The opsan.com offline drama

Back in April, my domain (http://www.opsan.com/ and https://blog.opsan.com/) was offline for a few days. This occurred because Network Solutions had removed my URL from the name servers in response to a complaint (which turned out to be bogus).

Background
I have a few posts on this blog about an individual named Robert Soloway, who is allegedly a spammer. He owns (or is associated with), a company named Broadcast Email. This company sends out a variety of mass-marketing emails.

My original posts referenced Soloway’s ridiculous SPAMIS initiative last year (accusing Microsoft of sending spam). These posts have elicited a huge number of comments as other domain owners have joined the conversation and are in the process of chasing Soloway and his domains around the globe.

(links to old posts removed)

It seems the discussion on these articles is striking a nerve. Please note that I clean out offending and threatening comments as they’ve appeared; that kind of stuff isn’t productive for anyone. That said, I really doubt anyone from Soloway’s organization ever read anything like that, but, c’est la vie.

The first hint of trouble
I received an email on 4/7/06 from my hosting provider (HostDepot). The mail said that an automated process at SpamCop (their spam filter) had detected the string ‘www.opsan.com’ in a number of emails. The gist:

“It has been brought to our attention that SPAM messages are being sent spamvertising this website hosted here at Host Depot (www.opsan.com).”

The automated process made the assumption that the presence of http://www.opsan.com in an identified spam was promoting my web site. Now, the text around the URL was interesting:

“the owner of http://www.opsan.com has a blog that at times has had comments made relating to death threats to the owner of our organization, simply for our assistance in offering charity emailings to non-profit organizations.

help us prevent future death threats to the ceo of our organization by complaining about http://www.opsan.com to: reportspam@networksolutionsemail.com

A human who read that message would have seen that it was hardly a promotion for my site. I replied to SpamCop and advised the domain was being used without my permission, and I promptly forgot about it.

The second sign of trouble
Network Solutions sent me an email with the subject line “Confirmation of DNS Change”. It was a little ominous, as I’d not ordered a DNS change. The text was a bit scary:

Domain Name: OPSAN.COM
Previous DNS Name Servers:
NS27.WORLDNIC.COM
NS28.WORLDNIC.COM

New DNS Name Servers:
INVALID-DNS.AUPTERMINATION.COM
NOT-HOSTED.AUPTERMINATION.COM

To put it politely, I think this is the first time I have EVER said the, umm, “expanded” version of ‘wtf’ out loud. I think I scared Cassandra, who was happily shredding magazines into ribbons at the table next to me. You don’t have to be a network engineer (I’m not, although I am skilled in DNS) to surmise that ‘INVALID’, ‘NOT-HOSTED’ and ‘TERMINATION’ are bad descriptors to have in your name server references.

The mail tried to be helpful, pointing me to my Network Solutions VIP account (I’m the technical contact on a ton of domains, so they consider me a pretty important guy). However, my account had same information as the email, with no way to point it to proper name servers.

Time to go to the phones.
I got a helpful, but incredibly scared guy on the first call. It’s pretty obvious he’d only been in the call center a short while. As soon as he saw those frightening words, he stuttered and came to a halting stop. He muttered something about ‘legal lock’.

Then, he put me on hold.

When he came back, he was trying (but not succeeding) to be calmer. Poor guy; I’d basically slammed him with the polite version of ‘wtf’, and he’d not yet had a call like that. The end result? The domain was closed for business, and my only option was to wait forty-eight hours from the time of my call to hear why this had happened, VIP status, be damned. The words ‘legal lock’ escaped his lips once again.

Memo to Network Solutions: This is broken. If you get a call from a customer (VIP or not), you need to give them better information. People who care about their domains will call you. Folks who are trying to scam you WON’T call and you can blow them off.

The Resolution
Fifty-two hours later, in the middle of a meeting with my Microsoft VP, my cell goes off and it’s the guy from Network Solutions. Once he confirmed I was a real person, we exchanged a few emails (providing him the background and my intent) and my domain was reactivated.

Simply put, Network Solutions reacted, rather than responded; not the ideal of customer service. I cannot think of a good reason to defer a customer resolution discussion for 48 hours, under any circumstances, even those relating to volume. Again, the customers who care will call you; the scammers won’t.

What am I doing differently? Nothing. I may see another ‘complaint attack’ like this, but that’s just the way it is. Until then, I’ll maintain the comments, purging any I deem to be unacceptable. Meanwhile, I’ll watch the group of domain administrators keep each other up to date in their efforts to reduce the world’s spam, one spammer at a time.

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About Michael Coates
I am a pragmatic evangelist. The products, services and solutions I write about fulfill real-world expectations and use cases. I stay up-to-date on real products I use and review, and share my thoughts here. I apply the same lens when designing an architecture, product or when writing papers. I am always looking for ways that technology can create or enhance a business opportunity .. not just technology for technology's sake. My CV says: Seasoned technology executive, leveraging years of experience with enterprise and integration architectural patterns, executed with healthy doses of business acumen and pragmatism. That's me. My web site says: Technology innovations provide a myriad of opportunities for businesses. That said, having the "latest and greatest" for its own sake isn't always a recipe for success. Business successes gained through exploiting innovation relies on analysis of how the new features will enhance your business followed by effective implementation. Goals vary far and wide: streamlining operations, improving customer experience, extending brand, and many more. In all cases, you must identify and collect the metrics you can apply to measure your success. Analysis must be holistic and balanced: business and operational needs must be considered when capitalizing on a new technology asset or opportunity.

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