When the Underdog Deserves to Be Thrown into the Kill-Shelter

After spending nearly two decades in software development, I like to think that I have a credible viewpoint.   My projects have run the gamut, from Windows platforms to UNIX platforms, from desktop programs to server daemons, from C++ builds to PHP pages, from PC applications to mobile apps.   The latter has been a hobby of mine in the last few years, as mobile apps have become a booming industry with the advent of smartphones.   Since I strive to reach my lofty and unattainable goals of being the uber polymath (or, in this case, a “polytechie”), I have dabbled with a few of the mobile platforms available, and I have participated in the submission of various apps (iOS, Android, etc.) for various different stores.  I won’t say different “app stores” since Apple might dispatch one of its iMinions to rip out my tongue for “blasphemy”.  In any case, as I have gained experience with these various “storefronts” (or whatever term Apple will permit of me), I have noticed a certain normalcy when it comes to how they are executed; in effect, without any intention, these storefronts almost operate according to a certain kind of standard.  Standards, even if loosely adhered to, are a wonderful source of comfort for any developer…which is why, when I tried to create a developer account on the Microsoft storefront, my expectations placated me into a sense of false security, leaving my sensibilities unprotected for the ass-raping which was about to happen.

Before coming to the Microsoft storefront, I had seen the commercials as many others had.  I saw the various adverts which featured the new Surface device and Windows 8.  The device appeared innovative and different, and after playing with Windows 8, I was impressed by its performance and easy usability.  Since I have always been agnostic when it comes to platforms, I had never been one of those developers who were automatically detractors when it came to anything by Microsoft.  I knew that unlike a decade ago, Microsoft was no longer the alpha gorilla;  in fact, more and more, it’s starting to look like a cute chimpanzee.  Of course, as in the case with Microsoft, we all know that chimpanzees can bite your face off if you drop your guard, but for some reason, you can never really take them too seriously.  They’re just so damn cute!  Seriously, if you don’t think chimpanzees are cute, you are a fucking asshole.  But I digress…In any case, for the last few years, I’ve started to think of them as the underdog, and after watching their noticeable progress during the past year, I started to pull for them.  I really, really did.  I had my fingers crossed…right before it became just my middle one.

So, when I first came to the Microsoft storefront, I was required to register and provide the basic information that every storefront asks of a prospective app developer.  After spending the first few minutes of filling out forms by rote (much like you do at every doctor visit in your life), I came upon the step within the process which asks for your form of payment.  Since Apple requires a fee of $99 in order to participate in their developer program (and to hold your app hostage by threatening to decapitate it without payment), I wasn’t surprised by this one initially…until we got to the exact method of how I would be paying them.   (Unbeknownst to me, I was now participating in a complex financial transaction which had been engineered by a lunatic.)  After providing them with my credit card, they informed me that I would need to prove that I was indeed the owner of this card.  My immediate thought, in reaction, was “Is there a market for developers who want to buy stolen credit cards?”  After all, I thought that people who used stolen credit cards purchased perishables and the latest Nike shoes.  What do I know, though…maybe there’s a gangsta-developer culture out there that I don’t know about.  “My dick is gonna be recursive in yo’ ass, motherfucka!  I’m the O(N-word), bitch!”   Okay, I’m done for now…So, I went with it.  They told me that I would receive a micropayment and that I would need to verify that amount by reporting it back to them.   Fine…I’m annoyed…but fine…

So, I log onto the Web site of my credit card, and I discover that my credit overlords are overly protective, in that they have rejected the micropayment.  “Who is this strange company called ‘Microsoft’?  Nope…I don’t trust ’em.”   Strangely, though, I noticed something more important: almost immediately after the micropayment had been rejected, I had been billed by Microsoft for $99.  At that moment, I knew that I was going to have a bad day.  As planets can align to form a special kind of eclipse, the poor execution of two companies had lined up to form the perfect halo of stupid, which was now destined to burn a hole through my brain if I dared to look at it.  I should have looked away…but I couldn’t.  (By the way, if you’re looking to steal from me, you should know only two important things.  One, if you’re looking to charge my account in order to get cash, remember to go big; my credit card company only rejects small amounts.  Two, if you do steal my card, you can create as many Windows developer accounts as you can possibly want.)

Even though I was now weighed down by the sadness of disappointment and sticky with stupid on the soles of my feet, I decided to trudge onward.  I’m not one to simply retire in the face of adversity…that, and I’m a stubborn, stupid bastard.   I dismissed the financial aspect of this tragedy, optimistic that the remainder of this experience would be more positive.   Convinced that I could resolve the credit card issue in the near future, I looked to complete the account where it was possible to do so.  So, I proceeded to the following step.  Next hurdle: the validation of me and my company.

