One of the things I really like about DreamHost, the US company which hosts my sites including this blog, is the frequent and clear communication on what’s happening with their service.
They have a status blog, but what I find best of all is the RSS feeds. I can even subscribe to a unique feed which provides me with information about just the specific server I use.
That’s proved useful tonight when I couldn’t log in to WordPress. A quick look at a new feed item showed the issue:
We are currently experiencing some networking difficulties which is causing parts of our network to be inaccessible. This is affecting everyone in a random manner. We are working hard to fix the problem right now and will have an update for you soon.
My log in attempt concluded with a 500 Internal Server Error. From seeing the RSS feed, at least I knew what was happening.
By the time I’m able to publish this post, what I’m writing here will be after the fact. If you tried to reach this site, you’ll have also got that 500 error.
I just noticed the text of the error message. I added emphasis to the best part:
Please contact the server administrator, [email address], and inform them of the time the error occurred, and anything you might have done that may have caused the error.
No, it wasn’t your fault.
I’d not actually read the server error messages before, mainly as I don’t often get such errors. Believe me, I didn’t write the text!
Reminds me of the 90s when anything you did and encountered an error, it was always your fault as the IT support guys would tell you. Indeed, in those days of less robust infrastructures, it quite often was the user’s fault.
Today though? No, the tables have turned.
Time to update such poorly-focused error messages. Instead, something like this which includes the actual wording in the RSS feed text:
We’re sorry you can’t reach what you came here for. Be reassured – it’s not your fault. We’re currently experiencing some networking difficulties which is causing parts of our network to be inaccessible. This is affecting everyone in a random manner. We are working hard to fix the problem right now and will have an update for you soon.
Now isn’t that far more informative and most definitely user friendly?
Can’t be done, you say? Server error message texts embedded into a routine in the server OS somewhere?
Well, unembed it! This isn’t the 90s.
How hard can it be?