The End is Nigh … for WowStead/Curse

It’s been a couple of years now since I left WowStead … running for the hills from their awful customer service, bad attitudes and stuffy, restrictive websites.

As a recap, I joined (for our guild) WowStead back when it was its own entity.  The people there were friendly, it had a family atmosphere, several of us spent many hours on their forums helping other users and each other get the best out of our sites.

The site was then bought out by Curse, which I viewed with some trepidation because, at the time, they had had some bad press, and I’d had some bad experiences with them, both with their attitude towards other addon-hosting sites and with their own “Curse Client” which, several times at the start brought my addons crashing to their knees.

However, the then seperate WowStead owner woo’d us with sneak previews of how polished, pretty and feature-rich the new Curse websites were going to be, and we believed.  We looked forward to it with some excitement.  Then things started going wrong .. they suddenly brought forward the transfer date (“unforeseen circumstances”), the transfer itself was blighted with problems and people were getting more and more annoyed.

As I was used to helping out on the forums of the old site, in my wisdom I thought I’d be able to help, putting things into perspective and, rather than simply “having a rant”, wrote what needed doing.  I even sent them a PM pointing out a major security flaw in their system (their admin panel was showing the username and email address of every WowStead user).

Unfortunately the new Curse team took exception to that and took a major dislike to me.  I got sent private messages from their customer service guys calling me names, telling me I was overstepping the mark, etc.  I backed off.  It shook me that someone who didn’t know me personally would verbally attack me that way.

Eventually, as I mentioned back in my previous posts, I asked a pretty innocent question … I simply wanted to remove a specific widget from my site and was having problems doing so.  I was polite about it and, to be honest, it wasn’t really even directed at the Curse guys, more at the general forum users.  I assumed I’d just missed an option somewhere.

My post got deleted.  Then a lot, if not all, of my previous posts on the forums were deleted.  My WowStead account got blocked and banned.  Despite repeated requests, via their ticket support system (which was the only way I could now communicate), I got no explanation as to why I was banned.

Luckily, I’d already found a new home for the guild.  Some weeks before I’d decided that the worry and sleepless nights over a website was just silly, and decided it was time to review my options.  I spent some time checking out other hosting sites and ended up at Guildlaunch.

By the time Curse had revoked me access to my WowStead website, I’d already moved the majority of the information over to our new Guildlaunch site.

Since then … over two years now … I’ve been exceedingly happy with Guildlaunch.  I’m a confirmed “tweaker/fiddler”, but I’m also useless at CSS, HTML and any of that stuff, yet the options available for me at GL allow me to tweak as much or as little as I like.  If I was cleverer, I’m sure I could do a lot more with it, but regardless it caters for my needs, and then some.

Today, I found an email in my mailbox that literally made me groan out loud in dismay. “Nooooooo …. no no nononononononono …. plllllease don’t do that!!”

The email suggested a joining of WowStead/Curse and Guildlaunch.

I was gutted.  I’d spent hours and hours and hours with my Guildlaunch website.  I couldn’t imagine going anywhere else and doing it all again, but I dreaded any interaction with WowStead/Curse.  I mourned for what was about to happen to Guildlaunch once Curse got their mits on it. Gahhh!

I immediately jumped onto the Guildlaunch forums asking for reassurance, worried that I’d have to start host-shopping once more.  Luckily, they put my mind at rest.  Within minutes I had a reassuring response from them, and virtually at the same time they posted a notice on their site explaining that Curse was ending it’s hosting of websites and planning on simply transferring them to Guildlaunch.

I have to say that I have mixed feelings about it all.

I’m really happy that, hopefully, this will not affect Guildlaunch at all (other than, no doubt, a huge influx of ex-WowStead customers who were either happy with Wowstead and therefore unhappy about the move, or unhappy with WowStead but used to the way they did business (badly, rudely, ineffectively).  Meaning Guildlaunch customer services could be in for a bit of a bumpy ride.

I’m not surprised that Curse have thrown in the towel.  Anyone who treats their customers the way they did obviously really don’t like interacting with customers.  Therefore, they really shouldn’t be providing a service that brings them into regular contact with them.

I’m sad for the current WowStead customers.  Yet again Curse have proved that their customer service is abysmal.  They have sent out one very poorly worded, almost spam-like email to its users which, if I’d never heard if Guildlaunch, I would suspect.  They have provided no further information on their website, nor on their forums (as at this time).  The WowStead customers are starting to ask questions and the only person answering them is a Guildlaunch Rep.  Who WowStead have not introduced and have, in a very short, one-line post, confirmed that the transfer is legitimate, but not confirming anything else.

I’m sad for the Guildlaunch guys who are having to put up with the fallout of all of this due to Curse’s poor handling of the situation (again).  It’s like Curse have thrown in the towel and said “can’t be bothered anymore .. you clean up the mess”.

I am a little excited and hopeful that the ex-Curse/WowStead customers do try Guildlaunch (although some may not, simply because they feel pushed into it), because I’ve been singing its praises for some time and I think the more who try them out, the better.

I did try to help out on the WowStead forums … I have a second account that had lain dormant for some time … simply trying to allay some of the fears about Guildlaunch.

