(Mis)Uses of Technology

by Mike Masnick

New York Times Shuts Itself Off From The World

from the whoops dept

Over the years, we've pointed out many, many times why requiring registration to view online news sites is a bad idea. It limits (by a long shot) how much traffic you actually get in an age where traffic is everything. Some newspapers claim that the registration data lets them sell higher ad rates, but the amount of fake or "dirty data" these registration systems gets makes that data basically useless. While it may trick some advertisers into paying more in the short term, that's hardly a sustainable business model. Then, of course, there's one other problem with newspaper registration systems. If your registration system goes down completely, you're in trouble. The NY Times seems to have experienced this earlier today. No matter what article you tried to read on their site, the NY Times kicked you right out, because their registration system was apparently all screwed up. It popped up a message to everyone (and we had a bunch of folks test this out from various locations): "We're sorry, but we are temporarily experiencing an authorization server error. Our systems administrators have been notified and are working to fix the problem. Please click here to continue logging in. We regret the inconvenience." Well, sure, it's inconvenient for us, but that seems like an awful lot of completely lost traffic for the NY Times from people who just wanted to read some of their articles (and see some of their ads). They eventually did fix this bug, but it's difficult to see what exactly is the benefit for the NY Times to have a system that might do this every once in a while.

Reader Comments (rss)

(Flattened / Threaded)

  1. identicon
    The infamous Joe, Jan 8th, 2007 @ 11:49am

    Solution for me, not them.

    Just read the google-cached version. Ta Da, no registration required...

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  2. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Jan 8th, 2007 @ 12:02pm

    They should pull up some of the articles from their own Business section and read about how well the old "walled garden" worked for a company called AOL...

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  3. identicon
    Ambassador, Jan 8th, 2007 @ 1:13pm

    The solution is: http://www.bugmenot.com/
    Everyone uses. This whole registration crap is stupid, I totally agree. Which is why I'm either on yahoo news or news.google.com

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  4. identicon
    redhammy, Jan 8th, 2007 @ 1:43pm

    registrations are annoying but...

    it seems like you got annoyed with the NYT's site being down and went off on an angry rant about their registration system. What if they didn't have a registration system but their web host went down all morning? This hardly seems like a valid example of why requiring registration is bad for news sites.

    (However, the fact that its just really annoying seems valid enough to me).

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  5. identicon
    SimplyGimp, Jan 8th, 2007 @ 1:47pm


    New York Times Shuts Itself Off From The World

    Funny, the world shut out the New York Times a while ago if I recall.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  6. identicon
    Wolfger, Jan 8th, 2007 @ 1:49pm


    Use Firefox, and Bugmenot. Presto! No registrations anymore. Of course, the point of the article stands... forced registration is stupid. Sites that allow anonymity and merely encourage registration do better.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  7. identicon
    Sea Man, Jan 8th, 2007 @ 1:54pm

    the point is taht bugmenot will not get you past a downed auth server

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  8. identicon
    durosoft, Jan 8th, 2007 @ 1:58pm

    well actually...

    a registration system will be down a lot more then a web host... registration systems get tons of bugs, and with the influx of data ala thousands of subscribers, things can get messed up pretty easily. Web hosts are a lot better at dealing with a lot of bandwidth, but server side languages are gonna have a lot harder time handling it...

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  9. identicon
    postername, Jan 8th, 2007 @ 2:01pm


    Change your user agent to googlebot 2.1 and surf away. or leech - http://scroogle.org/ or lie - http://www.bugmenot.com/

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  10. icon
    wto605 (profile), Jan 8th, 2007 @ 2:03pm

    Why do they even bother?

    The New York Times even did a write up on bugmenot.com when it was first gaining steam, and even then bugmenot used the NY times website as their example.

    What does annoy me though is when people go and post on boards etc. with bug me not accounts. But I won't rant

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  11. identicon
    Sanguine Dream, Jan 8th, 2007 @ 2:12pm

    This is what usually happens...

    when you have a major provider of some content and their fame goes to their heads. They think just because they are a popular news source they can do what they want.

    and the list goes on and on....

