Medium IT Support In Action — Epic Fail or Heroic Rescue?

The following is an unedited series of screenshots from email conversations between myself (Daniel DeMarco, Ph.D.) and Medium support staff. I felt it necessary to clarify the author of this document as you will see that my identity was a matter of some dispute. Explanatory commentary is included to clarify the sequence of events and my thought processes throughout.

Feb. 24, 2017. 3:30pm EST — It begins. The first request for help with a brief follow up to clarify what I was asking (below).

Initial help request
Follow up for clarity

February 24. 9:30pm EST. — The initial reply. An explanation and the first signs of trouble (below) Makes sense why they did what they did. All I need to do is log back in and I am good to go. Wait a minute though. Comcast email? I closed that account almost a year ago when I moved. Why do they have that email address? Oh yeah, when I first created my Medium account almost 2 years ago that was my email, I must have used that address and a user name/password to set everything up initially. I’m sure it’s no big deal, let me just click the link and see what happens.

Initial reply from Medium Support with explanation of problem and proposed solution. The link I clicked is highlighted in black rectangle

Sweet, clicking the link takes me to my account (below).

My original/active account

But hold on, wait a minute, I am looking at my account but I can’t access my profile or edit anything, it’s like I am another user visiting my page. That’s exactly what it is, I clicked the link and a new account was created for me. The new account is in my name Daniel DeMarco (no Ph.D.) and somehow has a profile picture I used to use, but other than that it is empty. Zero posts, zero followers, zero recommends (below).

My (first) new account

February 25, 5:00 PM EST — The follow up. This is not good. I now have two accounts (original and new) and still no access to my original account. I had better send a follow up email or two to clarify. Maybe they did not understand my initial request and what the heck did they delete (below).

Trying to clarify my initial request
Asking what was deleted

I’d better send one more follow up with screenshots of both accounts just to make sure they understand what happened (below).

Additional follow up email with screen captures of both accounts (old/original and newly created)

That should do it, they have to understand now. I’ll just sit back and relax and wait for the fix.

February 25, 4:12 am EST — The repeat. Medium Response to above emails and my excited reply. Just like before the link takes me to my original account which is what I want. However, also just like before I can only see it, I can’t make any changes etc. I assume that is OK, it is for purposes of illustration. Berik is only confirming with me that the link showed me the correct account. Ok, Great! Now we’re on to something.

Medium’s response to my attempted clarifications and restatement of the initial problem
Confirming that the account I was taken to (shown but not able to access) was the correct one and again sending the corrected email address for that account

February 28, 10:30 AM EST — The identity verification saga begins. After the weekend I received another email from my old pal Berik. The message makes sense I guess, I would want them to verify the identity of a person before giving access to any account. However, I already told them twice that I do not have access to that Comcast email and thus have no way to sign in and change anything. Moreover, if I could sign in why would I be still talking to medium support? I shrug it off thinking that they probably just forgot the details over the weekend. I’ll send a quick reminder email (below).

Message noting the requirement for identity verification and asking about my access to my old Comcast email account
Email to medium reminding them of my old email address and that I do not have access and have not for quite some time

The reply to my reminder (below). Note the time.

Reply from Medium to my email reminder message

March 1, 4:55 pm EST — The identity verification saga continues. I compose a response to Berik’s question about social media presence. Notice my desperation, I even offer to “friend” someone, anything to get this resolved (below).

Reponse to question about social media presence

To try and speed things along I decided to take pre-emptive action and send them a screenshot of a previous linked Medium post from my Facebook account (below).

Facebook timeline showing previously linked Medium post. The link is highlighted by the red box

March 1, 6:56 PM EST — Exit Berik, enter Gerald. Things take a turn to the bizarre. I received a very strange response from a new person on the Medium support side. I wondered if it was for real or if this new guy was just fucking with me (below).

The bizarre first email communication from Gerald at Medium.

At that point I was very frustrated, angry, and was sorely tempted to lash out, really lay in to poor Gerald. I took several deep breaths and told myself to calm down and play it cool. I did eventually relax enough to write a response. I was self deprecating and pleasant and somewhat humorous. I was certain Gerald was gonna love it and come to my rescue at last.

My attempt at a humorous response to Gerald’s email

March 2, 9:30 PM EST — Anger explodes. The next email I received from Medium really set me off. Change my email? I had not requested that, +horse, what the fuck? Really funny I thought, I get it, because of the horse thing. (below).

