Thursday, September 14, 2006


Rules, Rules, Rules!

At least one web site I've frequented initially registered users identified only by e-mail address (I'm not sure there was even a password required, they just wanted to know who was consulting their content and send us newsletters and conference announcements); they added a "username" later, and now it and a password are required to log in. Problem: I've never added a username for myself (nor did they impose one).

This morning I tried to use the site; confronted with the login panel, I clicked on "I forgot my password", entered my e-mail address and was told a new password and activation procedure had been sent. Sure enough, an e-mail arrived promptly in my inbox. It contained a new password and a link to click to activate the password. I clicked. Password successfully updated. Please log in. Right. I entered my password, leaving the username blank (as it plainly was in the e-mail): login failed. I tried again, putting my member ID number in place of the username: login failed. I was annoyed that their procedure had not envisaged this case. After all, how clever does one have to be to realize that if someone who is recognized as a registered user (e-mail address in users table) says they can't log in, you send them what they need to log in. If they need a username as well as a password, you make sure they have one. You do not send an email with a password and a blank username. But they did. A site specializing in "Business Rules", a methodological technology for using logic to improve business process effectiveness and efficiency. Doctor, heal thyself!

Oh well, I thought to myself, I'll just re-register. After all, membership is free. And so I did, only to be told that "Sorry, but that e-mail address is already registered to a user." How clever of them! To avoid redundancies when they send their conference announcements and other newletters they require e-mail addresses to be unique among their users. But not clever enough to deal with unset usernames.

P.S. I wish sites would indicate whether usernames appear anywhere, and if so, where, so one can decide whether use something cute/hip/fun and easy to remember, or something serious to impress other users.

UPDATE: The webmaster, informed of my situation, entered my username and sent me another new password, within a couple of hours. When I wrote a "thank you", he even wrote back "you're welcome, thank you for using the site"!

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