July 25th, 2008

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The accessibility of legal agreements

Any company who places their terms & conditions in a little textarea (and in this case, with no paragraph breaks or headings) - instead of displaying the text on the screen in full - deserves to have them thrown out in a court of law.

To me, it's not enough to simply ask customers to read them. Placing the agreement in a small box that needs to be scrolled acknowledges that many people aren't going to read it. And in turn, the company is effectively saying "we don't mind if you don't read it".

Now tell me: why should the conditions of an agreement apply when you don't display it clearly and encourage people to read?

EDIT: I think I shall put the URL of this post in somewhere when I sign up, along with a note that by processing my application they agree to my additional terms and conditions.
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Where do you turn? Reflection on an email trail.

Grossly paraphrased, but the essence is correct:

Me: You need reporting access set up for your Australian customer. Who did you ask?
Them: NZ provisioning.
Me: And they told you to speak to Australian provisioning...
Them: Yeah, I keep getting the runaround. But I eventually found someone in NZ who could help unofficially.
Me: I think this is something Australian provisioning can help you with.
Them: Yeah, wouldn't that be nice! Pity I never heard back from them. Is there any way you can help me?

My head is exploding... Yes, you CCd the manager of Australian provisioning, and yes, you didn't hear back. BUT... when both NZ provisioning and I suggest you talk to Australian provisioning, how does it not occur to you to keep pushing the appropriate team to help you?
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Dream: Underwater life. With a bullet in your head...

"People have often wondered what it would be like to live underwater. We decided to find out, taking a group of people below the surface to see how they'd react. The reason this has never been successful before is that in the desire for air, people don't stay down there."

As the vehicle (possibly a car) settles into place, we watch as each of the four participants is shot, most of them in the head.

As I became a little more conscious of what was going on, I reflected on how ineffective it is to shoot people in the head just to keep them under the surface. Surely shooting them in the hand or foot would be enough to keep them down without killing them. After all, a TV show about people living underwater isn't going to rate as well if they're all dead.

Didn't occur to me that it would have been easier to just tie them down. Or to get participants who were more willing and able to stay down there.

Returning to the TV show, we see someone going down to the car to see how it's going. He was promptly shot by one of the participants, who was clearly pissed off that she had been shot in the head. So, suddenly this little reality TV experiment had not only proved that people can live underwater without oxygen, but it had turned into a crime drama...

[Photo by Tarnishedrose. CC-BY-NC-ND licence.]
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More Eastlink woes

Even worse than putting an agreement in a text box: short session timeouts.

"Error Message: Session expired because your allowed time has been exceeded"

It's a long agreement - it takes time to read. There's no good reason for a short session timeout (it's not like I'm signed into an account), so why are you so fucking impatient that I don't have time to read the agreement?

Worse again! Now I have an error and can't proceed. But when I try it in Opera, you tell me:

"iView is not compatible with your browser, operating system or device. Contact your system administrator."

How about I contact your system administrator and ask why you're so ignorant about web standards? Or maybe you use web standards, but are too lazy to test your code? Or is it just that you're scared of the unknown?

Had you not planted the seed of doubt, I could tell Opera to mask as Firefox and I'd probably get through without any trouble.

That is, if I'm fast enough...

EDIT: The woes continue in the comments.