Bugs and mailers and apologies

27 December 2006

If you're a VCL customer, we did something bad to you today. We went live with our new client center software, but there was an awful bug in it. To be precise, the bug was in the notification mailer subsystem, which proceeded to mail out the same release notification email to the same people (our VCL customer mailing list), over and over and over and over... Eight times in all. (Well, that's how many I got, you may have been luckier. Or should that be unluckier? Sigh.)

As soon as I noticed, I told our support team, who already knew about it from the several customers who'd emailed complaints. Of course, the developer of that part of the system wasn't in (gotta love the Holiday season, don't you know), and by the time we'd worked out what to do to shut it off, we'd sent out several — at least eight — notifications to everyone, all exactly the same.

As soon as we'd stopped the errant mailer, I was in a quandary. Many customers who'd complained were adamant about never hearing from us again, but I wanted to send out an email as quickly as possible to everyone concerned apologizing for our mistake. There was no way we could remove those customers who'd emailed us about the problem from out mailing list in the time. So I decided that we should send out the apology email immediately (using an older, working, version of the mailer program, obviously; I shudder to think what might happen if we used the new one and the VCL customers then got eight copies of the same apology — gaaak), and then I would personally reply to every customer who'd written to complain.

I've just completed the first stack of personal replies that I have to make and thought I'd take a little break before continuing. The apology email has provided nearly 1800 items in my inbox so far, most of them the usual mail server replies (out of the office, not a valid email, over quota, rejections, etc), but also some real replies which I shall be reading (and replying to, if needed) in due course.

I'm reporting this here, not to make me out to be some kind of hero or weirdo, but to emphasize how important I feel this issue is for us. We screwed up badly — there's no other way to put it — and it's up to us to make good by admitting it and apologizing as quickly as possible. To that end, I even included my cell phone number in the apology email I sent out so that people could talk to me in person if they wanted to.

If you are a customer who added devexpress.com to their junk blacklist, you won't have received any of my communications to you, so please accept my and Developer Express' public apologies for what happened today. We're not in the business of spamming anyone, we're here to write great components, frameworks and productivity tools.

Just don't ask to buy our new Client Center software. We need to test it a bit more...

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