Not entirely supportable

by Michael S. Kaplan, published on 2005/06/03 01:00 -04:00, original URI:

The following is a true story. I did omit one of the names to protect myself, though. :-)

I remember a conversation I had several years ago with _ࢁࢁࢁࢁࢁ_ࢁࢁࢁࢁࢁ_ (then just a lowly product manager, now a director -- which I admit makes me feel quite old), just after the midnight eviction (for lack of a better term) when Microsoft left the CompuServe support fora....

Keep in mind that WAS a case of Microsoft completely dropping one support avenue in favor of another, before Product Support (then known as PSS!) even had tools to work with newsgroups. I was not really important enough then (nor frankly now) to know exactly what happened, but I am sure everyone had their reasons. I honestly do not know if Microsoft "quit or got fired" in that situation....

Anyway, this guy was going on about how impressed he was at the technical acumen of the customers in the new Microsoft newsgroups, and the fact that that they seemed so much more technically knowledgable than the folks did in the old CIS fora.

I pointed out to him that the reason for the change was almost certainly that many of those longtime customers could not even get online (which was very true, back then), let alone into newsgroups. With only a beta version of 'Athena' (an early Microsoft NNTP reader) as a tool, we were not giving customers a good way to get there. Unless they were more sophisticated.

ࢁࢁࢁࢁࢁ stopped, looked thoughtful, and said "Oh yeah, you may have a point there. We should get the FAQ out right away about how to get to all of the new Microsoft resources online!"

"And where would we put that FAQ?" I asked, knowing he would fall into the small verbal trap I had just set.

"On the website!" he exclaimed.

I just looked at him quietly and waited. He did not understand what was making me try so hard not to smile, then suddenly he did. And he looked really embarassed when he realized the non-theoretical problems with posting the "how to get online" FAQ and then putting it online....

Not the most supportable position to be in, is it? :-)

# Steven Don on 3 Jun 2005 12:58 AM:

Have you ever tried calling the helpdesk for an ISP? Since they're usually understaffed, there's always a wait before your call gets answered by an actual person. In the meantime, they will have a recorded message playing that tells you to check their website. Great... now I was calling you about not being able to get online.

Another example can be given simply by mentioning a filename: PKUNZIP.ZIP

# Larry Osterman [MSFT] on 3 Jun 2005 1:14 AM:

What fonts are required to read your posts? I've got CODE2000 and the various asian packs installed but I'm STILL getting squares on about 2/3s of your posts...

# Michael S. Kaplan on 3 Jun 2005 1:17 AM:

Larry, Larry -- those were intentional "non-characters", things not assigned in Unicode at all. Kind of the geeky Unicode equivalent of that black circle that hides witnesses?

I wanted to protect the identity of that former product manager!

# TAG on 3 Jun 2005 1:44 AM:

Hmm .. Now we can suspect all and any of directors at Microsoft on been lame to not realise that it's hard to get online ;-)

# Michael S. Kaplan on 3 Jun 2005 1:54 AM:

Well, it wouldn't apply anymore -- people who know how to use CIS who do not know how to use the Internet? Such people no longer exist!!!

# TAG on 3 Jun 2005 6:20 AM:

"know how to use CIS who do not know how to use the Internet"

Why such a tricky condition ?
Does it mean that nobody now know how to use CIS ?
Or it mean that there are some people who still does not know how to use Internet ?

# Michael S. Kaplan on 3 Jun 2005 6:31 AM:

The original premise was someone claiming there was this old group that seems less sophisticted than the new group.

And I pointed out that reason was that no one knew how to migrate.

We do not have such a condition today -- there is a web interface to the newsgroups, using CIS means knowing how to use your browser, and everyone who has a computer has a zillion ways to get to the web.

Now the whole problem could have been solved if he has said "we could post the FAQ on CompuServe in all of those old fora we left." But I knew that since the default answer was alwys to 'put it on the website' that this would be the quick answer given. :-)

# Maurits [MSFT] on 3 Jun 2005 5:56 PM:

In the manual
In the physical software package as an insert
As a public-service-annoucement in a computer magazine

# Michael S. Kaplan on 3 Jun 2005 10:14 PM:

Hey Maurits -- Not so much in this case. The product was already bought, and they had a support mechanism they knew and understood. There is no product or place to put it that is guaranteed to hit the old customers except for the old place? :-)

# Maurits [MSFT] on 4 Jun 2005 12:57 AM:

Well, I did say "also"... :)

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