Looking for feedback on the new “tech support” system

August 22, 2007

I’ve been agonizing over the past few days, about how to design and explain the new tech support system. I’ve been trying to reduce complexity, make it really simple for both people to ask questions, and for volunteers to assist in answering them.

Here is a screen picture of the current help page, as it sits on my wee laptop here in Stockholm (where I’m working on BookMooch). This is actually my 6th complete rethink


Here are a bunch of questions I have for my fellow moochers:

1) Will the question “Are you a guru” scare you away from looking at the new questions to see if you can answer them, thinking that you’re not really a guru, just an average person. Or, do you think it’s fun, and will look at the questions to assess your skill level, and then feel flattered that because you can answer some of them, other people see you as a guru?

2) I decided against a “ticket system” where there are “open tickets” and tickets are “closed”. In my experience, there is lots of confusion as to when a question is really fully answered, and frustration when a tech support person “closes” a ticket that the question-asker doesn’t feel was adequately answered. Instead, I was planning on a web-forum type of view, simply listing the questions you have asked, sorted most-recent-first. When someone answers your questions, you receive a copy of the answer by email, so you don’t have to check the page often. Besides “questions” and “answers from gurus” seems a lot more friendly sounding (and clear) than a “tech support ticket tracking system”. Is everyone ok with that?

3) You will be expected to leave a small tip when someone volunteers to answer your question. Since there is no “close this ticket” concept, I was thinking that there simply will be a link on the bottom of the email answer, and on the web page, that says “Did this answer your question? If so, be nice and tip this person for helping you!” And, the guru will have the option to send a “reminder” asking if the question has been answered to your satisfaction, and hint, hint, maybe perhaps a small tip would be nice.

4) I’m hoping that most questions can & will be answered by non-administrators, and that this will be a good way for people to earn mooch points, by helping others. Of course, even gurus will have to stay within the 5:1 mooch ratio, no matter how many points they’re given.

5) I don’t yet know how many volunteer administrators we’ll need, and for now, I’m thinking that the current administrators can “tap people on the shoulder” who they think are particularly clever and trustworthy moochers.

6) is “Help newbies!” offensive to people asking questions? Obviously, many questions won’t be from new users, but I thought I’d (ahem) try to be funny.

7) I’m not really happy with the buttons “browse” or “follow up” on the “Are you a guru” section

8 ) I was thinking of moving the “how it works” text to another page, but it’s really important, however it does really clutter up the page. It could be moved entirely to the [?] help links, if uhm, anyone ever clicks on those.

Other thoughts welcome!

For those of you who are curious, here are two documents I’ve been tinkering with, showing various other ways of designing the help. The web page picture is what the help page looked like this morning, and the other document is an outline of various ways to organize and explain it all.

Help2 Help1

14 Responses to “Looking for feedback on the new “tech support” system”

  1. Michael said


    Have you considered integrating the wiki in some manner as a repository for FAQs?

    I would imagine that there’s going to be plenty of overlap among questions, and perhaps people could use the wiki as a repository for archiving (and improving upon) existing answers.

    Obviously, this needs to be thought out more, but I think you’d like to avoid different volunteers all writing up their own version of an answer to a similar question.


  2. Kirk said

    I don’t like guru; how about power user?

    As for a ticket system, we need that for “real” tech support, but for basic questions, we can certainly do without it. How about bumping questions up to a ticket-based system if regular users can’t answer them?

    I also think abuse should be treated separately, but this will alleviate a lot of the work admins do with abuse and support questions that have simple answers.

