Worst of the web award: MIT/Stanford Venture Lab
I’ve just awarded one of my coveted Worst of the Web awards to the MIT/Stanford Venture Lab.
If you click on that link, wonderful things happen.
You get taken to a page with a Watch Online link. Clicking on it tells you that this is a “Restricted Article!” and that you need to register to see the video. Another click and you’re faced with a page that gives you four registration options: Volunteers, Board Members, Standard Members, or Sponsors. Below each of them it says “Rates: Membership price: $0.00″.
Ok, so we’re going to pay $0.00 to sign up for a free video. That takes me to a page with 15 fields, including “Billing Address”. If you leave everything blank and try clicking through, it tells you “A user account with the same email you entered already exists in the system.” But I left the email field empty.
When you fill in email and your name, you get to confirm your purchase: Review your order details. If all appears ok, click “Submit Transaction ->” to finalize the transaction. There’s a summary of the charges, with Price and Total columns, Sub-totals, Tax, Shipping, Grand Total – all set to $0.00. There’s a button labeled “Submit Transaction” and a warning: “Important: CLICK ONCE ONLY to avoid being charged twice.”
You then wind up on a profile page with no less than 54 fields! Scroll to the bottom, take yourself off the mailing list, then “Update profile”.
OK, so you’re registered. The top left of the screen has your user name, and the top right has a link labeled “Sign Out”. So you’re apparently logged in too.
Now you go back to the home page, and click on the link for the video. Then click on the Watch Online link. And it tells you this is a “Restricted Article!” and that if you’re already a member you can log in. But I thought I was logged in?
OK…. click to log in. There’s a field for email address and password. What password? Hmmm. I can click to have it reset, so I do that. A password and log-in link arrives in email.
I follow the link and log in. I go back to the home page. I click on the link to the video I want. I click on Watch Online.
Now I get a screen with a flash player in it. It says Please wait. Apparently forever. I wait ten minutes and begin to blog about my wonderful experience at the MIT/Stanford Venture Lab.
The video never loads.
I actually went through this process twice to verify the steps. The first time was a bit more complex, believe it or not, and involved a Captcha. Also, the two welcome mails I got from signing up were totally different! One looked like
Welcome to vlab.org. You are now ready to enjoy the many benefits our site offers its registered users.
Please login using:
For your convenience, you can change your password to something more easily remembered once you sign in.
and the other also greeted me and finally, as a footnote, at the very end of the mail after the goodbye:
IMPORTANT: Your account is now active. To log in, go to http://www.vlab.org/user.html?op=login and use “i2nosjf3p” as your temporary password.
And then, to top off the whole thing, I get a friendly email greeting which includes the following:
Thank you, and welcome to our community.
Your purchase of Standard Members for the amount of $0 entitles you to enjoy more of our activities, gain greater access to site functionality, and enhance your overall experience with us.
Your Standard Members is now valid and will expire on January 16th, 2038.
You couldn’t make this stuff up. It’s 2008. We’re trying to look at a free online video. Hosted by MIT/Stanford of all people. We’re prepared to jump through hoops! We’ll even risk being billed $0.00 multiple times! But no cigar.