List Host Nightmare

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MSN bCentral ListBot/ListBuilder Blowup!
by Mike Banks Valentine

One week after my public rant here about big business taking
over the web I have another tale of Big Dogs chasing little
guys away. This week was the end of a nightmare I hope I've
fully wakened from. Let me tell you the story of eBusiness
gone big, bad and annoyingly corporate and bureaucratic.

For three weeks as I was putting out my weekly newsletter,
I saw a promotion on the log-in screen at my list host,
ListBot Gold, suggesting I could upgrade from Listbot Gold
to a new bCentral service being launched called ListBuilder.
It would give me the opportunity to gather more demographic
info from subscribers and provide the ability to send
HTML email to those who choose it on subscribing.

I'd been wanting to be able to provide advertisers a better
picture of my subscriber base to garner more advertising for
the Reading List. I was anxious to try it after considering
the idea, so the second week I saw the promotion on the log-
in screen at ListBot, I took the bait and clicked the
"Upgrade Free" link. The greeting properly warned me that
switching over now could delay delivery of my newsletter for
a time while migration of the list took place. Oh well, I'm
on Sunday night deadline for my Monday a.m. delivery time,
so I put it off another week.

Next week I checked in to ListBot a couple of days early to
upgrade and allow the "migration time" of the list. I went
through the online set-up and was glad to see that the list
had been moved to ListBuilder in short order and was ready
to go by mailing time a full day before the next Reading
List was due to go out. I updated the subscribe links on
over 100 pages of my site to reflect the new sign-up boxes
offered by ListBuilder and had a twinge of nervousness
while thinking, "What if I don't like this new service
and the way it works? I've just cost myself some valuable
time and will have to switch back to ListBot links."

I knew that I could "restore" my list after deleting it
because I had seen that link at ListBot for years while
sending out my newsletter. "Your list can always be restored
later if you change your mind." So I continued, sent out
the first issue through ListBuilder and woke up Monday
morning to another twinge of doubt. Should I have downloaded
my subscriber list before migrating in case of a problem?
Damn, I should have thought of that.

Seems there was no problem as I received my own copy of
Reading List, but I didn't receive the usual spate of
autoresponder messages telling me that people were out
of the office temporarily or that they had received my
message. I quickly went to the public archive for my list
at ListBot and checked to find it . . . "DELETED!"

Full scale panic set it and I quickly logged in to
ListBuilder to see that my archives had been moved
successfully there and managed to calm my adrenalin rush
after a few minutes of hyperventilating. I looked for
a way to view the archive without logging in as I'd posted
links on my site to the public archive of ListBot for
the Reading List. They're all broken now!

More changes to my site and searching for archive links
throughout my site! Damn! After spending the next full week
copying my archive from the new ListBuilder PRIVATE list
owner archive, tediously cutting and pasting to my own site
all of the previous issues and finally changing the
remaining links on my site to reflect hosting of my own
archive, I sighed relief. It was over.

But, no, a new panic set in to my tired mind. What if the
email subscribe link that I had promoted for two full years
in my articles sent to other lists for distribution had
stopped working as well?! I sent a test email and found
to my immediate dismay that new subscribers to the Reading
List were getting the terse message, "List Cancelled,
Sorry, mail is not processed for lists that are cancelled."

I think I wanna die now. Full scale depression sets in and
I dredge up the energy to send a note to both ListBot Gold
and to ListBuilder support teams that I've got a real problem
with the way this whole thing went, begging for some sort of
solution from them and got two canned responses saying,

"subject:RE: CST34553119ID

We appreciate any ideas you may have concerning a
resolution to this problem. I will be glad to
forward them to the Product team. Rest assured that
we are continually seeking ways to bring you the
best email list service there is."

I'm literally screaming, "Help! I've been seriously injured
and need medical attention to save the life of my list before
it bleeds to death!" They're standing beside me scratching
their skulls saying, "Gee, got any ideas on what we could
do to help? I wanna be a doctor some day." I want these guys
to be the first on the scene of any accident I'm involved in!

I went back to my ListBot Gold account and hit that link that
said "Restore a deleted list" and found to my relief that it
worked and I now had an active list in both places. I'll just
have to import the new subscribers manually each week to the
ListBuilder account for everyone that sees my articles and
uses the subscribe link available from my resource box of
articles published in the archives of dozens of large
lists where my articles had been featured over the last
two years or so.

I'll definitely look closely at any such new changes to be
certain they don't affect my business on that scale in the
future. This has nothing to do with the value or utility
of the service. I'm just outraged that I wasn't warned of
the problems that occurred here. MSN bCentral didn't warn
me that all my subscribe links would be broken, they didn't
say I'd need to change all my subscription boxes sitewide,
they didn't say the change would take my previously public
archive private and they didn't warn of any potential
problems the change might pose. They were incredibly short-
sighted in promoting the "upgrade" to existing paying
clients without posing any potential "issues" related to
the change.

I'd recommend that each of those items be clearly stated
along with the current warning that "Migration may cause
a delay in delivery", which caused me to delay signing up
until it wouldn't create that problem. If I'd foreseen the
other issues myself, I'd still have made the move, but only
after reconciling the problems. The warnings should have
been posted and if they don't do it now, I'd be surprised
if others didn't consider taking legal action.

Friday June 22, ListBot Gold customers were notified that
the service was to be "Shut Down" by August 20 and those who
fail to migrate to the ListBuilder service will lose their
data. Essentially saying to subscribers of the service that
they could care less how it affects them and by the way,
hurry up and get your stuff outta here. Almost like a bitter
spouse booting her cheating hubby rather than a paid service
that should respect those long-time customers and the income
they bring.

Now I'm going to recommend you find a different list host
and I just happen to know of a great service. Take a look at
the sponsor ad above this article for a way to professionally
host your list and make money while you are at it. If you are
a current ListBot Customer and would like to move your list
to ListChannel, we've arranged a special deal for you. Visit: for one month free
hosting of your own newsletter, ezine or discussion list.

WebSite101 "Reading List" Weekly Netrepreneur Tip Sheet
Ezine emphasizing small business online
e-tutorial online at:
By week's end you're ready expand your business to the web!

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July 29, 2001