, don’t walk.

Context is useful ^

Like, I suspect, most Mutt users, I don’t really know most of its features. It’s pretty complicated to configure. When other Mutt users glance at my email they quite commonly ask, “how did you split the window like that!?” I didn’t, it’s not split, it’s just a different layout of message window. Here’s how:

set pager_index_lines=5

Just handy for being able to see a bit of the context of where the current post is in regards to the rest of the thread.

Threading matters ^

Once a thread has gone bad, it’s usually going to stay bad. The most useful tricks involve operating on whole threads at once, so you don’t have to tediously click something on every email. So while it might not seem like the most annoying thing at first, people not threading properly becomes one of the more annoying things later as it slows down whatever you are trying to do on the thread.

Sort your folders by thread:

set sort=threads

Unfortunately Mutt doesn’t seem to have a feature to break a thread when the subject header changes, so you might instead prefer to sort by subject. That had too many false positives for me though, even with sort_re.

Get rid of a whole thread ^

If you’re looking at the start of a thread, and it’s uninteresting, and you can see all of the thread below it, chances are that it’s all going to be uninteresting. You can mark it all read with ctrl-r. I prefer to see the whole thread on the screen before doing that, because there’s some chance that someone might change the subject line into something that becomes interesting.

I find myself reading some lists mostly with ctrl-r without even looking at the content of the posts. For example, a thread that starts with “Mandriva v Windows” isn’t very likely to contain anything except trolling and counter-trolling (If you are unaware of what Mandriva is, you are reading the wrong blog post and only need know that it is a brand name for a popular USB personal massager product).

The risk is that someone will go off at a tangent and post something that is actually interesting, without changing the subject. I’m willing to take the risk; they should have changed the subject IMHO. And anyway, you still have the mail, it’s only been marked as read.

Deal with subthreads ^

If you can see that the subject of a thread has changed or there’s some other reason why you might want to treat every message below the current one differently, then you can operate on subthreads.

The most simple thing is to break the subthread off into a new thread of its own. # will do that. You can then treat it differently, use the thread commands on it in isolation. That’s how I usually do it because if this happened then it means that the content of the subthread is very different to the rest of the thread, to me.

If you want to keep it as part of the same thread, you can mark the subthread read with esc-r (or alt-r).

Also useful for when someone decides that the right way to start a new email is to just press reply on some other random email.

Tagging ^

Occasionally a bunch of posts are the same sort of thing but they’re not in a thread. If you can find something about them that’s common then you can tag them based on that, with T. e.g. T followed by ~h @luser.example.com tags every email that has “@luser.example.com” in its headers.

If you can’t think of anything to match on then at the very least, just hitting t on each of the posts will tag it.

Once tagged, you’ll find that many existing Mutt commands that operate on a single email will work on a bunch of tagged emails as well, by prefixing the command with ;. So, if you imagine you’d tagged the above emails and wanted to mark them read, the next thing you’d do would be ;N.

Rejoin broken threading ^

Some people continue to use broken email clients that don’t do threading properly. All of their posts appear in a new thread. You can easily rejoin errant posts into an existing thread by tagging them, moving to the post they should be replies of, and using the & command. It may seem like a lot of hassle, but the benefit is that every reply to that one will then be in the right place too.

Useful for those pointless flamewars that just won’t die. “Oh look it’s that thread again, I’ll just mark it read again.”

More info ^

That’s about all I can think of in terms of the simple stuff I do every day when reading email. I hope it helped some newcomers to Mutt. There’s a lot of great tips in the documentation but it can seem a bit impenetrable at first:

Feltham Airparcs leisure centre FAIL

Feltham Airparcs leisure centre has for the last 2 weeks — and ongoing — closed at 4pm, instead of 10pm, because the emergency lighting doesn’t work.

The actual lighting works fine, it’s just that if the lighting did fail then there’d be no emergency lights directing the shallow end of the gene pool to safety.

So the staff close the place up as soon as it starts to get a bit dusky out.

The dark side of Dubai; the dark side of us

I saw a link to this article about Dubai on Twitter today. Like zts, I found it an extremely disturbing read, stopping at many points to read out loud to anyone who would listen. I recommend that you read it too.

After having read through it, I suppose my first thought is to wonder why anyone who knows that this sort of thing goes on would ever go there. Why any rich person from a democratic country would move there to set up home. Why any Western sporting personalities or pop stars would put their name to Dubai resorts and hotels, to stadiums and their gigs. Coldplay, Bon Jovi, Justin Timberlake, Shakira, Christina Aguilera and Elton John aren’t really acts you associate with slavery, after all.

The urge to take the moral high ground and denounce the practice is strong, and rightly so. Something nags at me though about how much of our society must be built on injustice. The clothes and food we buy when we’re being economical, how much of it comes from oppressed workers? Do we just turn a blind eye all the time?

