Techno Difficulties

j0433180As some of you noticed (and let me know), my blog was offline for the past two days.  I first noticed it when I tried to log on Wednesday night that the site was down.  No biggie, I thought.  I’ll just give it a few minutes, and it’ll be back up.  An hour later, it still wasn’t up.  I was frustrated because I wanted to blog (duh!), but there wasn’t anything I could do.  My tech support (my brother) keeps regular hours, and there was no way I could call him at two in the morning.  So, it would just have to wait.

The next day, I wake up to questions on Facebook about my blog.  I got an email from a friend who isn’t on FB asking where in the hell my blog was.  I checked my site, and it could not be found.  What the hell?  It’s never been down before.  Ever.  This was suspicious behavior, so I called my tech support (again, my truly awesome brother) ASAP.

“Brother!  My site is down!”  I cried in anguish.

“Call your tech support!”  He said back.

“You are my tech support!”  I retorted.

“Oh yeah!”  He replied.  He went onto my site, and he was quiet for a moment.  Then, he said, “This is…interesting.”

Now, when one cannot access one’s site, one DOES NOT want to hear the word ‘interesting’ in that context.  Patience has never been my strong point, so I question just what exactly is so interesting.

“Your site is gone,” my brother said, his tone bemused.

“What the fuck?????  It’s what?”  Ok, no I didn’t say it like that because I don’t swear (much) in front of my brother, but it certainly was what I was saying in my mind.  Instead, I said something like, “What do you mean by gone?” in an admirably restrained voice.

“It’s gone.  There’s nothing here.  The files, gone.  Interesting.”

Another interesting?  My heart couldn’t take it.  I demanded to know what was interesting.  I didn’t really want to know, but I did.

“You’ve been hacked.”

“What????  Hacked????  Was it personal?????”

“These things usually are.”

All this time, my brother was doing his techie whiz thing, including sending an email to his provider.  He (my brother) hosts my account, so it really is all in his hands.

After an interminable amount of time (probably a minute or two), he declared that all my files were gone.  We had a backup database (thank you, bro, for suggesting that), but still.  It was unsettling to know that someone hated me so much, he would hack into my account and wipe out everything.  I hung up after admonishing my brother to keep me updated.

A bit later, he called me back and told me that his provider had been hacked and that many of their servers had been wiped out.  Our server, alex, was on the list because the virus was alphabetical in nature and made its way to D.  So, we would have to wait for the provider to restore everything.

What?  The provider was hacked?  That didn’t make me feel very secure (although, as my bro pointed out, this was the only time it’d happened), but it did make me feel better.  No one was after me, personally.  Nice to know.

By the way, my brother clued me in on KeePass (which I keep thinking of as KeepAss), which is a system that generates really sound passwords.  I installed it, and I’m keeping it, even though I wasn’t personally hacked.

Now, to the other part of my technological difficulties.  For the last month or so, I have been receiving ominous warnings from Facebook informing me that I am doing something that might be construed as annoying to other users.  I was ‘misusing’ certain features.  They didn’t specify what features.  They only gave general guidelines, such as posting too many videos and spamming.  I didn’t do either of those, so I ignored the first warning.

Then, I got another one.  Concerned, I tried to email Facebook (which is difficult to do in and of itself, since it’s harder than hell to find a viable email address for them) to see exactly what I was doing wrong, but I received no reply.  Because I am a research goddess, I then Googled everything I could about this kind of warning.  It turned out that many users have received an identical warning over the years, and Facebook hadn’t ever addressed the issue.  You can be banned for adding too many friends at one time.  You can be banned for ignoring too many requests at one time.  You can be banned for exceeding the friendship limit (currently 5,000, but they are changing that).  You can be banned for exceeding the group membership limit.  I wasted a lot of time obsessing about what I had done because FB wasn’t telling me.

I was getting frantic and paranoid.  Another reason they might ban or block you is if you post ‘objectionable’ content.  They don’t say exactly what that is (I guess it’s like pornography.  They know it when they see it), and they allow people to anonymously report posts they don’t like.  I have no problems with that, but I do have problems with not being told if that was my particular problem.  You see, I am a tad bit raunchy and a tad bit salty in my posts (yes, just a tad), and I have several friends on my list from high school who are very different than I am now.  It was conceivable that one or more of them reported one of my posts, shocked at my outrageousness.

I grew more frantic.  I also read that FB will block you if you type too fast, but I never took that seriously.  I started to get these warnings quite regularly.  I freaked out more.  I have friends around the world, and we all congregate on FB.  I posted several notices that if I was suddenly gone, the FB police had disappeared me.  I wanted my friends to be prepared.

This week, I didn’t get any warnings, and I foolishly thought my troubles were over.  Why foolishly, you ask?  Because on Thursday night, right in the middle of posting, my account was disabled.  One minute, I was posting to Rubo’s wall, and the next, my account was gone.  I got an email from Rubo asking WTF, and I had to say my account was disabled.  I emailed that message to several of my FB friends, and they started to brainstorm how to get me back on.  I would like to give a shout-out to Rubo, Alex, Topaz, and TiredMom for working so passionately in trying to get me back on FB.  You guys really made me feel so much better about the whole situation.  I would also like to thank Choolie and Gregory for being so supportive in my time of need, too.  Y’all rock!  Oh, and much love to my bro who tried to help me figure out what to do about having my account disabled.

I sent an email to Facebook inquiring as to why I’d been disabled and how I could get my account reinstalled.  In the meantime, I was thinking of ways to get this known in the traditional media because it seemed a crying shame that they could disable an account so cavalierly.  I felt very unhappy, isolated, and depressed without my account and without my blog.  One reason I didn’t want to open up a Facebook account was because I knew that I would probably grow dependent on it.

