After almost fifteen years of waiting, I finally got my Hogwarts letter. At least, that's what early registration to Pottermore, the new online extension of the Harry Potter world, should feel like, shouldn't it?
When Pottermore opened for early registration three weeks ago, I "tracked down the magical quill". I validated my account. I registered on the site! And after all that, I'm told I've been selected for a site I still don't have access to. Not an auspicious introduction!
The mysterious flock of owls was exciting, and couldn't have launched at a better time. Just as everyone was posting "The end is near!", just as we were lining up for tickets to the last Potter film, just as it seemed there would be nothing new to fangirl about, there were the owls.
But that was months ago, and it doesn't feel like anything has changed since then. I could, ostensibly, read descriptions of the site written by people who've already gained access. But I made it through seven books without reading spoilers. I avoided fansites leading up to the films, just in case screencaps had been leaked. I'm not going to start cheating now.
Early Registration started July 31, which is both J.K Rowling and Harry Potter's birthday. Smart move, considering the date stuck in any super-fan's head like spell-o-tape.
That was about the last smart move Team Pottermore made. Mistake number one: not mentioning that the website wouldn't actually launch on July 31. I was sitting, waiting, like so many others, to start exploring as soon as I found the magical quill. I didn't even get to register until day four, at which point I had almost given up hope.
I logged in to the Pottermore site at 11:55 PM, Eastern Standard Time, on July 30 and I was met with a message that became all too familiar. "Day 1 registration has now closed". I'm sorry… what?
Registration started at midnight on July 31, alright, but midnight in Greenwich Mean Time; about five hours ago on the East Coast. Mistake number two: Midnight should mean midnight, regardless of where you are on the globe, or it should have been clear that Team Pottermore was using GMT.
Someone in charge had not taken into consideration the fact that we, the Potter community, are an international group. Why wasn't registration staggered based on region? You could have limited the amount of people from each region to a fraction of the people you're going to let in each day, and spread admission across the globe every day.
Still, early registration would be going on all week. No reason to panic yet.
Unfortunately that kind of logic only works when you're not waiting for something that feels like you've been waiting for it more than half your life. I added Pottermore's Twitter feed to my phone so I could stay up to date. The team tweeted that registration would open sometime between 9 a.m. and 1 p.m. British Summer Time, or 4 to 8 a.m. EST. Losing sleep over Harry is a reality I came to grips with long ago; I almost welcomed the prospect of one more slumber lost to Potter.
I set an alarm for four, which came and went with nothing on the site. 4:30. Still nothing. I had work in the morning, I couldn't sit and wait. A two hour nap would be okay. 7:00, when my alarm went off, I groggily grabbed my laptop and literally as I was turning it on, I got a text message.
"Day 2 Registration has now closed." Fine. That was on me—I chose sleep over fanaticism. I'm getting old.
Day three registration would not pass me by, though. Another update on the Pottermore blog; the Team figured out that we're in every time zone, and decided to vary the times the clues would be revealed. This should not have taken until day three to figure out.
The clue was set to drop sometime between 2 and 6 p.m. British Summer Time (still convenient for England, by the way.) which translates to 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. Eastern Standard. Of course, my commute landed me squarely in Grand Central at nine. I literally ran from Metro North to the downtown six, then to the office.
I sat down at my desk, turned on my computer, logged in to Pottermore and… nothing. Refresh refresh REFRESH!!! Nothing nothing nothing. Until, finally, the moment I had been waiting for, for three—nay—4,745 days, arrived.
Mistake Number three: not planning for site crashes.
Early registration, when it was working, worked thusly: once registration was open, a clue based on the Potterverse was posted to the Pottermore website, the answer to which, when affixed to the end of quill.Pottermore.com, took you to another site within which a magical quill was hiding. If you clicked the magical quill, then voila! You were taken to the Pottermore registration page.
It was that tricky word—hiding—that had me searching high and low for a half hour on the Sony home theatre website before taking to Twitter to figure out what exactly I was doing wrong.