  3. Mark Williams said

    Hi John — good idea to expand the help system as newbies often do need quite a bit of help, and I’m sure the four admins are stretched to their limits, or soon will be as bookmooch continues to grow…

    1. “Guru” is a good label, I think most would find it fun! Other possible terms: super-moocher (people call me that sometimes, makes me smile:) , power-user, senior moocher, etc…

    2. Sounds like you have experience with ticket system, either way sounds fine to me.

    3. I actually don’t think the ‘tip’ will be needed. I know that I enjoy helping newbies as do other experienced users I know, and that we see it as a small way of giving back to the bookmooch community. Moreover, we often have quite a few extra points, while the newbies are poorest in points (I remember those days, with wishlisted books popping up and no points…) Perhaps try the system sans ‘tipping’ as see how it works. Or allow some to opt out of it, if you have enough points and would feel bad about taking more from newbies.

    4. Yes, I think many of us can easily answer the majority of newbie questions (the exception being specific tech issues such as those related to the recent outages). The Wiki is helpful and should perhaps be more prominently presented to newbies as well.

    5. Yes, some of us know the current admins well and have developed areas were we are specialists of a kind, so this sounds like a good start.

    6. “Newbies” is widely used, I would be surprised to find that the term offends, most welcome identifying as such as it encourages others to help them out.

  4. isa said

    Some initial reactions:

    – I’m fine with “gurus” or “power users”, though I confess to liking the former a tad better.
    – I fear that the use of “newbies” might make some more long-term users feel they shouldn’t be asking questions.
    – I do like questions and answers instead of a ticket system. There’s nothing so irritating as having a ticket closed when one party still has questions.
    – It’s important for FAQ/Search Answers/Wiki sorts of links to be available on the Q&A page. This could be done by a “Help” button at the top of the page, perhaps? (Along with “inventory”, “pending”, etc.)
    – There will be a way to *Search* the Q&A, right?
    – There’s no context, really, to tell me what the “Follow Up” button will do. Will it take me to a list of questions to which I’ve already responded?
    – Tips: Enh. Well, I suppose it’d be nice. I’d prefer the suggestion be in increments of .1 point. This might be my library service background coming out, granted, wherein I hate to see *any* barriers to folks asking questions.

    I’m more likely to answer questions here than in the very conversational forums, though I do follow along there. I’m glad you are working on this. Sorry I don’t have the time right now for more involved feedback 🙂

  5. Marilyn Southmayd said

    1) I don’t really think any of us think of ourselves as Guru’s but I could live with that title as long as I knew what it meant and could help others.

    2) Not using the ticket system sounds fine to me. Of course, I would think that the people that have been doing the admin up until now would be able to answer that better.

    Marilyn from Freer, TX, USA

    3) The idea of did this answer your question and the tip sound like a good idea. This way, people would know that the question has been answered and not spin their wheels giving the same answer. How much of a donation are we talking about. Newbies will be low on points and won’t be able to ask questions and mooch books too. This would put a hardship on them and they would be afraid to ask questions.

    6) “Help Newbies!”? I don’t know. Yes, we have had a lot of newbies ask questions in the discussion forum but it is surprising how many are people who have been on BM for a while and just can’t seem to remember where they saw whatever. I think that just plain old “HELP!!!!!” would be fine.

  6. Mikko said

    I think someone, Erin I think, had a good idea on the forums: instead of tips, reward people who answer with stars on their account or something.

    BoardGameGeek has this: if you upload images, write reviews, make GeekLists or so, you get these symbols. First you get a copper thumb for what, 10 reviews, then silver thumb for 50 reviews and gold thumb for 100 reviews. That’s a nice reward for participating. (They do pay GeekGold, their virtual currency for all contributions, too.)

  7. John,

    If answers to frequently asked questions were readily available to people it might alleviate the need for a new system. If people with questions were directed to ask on the forum (after checking the FAQ) it might also alleviate the need. I suppose the fact that their email address is published when they post on the forum dissuades a lot of people from posting.

    I don’t see the tipping concept as an improvement. When someone asks a question on the forum people are glad to answer the question for free, and the hundreds or thousands of forum lurkers benefit from the answers as well as the asker. So if members with questions are directed to read common questions and answers, and then to ask new questions on the forum, would there be a need for a new system? I see tipping as a way to pay for an answer and avoid publishing your address on the forum.

