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From Graham Lauder <>
Subject Re: How about a next-generation approach to user support?
Date Sun, 26 Jun 2011 04:51:25 GMT
On Sat, 2011-06-25 at 09:33 -0400, Rob Weir wrote:
> >From a user's perspective, maximum satisfaction comes from not having
> a question in the first place. 


>   The user
> doesn't want support.  They want to work on their task.  Support is
> the last resort.
> So we should think of a support site as **a way for users to get
> questions answered**.  


>   Most users with
> questions will start from the search form in their browser than will
> start at whatever support site we create.

This is a still a step too far.... Reading on

> So this leads us to want to maximize the value of questions and
> answers previous asked, to build a repository of wisdom and
> experience, especially for the most-asked questions.

This "repository" is the critical user-space infrastructure that is
difficult to put into place (outside a corporate), for a second or third
placed alternative to a virtual monopoly. 
The repository of "Wisdom and Experience -(tm)" that is easiest and
fastest to access is the users "home" community.  Mrs E in the next
cubicle, Johnny Local-Expert in the next office over.  Miss A's problem
gets solved and that solution becomes part of the community W&E (tm).
(It should be noted that often the solution is a work around and a bad
one at that, but it still becomes part of the Community Repository.) 

For an Open Source project this is even harder, or at least using legacy
support system's such as Lists and Bugtrackers, so I like where this is

> I think it is critical to keep in mind the accumulative value
> generation aspect of lists and forums, how the questions and answers
> build up a repository of information that helps us (the project
> members) understand the common user problems in the product. 

> [....]  

> The ultimate goal
> is user/customer satisfaction.  Not volume of support calls, or number
> of questions asked, or number of forum posts.  A large volume of
> support calls can often be an indication of product quality problems.
> It is a bad thing.  You want to maximize user satisfaction.

+1 on all points but with some reservations which I'll address further

> I fear that if we fragment user questions into both forums and lists
> then we reduce the value that we could have from a unified repository
> of questions and answers.  In fact, I think we should be bold at this
> point.  The start of an Apache project is a natural break in the
> evolution of the OpenOffice project.  We don't need to copy the
> methods that were used before.  Maybe we should look at the best
> practices available today, and leap ahead to something more powerful.

> Someone mentioned before the StackExchange style of community led,
> collaborative/social Q&A site. 


> Forming a new StackExchange-based site is free, but does require
> demonstrating a high degree of community support and commitment.  It
> appears that you need a solid group of around 100 people willing to
> commit to participating in the site in order for it to be created.
> That should be possible for OpenOffice.

The stack exchange idea is great on a number of levels, but what it
needs to do for the user is something that the present structure does
not do well:  Either become or extend the breadth of the users immediate
first line support. 

MS feeds this first line community support through schools and entry
level training and certification.  This creates an informal community of
support, whether in the home or workplace, that is fast and easy to
access, but as noted earlier: open to failings. 

Our Next generation approach needs to be as easy to access as putting
your head into the next cubicle, response needs to be almost as fast and
it needs to be accurate and clear and preferably in the users native

Opening a browser window is a step too far, access needs to be from the
OOo UI.  The GIMP has connections in it's Help menu to Dev site, User
manuals online and so forth.  It still opens a browser widow however.
To be able access online help inside the OOo UI would be desirable to my
way of thinking.  

But yes, establish something such as S-Ex and then put some mechanisms
in place to allow the simplest and quickest means of access from the UI.

Jonathon Coombes set up an OOo Knowledge base that built on people
answering questions, adding tips and so on, so there may be a base from
which to build. 

Volume of support calls, I believe, is not in itself a problem.  We are
dealing, in a large part, with unsophisticated end-users and high
volumes of support calls can be indicative of a support system that is
easy to access and use.  We can debate the numbers but the accuracy or
otherwise is not the point, but:  probably hundreds of thousands of new
users get introduced to OOo on a weekly basis, so you are going to have
an ongoing addition to the volume of support calls.  The vast majority
of these will not be "problem calls" but what I like to call "Continual
Learning Moments", the more learning that happens the more people join
that "User Home Community Support Network".

I like the points idea, in fact a person generating a predetermined
level of points could be invited to attempt an online assessment and if
they pass, are awarded a "Certified Writer Support Guru" certificate or
something for instance along the lines of INGOTS but perhaps more module
specific to get people enthusiastically involved. 

One of the consistent gripes I get following a migration is the
difficulty of getting timely support.  (The fact that I'm NZ and Europe
is asleep while we're at work is a factor of course) So I field a lot of
support mails that could be handled by a StackExchange type site.


Graham Lauder, MarCon (Marketing Contact) NZ Migration and training Consultant.

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