I assume you use one of our websites:
- OnlineItalianClub.com (the club website – free materials for learning Italian)
- EasyItalianNews.com (simplified bulletins of ‘easy’ Italian news to read and listen to)
- EasyReaders.org (our online shop, where we sell ebooks and one-to-one lessons to pay the bills for the other sites)
This brief article is about what to do when something goes wrong, when it’s not as it should be, so where to get help.
First off, I’ve noticed a LOT of failed ebook orders recently, often what is probably the same person, trying multiple times, which must be frustrating for them.
When I see a failed order, or an order pending payment, I may email to ask if there’s anything I can do to help, especially if I recognise the person’s name.
If it’s someone new, on the other hand, I may assume that they’ve just changed their mind and would prefer not to be bothered, so I don’t.
However, when someone chooses ‘Amazon Pay’, the order goes through (or fails to) without the client having to fill in the order details in our shop. Which means, if the payment is successful, Amazon supplies the client details. But WHEN THE ORDER FAILS, I get nothing but a series of blank, failed order notifications. No name, no email, no details at all.
There’s therefore no way I can contact the unhappy would-be client to offer help, see?
Leaving aside the shop, yesterday I had several annoyed emails about problems with the club website – unfortunately, different problems, neither of which I could replicate at my end.
One person was experiencing all of our websites being ‘broken’ at once, which made me smile knowingly. That’s extremely unlikely because the websites are hosted on different servers run by different companies. But hey, fault reports are always worth checking out.
Fortunately, everything looked normal from where I am. I wrote back to suggest that the person verify that their internet was working properly, and perhaps try to connect to our websites from a different location, so as to ascertain whether the problem was being caused by one ISP (Internet Service Provider) rather than being a country or regional fault.
The other issue yesterday was from a teacher who uses the listening materials on the club website with her students, and wrote to ask why they were broken, why could she no longer access the listenings, and when would we get it fixed, please?
Again, everything looked normal to me.
Our audio is mostly hosted at Soundcloud.com, though, which is a sort of YouTube for music… Like YouTube video streaming, Soundcloud is popular with kids but uses a lot of bandwidth.
I noticed the teacher lady was writing from what looked like a school email address, so totally guessing, I wondered whether it was possible that the school IT dept. had blocked Soundcloud.com so as to stop the kids from listening to rap when they should be following what their teachers were saying?
These things happen, and IT depts. are unlikely to bother to explain their actions to users of their networks, on the assumption that they wouldn’t understand anyway. The techie people just ‘improve’ things, without saying anything (then deny it was their fault afterwards…)
Beh, as you can see, all sorts of things can go wrong, and it can be difficult or impossible for me (non-IT expert, located thousands of miles from where you are) to know what’s causing them. But I will try.
All that said, most of our stuff works, most of the time, and when it’s broken, down, misfiring, or whatever, it’s normally possible to verify that and sort it out, often very quickly.
IF people write and tell me that there’s an issue, I always check, otherwise I might miss something major. If I can’t replicate the problem, then I will suggest ways that the user with the problem can verify what might be causing it – the simplest, for example, is to try the site that’s causing the problem again, but using a different browser (so Chrome, for example, rather than Safari or Edge) or a different device (i.e. the computer, not your tablet, or vice versa).
And if you get the same issue on a different browser, and even a completely different device? OK, then it’s not your firewall, or the settings in your browser causing the problem. But it could still be something that your ISP (Internet Service Provider) is doing. They have IT people that mess things up without thinking, too, you know.
It’s improbable that your home Internet is provided by the same company that supplies the connection at your office, or on your smartphone, or in the local shopping center or library. So try our site again there and see what happens.
Ah! Odd… The page which doesn’t work at home works in the local supermarket’s coffee bar. Wonder why? You go back home and check again. Nope, still broken here… And there you have it (probably). Either it’s a temporary issue that coincides with you being in one place or the other, or it’s something caused by your home ISP.
You can further verify this, if you so choose, using a VPN (virtual private network). Google that, if you don’t know what it is or how to get one, but basically, there you are, sitting at home, using your usual Internet connection, when you find that you can’t access your favorite language-learning website (or whatever)…
So you fire up the VPN and use it to connect to a different server, perhaps even in a different country (people use them for watching TV shows in other countries, or for evading government restrictions on which websites they can use.) In effect, then, the Internet you’re getting through the VPN is unfiltered by your local provider. You’ll see what a person in the country where the server you choose to connect to is located would see.
If you connect to your local Internet from home in, say, Australia, and something isn’t working, and so you connect via the VPN to a server in, say, the USA, and that same something still isn’t working, well then you can be reasonably sure that the problem is with the website, not with anything that you, or the busybodies at your phone company, did.
Beh, OK, that got rather longer than I’d intended, but the point is, firstly, use your common sense, and perhaps a pinch of deductive reasoning. But if you can’t figure it out, don’t sit there banging your head against the keyboard – email me for help!
Oh, and one last thing. I know my spelling is terrible, and so welcome corrections. But bear in mind that club members are spread out all over the world. For that reason, I reserve the right to vary spellings (favourite, favorite etc.) according to my mood.
A venerdì, allora.
Don’t forget this week’s half-price ‘Book of the Week’ offer ‘Correre a tempo‘, will you?
At just £3.99 it’s a bargain, but only until Sunday… There’s a free sample chapter (.pdf) to look at first, of course. And check out the online audio, linked to from the top of Chapter 1 in the sample chapter.
Also, have you read/listened to Tuesday’s bulletin of ‘easy’ Italian news, yet??