Gathan Beaga

a user's experience on DoubleClink is a new wine diary website from well known New Zealand winery Kim Crawford. You can record what wines you had, and where; and there is a bit of a social networking aspect to it as well. (I’d be more definite about what the site does, but read on and you’ll find out why the site is still a mystery to me.)

And… the first 3000 people to register get sent a free bottle of Kim Crawford wine! So naturally, I had to register.

The first little barrier was an age-verification step before I could even get into Doubleclink: something I’ve not had to do at any other similar website (and I’ve signed up for a lot in the last six months). Not too hard though, and soon I was past the homepage and on to the registration page.

I filled out the registration form, using my main email address (email address #1) wishing the fields could be a little larger, and clicked submit.

Doubleclink registration FAILAnd here’s where it started going all wrong. Instead of getting a friendly “You are now registered” message, I got a “Page not found message”. Oh, I thought; don’t know what went wrong there – but I’ll enter my details again in case that works. So I entered my registration details again; and this time when submitting the form got a new error message telling me that I couldn’t use the same email address twice to register. Cool, I thought; my registration must have gone through anyway – I should be able to log in now!

So then I tried logging in. It didn’t work – I got yet another error message telling me to wait for a confirmation message to arrive in my inbox. So I flicked over to my inbox. No email. And no email message five minutes later, none half an hour later; nor an hour later either (and nothing in the spam folder either). I thought this was pretty odd – most websites requiring an email confirmation on signup send you the email immediately. There was a contact email address at the bottom of the homepage – so I sent Doubleclink an email asking them to resend the confirmation email. And in the meantime I tried using the password reset function to see if there was some email problem preventing messages from getting to me. It turned out that I could successfully receive a password reset, but I still couldn’t log into the website.

Well, I got no reply to my email to Doubleclink after a couple days, which I thought was pretty poor form. But I decided to persist and tried registering again using all the same details but using email address #2. Maybe they’d fixed the website and there’s be no “Page Not Found” error.

I was disappointed. I got the same errors all over again.

At this point I was starting to get a bit annoyed. This stuff shouldn’t be hard! So I posted a screenshot of the Page Not Found page to Flickr and sent an message to the @kimcrawfordwine account on Twitter alerting them to the problems I was having.

Again, there was no reply; but over on the Flickr page there were a couple of responses – one from another Twitter user (and long time Flickr member) saying she’d had no problems, and another message from a brand new Flickr member I didn’t know basically telling me the problem was my own fault. The language of the comment read like it was from the website developers, but of course I have no proof of this. I hope it wasn’t!

So then today I had another go at registering, using email address #3, and all the same name and address details as before. But as I was filling in the mobile phone number I had a sudden thought: could my putting the phone number in the very commonly used international format (e.g., +6421000000) be causing the problem? Often, badly written web apps choke on non-ascii characters – and while there are sometimes good security reasons for stopping users from entering these, the web app must always be ready for them to be entered – and have a graceful way of then dealing with it.

So I omitted the + in the mobile number, and sure enough, I got to a very nice “Success” screen (I have since confirmed, by attempting to register yet again, this time with email address #4, that this is in fact the case: adding the + to your mobile number will screw up your registration catastrophically). Not long after, I received a activation email, and within a couple minutes I was into the website and having a quick look around.

Of course, my successful registration was using an email address that I don’t use very often, so the next thing I did was change my email address #3 back to my main email address #1. Unfortunately, this was a very bad move because now Doubleclink is terminally confused. I can’t login using either email address #3 + registered password #3 from my sole successful registration, nor using email address #1 with registered password #3, as one would expect if the email address change had worked correctly.

So now I’m back to square one. Although I have been busy spending quite a bit of time debugging their web app I am still no closer to being able to report back on whether Doubleclink is actually any good at being a wine diary and social network. And at this rate, I never will. Let’s hope Kim Crawford’s very fancy second social networking play, The Artist’s Lounge, works better.

All this was tedious and dry work, and I have worked up a powerful thirst. But not for Kim Crawford wine.