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Why are there so many duplicate support posts? (Top 3 reasons)

The simplemachines.org website is too hard to navigate.
Search fails to return accurate results.
Not enough documentation in the manual.
Support staff is faster than searching.
Human laziness.
Don't know what to search for.
Other (please post below)

Author Topic: How can we improve the support process?  (Read 127431 times)

Offline Sarge

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Re: How can we improve the support process?
« Reply #80 on: April 26, 2007, 01:20:42 AM »
I agree, also the search button is to vague. I search broken links and I got all this stuff I dont need appearing first...

I guess that's addressed by Search order: "Most recent topics first". The older the topics, the higher the chance that posted links are broken.
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Offline Selroth

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Re: How can we improve the support process?
« Reply #81 on: April 26, 2007, 04:43:18 AM »
OK, it's me with another silly idea while not reading everyone's posts...  Sorry.

I think a support-ticket system would work well for many reasons, but primarily 2.  1) it invites users to use it moreso than posting a new thread, so you're targetting human laziness there.  2) If the support ticket system allowed you to select the area/theme of the problem, some selections can bring up an additional list to choose from (with "other" at the bottom).  After many of these, it can be obvious what their problem is and the support-ticket system can automatically present a solution, or related reading and the user can look at those and maybe get a solution in minutes, or continue to a person that will help them where they can get a solution in a few hours or days. 

People WOULD rather read before asking another person (after all, they'd have to read the solution presented by the person), but they'd rather ask another person than search around.  Maybe opening a "support ticket" could be that entire search process already done for the most common issues.  But, all of this is just my perspective and opinion.
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Offline 青山 素子

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Re: How can we improve the support process?
« Reply #82 on: April 26, 2007, 12:29:20 PM »
whoa, dude, once i saw that your can only bump thread every 24hours I stopped AND i deleted my post buddy. and no i didnt bump it twice, can you not count? Actually no, if you had faster support, people wouldnt be bumping their thread trying to get people on the support team to answer...and you know its true. If it was faster, i wouldnt have bumped. BUT, when i realized i couldnt bump i stoped and deleted, and yes im trying to help solve the problem even though you dont think i am. maybe because you block peoples suggestions, just because I registered today.

If you are willing to pay my salary, I'll gladly work full-time on answering support questions. Until then, I have to work to be able to pay for the electricity, internet access, etc that allows me to give support for free.

Support is so slow because of the volume of topics and the small support team, some of whom don't post support much (I'm guilty here too). The reason for the small team is that there aren't many people around who post quality support on a consistent basis. The helpless outnumber the skilled by a great number.

The point of this topic is how to make support faster by reducing the volume of posts. The big question is why so many people posting new topics, and what can be done to get them finding the existing support here. Simply saying that support needs to be faster (while ignoring the reality that it would either lower support quality or just be impractical) misses the point.
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Offline KGIII

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Re: How can we improve the support process?
« Reply #83 on: April 26, 2007, 12:55:10 PM »
More Mindless Meandering - Perhaps of Value:

We could also start with making the post page template have, in fairly large letters, something akin to the following:

"Before posting please make sure that you have searched the forum first. If you have not then please click here."

The "here" would open in a new window or, if we wanted to be fancy, would open a search box which, when used, would take them to a new search window.

This could even be done in much the same manner as the intersitial (spelling) ads where you must click something prior to proceeding to a new page or the page with content.

Thoughts?
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Offline Harro

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Re: How can we improve the support process?
« Reply #84 on: April 26, 2007, 03:12:35 PM »
Think this has been mentioned before.
I think it's a good idea.
Also put a link to the online manual there :)

Offline Sarge

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Re: How can we improve the support process?
« Reply #85 on: April 27, 2007, 02:08:02 AM »
To take the idea even further, what about creating a whole FAQ category or board (NOT as a child board of another board), with each topic covering a specific issue and solution?

Unlike the Docs link, the FAQ board should be visible in the board index. The Support Team could post new topics in the FAQ and the Documentation Team would review and migrate them to the Docs. After that, already covered topics can be linked (or even redirected) to the appropriate section in the online documentation.

Every support board should have a child board pointing to the FAQ and the profile setting "Show child boards on every page inside boards, not just the first." in the Look and Layout section should be enabled for new members by default. ;) This way, FAQ links would sort of hit new members right in the eye at some point, and they wouldn't really have an excuse for not searching there before they post.

