Friday, January 30, 2009

Insider treats you like an outsider

I recently hinted towards my dislike for the way that the D&D Insider handles their authentication. The problem is that logging in only seems to last a short time, perhaps 15 minutes? 30 minutes?

I'm not sure, because I tend to browse Insider throughout the course of a day (yes, I'm bad, I read it while I'm at work). Every Monday, Wednesday and Friday, when there is new Insider content, I pop up every new article in a new tab in my browser, so they are then available for reading and for adding to wizardslinks. If these articles require Insider access to read, as most do, then each of these popped-up tabs only gives a preview; I then have to log in in one tab, and refresh the other.

Okay, that's fine, but I don't read these pages right away... they can stay in their tabs for hours, days, weeks (I currently have 13 of them open as "to-do" tabs). If I've already loaded the article, then it doesn't matter if Insider has logged me out, of course -- it's now in the tab, and I can read it fine. But if the article was a link to a PDF, and I haven't opened the PDF soon enough after popping up the article, then my attempt to open the PDF fails because I've since been logged out.

This happens all the time. ALL the time, because, as I said, I don't read these articles immediately. The webpage that comes up, instead of the PDF, helpfully tells me that I have to log in. But, even if I do so on that page, the URL is for the "hey, you need to log in" message, so now I'm logged in, but getting that message. Back button, etc., etc. and I can finally get my PDF. This is the headache I've lived with for months -- ever since Insider subscriptions were required for most of the articles.

And now, the Compendium gives me the same problem. I can go to the Insider Compendium page, log in, and pop up the Compendium window. What I cannot do, however, is hope to come back in 30 minutes and use that window, because my session will have logged out. Worse, as I mentioned in the last post, the authentication screen that is offered in that Compendium window doesn't successfully log me in -- it just keeps helpfully telling me that I need to log in, probably in a similar manner to the PDF problem mentioned above.

So now I have to close the Compendium window, go back to the Insider Compendium page (which I've wisely left open in another tab), hit refresh to get a login area (because that page unhelpfully claims that I'm logged in.) I then have to log in again (oh, and if you mistype your password, it just quietly redisplays the login section again, with no little "sorry, that username/password don't match" message or anything), and once I've logged in, I can re-launch the Compendium window. All this, because I wanted to look up the wording on some feat that I'm discussing with Griff. And I'm going to go through it all again in a few minutes, when he asks about a certain power or class.

The reason behind this short login session is clear; they want to ensure that the reader is really the paying customer, that I cannot go to Griff's place, log into Insider, and leave him with access until he reboots. Fine, I can accept that. But if you have to have a timed logout, make it longer. Make it 24 hours. Better yet, don't have a timed logout, but instead let me keep my session open on this browser for as long as I like. If I go home, fine, make me log in there, and log out my other session. I'll understand. But if I logged into this machine, and I access it again, you're being overzealous in assuming that I might no longer be the subscriber. If I choose to go to Griff's and log in as me, and let him play with Insider, then I've screwed myself from using it when I get home. THIS IS NO DIFFERENT FROM BUYING A BOOK. Granted, books have an inherent permissibility to be shared, and my Insider account does not. But those hours that my account is logged in at Griff's could very well be me using them, too, and assuming it isn't is offensive.

Perhaps your (and Wizards') response will be "then use your book". And I used to, bringing my PHB to work (don't worry, they already know I'm a geek) when I think I'll need it. But that's not a viable defense for Dragon and Dungeon magazine, not anymore. My only access to those is through my subscription, and I'm being prevented from reading these by these authentication issues.

This may be Dungeons & Dragons, but that doesn't mean that your authentication system needs to be draconian.

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