Posted by: Jack | January 29, 2007

I Want to Be a Professional Feedback-ist

I was coming across a few problems with a number of various Internet based/oriented businesses today and after trying to notify the respective companies through their automated feedback systems I have established that I should become a freelance feedback provider. Now I’m sure this sounds a lot like consulting but it differs such that I would only examine services from the end-user perspective. Then I would provide my feedback directly to a response team and I wouldn’t be put through the usual worthless feedback response: “please check our FAQ for your question”, “this response has been automatically generated to target your concerns”, “we are aware of this issue and are working to resolve it”.

The above sort of response is unfortunately necessary due to the overflow of user-error based feedback which I’m sure most websites receive. But lets take Charter High-Speed Internet for example. I was a customer of theirs for a couple years but closed my account with them nine months ago. When subscribing to their Internet Service, the customer is provided with an amount of webspace for storage. Don’t ask them how much space you get because no one at Charter knows and the representative whom I asked said they had never heard that question before. It turns out to be 10 MB, extremely stingey considering their rates and the current cost of disk-based storage. I’m getting way off track. The problem is that even today I still have access to my Charter storage space and I regularly upload items there for others to view/download. Now for an ISP, bandwidth is their primary product and they have been giving it away for free to me and likely every other ex-customer who knows about it. So this is an example of a situation where I could contact them with my more direct line and suggest they make a minor modification so that once a customer closes their account, their webspace is deleted and access is cut off. And then they could pay me for that money saving suggestion.

I frequently come across sites which belong to large companies yet have major errors or have failed to follow standards which are standard for a good reason. One simple issue I see frequently is a password entry texbox where your entry appears as you enter it (myPassword rather than **********). This is probably the easiest part of password security to implement and literally takes one line of coding. But failure to do this gives users (at least me) a bad impression of the site’s security and trust is something no Internet business should be willing to sacrifice. Similarly, many sites still email you your username along with your password in plain text when you register for their various services. Believe it or not, by downloading a very simple program anyone can easily read a majority of your email if they have access to your network…yes, even if you need a password to access your email. Considering the number of people who leave their wireless networks freely available to all in range, this is not a minor issue. The act of downloading an unencrypted anything makes that data available to everyone on your network. Ok sorry, getting off track and on tangent again.

Point of all this: companies should be paying small consulting fees to non-novice end-users for this sort of feedback. It would be very affordable and valuable.

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