Wednesday, August 15, 2007

You can't get good help nowadays (A Rant)

I often have to deal with technical questions from users, and I must say, it's next to impossible to get good online help.

My case is probably unusual. Even years ago, when I called a helpdesk for support, I had already tried all the obvious solutions and had to slowly explain to the support person that, yes, I had rebooted and reinstalled and done all of his first five selections. I understand they need to go over these, however, and am pretty patient.

Now, however, it's hard to get actual manufacturer support. Some of this is understandable: if you're giving away software for free, you don't want to hire people to tell people that you have to actually click on the icon to install the program.

The trouble is when you have a very technical problem. Without formal help, you're stuck with a discussion board. With me, you get two types of answers:
  1. Answers that solve a problem I haven't asked about. The responder picked out a couple of words from my post and wrote some answer.
  2. Dead silence.

If there's anything technical, you're on your own. I recently was looking for a way to push out iTunes (good software, but it has another peeve of mine: software that thinks it knows better than you do what you want) and needed to know where certain configuration data resided. The boards at Apple were no help, and I finally had to check with trial and error (and some nice freeware that I discovered) to figure out the information. What should have taken me a day if a real technician were involved took me over a week to track down.

I don't know if there is an answer, but it would be nice if software companies put a technical manual online that indicates what files are created and changed during installation and what data resides in them. It'd also be nice if the date were readable and editable.