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November 3, 2003

Companies Behaving Badly

Posted by Mike on November 3, 2003 2:19 PM

Stories about Yahoo! throwing its weight around at the expense of its users aren't all that uncommon, so I suppose I shouldn't have gotten as mad as I am on behalf of Yet Another Yahoo! Victim when Leopoldo told me his long-standing mailing list, People With a Sense of Humor, has been axed for violations Yahoo! won't specify.

PWASOH was one of those corners of the 'net that makes it pleasant to deal with: It was an idiosyncratic daily humor list that offered subscribers light laughs. Leopoldo had built it up to around 1,000 users or so last I checked.

Leopoldo's perfectly competent at setting up his own mailing list software, and was headed in that direction anyhow when Yahoo! lowered the boom and told him they were terminating the list. The thing that makes the situation infuriating and unjust is that rather than merely suspending the list, Yahoo! took it offline, removing his archives and (apparently) destroying his membership list. So not only is Leopoldo out of hosting for his list (no big loss, considering Yahoo!'s clumsy interface), he's out of all his subscribers, who represented over a decade of steady work.

The immediate response from a reasonable person would probably be to say "Well, he should just write Yahoo! and have them send him his membership list so he can reconstitute it elsewhere," which he's tried. Yahoo!'s response is stony silence and automated response systems intent on getting him to say he's been well served even as they refuse to hand over his list or explain why they terminated PWASOH in the first place.

As with all free services, we pretty much get what we pay for, but I can say that this episode has me uncertain if I care to entrust anything to Yahoo!, which is a real shame: Some of their services are nice "Damn-I-left-my-Palm-at-home-but-here's-a-browser" things to have, but the combination of apparent arbitrary action and simple refusal to respond tell me they aren't even worth the eyeballs I give them when I use their pages.

Meanwhile, Leopoldo is still working on a replacement setup using his own server, and in the meantime the PWASOH archive is still in place for your browsing pleasure. If you're into joke-a-day sorts of things, keep an eye on the site and consider signing up once he's got his mailing list software online: He's not trying to monetize it or turn it into something it's not, and he could use a few new members to give him a fresh start once he's up and running again.