service problem with uunet? cancel your acct, see what happens!

Mark Seiden mis at
Tue Mar 26 16:05:21 AEST 1991

has anyone else had problems switching a feed from uunet to uupsi?
here's a good story for ya...  judge for yourself...

our machine (dagobah.uucp = was to be switched from uunet
to uupsi starting in mid feb.  it took more than a month to switch
over completely.

CHAPTER II, the most recent episode: (CHAPTER I, the flashback comes

psinet activated my account and filed the DNS updates (for
around feb 18, and claim to have copied hostmaster at uunet upon filing
the changes.  the changes made it to the NIC (since root name servers
were updated) and the NIC claims their normal procedure is to notify
the old SOA, uunet, which they should have done a few days later.  psi
apparently updated their uucp maps at least locally.

on mar 2 i informed uunet by email to cancel service, and they jerked
me around for several days wanting it in writing, meanwhile ignoring
my request on mar 4 that they change their name server and pathalias
database. cancellation was slightly complicated by the fact that
usenix assn originally ordered the service, though the usenix office
says they cancelled the service promptly and in writing.

so i turned off my polling of uunet, and went away on a business trip
for a week.  and mail to me from uunet-connected sites starting

in short, uunet neglected to apply any DNS changes until i prodded
them (several mail messages) around 21 Mar, and until today they
didn't changed their pathalias database, despite repeated requests,
and finally increasingly strident demands to do so...

i discovered today (25 Mar) that they *still* believed that i have an
active uucp account with them -- laurie leonard returned my phone call
(promptly) but said there was "no cancellation form in my folder", and
yes, she had received copies of my email but how could i expect to get
"help" from uunet when my tone was so "hostile"?  geez... i'm sorry to
be hostile, i just want them prettypleasewithacherryontop to let go of
my email... maybe you can't get *rid* of these people, they're like
some kind of plague?  

so i faxed it to them *again* today.  and usenix faxed it to them
*again*.  and finally, late today, they cancelled my account!  great!
but whaddaya know -- instead of pathaliasing my machine as they do for
every other mapped site, (i.e. uunet!dagobah becomes
uunet!uupsi!dagobah) now they just *bounce* it!  real nice guys...

this serves to illustrate that a highly connected site like uunet can
be tyrannical with one's mail, if they choose to.  why should they
cooperate with a change of carrier to a competitor?  and i thought
that allowing a couple weeks for the changeover would be enough!
(silly me!)  has anyone else had this problem?

or maybe it just has to do with why i cancelled my account in the first
place (not because it costs more (for a leaf node) than psi, though it

CHAPTER I, the flashback:

when i made several (past) inquiries on (those few) occasions when
uunet was down about *why* they had been down i received no response.
just silence.  once i *phoned* to report they were down and received
no response.  (slightly obnoxious when one calls on one's own

finally, i made what i thought was a contructive proposal (copies
available on request) for service improvements.  these involved things
like a hotline to report service problems, an answering machine/voice
mailbox to announce the current status in the event of a recognized
outage, a policy to announce all planned outages in advance and
account for any extended outages after the fact, and, in general, the
announcement of what the service policy *was*.

well, in short, i was told there isn't any.  in our only conversation
about it, laurie leonard said she is supposed to formulate one, but
that she hadn't yet, was unwilling to say when there would be
one or what would be in it, and refused to deal with any of the
substantitive points in my email, which i said spoke for itself.

i thought this was a rather unsatisfactory response for a service
provider, especially one as central to the scheme of things as uunet,
and i thought it was an important issue, so i started pushing a bit
(private email to people that i thought would have influence, namely
members of the boards of uunet and of usenix, which have some overlap)...  
and that resulted in this reasoned response from rick adams:
>From uunet!rick Tue Dec 18 16:51:35 1990 From: uunet!rick (Rick
Adams) To: mis at Subject: Re: uunet unwillingness to make
statement of service policy Cc: leonard

I recommend that you cancel your account.  Its obvious that you will never
be satisfied and we have given up trying.

You're acting like a spoiled child who keeps screaming because he
doesnt get his way. 

We have no intention of giving in to your tantrums.

As you mentioned, UUNET is a business. I have just made a business
decision not to waste any more of our time on a customer who will
never be satisfied. 

I suggest that you try PSI at 1-703-620-6651. They seem to have adequate
to which I replied:
>From mis Tue Dec 18 23:07:02 1990
Received: by (4.0/1.39)
	id AA02713; Tue, 18 Dec 90 23:06:56 EST
Date: Tue, 18 Dec 90 23:06:56 EST
From: mis (Mark Seiden)
Message-Id: <9012190406.AA02713 at>
To: uunet!rick
Subject: your incredible response
Cc: board at
Sender: mis
Status: OR

no thanks for your incredible response, the first personal
communication i've had from you despite sending several pieces of

you're wrong that i would "never" be satisfied. actually, it would
take *very little* to satisfy me, but you made no attempt to even try,
and nobody at uunet ever managed to address any of the substantive
points i tried to make several times (increasingly loudly if only
because that seemed to be the only way to get your attention.)

i think you are making an error in misunderstanding my intentions.  i
have nothing to gain by engaging in this attempt at persuasion except
improvement of your (and my) service, and you have now made clear your
refusal to engage in any dialogue with me.

since you and i have no previous history of antagonism (that i know
of, anyway) i have little doubt but that your reaction in *this* case is
typical of your reaction to other user complaints, a reaction
completely inappropriate for a service provider.  simple business
courtesy would have sufficed.

your evident arrogance is especially unfortunate since you have had the
reputation of being a smart and competent person.

you are the problem, or the problem is in your head.  what is the

there was no reply.  well, maybe it ended with a rhetorical question...

CHAPTER X, the epilogue (not to be confused with the window system):

my opinion is that now that adams has managed to get usenix to
bankroll him into a nice profit-making business he doesn't want to be
bothered with little things like real customer concerns, and just
wants us little guys to leave him alone to run "his" business so he
can go for the *real* money, the commercialization of the internet...
i think it's inappropriate that he be on the board of usenix -- i
suggest he resign, which will give him more time to pursue his
concerns without creating the appearance of conflict of interest.

i am a bit confused why uunet found it so hard to get rid of me
after they invited me to leave.  maybe it's just incompetence?  naah.
could it be negligence?  or maybe they're out to get me? who knows...

would you put your business email in the hands of these people?

anyway, psinet *seems* to have a real commitment to service.  at least
they return my phone calls and even have an 800 number for the problem
hotline, and i have seen their announcements explaining outages (of
central resources) both before and afterwards.

i believe that psi did all the right things in effecting a change of
service, but uunet just didn't cooperate.  in such a situation i don't
know how they could be compelled to do so.  any suggestions?

we shall see how well psi's service scales with increased volume.  in
my opinion uunet was better before they became successful.  i wonder
whether uunet will end up the victims of their own success.  i know i
will try *real* hard not to have any dealings with with them in the
future, despite mouthings of lofty objectives from Olympus.

i don't want to have to be pals with my mail feeder (or with the
telephone company, or the electric company) to get acceptable service.
just give me businesslike behavior and some measure of accountability.

mark seiden, mis at, 1-(203) 329 2722 (voice), 1-(203) 322 1566 (fax)

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