The meaning of the word 'unsupported'

by Michael S. Kaplan, published on 2005/08/21 16:05 -04:00, original URI: http://blogs.msdn.com/b/michkap/archive/2005/08/21/454247.aspx


You would think that I would need to go no further than dictionary.com to find out the meaning of the word unsupported:

adj 1: not sustained or maintained by nonmaterial aid; "unsupported accusations" [ant: supported]
2: not held up or borne; "removal of the central post left the roof unsupported" [ant:
supported]
3: not supported by written evidence; "unsupported accusations"

When one is referring to software, you could say that perhaps definition #2 is closest. But no one could doubt what you mean.

Well, I would have thought so.

In a past life, I was a consultant. And I did a lot of troubleshooting, and had to write a whole bunch of code. Now usually I did not bother trying to own the code since it was only useful in some specific situation anyway, but other times it would be generic tools or components that I would be using over and over again. I would not charge people the cost of developing the tool or code over and over again, but I would consider the time savings to be a benefit to being able to do the job faster.

A bunch of times I would take code samples and utilities that were generic enough for other people to use. Other times I would write stuff that I really wanted to see out in the wild and I would put it up there too. Occasionally, I would not have time to do the work on something that I really wanted to see out there, so I would pay someone else to do it. Occasionally I would post the hard work of some other developer in explaining a particular issue. I would put these things up on trigeminal.com for the common good, and with a simple principle -- they are all free, but they are also all unsupported.

I cannot claim I did this most of the time to even drum up consulting jobs, because I already had way more than  I could handle anyway. Such requests usually had to be politely turned down.

All of this was certainly not to be mean, but it was to help make sure that a (mostly) one-man company would not be bogged down in support requests for anything upon which I make no money.

Seems like a simple enough idea, right?

I even post it on the download page:

All of the utilities here are free and will always be free
however, they are unsupported. That's the nature of free tools.

It turns out that in the software world and today's internet, if you put out something that is "free, but unsupported" then most people assume that the definition is:

supported for answering specific questions or fixing specific problems or adding specific features, for free, where 'specific' is defined as 'something I need'

There is not a week that goes by that I do not get between 5 and 20 requests for help debugging a problem or adding a feature or explaining a bug, at least one or two of which are this problem (on the plus side, it has convinced me that the numbers they use to spout off about people who run MS Office in locked down corporate environments may be accurate; on the minus side, it is annoying to keep having to repeatedly answer the same question for something that is not my bug).

From now on, I am going to point people at this blog post. Perhaps that is a bit snarky, and I'll apologize for that, to all of those who deserve a snark-free response.

But the majority of these mails are for utilities (and occasionally small VB/VBA code snippets) written 3-7 years ago for different versions of products than they are currently being run upon.

They may work just fine and dandy. Or they may fail to work. If they do then I cannot promise that the Trigeminal Test team will work to verify the resport. I cannot guarantee that the Trigeminal Development Team will work to code the issue up. I cannot assure you that the Trigeminal Sustained Engineering Team will work to release a patched version or an update. I cannot pledge that the Trigeminal User Education Team will work to document this issue. And I cannot even ensure that the Trigeminal Product Support Team will be able to even answer the email that is sent in a timely manner (or even at all).

Because the Trigeminal Test team, Development Team, Sustained Engineering Team, User Education Team, and Product Support Team is me, and me alone.

For the official record, here is a list of known issues off of the top of my head, to save some time:

The utilities are there -- they are in fact the only way to do certain things:

Then it is pretty much the only way -- they are all features that could be added to various products, but none of them ever have been, yet, for the most part.

If you like 'em, use 'em. If not, then you can use something else. They are all free, though all unsupported -- and I can't really deal with email for them, anymore....


# Ivan on 21 Aug 2005 5:41 PM:

The home page says Trigeminal is a company, how can you work for/own/whatever for a software company, and work for another one (Microsoft) at the same time? or is it that page just out of date?

# Michael S. Kaplan on 21 Aug 2005 8:34 PM:

Hi Ivan -- The Soapbox article that is linked from the site explains all of that. :-)

referenced by

2006/06/11 Death of a Data Access Page Wizard

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