Mimsy Were the Borogoves

Mimsy Were the Technocrats: As long as we keep talking about it, it’s technology.

Boiling users slowly

Jerry Stratton, November 1, 2007

Our LDAP server for contact information has been down now for thirty days. At first, it had disappeared entirely, as if it never existed. It’s hostname had been taken out of our DNS. After about a week someone responded by saying that it had never been accessible from off campus before (it has been—it’s our e-mail contact server) and that I must have moved my computer (all of the servers) off campus. Then they added it back into the DNS.

The server itself still didn’t respond to LDAP requests, however. When I asked about that, there was no further response. I switched the last remaining web services that relied on LDAP to a MySQL cache, because it wasn’t worth making a fuss over.

There’s been no announcement about no longer supporting LDAP. I don’t know if it’s deliberate or a mistake. I only noticed the problem because I use the “department” field to generate a list of ITS employees for password-protected web pages. I doubt if many other people will notice, because the service has been unreliable for at least a year.

This is poor policy, but it is how we “manage” our users here. This is how we remove services, not with an announcement, but a whimper. By slowly degrading service to the point where people don’t know if it’s not working or if it’s just not working well. They don’t like to deal with our tech support center unless they absolutely have to anyway, so they don’t call over something that might or might not be just a temporary outage or just generally poor quality service. Then, after people stop complaining over temporary outages we bring the service down completely and claim—only among ourselves, of course—that since no one’s complaining, it must not be needed any more.

We did this with Usenet, we did it with custom spam filters, we’re currently doing it with student/faculty home pages and possibly with Mailman mailing lists, and apparently we’ve just finished the process with LDAP contact info.

It may be true that no one’s using LDAP in their e-mail clients any more. But even if so, the only reason is that the service hasn’t been reliable. In any case this is not the way to go about bringing a service down.

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