I posted:

I’ve been using Guildlaunch for some time now and, at the risk of being banned (again) from WowStead, I’d just like to say that they’re really nice guys.

The customer service is brilliant, quick and friendly, the amount of options for guild websites is amazing, even for the free ones.

Obviously you’re not forced to join Guildlaunch, you can shop around and have a look at other options, but it does look like you’ll no longer be able to use Curse/WowStead in the near future, so I would recommend, at the very least, giving it a try.

When I left WowStead some time ago, back in March 2011, I tried every guild hosting site I could find.  At the time, there were only a few hosting sites that were anywhere near as polished as I would have liked and, being a cheapskate and very cautious, I wasn’t planning on subscribing and spending real cash anywhere until I was comfortable with them.  Which meant trying them out “for free” for some time.  Guild Launch was the ONLY hosting site at the time (and I’ve had no reason to look elsewhere since) that allowed me so much freedom with my site.

I’m not sure if I’m allowed to post a link to my Guildlaunch website, so you can have a look at some of what is possible, feel free to PM me for further information though.

Unfortunately, within minutes of me posting that, it was deleted (I only have a copy of it because someone replied to it using a full “quote”) and my account was banned.

Really?  Even now, when I’m trying to help their customers, which is something they themselves should be doing, WowStead “support” ban me?  Unbelievable.

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Banned!

Following my previous post about guild websites, you may have gleaned that I wasn’t very pleased with our previous host, Wowstead, resulting in moving to another guild site host.

Unfortunately, although completely understandably, Wowstead will not delete old sites (just in case the site admin deletes the site out of spite, for example, leaving a guild without).  They also don’t have any method for disabling a site, which means that our old website was still sitting there.

I did what I could with it – I removed “new posting” access to most of the forums, apart from the public ones, I removed most of the “widgets” (the small information boxes to either side of the main content) and I put up a Notice on the main screen stating we had moved, and giving a link to the new site.

As the site was still there, despite us having settled nicely into the new place, I went back to check occasionally – see if anything had changed, any posts made to public forums, etc.

A few weeks ago, Wowstead finally announced they were finishing their “premium preview” period (basically an enforced beta for users who, as a type of compensation for dealing with all the problems, got access to all of the “premium” parts of the sites).   I noticed not long after that there was an extra widget on the main page, asking members to pay a subscription fee.

Well I tried half-heartedly a few times to remove it – usually when I only had a limited amount of time available – but failed miserably.  So I finally got around to having a good go at it last week.  I tried various ways of removing it, looking through all the options in the control panel, but couldn’t find anything.

I suspect, looking back on it, that I just assumed I’d be able to remove it because the new site is so much more customisable, I’d gotten used to being able to move what I want, where I wanted it.  I was then applying those principals back onto the old Wowstead site.

However, at the time I just assumed I was being daft, missing something obvious, and posted a question on their support forums.

Now, as the title of this post suggests, I have since been banned from said site, so I cannot give a complete transcript of my forum post.  However, I can say that it was fairly short – I think only 3 lines long maximum – and didn’t include any swearing, reference or links to our new site or anything else that I would consider being inflammatory.  I simply stated that we no longer used wowstead as our guild website, although we still had our old site there due to being unable to delete it, and that I’d noticed a new widget I was having trouble removing from the home page – could anyone suggest a way to do so.  I explained that if someone did decide they wanted to contribute towards the website, I didn’t want them accidentally doing so on the wrong site.

About a day later I received a Private Message from one of the mods (moderators), stating they had looked at my site, and couldn’t see the widget I was referring to.

I therefore took a screenshot, cut it down so that it only showed the widget and the location on the page and replied showing the screenshot.  I also posted a copy of the screenshot on the forums as no-one had replied from there and decided it may be because they had assumed it had been sorted, as the Mod had.

I eventually got a reply from the mod, stating they understood that only members could view it, and apologising for not replying sooner – they had been off ill and thought that all of the other staff/mods would have assumed the problem was being dealt with.

Again, as I am unable to access my own messages in wowstead, I can only give a rough idea of what I said in reply, which was that I was sorry the mod had been ill, however that rather demonstrated one of the reasons why we had left wowstead – things got left for days or even weeks on end before being dealt with.

I got another reply fairly quickly saying that the problem had been forwarded for a resolution, which should be replied to within a few hours, stating they would track the problem for me and basically sympathising with the problem of getting solutions quickly – the mod referred to their previous host Guildomatic, stating that their support was terrible, hence their move to wowstead.  I was also asked whether or not I had raised a support ticket, as the forums were only for users.

My reply thanked the mod for their quick reply, and for forwarding the problem for me.  I stated that I hadn’t raised a ticket as (a) I had had poor experienced with their ticket system in the past, indeed to the point of having to close some that had been open for months, prior to leaving wowstead, and (b) I had assumed I was more likely to get a fast response from the forums as I had assumed others would have had the same problem.

The moderators final reply was only a few hours later, agreeing that the forums were a place to post if I wanted to see if anyone else recognised the problem, and stating that creating a ticket would ensure Tech support attention.

