October 1st, 2003


Help Groups

So I've been playing around some with LiveJournal's support system. I suppose it's the support-staff mindset kicking in. :) No answers accepted yet, but it's been interesting to look at how they do things and how they're different from what I'm used to.

The setup is moderately clever; volunteers submit answers to any given question, which higher-ranked volunteers or real staff can then send; they pick the "first good answer", basically. The person who wrote that answer gets a Point (thus motivating people to do work), and the higher-rank people don't have to spend all their time writing the same thing over and over.

Plusses: ability to harness the energy of a whole pile of random users without having to expend a lot of energy managing and training them. Oversight of what eventually gets sent to the user.

Minusses: difficult go get feedback as to why an answer wasn't appropriate. Communication with users is still bottlenecked on higher-ranked people in the process. Presumably if enough low-ranked volunteers get the eps to become higher-ranked that there are an infinite quantity of them, it'd be difficult for new people to break in (but having enough people to do your work all the time is not really a major problem.)

The tone of the answers is very different than OLC or accounts or even -i/-c help. If something is covered in an FAQ, then send the link to the FAQ and don't restate the information. Don't try and start by getting more information about the details, try to give an answer based on the best guess. (I haven't seen any completely incoherent questions go by yet, but I have to assume if the user says "Thing broke! Not work!", someone has to ask for more information.) Don't speculate. Don't say things like "I hope this helps" because that admits that it might not help.

I see the reason that it's evolved to that tone, but it's still odd to me. Like being in England - same language, different culture. Interesting.
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