Among the artifacts of my former life as a builder of combat robots was my domain and website dedicated to my efforts: puppetmaster-robotics.com.
In the days before blogging (and the tools that made blogging easy), I tediously hand-coded build reports for robots I was building, and talked about the events I had attended and the bouts I had fought. During what became known as "the Great Newbie Flood", in which hundreds of fans of the Comedy Central Battlebots TV show suddenly joined the online community of bot-builders, I even penned a FAQ that became the standard reference text for answering newbie questions.
In the same way that I learned most of what I know about building such machines from the websites of others, I hoped my site would fill the same role. From the usage logs, I could see that I'd at least partially succeeded. While readership dropped off steadily after Battlebots went off the air, there was still a measurable amount of traffic to the build and FAQ pages. Interestingly, with the recent "Maker" trend, I found that readership was going back UP! So, I basically left the site up as an archive, as a record of what I'd done, and as a reference tool.
Now for the bad news: In 2002 I'd transferred domain registry and hosting of the site to JumpDomain, then a Tucows reseller, on the recommendation of a friend. For a while, everything was great, so my friend was definitely right to refer me. Then somewhere along the line it seems that the proprietor(s) for JumpDomain lost interest in the pet-venture. Basically the system runs itself, aside from a few bugs here and there... Support started dropping off, and in general service basically sucked. My friend eventually moved his domains away from them, but I waited too long, and by the time I was convinced to take my business elsewhere, it was too late. Puppetmaster-Robotics.com had fallen into the automated billing and human-less support abyss. As it turns out, one of the "bugs" I mentioned made it impossible for me to unlock the domain for transfer to another registrar.
So, every six months, I'd get an automated email telling me my credit card was being charged for the hosting service (at a rate that these days seems exorbitant). More importantly, once a year I'd be automatically charged for the renewal of the domain. Basically, it was automated extortion. Since I had no contacts to JumpDomain (their phone contact had long since gone dark, and the support portal never returned an answer), it was essentially a case of pay or risk losing the domain.
Until this cycle.
Through an interesting confluence of events, JumpDomain's automated system was forced to give out a little more information than normal, so that I could renew my credit card information. This happened right around the same time I finally had enough free time and a bug up my ass about getting the domain back that I devoted what turned out to be two weeks of effort into wresting the domain back from them. During my trial-by-fire, I called over a dozen phone numbers that were attributed to JumpDomain at one point or another (all dead, or belonging to some poor soul named Dave who wishes people would stop calling him looking for JumpDomain). Dave, if you ever read this, the reason you get called is because the BBB has your phone number listed for the (816) area code. JumpDomain used to have the same number in the (815) area code.
I submitted the obligatory support tickets, I did as much as I could do for myself (fortunately JumpDomain's system let me update the Admin contact for the domain), and I waited. On advice from my new registrar, I contacted JumpDomain's new top-level registrar eNom.com, who were eventually very helpful, after I made a few statements about their culpability for the behavior of their resellers, and how ICANN and the BBB would be hearing from me. That call netted me the Transfer-Auth code, and after that it was just a matter of time and DNS/Hosting setup at my new hosts.
So, to make this long story.... erm, end, I can finally say that I am now back in control of puppetmaster-robotics.com, and apparently free of JumpDomain's automated clutches. The only further possibility for trouble is that they try to bill my cards for domain registration or hosting I'm no-longer using, but at that point I'd be happy to sick the credit card people on them for fraudulent charges, and let them try to track those wankers down. Its still just an archive for now, but I think I'll go through and add a little new content here and there, since I just finished helping a couple of local high school kids build a robot for the Science Olympiad. But that's another blog entry....