My Usenet provider deserves a positive mention here.
In this world (and even in this blog), it is much more common to hear or read complaints about companies than praise for them. Therefore, I wanted to start a new series of ‘Kudos‘ reports to provide kind words about those who do a good job and, more importantly, run a business with respect for customers, as I try to run mine.
I have been using SuperNews to provide public newsgroup access for many (at least 5) years now. I switched when I was forced to change ISPs due to a service change from my then provider Comcast. (Do not look for a Kudos column on them any time soon.) My new SDSL provider did not advertise a newsgroup server, and for good reason: theirs was terrible. I needed to keep up to date on certain Usenet groups, so I found SuperNews and paid for a month or two of service.
After the initial monthly period, I was convinced that it was worthwhile to get an annual (text-only) account, which worked out to something like $5 per month. The servers were fast and always available, while the groups were fairly spam-free (compared to my previous experience). More importantly, the moderated shareware newsgroups, comp.software.shareware.*, were set up and working correctly. After the first year, I set up automatic annual billing to a company credit card and just used the service without incident.
Earlier this year, the aforementioned credit card expired, which precipitated a number of “your credit card has expired” warnings from various companies (some of whom should not, in my opinion, have saved the number in the first place). I did not, however, hear from SuperNews because, as I discovered later, I apparently opted out of receiving such email messages. Then, the inevitable happened…
A while ago, I tried to check the newsgroups and was unable to log in, and since I actually use this service to test whether or not the DSL line is working, I immediately thought that the squirrels had (once again) wreaked more havoc on my connectivity. However, on my second try (after verifying the DSL connection), I noticed that there was an error message that actually included an URL to explain the problem.
I went to the provided URL, logged in using the newsgroup password, and confirmed that the expired card was the only issue. Then I typed in the new card number and expiration date, pressed a button to confirm and approve the charge and then had instantaneous access to the news server as before. In fact, it happened so fast that I logged into our corporate account tied to the card and verified that the charge had already gone through. It was at that point I noticed that the annual charge had, without fanfare, gone down by $10.
The amazing thing about this event was that it occurred in the wee hours of the morning (around 3:00am) and the entire transaction took less than three minutes. It took me longer to look up my newsgroup password then it did to fix the problem, so I am now spending the time saved by not having to call anybody, or wait for the morning, or await an email in the quasi-standard “24-48 hours” support timeframe for other companies, to tell you how much I actually enjoyed spending that money with SuperNews. Kudos to them.
Additionally, I had a recent experience in which I was communicating with a group of people to work out how to moderate a Usenet newsgroup, from a technical standpoint. As it turns out, SuperNews requires a special moderator flag to be set on an account, lest one be evicted for spamming (due to posting messages under multiple names). One member of the group happened to be an employee of SuperNews and he noticed that I was a customer, so he went in and set the flag for me without being asked; in fact, I did not even know it was necessary until he had already (preemptively) resolved the issue. Now that is great customer service.
Obviously, for anybody looking for a reliable news server to access Usenet and other publicly propagated newsgroups (such as those from Microsoft and other small countries), I strongly recommend SuperNews. If you do not currently read Usenet or use appropriate groups for product marketing, then I suggest that you get an account and see how many of their 31558 groups (as of today) have something of professional or personal interest for you. (I subscribe to 65 public newsgroups myself, for various purposes.)
More on game marketing via Usenet in my next posting…