Open Helpdesk

Posted on December 11, 2006. Filed under: Musings |

The number of mailing lists, discussion groups on various sites, “experts” forums out there are huge. But ask the person trying to get an answer.

There are many problems associated with “forums” as a place to go for help. First off, if the forums are free, there is no SLA. The askers to answerers ratio is very important. The specialisation of the forum is very important. Almost everything has been tried.

We start with a pro-active approach. If you are starting something new, you would like to read up on it… about.com is doing this. It engages people from different specialisations and gets them to put up enough 101s on the topic, and pointers to good sites. Over here, about.com seems to pay the experts and gets its money from the ads.

If you want to definately get an answer, google.com provides an answers site. Google does not pay anyone. The person asking the question pays the person answering the question. A sort of experts-exchange thing, except that you get dollars instead of points.

There are the groups sites like google and yahoo that allow people to setup their discussion groups. The problem here is that everything becomes so fragmented across artificial lines, like geography. This is good for administration but not good for knowledge. A fragmentation of a java users group or a .net users group across languages like english, french, chinese is still fine.

There is one site, ittoolbox, they prevent fragmentation by not allowing users to create their groups. They instead have hundreds of groups categorised and neatly defined.

The other issue is that sometimes the question cuts boundaries and requires specialised experience. “The machine hangs when I play mp3 from java.” Where other people will start speaking about ettiquette and other things… I would say that this is a valid question. The person asking the question is stumped, and knows his limitations. What we need is something like an Open Helpdesk, where agents with relevant experience and access to masses of knowledge attend to calls and help users through their problems. Maybe over a number of days, but definately helps.

Oh yeah, it helps only with open source software.

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