The above implementation might seem a bit redundant, but think about it: the Docs link is not very visible. ;)
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Offline Joshua Dickerson

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Re: How can we improve the support process?
« Reply #86 on: April 27, 2007, 02:15:50 AM »
The above implementation might seem a bit redundant, but think about it: the Docs link is not very visible. ;)
So, instead of doing even more work with updating and creating extra documentation, maybe we should increase the visibility of the doc link ;)
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Offline Harro

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Re: How can we improve the support process?
« Reply #87 on: April 27, 2007, 03:28:46 AM »
So, instead of doing even more work with updating and creating extra documentation, maybe we should increase the visibility of the doc link ;)
Bit useless to have a great doc site if nobody finds it ;)
The doc site is a great source of information. But to few users use it before they post a question.
Probably there are many users that don't know about the doc site before they post a question.

Offline Dannii

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Re: How can we improve the support process?
« Reply #88 on: April 27, 2007, 03:47:36 AM »
"Never imagine yourself not to be otherwise than what it might appear to others that what you were or might have been was not otherwise than what you had been would have appeared to them to be otherwise."

Offline Joshua Dickerson

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Re: How can we improve the support process?
« Reply #89 on: April 27, 2007, 04:16:55 AM »
So, instead of doing even more work with updating and creating extra documentation, maybe we should increase the visibility of the doc link ;)
Bit useless to have a great doc site if nobody finds it ;)
The doc site is a great source of information. But to few users use it before they post a question.
Probably there are many users that don't know about the doc site before they post a question.
I just said that. Instead of wasting time creating redundant documentation, we can better use time making the docs more visible.

What would you think of better urls, that would allow you to post these sorts of links?

http://docs.simplemachines.org/admin/
http://docs.simplemachines.org/faq/
http://docs.simplemachines.org/features/
http://docs.simplemachines.org/convert/
I like it.
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Offline Sarge

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Re: How can we improve the support process?
« Reply #90 on: April 27, 2007, 04:51:21 AM »
The above implementation might seem a bit redundant, but think about it: the Docs link is not very visible. ;)
So, instead of doing even more work with updating and creating extra documentation...

Not quite. What I mean is creating a FAQ board/category; every valuable topic that is not in the docs yet could be posted there by the Support Team. When the Documentation Team reviews a topic and adds it to the Docs, they just change the topic title into a redirect to the added article in the Docs.

In other words: the Support Team members read forum posts (they do it all the time, right?) and add valuable ones to the FAQ board. The Docs Team reviews topics in the FAQ board and adds them to the Docs.

Logical and structured, isn't it? This way there's no redundant and inconsistent content. Just some links are duplicated, with FAQ links pointing to documentation articles.

Anyway, the Docs link should be more visible.
« Last Edit: April 27, 2007, 04:56:35 AM by Sarge »
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Offline Joshua Dickerson

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Re: How can we improve the support process?
« Reply #91 on: April 27, 2007, 05:39:19 AM »
I have been trying to encourage the support team to create docs. The doc team can then edit them. So effectively, the same thing as you suggested. Since it is close to my idea, I must like it ;) (good idea). The Support Team is giving FAQs to the Doc team btw. They are doing it in the team boards though. Maybe we should make that a little more open so others can see it and possibly even create a summary of the post that can become a document.
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Offline Sarge

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Re: How can we improve the support process?
« Reply #92 on: April 27, 2007, 05:47:03 AM »
Well, I still think it's a good idea to create a FAQ category/board. Almost everyone browsing the board index would see it.

The way it currently is, someone has to find and click on the Docs link to see its content. On the other hand, a FAQ category can be set up with several boards and child boards that would be all visible at first sight in the board index.
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Offline Ace3

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Re: How can we improve the support process?
« Reply #93 on: April 29, 2007, 09:48:58 PM »
I think the big problem is just Human laziness.

Offline Blackhawk40

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Re: How can we improve the support process?
« Reply #94 on: April 30, 2007, 04:23:02 PM »
Not sure if you guys are looking for replies from SMF end users, this thread reads more like a brainstorm session for the SMF support team...but here I go :P

I voted for Search Fails to Return Accurate Results, Don't Know What to Search For, and Other.

Search Fails to Return Accurate Results/Don't Know What to Search For:
These 2 options are intertwined. If you don't know what to search for, then the search function will return inaccurate results. I know to only use 2 or 3 words when searching, but I still end up with pages of either inaccurate or irrelevant results. For example, after searching prior to posting, I once posted a question about a recurring action message that I had been seeing appear on occasion next to members' and unregistered guests' names in my Users Online panel. I received a curt response that that topic had been dealt with and answered previously. And that was the whole extent of the response - no quick hint about what board to start looking in, no clue as to a search term I could use that would bring up the relevant thread. I had already tried doing searches before posting (without the quotes) on 'who's online,' 'action message,' etc. and all I received were completely irrelevant results that had nothing to do with the particular action message I had been seeing. I ended up giving up altogether because I couldn't find any relevant information anywhere, despite having been curtly told that the answer was on here, and despite having done searches before posting.

