Network operators know that mistakes can happen. This is why it is good to have humans involved in network management control loops so that they can identify and resolve errors. This simple principle, unfortunately, does not seem to apply to many online systems. My recent example comes from a well known scientific publisher. A paper submitted to a network management journal ended up being registered in the publisher’s database as a submission for the Journal of Polymers and the Environment (yes, this really exists). Since then, the system periodically reminds the author to approve the publication and to transfer the copyright. (Of course, meanwhile the paper appeared in the correct journal and the copyright has already been transferred but the database has no clue about this.) The reminder email says the following:
A reply to this e-mail is not necessary. Should you have any questions, please use the reply button in your e-mail client to send us your question.
The reply email is of course never looked at by a human. Meanwhile, the author of the paper had twice contact with something that appeared to be human but that did not help to fix the problem (perhaps this was just a smarter robot). It meanwhile seems that the only way out is to actually approve the paper. If someone is interested, I am happy to share the meanwhile somewhat lengthy communication between the author and the “other end”. And you might want to watch the Journal of Polymers and the Environment for an interesting contribution to appear.