Wednesday, September 19, 2007

405 Errors -Technical Problems our Members Face

Time4Learning was told my a member last week: "Wow, I pay you $20/month and you spend hours fixing my computer for me, this is the best deal I've ever had."

This both pleases and pains me. Since we might have spent $200 of time helping that one user, it's likely that we've got a really big negative margin on him even if he remains a customer for years. We try to only help our members with problems that are easily fixed and problems that have specifically to do with using our website but it's never clear where/how to draw the line.

We try to avoid entering into discussion as to why they can't get on the web, what sort of security software they have etc etc but we frequently find that we are spending time on problems that really are none of our business. We try to only go deep into technical help if we are trying to learn about a recurring problem but the problem of the staff gets carried away and, given the type of people that we have and the way that I manage them, will never go away.

In any case, a new repeating problem is the 405 error when they try to login.

Background - Members login to Time4Learning where we verify their account and pass their credentials to our educational materials provider, CompassLearning. CompassLearning checks that the session started at and then, if the other credentials are correct, allows them to login and start their session.

If Compass can't verify where the session started (because session cookies are turned off on the user's computer), they put up an error message: "You are trying to login from an unknown source, please contact Compass".

Since this message is cryptic and the calls to Compass were often not crisply handled, we created a work-around so that our members avoided this error. As a step in the login process, we have the process check with another site ( to see if a third party site can determine the referring site.

In most cases, this works. If we can determine the referring site, we continue to login. If we cannot determine the referring site, we give them an error message which explains the problem and the fix.

A third case has emerged which is when the user get a "405 error message"

405 Error Message

We are working on figuring this out. So far, we have them call their ISP but I'm not sure we give them enough data to make the call worthwhile. The best info on this that I've found so far is:

And I quote:

Error Message:405 – Method Not Allowed

Translation:For each particular resource type, HTTP allows for a variety of actions (or “methods”) between a Web server and a browser. These methods include Options, Get, Head, URL, Post, Put, Delete, Trace, Connect, and more (depending on the HTTP version in use). Web servers can be configured to allow or reject any method. For example, your ‘read-only’ Web server may disallow PUT and DELETE methods. When your Web browser tries to use a method for obtaining a Web resource that the server prohibits, an error occurs. Bottom line—you cannot exchange desired data with the Web server.

Solution: You normally don’t see this error unless you’re creating Web pages. In most cases, 405 errors arise when using POST (power on self test) methods—you may be trying to provide input on your Web site (such as a form), but not all ISPs allow POST methods needed to process that form. You can try GET commands in place of POST commands. In short, most 405 errors can be corrected by adjusting the configuration of your Web server (to allow POST methods, for example) ...

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