I used to marvel at the fact that when I asked a question on IRC, or a mailing list, I would, as often as not, get a response from the very person who wrote the software I was asking about.
That was a long time ago. The internet has gotten bigger, and, with that, the probability or ease of going straight to the source has diminished. Nowadays, not only are you likely to not be talking to the author, you’re also less likely to be talking to someone who knows anything at all. Often they tell you something that simply isn’t true, or is half-true or misleading. Usually this isn’t out of maliciousness, but just out of ignorance, and the imperfect transfer of knowledge in the form of tutorials written by people who themselves weren’t quite sure.
The same is true in the business world, of course. The larger a company gets, the less informed the tech support tends to be, until you get to a point where the front-line customer support are nothing more than note-takers for the folks who actually know something.
Unfortunately, being the hot-head that I am, this leads me to say unkind things about the entire company, because, to those of us who may our monthly dues and use your product, your customer support is the entire company.
You can have the most marvelous product in the world, but if your customer support reps are ignorant, belligerent, or even have bad grammar, we, your customers, make assumptions about your entire company based on that interaction.
I was very pleased to get a direct response from Jim Wong about my above-referenced posting. It’s fascinating to me that the very best way to get someone’s attention on today’s internet is to make a comment on MY site, or on Twitter, rather than on the site of the person I want to contact. I suppose this shouldn’t be unexpected — it’s much the same in the real world. An letter to the editor of the local newspaper gets more attention than a letter directly to the mayor’s office, when I’m disgruntled about city policy.
Fortunately, my opinion of a company can often be turned around by being contacted by the folks who *do* know something. It means a lot to me that the head of a company is aware of what’s being said about his company, and takes a proactive role in correcting misconceptions. It also helps when his answers make sense, and actually show an understanding of my questions.
Now, while I’m not sure that I feel the answer was the one that I want, I at least think that Jim understood the question, and had thought through the implications of his answer.