Email from Medium informing me that they had received a request to change the email address associated with my account (presumably my original account) to dema300w+horse@gmail.com

At this point I was convinced I was being played for a fool. I could picture them in their darkened cubicles, empty Mountain Dew cans and Cheetoh’s wrappers strewn about. Typical IT misfits having a funny joke on an idiot user, too stupid to log in to his account. I even heard them in my mind mocking me “Look at this chump…please help me…I’m scared of horses, whaa, whaa, whaa..” I was starting to question my sanity and paranoia had begun to set in. What had I done to deserve this? I had been nothing but polite, funny, nice even. I had written some fairly damning stuff about Medium in a number of posts, could they have been reading my stuff, scanning it even, looking for negative comments? Maybe this was their revenge. I fought down the panic, and thought, come on Dan, nobody reads your shit, why would these people give a fuck what you had to say about them? Get a grip. I fired off a quick panicky reply. I had fully intended to tear someone a new assohole but the best I could muster was a meek complaint about how long the whole process had taken (below).

My weak response to the +horse account email change message

Just as I had lost all hope suddenly my good pal Gerald appeared in my inbox with a lifeline. It turned out they weren’t mocking me with the whole +horse thing, there was a legitimate reason. It all made sense and I thought I was finally saved. All I had to do was follow the instructions, click the link, and I’d be up and posting again before I knew it.

Explanation for email change request and the +horse designation. Link I clicked highlighted in rectangle

I clicked the link as asked and, oh no, not again, I am looking at my account but I can’t get to my profile or edit anything. It’s like I am another user just visiting my page. Clicking the link had created a brand new account for me or logged me in to the previously created new account. I honestly was not sure how many alternative accounts I had at that point. I did know I needed sleep and decided to wait until the next day to pursue the issue any further.

March 3, 3:24 EST — Disaster. I had done everything they asked. Why dammit, why was this happening to me? I decided to press the matter directly. I asked the question that had been on my mind constantly for the past week at least. I also pasted in a screenshot of the new account (or previously created account) that I wound up at the day before (below).

I finally grow a pair and confront the elephant in the room directly (am I being fucked with?).

March 4, 1:16 PM EST — The final answer. I received a straightforward if blunt response from Gerald in which he suggests that concern for account security had been the reason behind everything I had been put through and why the process had been so time consuming.

Gerald’s final communication. The explanation for it all.

I had a choice at that point and one final time I decided to be the better person. I would continue to be polite and would even brown nose a little (below).

Response to Gerald’s final communication

March 5, 5:40 PM EST. — The end. I got another email with a change of account email address request. This time it appeared to be for the correct account. I accepted the change and was sent another email instructing me to go to the site to log in. I logged in using the verify by email (and entering my newly changed, correct email address). Within seconds I am sent a verification email and just like that I am back in my original account with full access restored. My final communication to Medium is below.

Final communication from me to Gerald.

So that is the end dear reader. What do you think? Should I be happy or furious? Did Medium Support do their job well or terribly? I lost access on February 24 and the situation was not resolved until March 5. It took approximately 8 days to solve a problem that in the end was resolved in a matter of hours. Does the mitigating factor of identity verification (i.e. security concerns) justify the delays I experienced? Do you think Medium Support was totally open and honest with me throughout the process? Do you believe there was any malicious intent at any time by Medium support staff (i.e. did they purposely drag the process out)? If so, why? Were the questions they asked of me for purposes of verifying my identity appropriate or out of line? Was the +horse email change a legitimate possible solution or an inside joke being played at my expense? Was I way too nice, too polite, too patient in my emails to Medium support or was I too harsh? Was I simply an idiot and could have fixed the problem myself?

As for me I am still not sure what I think. I know I am happy to be back and writing again. And I know I was genuinely out of sorts for those 8 days when I did not have that option. That said at several points I had convinced myself to quit Medium and never return. I had even begun to explore alternatives. I even thought that maybe Medium was actively spying on its users. Monitoring their content looking for any expressions of negative opinions of the site. The recent staff reductions at Medium seemed a perfect explanation for the possible existence of rogue employees looking to sabotage the company. What better way to do that then by abusing and taunting its users.

I very much look forward to hearing your thoughts in the comments.

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