I then tried to reply, to ask if I should create a ticket, when I discovered I had problems trying to submit it.  I tried a few times, assuming it was just one of those “glitches” we often experienced there, but eventually I got logged out.  When I tried to log back in, I got the message that I had been banned.  I then tried to access my website, which also failed.  I managed to access their forums, but my post had been deleted.  I was unable to even reply to the moderator who had been dealing with the problem of the widget in the first place.

Our (old) website seems to keep flicking in and out of existance (or they have something in place to keep me off it completely).

The only place I now have access to is their external ticketing system, which is not related to their website hosting ticketing/PM system.

I raised the following ticket yesterday:

Obviously I’ve said or done something to pee someone off.  Last I heard, Brighttree was helping me solve a problem with a widget – I went to reply to his/her latest post and found I couldn’t, and then suddenly I’ve been banned.

That’s of course up to you.  But I was the sole creater and admin of our website, AND the GM.  It needs someone to monitor it, whilst it is still up.  And as far as I’m aware it doesn’t solve the original problem.

Could someone explain please, without getting aggressive?

(as a background to this, as I alluded to previously, I have had problems with wowstead support in the past, where they would be exceptionally rude, resorting to name calling on at least one occasion, and removing tickets I’d raised for no good reason).

The reponse was as follows:

I am sorry, but there is nothing I can do about the banning.

Until we start to delete sites per request, I can remove the content from the site.

I can also remove admin permissions from the site so that no one can make any changes to it.

That way there will not be anything that needs monitoring on the site.

I have now replied:

So basically I have been banned from wowstead so that I can’t see the widget I was asking about, and so that I’m unable to affect my website?

Wow.

Unfortunately I’m not the person I was worried may accidentally pay subs to wowstead – I still have guild members who are members of our guild website here, who don’t visit websites much, and who have the potential to accidentally pay the wrong site.

Will you be banning all those as well?

All I want is an explanation as to why I was banned – which seems horribly drastic and heavy handed to me – as far as I know I haven’t broken any wowstead rules, together with help on removing that one widget.  I would also be interested to know who banned me.

I didn’t swear, or spam, or advertise other guild sites.  Heck, I even made sure the screenshot I put up was a cut down version so it didn’t show our full home page message.  In my exchange of messages with the Mod, she/he was the one who was comparing wowstead to another website first so you can’t blame me for that?  Speaking of which – can you let Brighttree know why I’ve been rude and not replied?

As for the lack of need for site monitoring – no-one else has any permissions, as far as I am aware – I removed those I think when we moved site.  However, there was still the public forum and there was still new widgets popping up occasionally that needed dealing with.  Besides that – I’m generally a fairly “tidy” person (at work, if not privately!) – I don’t like the idea of leaving something I created, spent weeks of hard work on, sitting there with me unable to access it.  Fine if we get to the point where we can delete or simply disable the site, but whilst it is visible, I’d like the ability to work on it.

Plus, whilst it was here, even though our home is elsewhere, I like to monitor how wowstead is doing just in case we move again – obviously after all this, moving back to wowstead in the future is very, very unlikely, but there is nothing wrong with keeping options open.

Normally, I’m a fairly easy going, cheerful person and, at the start of the whole Wowstead hosting thing, I was both those.  But over the course of months they have slowly worn me down, until I now dread having to interact at all with any of them.  Which is no doubt doing a whole load of nice people a disservice – however I know for a fact that at least two of those “nice” people visited the old website prior to me being banned and were therefore aware that I had been asking for help, and have not done anything.

Moving to Guildlaunch was like a breath of fresh air – I don’t feel like I have to keep myself off the forums for fear of some sort of verbal attack, although I’m still very wary of accidentally upsetting someone; I also no longer feel that I could lose any or all of my content without notice (probably due to the major problems Wowstead had with their sites, up to and including seperate websites for completely different guilds getting accidentally merged into one another, permissions suddenly resetting so that anyone could see officer chat, or delete threads, etc, and having mods able to “take on” the persona of any wowstead member, apparently in order to troubleshoot problems).

Wowstead left me feeling persecuted, constantly worried, nervous and twitchy.

Edit:  Just a quick update to give the latest reply from Wowstead:

The content on your site has now been deleted, permissions removed, and the domain is inactive.

We are very sorry that WowStead was not the right fit for you.

Impressive change of policy for a host that claimed it would not delete sites!

I have replied:

Thank you, that’s very nice of you Laughing

I still would like to know exactly WHY I have been banned though?

I really don’t want to spend another sleepless night trying to work out which rule I’d broken.

I don’t honestly expect a response though.  Especially as they have now set my ticket as “fixed” and I’m unable to change that.

I expect they simply took note of the fact that I was no longer a proper Wowstead user, didn’t tow the “wowstead are wonderful” line and even when I did, I was not a fee-paying user, and decided they’d rather not deal with me.  They also didn’t want the potential of me being able to influence other users – hence the banning.

Because if they had simply wanted to be helpful, they would have suggested site deletion in the first place, and carried it out for me, rather than doing it in this very heavy-handed way.