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Broken Features are Worse Than No Features

When it comes to software providing a feature or function that’s brokenĀ  is worse than not providing the feature at all.

Let me weave the story of broken functionality from this weekend.

Google’s Apps for Domains provides 2 ways to reset your administrative password, either you have an alternative address configured and a check-box checked allowing Apps for Domains to reset your password using that address. Alternatively, if you missed that configuration option you can go though an alternative process that involves creating a DNS record with a value provided by Google to verify that you own the domain.

From what I’ve gathered, the functionality is suppose to work like this; you create a CNAME record with a value provided by Google and point that at google.com. Google’s system is then supposed to look up that CNAME record and verify that it points to google’s domain. If it does, the instructions for resetting your password are sent to the email address you provide when you go though the recovery process.

The problem is, the system is broken right now.

What should happen, and what’s actually happened are two different things. In reality I’ve received 2 automated responses form Google indicating that the system couldn’t verify the CNAME record. After searching the Google Apps support forums it turns out that the CNAME method is currently broken and that Google is aware of the issue but hasn’t bothered updating anything on their site to note that or temporarily disable the function.

Since the functionality was present and failed in the same way one would expect it to fail if you had simply configured something wrong the result is spinning your wheels with no results. If Google had disabled the functionality or provided a link to their support request system in the resulting email, I could have at least opened a ticket after the first failure instead of going though the process again double checking everything.

the least they could have done was provided a link to their support ticketing system. The worst possible thing to do to a customer is make it look like their spinning their wheels. In this case at a minimum the auto-reply email for a failure should include a way to open a ticket on the issue instead of just sending you back to the same process with a generic error.

The moral? If you’re a developer and you realize that some functionality you’re providing isn’t functional, disable it until you’ve fixed it. If that means you have to deal with more support tickets for a while so be it. This is even more important in a customer service situation like resetting a password.

Needless to say, if you use Google Apps for Domains and your administrator account doesn’t have a secondary email address that can be used for resetting the password, set that up post haste. On top of that, it might not be a bad idea to create a second administrator account with a long random character password that’s stored in a safe place. With a second admin you could use that to log in and reset the primary admin account’s password as well.

Published inComputersSoftware