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Format or for worse - shadows of echoes of memories of songs
j4
j4
Format or for worse
Okay, so I am trying to subscribe lots of people to something (the University's team for the Developer Programme of a big company named after a fruit...) and the member management interface says I can upload a file of names and email addresses: "Please choose the text file containing the member names and email addresses and click on submit. You can have a maximum of 200 members in the file." Fair enough... but it doesn't say anywhere what the format for this text file should be. I tried a .csv file (Firstname,Lastname,firstname.lastname@thisplace.ac.uk) and got told that it was expecting a .txt file, but that's the most informative error message I've managed to trigger. Everything else I've tried, I just get the following: "We are unable to process this Member Invitation file because of a file formatting issue. Please check the file and try again."

I have tried the following line formats for this text file:

1. firstname.lastname@thisplace.ac.uk
2. Firstname Lastname <firstname.lastname@thisplace.ac.uk>
3. Firstname,Lastname,firstname.lastname@thisplace.ac.uk
4. Firstname Lastname,firstname.lastname@thisplace.ac.uk
5. Firstname|Lastname|firstname.lastname@thisplace.ac.uk
6. Firstname Lastname|firstname.lastname@thisplace.ac.uk
7. Firstname\tLastname\tfirstname.lastname@thisplace.ac.uk
8. Firstname Lastname\tfirstname.lastname@thisplace.ac.uk
ETA:
9. As for #2 but comma-separated, no line-breaks
10. firstname.lastname@thisplace.ac.uk (Firstname Lastname)
11. "Firstname Lastname" <firstname.lastname@thisplace.ac.uk>
12. "Lastname, Firstname" <firstname.lastname@thisplace.ac.uk>

None of them work, & none of them give any more information about how to make them work. Am I being spectacularly dim here & missing an obvious upload format? I really don't want to have to add 80-odd people by hand.

ETA: It may be even worse than I thought; when you add a member by hand, you have four input fields: Firstname, Lastname, email address, role [member|admin]. So I guess I have to try adding the role in for all the character-delimited formats. Though the instructions do say "member names and email addresses", not roles. Hrm.

Or I could fill in I have now emailed them via the 'support' contact form, but their track record on actually replying to stuff is lousy, & I need these damn things added by the end of the week.
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Comments
geekette8 From: geekette8 Date: April 29th, 2009 10:04 am (UTC) (Link)
You're not being spectacularly dim, or even slightly dim. I don't know what the answer is but the only thing I would try is a comma separated list rather than a line break separated list, eg

Joe Public <joe@foo.com>, Jane Smart <jane@bar.com>, Regina Phylange <regp@foobar.com>

with no line breaks in it.
j4 From: j4 Date: April 29th, 2009 10:05 am (UTC) (Link)
Good idea! ... but still doesn't work. :-/
geekette8 From: geekette8 Date: April 29th, 2009 10:14 am (UTC) (Link)
OK...
Firstname [linebreak]
Lastname [linebreak]
email [linebreak]
... etc?

Otherwise the linebreak format issue is a good point - you could try running it through dos2unix or unix2dos to switch between CR and CRLF.
geekette8 From: geekette8 Date: April 29th, 2009 10:16 am (UTC) (Link)
Does it give you any way to *export* members? Can you try exporting a member file and then re-creating the format of it?
oldbloke From: oldbloke Date: April 29th, 2009 10:18 am (UTC) (Link)
This was my thought also
j4 From: j4 Date: April 29th, 2009 10:28 am (UTC) (Link)
Now that's a genius idea! But obviously they decided that would have been far too helpful so they didn't provide it. :-{ Gnnnghhh.
pjc50 From: pjc50 Date: April 29th, 2009 10:09 am (UTC) (Link)
big company named after a fruit

Might there be some sort of CR/LF issue going on? Otherwise - wow, that's one unhelpful user interface.
j4 From: j4 Date: April 29th, 2009 10:21 am (UTC) (Link)
I did try one of the formats with unix/DOS/Mac line-endings, but I confess I couldn't face going through all three for every possible format... :-} Will try a few more, though!
From: mooism Date: April 29th, 2009 10:22 am (UTC) (Link)
All I can think of is
firstname.lastname@thisplace.ac.uk (Firstname Lastname)
j4 From: j4 Date: April 29th, 2009 10:29 am (UTC) (Link)
Thanks - sadly that doesn't work either. :-/
octalbunny From: octalbunny Date: April 29th, 2009 10:32 am (UTC) (Link)
Three more suggestions, but I'll be surprised if any of them work.
"Firstname Lastname" <firstname.lastname@thisplace.ac.uk>
"Lastname, Firstname" <firstname.lastname@thisplace.ac.uk>
cut and paste from MS Outlook, whatever that generates
j4 From: j4 Date: April 29th, 2009 10:40 am (UTC) (Link)
Tried the first two - thanks! - but no joy.

