Slash Boxes
NOTE: use Perl; is on undef hiatus. You can read content, but you can't post it. More info will be forthcoming forthcomingly.

All the Perl that's Practical to Extract and Report

use Perl Log In

Log In

[ Create a new account ]

leaddadaist (8933)

  (email not shown publicly)

Journal of leaddadaist (8933)

Tuesday December 02, 2008
12:10 AM

How to handle completely clueless users?

[ #38001 ]

I admit I'm sort of a email traffic controller.

It irks me to the point of a pet peeve, when I spatter the contact page of my project with notes that say, "DO NOT CONTACT ME FOR SUPPORT UNLESS YOU WANT TO BUCK UP SOME MONEY", and I get tons of support emails, wanting free support.


What I don't want to do, is take the time and go,

"Look. We have forums. We have mailing lists. Use those. Thanks." And then not answer they're question.

What I do is exactly that.

I don't want to do this, because I know how much of a pain it is for the person to now, *rewrite* what they just ask me. It also is a pretty weird introduction to what should be a really valuable exchange - someone actually wants to talk to *me* about *my* thingy.

The curious thing is, I don't want to be hired to fix some stupid bug - I have better things to do. I'd rather help fix the bug for *free* - and its beneficial - users let me know it's there, I (or them - ha!) open up a bug report, it gets fixed (probably by me) and *there's a thread of, "something just happened"* that lives far away from my inbox and takes on a life of its own. I don't have to write the same thing twice and with a little work by the user (or if they dare help themselves) they can find it themselves, and keep a thread going. When I say, "thread" - I mean, anything - a forum post about a problem, with a reply of a confirmation that it's a bug, with a link posted to a bug report, that may then give you a patch in a day or so - which then gets referred in another forum post - etc. But, a trail is there.

The thing is, there's better ways to ask the questions.

What's the better way to point them to the right way?

For a while, I just had a auto responder that said,

"Hey, if this is a support question - go here, and here and here and read this and that and then post to this thing or that thing and away you go! America!"

"...but, if this isn't a support question, well, disregard all that, and I'll get back to you, soon"

That seemed a little foolish.

Right now, I'm trying something different - I'm just making up a mail template that first, welcomes the new person emailing me to the *community* and then gives a very brief list of resources that say, "Here's what to read", "Here's where to ask questions"


well, then if I can, I'll answer they're question - I haven't yet said, "And next time, POST HERE", cause again, that makes me think I'm reprimanding someone for something they may have just missed. Or something. Anyways - let's think positive and we're all humans here, and we probably all have a strong sense to belong.

But, what I want to do is get people active in the program and community. It's pretty hard, since, well, usually my audience is general users and they just have Work They Need To Do, and aren't nerdy enough to get excited about some program. Understandably.

Perhaps, by simply giving a welcome, some encouragement, some links to check out and a head-start on solving the problem, they'll feel as if they're welcome in a community, instead of just a bother to me.

As far as I'm concerned, community in anything is everything. If you're not building a community, you have almost nothing, no matter how great you are, you have nothing without people.

Anyways, I'll let you know how it goes, but I'd be interested in hearing other ideas you yourself may have,

The Fine Print: The following comments are owned by whoever posted them. We are not responsible for them in any way.
More | Login | Reply
Loading... please wait.
  • Seems like you do not want to "upset" the user, so continue to interact with he user via email. You would rather have the user interact with the other mechanism especially set up for bug reports. Since you are helping the situation at all on your own, just deal with it.

    Some other people around here did encounter similar situation; try search for "user email bug report".

    - parv
    • "... continue to interact with he user via email"

      Above "he user" should be "the user".

      - parv
    • (Darn, is there no way to delete or edit one's own posts here? $@#% Above "you are helping" ... never mind, I will just rewrite the whole thing.)

      Seems like you do not want to "upset" your user, so you continue to interact with he user via email. You would rather much prefer that the user interact with the other mechanism especially set up for bug reports. Since you are not helping the situation at all on your own, just deal with it.

      Some other people around here did encounter similar situation; try a sear

      - parv
      • I'm not sure if I can, so, oh well :)

        Well, what I can do at least, is sympathize - I've def. been on the other side - where, in a pinch I thought, "hey, I'll just email the author!", not realizing, even, that there may be a wiki, a forum, a mailing list a group of FAQ's and that the question I'm asking is one that's been asked a million times.

        What I'd like to do is instead of going, "Hey, here's where to ask your questions...",

        First go, "thanks and welcome to our little family - here's something to start yo

  • If you're getting too much email, why not drop some projects? Or, if you're getting less than dozens of these messages a day, bounce them to wherever you feel is appropriate. Maybe bounce them to a waiting queue folder, like a mandatory wait before you take any action.
    • To be honest, I only have one project that's visible and public. I'm sort of the Benevolent Dictator of the project, but it's lonely at the top.

      I sort of wish it wasn't so difficult to have other people involved, but I understand completely why they wouldn't want to be.

      Just as an aside, I try to use the GTD method for emails coming in, so general random support questions can just go into a, "Review" folder and I'll get them when I can, while I go through the, "Take Action NOW" folder, first. That's easy eno

  • Create a forwarding address which, when forwarded a message by you, will automatically create a forum post, and will reply to the original person telling them that their support question has been forwarded to the forum, and here is a link to see their question and any responses. Then every night before you go to bed make a point of going through the forums and answering any questions that have not been answered.

    That saves them the effort of rewriting their message, and gets them involved in the forum right

  • --

    @JAPH = qw(Hacker Perl Another Just);
    print reverse @JAPH;