I could have started a new account, but I didn’t know if I wanted to do that.  If I did, I would have severely culled my friends list as I was convinced one of them ratted me out.  I didn’t want to have to watch what I was posting, weighing every word.  That didn’t seem like much fun to me.  Saddened, I went to bed at five in the morning.  I couldn’t really sleep, though, so I got up at ten.

When I got online a bit later, I had an email from Facebook sitting in my Inbox.  I was afraid to open it because often times, FB would send out a boilerplate email saying you have been terminated, this is our final decision.  Very few people got their accounts reopened, and most of them took days, weeks, months in order to do so.  Imagine my surprise when I read that they had reviewed my case and reopened my account.  I was pleased, but one line irritated me.  It said that I had been warned several times about posting too quickly, but that I had ignored the warnings.

Well, no, I hadn’t been told that.  I had been told that spamming would have triggered the warning.  I didn’t spam, so I never thought that they meant me when they said spamming was a reason to be blocked.  If they had said, “You are posting too quickly to your friends’ walls,” then I would have known what they actually meant.  I sent them an email saying so.  I got a response saying that Facebook has a limit as to how fast someone can post, but they cannot tell me what that limit is.

I posted a snarky post on my FB page (‘coz I am all about the snark) about how it would behoove them to have a better spam filter.  gex rightly pointed out that it’s damn hard to write an algorithm that finely calibrated for a site that large.  She also was right when she added that the problem was their customer service.  My brother had also told me both these things, but I really needed to hear it from someone else.

The more I think about it, the more I realize that it’s true.  I still think it’s a tad silly that my posting speed is what got me banned, even though I can appreciate not wanting people to spam.  I type fast, but not that fast.  I used to open several windows at once so I could reply to several different posts at the same time, but I don’t do that any more.

I digress.  The biggest sticking point in this whole thing is not once did FB tell me what I’d done wrong in specific terms.  I spent the last month guessing and panicking, but I had no way of knowing for sure.  They want to be the best social networking site on the web, but that isn’t possible if they don’t fucking explain situations like this to the customers.

I’d like to say that while I was pissed about the whole situation, FB had a perfect legal right to do what they did.  I have to say that because many people who’ve been banned the way I was have been making noises about illegality.  If no money changed hands (and in some cases, it did, so there is more of a case for illegality there), then they can do pretty much whatever they want to do.

Back to their customer service.  I realize that they are a huge website that operates around the world.  However, if they truly want to be the best, they have to work on their people skills.  It’s really not good PR to just yank people’s accounts willy-nilly and with blanket warnings.  Oh, and when people inquired as to the content that was objectionable, Facebook would say it couldn’t tell them for security reasons.  That was my biggest gripe of all.  How the hell could I fix my behavior if I had no clue what I was doing wrong?  It still leaves a sour taste  in my mouth.  I will continue to use FB, but I’m a lot more cautious now.  I force myself to wait between posts, and it’s lost some of the fun.  Oh well.  At least I’m back on.  For now.

Oops!  I got so wrapped up in my FB woes that I forgot to finish my blog being hacked story.  So, the provider supposedly restored everything yesterday, but I still couldn’t get onto my blog.  I gave up and went to bed.  This morning, I didn’t even bother checking my blog because I didn’t want to be frustrated again.  However, when I checked FB, my brother had posted updated statuses on my wall.  The provider didn’t restore my site (for whatever reason), so he did.  He finished it except for the pics (he forgot) which he added later.

So, the fact that you can read this post is all due to my wonderful, sweet, amazingly brilliant tech support, my brother.  Please show him some love in the comments.  Thanks, bro.  I owe you one hell of a dinner.

5 Responses to Techno Difficulties

  1. “This is…interesting.”

    Three words you don’t want to hear from tech support.

    I’m glad you’re back, Minna. Kudos to your brother for his yeoman’s work. Facebook’s customer service, not so much.

    I understand that Facebook would have an algorithm to detect spam, and that non-spammers might accidentally run afoul of it. I’m far from up on the latest Web programming trends, but ISTM that if a non-spammer trips the algorithm, and communicates back saying,” hey, what did I do wrong,” since a human being on Facebook’s staff is at that point presumably involved, that there could be some kind of flag they could set that would exempt that user from the algorithm. It’d be like “OK, I’ve check this person, and he or she is not a spammer, just prolific.” The flag should probably be set to expire periodically (otherwise spammers would post personal-sounding stuff long enough to get a free pass), but it’d solve the problem of inadvertent and unwanted suspensions.

    More technically oriented folks are welcome to tell me the obvious flaws in that idea.

  2. Thank you for fixing Minna’s blog! Now that I have her blog back up, I am out of coffee 🙁
    Oh and please thunk her on the forehead and tell her she conformed for FaceBook. The is assimilating, like The Borg.
    I give FB and Twitter, the bird, OFTEN. I don’t want to belong to a community that takes THAT much information about me and shares it with all my friends.

  3. Glad you’re back on all fronts, Minna! Hooray to your brother for his help. I’m amazed that FB sent you ANY information.

  4. Gregory, that’s the same idea my brother suggested. I understand that it would be difficult to implement, but it would certainly cut down on the indignant emails they (Facebook) received on this subject.

    whabs, you have to fight the assimilation from the inside! I like FB because it’s like a worldwide coffee klatch.

    Choolie, it surprised me, too, that FB replied and so quickly. So, a grudging thanks to them for that.