Arnt Gulbrandsen
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Lessening the support burden

Earlier this week I spoke to someone who had problems with support requests. More specifically, they seemed to spend a lot of time answering questions from users who don't think reading the howto page is worth their time.

In my experience, there are two great techniques for avoiding that fate. One is to put some code in the users' way. For example, this code investigates a particular error instead of merely reporting it to the user, and was written to block support requests. The other is to put the documentation itself in the users' way, even when the users look for it the wrong place. That's not difficult, it just demands humility, writing skill and now and then a bit of duplication.

A few minutes later I backed up my laptop, and happened to notice how my (technically fabulous) backup provider expresses 27 gigabytes:

What fool expects humans to read eleven-digit numbers? Why doesn't this cause a flood of mail from people who miscount by a digit and wonder why their bill is ten times too big?

The answer must be that the sales process weeds out most people. And I can imagine it does just that: would-be customers have to build the product from source, and must estimate how much it will cost based on prices given in picodollars.

I suppose I'm saying that if you can limit yourself to customers who are comfortable counting in picodollars, you won't have work hard to support the product.