Barnes & Noble Security Question Error Message Mocks You, Your Loved Ones

bn_security_question I finally bought a Barnes & Noble membership today. Despite almost always buying my books on the Amazon, (a site I much prefer referring to with the definite article “the” intact because it sounds cooler), I occasionally will pick one up from B&N if I really want a book that. day. I was buying $55 or so in books, with one being a bestseller which means 40% off, so I was looking at just over $10 off with a membership. $15 for a membership, sure, whatever.

In trying to link my new account from the store with an online account, it prompts for a security question. I select “mother’s middle name” since things like “what’s your favorite restaurant?” are ridiculously inane as I’ll almost *certainly* forget what I entered, which will promptly be followed by feelings of wanting to stab someone. And then I enter ma’s middle name: marie. Nevermind that the security answer is CaSe SeNsItIvE, (because, clearly, I should also be forced to remember if I proper-cased my answer) it goes ahead and tells me:
bn_error_message

Great. Now Barnes & Noble is calling me a liar AND insulting my mother. Swimming performance there, kids. [Really, the error message reads as follows: Your Security Answer is not formatted properly. A Security Answer must be 6–15 characters long, spaces allowed. Remember that Security Answers are case sensitive (i.e., "Dickens" is not the same as "dickens").]

The moral of the story? Don’t enforce ridiculous limitations on a security question if the user’s correct answer might violate those limitations. And don’t insult your customer’s mothers. (CrunchGear blogged about this too, some two weeks ago.)

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Posted in: Design, Rants

Trusting In The Cloud: A Call For Post-Mortem As Facebook Loses Notification Settings

notification_settingsI first read about Facebook having lost some users’ notification settings on TechCrunch four days ago. This was worrisome to me, but I got sick over the weekend and didn’t have a chance to write about it. Then I got my very own email from Facebook telling me the same: they’ve lost my notification settings and if I’d be so kind as to reset them, and that they apologized for the inconvenience.

Facebook needs to publish a public post-mortem on this, as soon as humanly possible. When any data disappears from the cloud, no matter how innocuous, it calls into consideration serious questions of trust and competence. I’ve trusted Facebook for a long time. The engineers who have built it have done an amazing job at making sure things scale brilliantly, at cobbling together various pieces of technology and contributing their own back to the community to make the site highly available and without many of the horrible growing pains MySpace experienced, when Tom would send a message telling everyone bulletins will be down and to please not email him.

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Posted in: Rants