The point being, if somebody can't find what they need by searching, the chances are really good they're going to open up a new help topic about it, and that help topic may well be a duplicate. I can relate to the SMF team rolling their eyes when they see another post on x topic that they've answered before, but in my case at least, I did search before posting and couldn't find anything. And having done searches before posting, it sure didn't help to merely receive a curt response that the topic had already been dealt with, without giving me even a quick hint about where to look or a search term to use.

Other:
I selected this option because IMHO, 9 times out of 10, SMF documents and support responses are way too technical and too hard to understand. I'm not new to computers or their workings by any means (I've been using computers daily for longer than BlackMage has been alive, for example :P ) but I am new to the workings of SMF, .php scripts, FTP, etc. Like Sirius commented, "...(sic) someone tell him to do some PHP editing and the newbie can barely install SMF, let alone some PHP scripts.."

I couldn't have said it better myself. For example, when I was having trouble upgrading my forum from SMF 1.0.9 to SMF 1.1.2, I was receiving support responses in my posted help thread that I could not make heads nor tails of. The SMF support team member's responses grew progressively more irritated each time I said I didn't understand what they were talking about. That would be because they automatically assumed that I already had a darn good understanding of FTP, .php scripts, etc. when in fact I thought it was very obvious from my initial request for support that I didn't have a damn clue what to do.

Or take this example from the Languages page of the Online Manual
http://docs.simplemachines.org/index.php?topic=395

"To have strings also available in languages like German or Thai, you will need the $txt variable. This is a lot like $context, except that it stores only a list of language strings available. To use our above example, you might use something like $txt['sendtopic_to_friend']. In your template, it would look a bit like this:"

You're talking about stuff like "$txt variable" and "contextual data" and manually adjusting language strings in one's Theme file - if somebody can't understand the basics of SMF, then they're sure as heck not going to understand that page in the Online Manual!

Point being, having an Online Manual is great. But if it's been written in tech language by SMF team members who have little or no understanding of what it means to be brand-new to SMF, .php, FTP, etc. then people are just going to keep opening up new help topics because they don't understand the Online Manual.

I for one am always happy to see BlackMage answer me if I've asked for help, because he makes an effort to talk in layman's terms.

As for the members in this thread who are critical of other members who give out their FTP and forum access information to those on here who offer to help privately - when you're new to SMF and you can't understand the Online Manual and you can't understand the response from the SMF support team member and your forum has been down for days and you have a lot of people counting on you to get it up and running again, believe me, you're going to take any offer of help you can get. IMHO you have to use good judgement and common sense if you're going to accept a private offer of help.

As far as human laziness contributes to the duplicated help requests - yes, I'm sure that there are people who simply open up a new thread rather than take the time to do a search and sift through the results. But right now there's no way to separate those people from the ones who did do one or more searches before posting and either couldn't find what they were looking for, or didn't understand what they found.

Implementing the suggestion from earlier in this thread of a Help Ticket system - and adding in an interstitial FAQ or answer database -  might help with that. I'm sure most of us have used the Customer Service page of a website that first asks for the nature of your problem in 10 words or fewer, and when you type that in, it brings up a page of possible basic problems that may correspond to yours (all clickable links, so if you see your problem, you can click on it and go straight to a solution page). If your specific problem isn't there, then the website provides a "My problem isn't here" link which you can click on to go to a page that has a list of more advanced or in-depth problems (all clickable, leading to solution pages).  And if you still can't find your specific problem, then you get to the page where you can contact the company. Perhaps SMF could bring in something like that - initial request for help brings up a page with big list of basic problems about SMF (with name of problem being clickable and leading to a solution page). Problem not found, next click brings up a page with big list of more detailed/advanced/in-depth problems. Problem still not found, member can file a Help Ticket. Under ideal circumstances, that would mean the SMF help team would only be responding to members who honestly could not find their problem listed on the basic or advanced page.

Offline KGIII

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Re: How can we improve the support process?
« Reply #95 on: April 30, 2007, 05:41:41 PM »
Not sure if you guys are looking for replies from SMF end users, this thread reads more like a brainstorm session for the SMF support team...but here I go :P

Perfect and thank you. While it may LOOK like that we are taking YOUR ideas and trying to mesh them with what we see. What we are looking for IS exactly that - we want YOUR ideas. We don't get to see it as an end user. (Though most of us started that way actually.)

To try to put it into perspective... You can ask, "How can I show a guest certain information?"

To which I could easily respond, "Search and you shall find."
Or I could respond, "echo the context?"
Or I can type, again, "the code is if $context(['user']['is_guest']) echo ' **** '; and where the **** is your HTML" which I have typed a million times.

The first is not good.
The second is worse.
The third is better but will baffle a newbie.

(I am kind of touching on all of your responses at once.)