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  12. identicon
    Elohssa, Jan 8th, 2007 @ 2:13pm

    Re: registrations are annoying but...

    The key difference is that all sites require hosting, and an outage there is understandable, and rarely effects a single site. However, the Times CHOSE to have this additional barrier to traffic.

    Same as ever was. Which newspaper company is a paragon of Internet virtue?

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  13. identicon
    TriZz, Jan 8th, 2007 @ 2:29pm


    user: bugmenot
    pass: bugmenot


    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  14. identicon
    Aidan, Jan 8th, 2007 @ 3:08pm

    Re: registrations are annoying but...

    Agreed! A multitude of moving parts in a system can go down causing the whole thing not to work. It could equally have been a load balancer, router, or another piece of software in the system.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  15. identicon
    DV Henkel-Wallace, Jan 8th, 2007 @ 3:26pm

    They can't read those old articles

    Sorry anonymous coward; the NYT can't read those old articles about AoL because they'd have to pay to read 'em.

    ....ok, i'll just get me hat....

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  16. identicon
    mr metro, Jan 8th, 2007 @ 5:02pm

    peace at last

    It's nice not to read what those liberals have to say. This should happen every day!

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  17. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Jan 8th, 2007 @ 7:25pm

    worked for me, maybe just user error

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  18. identicon
    skptc, Jan 8th, 2007 @ 9:17pm


    It shouldn't be a surprise that a liberal group like the NYT would understand how to prosper in a new economy. It's what I'd expect in terms of business sense from any group of democrats honestly. :P

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  19. identicon
    Enrico Suarve, Jan 9th, 2007 @ 2:14am


    On the few occasions links from blogs go to required registration sites I tend to ignore them and move on. It's usually not worth the hassle creating an account, finding the confirmation email, confirming the activation, removing the spam from my inbox....

    I always take the approach that no doubt another site will have the same information within easy reach

    Thanks to all those who posted bugmenot - looks great and a way around this annoyance ;0)

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  20. identicon
    The Missing Link, Jan 9th, 2007 @ 3:11am

    Software Development


    After reading your piece on software development still being stuck in "suck" mode, this piece rings out as a great example of software development still SUCKING. Not just because of the registration feature and the political aspect which you are deliving into, but just because it shows that little TESTING was done on the NYT site as a SYSTEM and not a site.

    What I mean is, sure, they probably had and have people devoted to testing the web site and its content, and they made sure the registration fees work. But clearly, they didn't test to see how the web site worked if the registration system went down. If they did, they could have had a "default" condition of letting users IN to the articles during registration downtime, rather than the other way around.

    Of course it's possible they *DID* test and realized that to "add" a check for registration-server availability would have been an additional FEATURE to add, and they just chose not to include it and to go live without it.

    In such a case, perhaps that relieves the guilt of the software TESTERS, but it doesn't let the DEVELOPERS (which I define as project-manager level software developers, and not just code monkeys) off the hook.

    For software development to really work, you need to have the bugs -- especially SYSTEM-level bugs that involve the interaction of multiple sites, servers, etc. -- ironed out well before any of the code monkeys even touch the software.

    Clearly, the NYT site's registration-server bug is a great example of the premise that is geared toward fixing bugs EARLY in the development process. Clearly no one at NYT thought it important to include the IDEA of registration-server availability-checking in the process. If the "bug" had been found in the requirements gathering phase of the project, it could have been included in the design, coded during the creation of the site, well-tested during stages of production and as the site went live.

    But yes, to your points, that assumes that NYT even has a process to tweak, or that its development staff even understands a phased approach and is capable of using proactive project management -- assumptions that are not good to make in today's world of software development, exactly for the reasons you name.

    As an aside, it is EXACTLY THIS REASON that *good* programmers and developers in the U.S. still have jobs despite the folks in India and other countries who are debatably "stealing" U.S. jobs. They might be able to throw code monkeys (which I use to refer to anyone who "just codes" -- this is not a racial/nationalism reference) at a project on the cheap, but it is much harder to find quality people who understand how to effectively MANAGE a software development process. There the U.S. still stands head and shoulders above any other nations that dare to think they have anything coming close to "competition".

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

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