I had already formed a single-member LLC just for app development, and I had no problem with providing its credentials.  The validation of my company…okay…so, what does that entail?  It seems that it required a conversation and/or an online chat with Symantec.  Up until this point, the red flag had been flying near the middle of the mast, but with this step, it went right to the top.  I gritted my teeth as my thoughts raced toward anger.  “Really, Microsoft?  Have you done any homework at all and simply exposed yourselves to the storefronts of other companies?  Because NOBODY requires this nonsense.   Can’t you just validate the existence of a company by requiring an EIN, like everybody else does?  What the fuck are you…”  Okay, I told myself…okay…calm down.  This will just take a few minutes.  In that moment (and especially since I abhor analog conversations), I chose the online chat.

Despite the sensation of bile percolating somewhere in my depths, I started an online chat session with Symantec.  They politely greeted me, and after I explained my situation, they proceeded to validate me.  I’ll paraphrase our conversation, but for all intents and purposes, the following is what transpired during our chat:

Symantec: “Okay, let’s get that going for you.  Okay, I just looked at your email address.   You’re gonna need to change that.”

Me: “Huh?”

Symantec: “Yes, you will need to have a domain with the same name as your company.”

Me: “Really?!?”

Symantec: “Yes.  And you’ll need to create several email accounts under this new domain.”

Seething, I went to my host provider, bought the domain, and created the required email accounts under it.  (For a brief moment, I had thought about buying “www.mycompanyname-wants-to-donkey-punch-microsoft.com”, but I had a feeling that it would only be rejected due to being too long for their table’s column.)   Afterwards, I went back to Symantec and tried to continue:

Me:  Okay, I bought the domain.  So, we’re good now?

Symantec: Okay, we’re definitely getting there.  Now, let me see…hmm…I can’t find you in the Yellow Pages.

(In the Yellow Pages?  Are those still around?  And what if there had been another company with the same name…would you still have validated me?  You stupid assholes…)

Me:  Uh…no…I definitely wouldn’t want that, anyway.  My company is just me…and I’m not going to put my number in the Yellow Pages.

Symantec:  Oh, I see.  Well, there are other options to validate your company.  One, we can assign you to Company X, who will profile your company and produce a report based on it.  For a fee, of course.

(Wait…so the company who was going to validate me is outsourcing themselves?  And I have to pay more money?  Is there a deed to the Brooklyn Bridge involved in this transaction somewhere?)

Me:  Uh…no.  That doesn’t work either.

Symantec:  Okay, no problem.  We’ll just send you some forms that you’ll need to fill out…

Me: Oh, okay.  Yeah, no problem.  You can send them to this email address…

Symantec: …within the presence of a public notary, so that he can stamp them.

Me: Are you serious?

Symantec: Yes.

I don’t remember exactly what happened in the few moments afterwards.  There was a cavalcade of explosions in my brain as it struggled to hold onto reality.  What moron had created this process which would virtually guarantee that independent developers would want to spit venom?  What idiot still didn’t understand that the idea of storefronts was to welcome software developers, big and small?  What asshole had not bothered to study the existing storefronts of today and warn prospective developers that “Hey, we are really super serious about this credentials stuff.  Be prepared to send us your semen and blood in some plastic bags if we ask for it.”?  At that point, I couldn’t take it anymore.  After having a heated discussion with support, I got a full refund of the money which shouldn’t have been taken in the first place…but that would have required something during this whole process which wasn’t a fuck-up.

As I closed my stillborn account, I dwelled on the thoughts before this valiant attempt with Microsoft, and I sadly shook my head.  Despite any progress that has been made there, Microsoft is still the old-guy-with-the-monocle in the room.    They were still a relic of the past, a dinosaur that didn’t understand its new role in being a paragon of anachronism and in being the punchline of so many jokes.  Was part of the problem letting a bald, arrogant math major (with no experience in software development) run the world’s most powerful software company, even after a decade of horrible decisions?   Yeah, I could see that being part of the problem.  Could it be a problem with the public’s perception of the company, especially after having the worst portfolio of commercials amassed by a single company?  I would agree with that one, too.  (What the hell was that Seinfeld commercial about anyway?  And why did Gates look like he had been kidnapped and forced to do it?)  It could be those reasons and many others.  Even though I know that it stems from the prepubescent side of me, I’ve always rooted for the underdog, and, yes, they’re the underdog these days…but maybe people are right.  Maybe you can’t teach an old dog new tricks.

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