The people interviewed by Johann Hari in the article either avoid the subject or say they force themselves not to think about it, so a lot of them too are just turning a blind eye. I like to think that if I knew some product was the result of sweat shop labour (let alone slavery) then I would avoid it, but am I kidding myself?

When we could afford it we shopped at Waitrose/Ocado not just because it tasted better but because it’s got to be ethically superior, right? But as soon as we needed to live on a tighter budget this went out of the window and these days we mostly shop at Asda. Most of the bad publicity for supermarkets in the UK seems to be reserved for Tesco but Asda is even cheaper and I can’t really believe their practices are that much better. They have whole cooked chickens for £4, for goodness sake. I could stop shopping there but then that would be less money to spend on other things which would reduce the quality of my life, so this makes me a massive selfish hypocrite.

Of course none of this is comparable to the blatantly fucked Dubai society; if Asda were taking passports off of Filipino girls and forcing them to sell cheap goods for 19 hours a day for no money then certainly I’d consider paying more than 5p per 100ml of Pepsi Max at a competing supermarket.

It’s a bit of a coincidence that we’re hearing all this about Dubai now though, just as they enter the news for allowing their state bank to default massively. This stuff has been going on for years, right? The millions of slaves used to build that place. I confess I never really thought about it before. The worst I’d previously heard was about their insane laws on drugs which could get you locked up for minuscule traces on the outside of your shoes, or for stuff you bought over the counter in the airport.

We all turned a blind eye for years.

If you read this far and for some reason want to comment then it would be great if your comment was not solely based on what you do to consume more ethically than everyone else on the Internet.

More abject Abbey failure

Last year Abbey screwed up and caused me significant problems in my day to day BitFolk business. They were unable to convince me that they would improve in future, so I voted with my wallet and BitFolk sought another bank for business purposes. I had to keep the abbey accounts open though because some customers wouldn’t alter their standing orders etc. (even when repeatedly asked).

There were a few more incidents of poor service with Abbey, but I didn’t really care because the only thing BitFolk was using the account for was catching payments of people who were paying in unsupported ways.

A couple of weeks ago though, we moved business address. Changing addresses everywhere was quite annoying but would you like to have a guess which single organisation still has failed to accept a simple address change by now, one month after the move? The failing organisation is Abbey business banking.

Initially I went to the branch, figuring they’d need to do some form of security check (you’d hope). I was told that branches don’t deal with that and I had to write to them. So write I did, only to be sent back to the branch. Who then told me to write again and “make it clear they have to deal with it”. So write again I did.

I now have a letter from them saying that I really must go to the branch and produce all these documents (which is what I expected to do at first) and that until I do they’re going to send all correspondence to the old address. Which I now have no access to. I have no confidence at all that going to the branch again is going to get this sorted out. It’s an immense waste of my time, and now I have documents with sensitive information going to an address where some unknown people will receive them. Was I supposed to delay moving for months until one part of Abbey can work out how to communicate with the other part?

The easiest thing to do now seems to be to just close the accounts, and if anyone is still paying to the wrong place a year on then it’s going to have to be their problem. 🙁

I would strongly encourage anyone thinking of banking with this organisation to reconsider. You just can’t get anything done.

Stitching together social networking

I don’t think I’m addicted to these things, but I do use social networking a fair bit.

On the microblogging front I use Twitter (mostly posting via Identi.ca).

For the classic social networking stuff I’m on Facebook and LinkedIn.

I’m scrobbling my audio to last.fm, there is of course this blog receiving occasional posts and I’ve been on IRC for far too long. I’m also on Jabber.

I’m reasonably happy with how this is all stitched together from a publishing point of view, but how are people supposed to find each other on all of these?

Out of the networks I’m in, Facebook is probably the easiest way for you to find people since you can see who knows who and work from there, but then are you supposed to put their names into the search of every other thing you are on? Or are you supposed to tell people everything you’re on every time you add them to any of them? This is clearly stupid.

I once heard about FOAF and how it was supposed to solve all of this. Hardly anyone else seems to have heard about that.

OpenID seems promising. At least once each person has a canonical URL that identifies them, they could put some machine-readable thing on there (like FOAF) that enumerates every other social network they are in so you can see what overlaps.

So why don’t more of these services do this? Is it because the commercial ones (Facebook, Twitter, MySpace, Bebo, …) are scared of acknowledging the existence of Other Places To Point Your Eyeballs? Maybe the revolution could start by something like Identi.ca reading some FOAF from your OpenID provider to tell other Identi.ca users what social circles you mingle in and how they overlap with theirs?

And no I don’t yet use OpenID, because I don’t actually have a use for it yet, but if someone like Identi.ca did this then I would!