Incompetent companies: Violet/Nabaztag support

NabaztagIt’s been a year since I last blogged about my Nabaztag wifi bunny. That doesn’t mean nothing has happened in the mean time. In fact, I’ve spent quite a bit of time trying to get this adorable little plastic rabbit to do what I want it to do. But to no avail.

The problem with Nabaztag is that Violet, the company that sells these gadgets runs the central server, and everything your Nabaztag does depends on that server. Unfortunaltely, Violet is a little sketchy when it comes to keeping these so-called ‘services’ running. Here’s a recap of what I’ve come across.

Pssst, we’re moving, but don’t tell our users – part 1

Nobody bothered telling me I needed to update the IP address inside my bunny last October. Using a regular URL (r.nabaztag.com/vl) has never worked for me, so I need to use the IP number. Which by itself is somewhat strange. But they should at the very least let their users know about things like this. Especially because they themselves offer using the IP as a suggestion to fix connection problems.

Pssst, we’re moving, but don’t tell our users – part 2

Another thing that Violet has neglected to mention to its early adopter users is that they’ve launched a new website. Normally this wouldn’t be a problem, but since everything your Nabaztag does is controlled through the website, it’s kind of a big deal. Nabaztag.com never really worked for me, It had all sorts of little errors. Sometimes saving a form and then clicking ‘edit’ would reveal other setting than I’d just entered, leaving me wondering if my preferences were being stored correctly. At other times the Ajax scripting would just go haywire altogether.

my.violet.net does a whole lot better, but I didn’t know about it until I stumbled upon it a couple of weeks ago.

5+ months to fix something that used to work before?

Let me simply quote some email messages here. All these are responses to support tickets opened by me inquiring about why email notification isn’t working. It hasn’t for over five months now, ever since the server switch in October.

Email alert : This is a bug. We are currently working on this issue. (Nov 11th, 2008)

The problem you encountered has been identified as a bug. We are currently working to solve it and everything should get back to normal quickly. (Dec 18th, 2008)

The problem you encountered has been identified as a bug. We are currently working to solve it and everything should get back to normal quickly. (March 19th, 2009)

What I find most annoying however is that Violet uses a very lame excuse to preemptively dismiss all support requests from Gmail users. They claim that email notifications for Gmail accounts may not work because Gmail is still in beta. Say what? Most of the things Google does are in beta, and all of them work very reliably. Gmail’s IMAP interface works with every single client out there, and is probably extremely well written. It’s been torture-tested by many millions of users, and simply works. It’s highly probable that the rabbit is the problem here. Especially considering how it used to work with the old server.

Insomnia, marital problems

The services that do work do so very unreliably. I noticed that my rabbit hasn’t had any sleep in over three days. It should turn itself off every night, but that seems to have broken too. It’ll probably start working again soon, as it has many times before. Perhaps my Nabaztag is simply losing sleep over having had its marriage annulled. The ‘Ears companion’ service, which lets two bunnies marry, has also been on the blink lately. Basically the only two services that seem to work reliably are the ones where the bunny does random things. But that may well be because they’re random anyway.

Have we been nabandoned?

I can’t help but think that Violet shot itself in the foot with Nabaztag. They were initially planning to launch a lot of paid services for it, but decided to make all of them free somewhere along the line (probably because nobody wanted to pay to use an already expensive toy). It seems like with their business model down the drain they fired their developers and/or moved on. I’d love for Violet to prove me wrong, but I’m starting to feel really abandoned.

7 Comments

  1. I think you are right

    Comment by Croquet — April 17, 2009 @ 12:33 pm

  2. Have the exact same thing. Lost my account details, unable to reach my bunny in any way. And their support sucks.

    Comment by machiel — May 6, 2009 @ 2:58 pm

  3. Thank you for this post. I have been thinking about getting one of these for a long time. On a whim I checked and saw they lowered the price. One of my main goals was to send messages to the family from work through the rabbit. If it won’t check email reliably then it’s no good for that. Sounds like I missed the good times with this, and it seems pointless now because it sounds like the bunnies are nearing the end of their lifecycle.
    I have enough unreliable tech around, I don’t need something else to frustrate me when it doesn’t work like its supposed to.

    Comment by macdaddyb — June 14, 2009 @ 7:19 am

  4. Sadly I too am starting to believe that things are not well in Nabaztag land though I’m hoping that there’s a Nabaztag owning boffin out there that can come to the community’s rescue by providing an alternate server site. Any takers?

    Comment by Andrew — July 7, 2009 @ 12:55 pm

  5. If we could just get a phone nujber to call and complain

    Comment by CC — August 12, 2009 @ 9:33 pm

  6. Hi Roy.

    Interesting chronicle. The news of the last few days should, I assume, be of even more concern: Violet have filed for bankruptcy…

    There are a few people trying to build up support and or funds to keep Violet running in one form or another, including myself (see http://www.facebook.com/home.php?#/group.php?gid=131391747175&ref=nf – the Facebook group I’ve started. Maybe we can at least get the member count into double figures? )

    An open source alternative to the Violet server would be a useful backup plan if anybody knows of one – or even knows what the protocol to communicate from the server to the Nabaztag is.

    With knowledge of the protocol, I’d even tackle a server implementation…

    Comment by Robert — August 13, 2009 @ 6:18 pm

  7. Hi Robert. Even with Voilet possibly saved I’d love an open source implementation of the protocol. If I remember correctly it’s based on Jabber, which itself is open source. Something like OpenNab (http://sourceforge.net/projects/opennab/) for the new protocol. Relying on a single small company to keep these things running seems like a bad idea to me no matter how you put it.

    I’m not on Facebook myself, but I hope you get enough members make an impact on the situation.

    Comment by Roy — August 13, 2009 @ 6:27 pm