The search results... HOPEFULLY slated to be worked on. There seem to be ISSUES with the search results so, yes, that and, HOPEFULLY, we'll find a way to include a way to help people search effectively.

Another is the, and bear with me, professionalism of the support provided. We, and I include me in this, have been known to give an answer that is easy for one of us to comprehend but not so easy for other people. On the other side of that is that if we give one that is too simplistic then it becomes as if we are "speaking down to the person."

With the ending of your last post, well, that seems like a great idea but we have multiple languages AND people seeking to ask for help in languages they don't speak well. I have to wonder where that would go... *sighs*

In other words - we don't have the answers and, yes, we are discussing this openly as a community not just as a team and yes VERY MUCH SO we want your input. Thank you VERY much for taking the time to write all that and please DO feel free to join in on the conversation as it progresses. I'd love to see this topic stay "live" and evolve. That way, hopefully, improvements are on-going.
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Offline margarett

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Re: How can we improve the support process?
« Reply #96 on: April 30, 2007, 06:26:36 PM »
I agree with some of Blackhawk40's ideas. Yes, sometimes it can be hard to understand certain answers from the team. True.

But it's also true that if you (please note that "you" is here a generic person) are not familiar with ftp for instance, you should *try* to learn a bit how to use it.
If the support team has to explain how to ftp and edit your files... Well, then the team may have 3 times extra members :P
The same for php editing. Most of the times it's like: search *code* add after *code*
All I learned for php (and you can be shure its just a little little bit) was modding and upgrading phpBB and now SMF. And I can assure you I am no Einstein :P

Your example for languages is nice, but you sure agree that is not for a newbie. A newbie will not want to play with language files (except for MODs, but here will be search *code* add *code* :) )

As for your oppinion on search, very nice ;) props

I would suggest some guides for the common things. I wrote a guide for manual MOD installation for my language. Used a bit of the "official" guide, but used my own text, screenshots, examples, etc. It produces a more "simple" guide, and nice for users who are not comfortable with english.
For english, well, there is the docs page. But (most) people are lazy to read it :P
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Offline KGIII

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Re: How can we improve the support process?
« Reply #97 on: April 30, 2007, 06:42:00 PM »
To touch on the above... A newbie MAY have to play with those because they use alternative languages and the package manager makes it so easy to use modifications that few can resist the lure.
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Offline Blackhawk40

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Re: How can we improve the support process?
« Reply #98 on: April 30, 2007, 09:10:37 PM »
But it's also true that if you (please note that "you" is here a generic person) are not familiar with ftp for instance, you should *try* to learn a bit how to use it. If the support team has to explain how to ftp and edit your files..
I do see your point, but I believe you may not have considered that the vast majority of end users choose SMF based on only 2 things: it's free of charge and it's reliable. I think you will find that the majority of people who are new to SMF are as gobsmacked as I was to find out there are such things as FTP, cPanel, .php scripting, etc. that go along with SMF (and no, I did not choose SMF for my website, the previous admin did. Not to say that I wouldn't have chosen SMF had I been in charge at the time, just saying that when I took the website over, I was completely unaware that I would have to be dealing with FTP, etc.) And I do agree to a point that people should be self-educating. But if, through total lack of practical experience with SMF, FTP, etc., a member can't understand the online manual, and can't understand what the help team member has just said, and knows just enough to know that messing about with things on their own can be fatal to their website - then that member doesn't, IMO, have a lot of opportunity to learn.

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A newbie will not want to play with language files
May not want to, agreed, but sometimes circumstances dictate otherwise. My site's language files did not get properly updated during the upgrade from 1.0.9 to 1.1.2 and I didn't have the faintest idea how to fix them. Meaning...I had to play with language files. And then beg BlackMage to fix them for me  :P

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As for your oppinion on search, very nice ;) props
Thank you  :)

Offline 青山 素子

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Re: How can we improve the support process?
« Reply #99 on: April 30, 2007, 09:32:19 PM »
But if, through total lack of practical experience with SMF, FTP, etc., a member can't understand the online manual, and can't understand what the help team member has just said, and knows just enough to know that messing about with things on their own can be fatal to their website - then that member doesn't, IMO, have a lot of opportunity to learn.

Considering FTP is basically needed for uploading other files to a website (leaving out web upload scripts for now), unless the user is running just a forum, I would hope they have some experience with FTP, even if it was just through a tool like Dreamweaver or similar.

I may sound elitist, but if a user is that scared of messing up their site that they can't be bothered to learn, they aren't the right person to be running it and should find someone to manage things for them and maybe offer some in-person training.

Computing has become much much easier than what it used to be (anyone regularly use command-line FTP any more?), but it still requires something of a skillset. People have to learn how to operate other things, why should websites be any different? Maybe we could, however, point to or create some good general tutorials?
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