Monday, September 17, 2007

Tech support: an area where user-generated content is here to stay

There's a lot of hype out there about user-generated content. Most humorous to me are authors who want their readers to help them write their books. Very Tom Sawyer of them.

In one area of technology, however, user-generated content is king. And that's product technical support. Good manuals are hard to come by, but user forums can answer just about any question you have. Here are two examples.

I just got a BlackBerry World Edition phone. The folks I called from any public place noticed lots and lots of background noise from my end of the conversation. BlackBerry and Verizon's web sites (and Verizon's tech support line) disavowed all knowledge of a problem. Yet the CrackBerry forums had more than forty posts related to the item. No solutions out there yet, but numerous ideas and, at minimum, corroboration that this is a real problem.

I also just got a MacBook Pro, and I was having trouble playing mp3 CDs that I burned on the MacBook in my car CD player. Forget the iTunes or Mac documentation (there's very little of that). But it took 30 seconds at Apple forums to find my issue and suggestions for remedying it.

The unsung heroes here are the users who troll these forums and answer questions for newbies like me.

As for the manufacturers of these products, the least they can do (as Apple does) is to sponsor these forums and make it easy for their users to find them.

Product managers also may want to read them (even if they might not like everything they learn), to really know what's going on with their products.