I don't have Outlook here so can't try that easily, but I can't believe the company in question would require that ... that would just be too absurd! :-}
sea_bright From: sea_bright Date: April 29th, 2009 10:45 am (UTC) (Link)
Bit of a long shot (and it would be spectacularly annoying if this did turn out to be the problem), but I was trying to use an online feedback form a while back, and discovered that it absolutely refused to accept any email address with a dot before the @ - it kept telling me it wasn't a valid email address. If you've been able to add people by hand, that probably isn't the issue, but is it vaguely possible that whatever parses the file is getting confused by Our Glorious Institution's unusual email address format?
j4 From: j4 Date: April 29th, 2009 11:19 am (UTC) (Link)
You mean the dot between firstname and lastname? That certainly is valid, & it's not by any means ox-specific or even particularly unusual as far as I can see (most people I know on gmail have firstname.lastname or f.lastname; friends/family at other universities have f.lastname...). I think your online feedback form must have just been even less helpful than this 'portal'! :-/
sea_bright From: sea_bright Date: April 29th, 2009 12:56 pm (UTC) (Link)
I was a bit surprised that it wouldn't accept it as a valid format: I hadn't thought of it as particularly unusual, but it set me wondering if it was less common than I'd realized - although I also know lots of people with dotted gmail addresses, most of them previously had Oxford addresses and seem to have stuck to the same format. Good to know that it's not an issue, though.
truecatachresis From: truecatachresis Date: April 29th, 2009 01:27 pm (UTC) (Link)
Dots in the first part of a gmail address are ignorable; if you have registered firstname.lastname@gmail.com, you also have firstnamelastname@gmail.com (and possible all other combinations, although I haven't tested this). I'd guess the canonical version as far as gmail is concerned ignores all .

(This was true a couple of years ago, anyway, and may have changed. YMMV.)
addedentry From: addedentry Date: April 29th, 2009 03:35 pm (UTC) (Link)
Excellent! I was annoyed that someone had beaten me to registering owenmcknight@gmail and now you've taught me that not only is that me but I can give the address as ow.enmck.night instead.
From: (Anonymous) Date: April 29th, 2009 04:07 pm (UTC) (Link)
regarding dots in gmail addresses - a leading dot doesn't work, e.g.

.firstnamelastname@gmail.com

But many others do, perhaps up to the point of a gmail address's character limit, e.g.

f....i...r...s...t...n...amelastname@gmail.com

-dpv
From: mooism Date: April 29th, 2009 11:07 am (UTC) (Link)
Write a script that fills in and submits the form for you?
j4 From: j4 Date: April 29th, 2009 11:29 am (UTC) (Link)
Heh. The script would have to be logged in as me, but... hmm.
chrisvenus From: chrisvenus Date: April 29th, 2009 03:34 pm (UTC) (Link)
This is roughly what I thought... If you were using windows I'd probably suggest Fiddler which is an HTTP session recorder and allows replays (so it would be easy for them to all be sent in the same session). I'm vaguely thinking you're a mac user though so this information is not at all helpful...

Good luck. :)
j4 From: j4 Date: April 29th, 2009 03:42 pm (UTC) (Link)
I'm vaguely thinking you're a mac user though

Actually I use both operating systems: MacOS and Linux. ;-)

Fiddler sounds wicked, though... I am now wondering if WebTest Recorder will do something similar for me. Thanks for the pointer!
chrisvenus From: chrisvenus Date: April 29th, 2009 03:46 pm (UTC) (Link)
Yeah, that defintiely sounds like the sort of software that should be able to record a http session and play it back. Though I should probably not assume specs just from the name. ;-)
damiancugley From: damiancugley Date: April 29th, 2009 10:41 pm (UTC) (Link)
If you don't mind reading the HTML of the page and writing a little program in Python you can use libraries like httplib2 to POST your password to the login page, collect the cookies, and then post to the registration form. Depending on how fluent you are in Python it might be faster than trying to guess the upload format …
keirf From: keirf Date: April 29th, 2009 12:23 pm (UTC) (Link)
It could be an LDAP server and expecting an LDIF file. How about trying to import something like this:

dn: cn=Keir Finlow,mail=keir@ongar.org
objectclass: top
objectclass: person
objectClass: inetOrgPerson
givenName: Keir
sn: Finlow
cn: Keir Finlow
mail: keir@ongar.org
wechsler From: wechsler Date: April 29th, 2009 01:25 pm (UTC) (Link)
ADC's phone support is actually pretty good.
simont From: simont Date: April 29th, 2009 02:27 pm (UTC) (Link)
Thinking about this from the other end – "if I were designing a text file format for this job, what would it look like?" – suggests that I might well have chosen a format in which each line starts with the email address, then a space, then the person's name, on the grounds that that's the very easiest thing to parse at the server end. (No escaping necessary, since the only syntactically special characters are the space after the email address and the newline, and since email addresses can't contain spaces and names can't contain newlines, there'd never be a need to distinguish between either character used as a separator and the same character used literally.)

But I suppose #10 conforms to that format even if it would have the effect of claiming that each person's name had parentheses in it, so if #10 still returned an error then that probably wasn't it.
chrisvenus From: chrisvenus Date: April 29th, 2009 03:44 pm (UTC) (Link)
I like your thinking. It is of course quite possible that they are explicitly excluding "special" character from people's names and so names in the parantheses trigger the invalid format...

Of course, if it had been programmed by people who thought about it they probably would have thought to give an example format. :)

We'll probably find that there is a totally different problem with the import and that the file formats were all fine due to an excessively engineered parser. :)
simont From: simont Date: April 29th, 2009 03:46 pm (UTC) (Link)
Yes, it did occur to me that "file formatting issue" might actually be a bogus error report and what it really means is "internal error in our website which is not your fault and will prevent anything useful you try to do no matter how helpfully you format it".
brightybot From: brightybot Date: April 30th, 2009 10:52 am (UTC) (Link)
I haven't read all the comments so apologies if someone has already suggested this, but have you tried spaces between the names and email address and line breaks to separate them? e.g.

Firstname Lastname emailaddress
Firstname Lastname emailaddress

What a pain not to tell you the format though!
sion_a From: sion_a Date: May 1st, 2009 08:53 am (UTC) (Link)
How about comma/tab/pipe-separated with address first? ie 3–8 with reversed field order. The problem is, of course, if their expecting three fields and you don't know whether they want firstname or lastname first.
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