Benjamin A. Okopnik
ben at linuxgazette.net
Sun Jan 22 19:29:41 MSK 2006
On Sun, Jan 22, 2006 at 07:32:57AM -0800, Rick Moen wrote:
> [Snipping querent]
> Quoting mikkel ketter (mketter at novolog.dk):
> > What can I say....you will not win a price in the support category.
> Gosh, it seems ages ago, someone among us said, about the tag@ mailing
> operationally, it's much more like a tech support ticket queue:
> people with questions open a ticket, and those of us who work that
> queue comment on it
> To which my immediate, unhesitating reply at the time was:
> Yes, precisely. Let's fix that.
> That above-cited commentator appears to agree with Mikkel
Perhaps, Rick - or perhaps not. I certainly don't agree with Mikkel's
/soi-disant/ reasoning, and I believe that Jay's phrasing it as "more like a ...
queue" conveys that it's _not_ a queue but only resembles it in a
certain manner. Mind you, I don't necessarily agree with that idea
either - I see Heather's coffee shop metaphor (i.e., a group discussion)
as more accurate - but to posit that Jay's comparison is the same as
Mikkel's broken perception is a bit harsh.
> That mental model is the only way some people (like Mikkel) are capable of
> conceptualising their encountering the technical user community: We're
> just one big technical support queue. He's paid good money for... um...
> something, he's sure, and now, dammit, the support dweebs have to do
> what they're paid for.
> And we're his support dweebs, today. _Lucky us._
And I agree that this is an accurate representation of Mikkel's actions.
The thing is, I don't see how any action on *our* part - to pick a
random example, making our archives public - is going to fix people's
attitudes. Bull-headed ignorance is a law unto itself, and will defend
its right to exist no matter what; Mikkel is a fine example of this.
Perhaps I'm wrong on this, but I decided a long time ago that I'm not
interested in sweeping the tide: the Mikkels of this world are not who
I'm speaking to when I write my articles, or answer questions here, or
put effort into producing LG. I'm speaking to the kind of people that
are in a place where I once was: ignorant *but eager to learn*.
> There's a funny thing about people's approach to fee-for-service
> assistance. I learned this in the consulting trade, and it's a really
> vital insight. Ready? It's this: once they fit you into that mental
> model, the less you charge, the less they value your assistance --
> because, in this model, things (and services) acquired are valued at
> acquisition cost. Ergo, if you're giving out _free_ technical support,
> then obviously what you're handing out is worthless.
> A consultant who is perceived as doing free (or cheap) service within a
> fee-for-service will be verbally abused, have his time wasted, and not
> have his work valued. By contrast, _within that mental model_,
> expensive assistance will be valued, the helper's time will not be
> wasted, etc.
[Nod] I remember when I discovered this, and it was a shock that took me
a while to get over - but once I was willing to examine those
interactions through that filter, they fit every single time. It's why I
tell people, right up front and without any mumbling, what my rates are;
even if they don't hire me, they'll just *know* that I'm the ultimate
techno-wizard and the last court of appeal if no one else can fix their
problem, without me ever having said a word about it.
> The open source community, by contrast, _doesn't use that mental model_.
> It has a radically different, fundamentally clashing, value system.
> Our experience conditions us to value assistance and understanding not
> at _acquisition cost_, but ratner at _usage value_ -- a dramatically
> different way of looking at the world.
> So, collisions between those dramatically different worldviews tend to
> be a little ugly, and they often involve someone like our little cretin
> friend Mikkel.
> The key to minimising those clashes is, for starters, to avoid
> volunteering to be an prize patsy and think of yourself as a free of
> charge "tech support queue". That's the barest beginning, so one
> starts there.
I've attempted to rectify that, via the TAG FAQ. Unfortunately - in yet
another example of bull-headed ignorance fiercely defending itself - the
very people that need it the most are the ones who are least likely to
> Instead, you establish loud and clear, with expectations of needing to
> deliver reality therapy on this point occasionally, that you are
> friggin' well NOT a tech support queue, but rather are a technical
> community. I personally will go miles out of my way to help build and
> perpetuate my technical community.
And this, in responding to Mikkel /et aliae/ - and publishing that
interaction - is what I'm trying my best to do. I don't know that
anything else makes sense, or would produce better results.
* Ben Okopnik * Editor-in-Chief, Linux Gazette * http://linuxgazette.net *
More information about the TAG