We’re Done With Echo

Apologies for the rambling nature of this thing. I was writing thoughts down as they came to me and it got a little long.

When JS-Kit bought Haloscan and turned it into Echo in 2009, I was a little concerned. What’s going to happen to my comments? What’s this gonna cost me? Am I, as a screenreader user, even going to be able to administrate the thing? Will the other screenreader users have problems posting?

In spite of all these concerns, Carin and I had no desire to lose pretty much every comment posted here since 2003, so since the price was reasonable, we handed over the cash and made the switch.

For a while, everything was great. Support was fast, and damn good. The people were helpful. Most concerns we had they had an answer for, and they seemed pretty willing to try to figure out the ones to which they didn’t over time.

But as time went bye, things started to happen. Subtle changes were made that screwed up accessibility for some people. Things that were simple to do began getting a little harder. Things that used to work perfectly began to fail. Eventually, a lot of people stopped commenting and took to emailing us and starting conversations on Twitter. That’s fine, we like hearing from you no matter how you find us. But when the reason you choose email and Twitter is because you passionately hate or are utterly confused and befuddled by the comments system we’re spending money on, that’s not good.

Somebody even took it upon herself to email Echo about her accessibility troubles. She sent me the email she got back, and boy oh boy do I wish I still had it, because I’d post it here in a heartbeat. It was completely ignorant and flippant about her troubles, telling her that there was nothing they could do and that if she wanted to do something with Echo, she should get a sighted person to help her. Even worse than what it said was who it came from. It wasn’t written by a lowly employee who hates life, it came straight from the CEO of the company! For future reference, get sighted assistance is almost always the wrong answer when a customer comes to you with an access issue. At best it’s a very temporary answer until you fix whatever you broke trying to make things look cute. Things can be stylish and usable, and as the smart ones who build the things, it’s up to you to figure out how.

If I was smart I would have stopped paying them right then and there, but because the service used to be so great, I gave them another chance.

But I knew the end was finally coming earlier this year when I voiced my accessibility concerns for the second or third time while writing about another issue I was having. I wrote the email in January when I was half dead. Can’t remember the exact date, but my head hurt like a bastard, so I know it was January. It’s now April 27th, and I’m still waiting for a response. Generally I’d get responses to questions within a day or 2, if not sooner.

But I think I’ve found out why.

As some of you may know, we’re slowly getting ready to move this whole outfit to its own domain and server. All the posts from here are coming with us, and we were hoping to bring the comments along for the ride. There are thousands of them, and losing them would suck but mighty. In talking to the nice folks who are going to be hosting this thing, the subject of how to get the comments from point A to point B came up, and along with it, more accessibility problems. The method James found for possibly making the comment transfer simpler wouldn’t work for a number of reasons too lengthy to get into here. It came down to having to write another support request. I decided that doing that was pretty useless since I’m not getting emails from months ago answered, so tonight, out of frustration, I tweeted Echo about how things were going and how I was sad to see a great service head south.

I ended up getting responses from support, but rather than making things better, the opposite happened. What I found out was that the version of Echo I’m using is no longer being developed and barely being supported anymore if at all.

Perhaps you can feel the steam coming off of me at this moment. I’m paying a monthly fee for something that’s pretty much been scrapped, and nobody bothered to tell me this? That’s kind of an important detail, guys! I know that Echo has launched some new products and is promoting the hell out of the big customers they’ve landed, and so they should. But I had no idea that launching new products and focusing energy on those parts of the business involved hanging us little guys out to dry. There may be less of it, but our money is still just as good as everybody else’s.

I’m more than a little angry that Echo would abandon the smallish blogs and websites they serve, yet happily continue to take our money. At least the nameless support person on Twitter was honest enough to tell me that what I should do is export my comments and switch to a service that’s aimed at operations like mine. Would have been nice to hear that from the higher ups when these decisions were made, but it’s too late for that now.

So here’s where we are. I’m not paying Echo another red cent, or a cent of any other colour for that matter. I’m done. As soon as I can, I’m stopping the subscription and turning the system off. I’ll fire up Blogger comments until such time as we bail for our new home. It doesn’t look like we’ll be able to salvage all the old comments, because to add even more insult to insult, the exporter kinda failed to grab everything. I may try it one more time, but I’m not going to spend a lot of time messing with it.

I’m sad to lose everything. A lot of people had a lot of fun in the comments over the years, and unless there’s a small miracle, it’s all going to be gone. I’m sure we’ll slowly create fun 2.0 now that we’ll have a system that should work for everybody, but I’m pretty pissed that through no fault of my own, all the old stuff can’t stick around.

So I guess that’s it. Here goes nothing…and everything.

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