Ding-Dong! New tweet from Pottermore! The Magical Quill is malfunctioning today. Fantastic. I fished around Twitter for about half a second before finding a link directly to the registration website. Signing up without ever having seen the magical quill felt an awful lot like cheating though, and so my panicking began.
What if the website was a fake? What if I had done something to violate the terms of service? Perhaps my three days worth of perseverance had just been flushed down Moaning Myrtle's toilet…and it was no one's fault but my own.
Ding-Dong! Another tweet from Pottermore, specifically to put my fears to rest. The link I had clicked was legit, Pottermore was in fact inviting people to register without worrying about the rogue quill. The floodgates opened. Half an hour later, and "Day 3 registration has now closed".
Friends of mine don't have an account, or don't follow Pottermore on Twitter. Those friends had no way of getting any of this information. Mistake number four: information about registration only got distributed through one social networking site, and a blog that was hard to find.
Why wasn't Team Pottermore more diligent about sending out emails with actual information in them during this process, or updating on more than one networking outlet? The Pottermore site itself doesn't even have a link to the Pottermore Insider blog, which is where the more detailed registration information was always posted. Some of my Potter buddies didn't even know it existed. It was almost like Team Pottermore was making it hard to join the site on purpose. And then the emails started.
THE FIRST EMAIL: I had successfully filled out the form on Pottermore.com. Now I had to return to the Pottermore site and validate that I really have the email address I claimed to have.
THE SECOND EMAIL: Pottermore has a store of usernames and when you register you are offered five choices. Moonstonebludger43, while non-sensical, was the most awesome of the five, and with this email, it officially became my Pottermore alias. Or at least it will, whenever I get into the site, which I was guaranteed once again would happen sometime between mid-August and mid-September.
THE THIRD EMAIL: This is the last email I received, before Pottermore started tweeting about welcome emails, the subject of which was "Congratulations!":
"Congratulations! You have been selected for early entry into Pottermore! We're really excited to confirm that you are one of the lucky people selected for early entry into Pottermore, ahead of when it is open-to-all in October, to help us add finishing touches! We will activate your account between mid-August and the end of September, so keep checking your inbox for our Welcome email. When this arrives you will be able to enter Pottermore. In the meantime, you can check the Pottermore Insider for all the latest news, updates and announcements. We look forward to welcoming you to Pottermore."
Wait a second. Selected? WHAT WAS THAT BUSINESS WITH THE QUILL ABOUT? I was about as "selected" for this as Hermione was "selected" to become a prefect.
Instead of furthering my excitement for when I finally get my welcome email, these emails have read like condescending pats on the head. Good for you! Oh, you thought this was your welcome email, didn't you? Well… it's not. But still! Good for you!.
It's been almost a month now since I "registered for early access". Team Pottermore keeps tweeting about how the email is coming and betas take time.
I do understand that this is sort of a new undertaking, making an online community based on a massively popular book and movie series. But the video game industry has been taking advantage of beta testing for years; that's not new. Hell, I was in a beta for Nickelodeon's Monkey Quest. So where is the disconnect for Team Pottermore?
Mistake number five: This is the first time the word "beta" is even entering the equation. There's no shame in admitting that "Early Access" is actually registration for the beta. We're a patient group, and we learn quick. If you'd told us that the beta was going to open in waves, we would have understood. Instead, you waited until the last second, when the angry emails started rolling in, to explain yourselves.
Here we are, two days away from September. Another tweet went out this morning about welcome emails, and I'm still staring at an empty inbox. None of the placating tweets, emails, blog updates, or explanations have made me feel any better about not getting into Pottermore yet, which I thought I'd be happily exploring a whole month ago.
I have to admit, it's starting to feel like my Hogwarts letter will never come.
You can contact Jen Schiller, the author of this post, at firstname.lastname@example.org. You can also find her on Twitter, and lurking around our #tips page. If you've already got your welcome email, you won't be able to find Jen anywhere.