After years of quiet research, I am pleased to announce the discovery of a new universal constant. Not quite as important as most of the constants in physics, but nevertheless here it is:
S, which measures the suckitude of conference registration web sites. The cool thing about
S is, every time you attempt to measure its value, it is larger than you thought possible.
Case in point: I just did the speaker registration for RailsConf. This process collected my address, and took a little over an hour to complete. Here's how it played out.
Phase 1. Optimisim. "Ooh, look, you can use your OpenID." I go and activate an OpenID on one of my free accounts, come back, enter it, and ... Nothing. No warning, no error, just the silent contempt of the machine.
Phase 2. Realism. I create a special O'Reilly password, using 1Password (awesome, btw). I have learned that many web sites install validations to prevent you from using strong passwords (duh!?), so I dumb it down to a twenty character password. The site accepts my account, and sends an email confirmation. I click the email, return to the site, enter my shiny new password, and ... Nothing. No error, no warning. The screen doesn't change at all.
Interlude. Email exchange with nice folks at O'Reilly. "Try a different browser." No Joy.
Phase 3. A sad theory. Maybe my password is still too stong! I reset my password to a simple, easily guessable password, and now I am finally into the site.
Phase 4. Denial. Most of my data is already filled in, but the conference wants to know my physical address. I can tell this by the little red asterisks. Street, city, state, zip, country, whoa, no I don't live in Uganda! Submit the form, and Ha! Some of the other fields (not marked with red asterisks) are required as well. The error message informs me that I must pick a tutorial to attend. (I am giving one of the tutorials, so I think the server side object model is a little weak). Sign up for my own tutorial, submit the form again, and ... wait for it ...
Phase 5. Resignation. "1 ERROR PROHIBITED THIS ATTENDEED FROM BEING SAVED." "Sorry, speaker is already registered." Well, I'm in. Maybe.