    I don’t see any mention of how to report problems or bugs, so I assume you’re treating those as questions. If I don’t receive my forum daily digest, should I have to pay an admin to get the digest delivered? If the system doesn’t award me a point when someone mooches from me, or loses my account, or won’t let me log on — should I have to pay someone to correct the system error?

    So I don’t really understand the need. Questions other members can answer are answered for free on the forum and problems that require admin help probably shouldn’t have to be paid for. I’m talking out of ignorance though. I don’t have the facts you have regarding the numbers and types of incoming questions.

    With the proposed system, if I had a question I would ask the forum and if I had a system problem I wouldn’t expect to have to pay for a solution. In other words I doubt if I’d use the system.

    I do see the need for a very-accessible, maintained repository of questions and answers, broken into categories for easy reference. A searchable repository of questions and answers would be even better. It really hurt the usefulness of the forum when the search range was restricted a few weeks ago. (Yes, we noticed. ) I understood the need for the restriction, but it’s a shame. Now previous answers can’t be searched for and linked to in current answers, so the same questions must be answered repeatedly.

    I’m sorry to sound like a party pooper. I don’t mean to. I’m just sharing my thoughts as you requested.


  8. Some thoughts:

    1) yes, the wiki already holds a BM FAQ, and the plan is for that to be expanded once everyone can help with tech support. I like the idea of suggesting that well answered questions become part of the wiki. I’m not sure yet how to do that, but it’s a good idea.

    2) “guru” is going to stay for now, since most people are ok with it. I really don’t like “power user” — a “user” has connotations of someone who does drugs, or doesn’t reciprocate favors, it’s not a nice word. And “power”, well that’s just too alpha. I was also thinking of “Are you a Master of Mooch? If so, help others!”

    3) “tipping” is not going to be part of the initial version, since people think the quesions will get answered without needing it, it would be a disincentive for newbies to ask questions, and newbies are the ones with the least points

    3) I’ve been thinking about a new concept called “vibes”, and you can accumulate “good vibes” by doing good things, like helping answer people’s questions (in response to the GeekGold comment).

    4) “abuse reports” will be handled separately, in the manner they have been so far, but eventually they’ll migrate to a private version (admins only) of the q&a system, once it has enough features to handle that usage.

    5) yes, you’ll be able to search Q&A. I’ll have links to that on the “ask a question” page – I wanted to keep the main page uncluttered.

    6) “There’s no context, really, to tell me what the “Follow Up” button will do. Will it take me to a list of questions to which I’ve already responded” — yes, that is what that button will do, and your question makes me think that the button is poorly worded.

    7) I’ve thought about gold/silver labels for helpful people, and I may go there. A variation on the whimsical royal system of hierarchy, ie “Duke of Mooch”, and “Prince of Mooch”, etc… but there’s only one “King of Mooch” (me)


  9. I had one other idea last night, that of “Adopt a newbie”

    This is where an experienced moocher has said “ask me anything, anytime you need to know about BookMooch, I’ll help you out”

    How this could play out is simply when you ask a new question, there is a drop down for “Who do you want to ask to answer this question?” and the choices are the previous people who have answered your questions or “let anybody answer my question”.

    It is an extra complexity and choice for the question-asked, but perhaps it’d be nice for someone to offer to help out a newbie, and form a closer bond with them, rather than always letting just-anyone answer each question.


  10. Kirk said

    I don’t think “user” is a problem; it’s a common enough computer term.

    As for the royalty thing, I think it might be misconstrued, as in some people being better than others – the princes and duchesses, for example, being at a higher level of standing, not just knowledge.

    Maybe a military metaphor? Sergeant, captain, etc?

  11. Margot said

    I, for one, am lagging behind on working on the wiki. Demands for help from a user are much more pressing and would prompt an immediate reply. Then, having made the reply, it should be pretty easy to just copy and refine it to the wiki.

    I’m fine with Guru because I’m only going to pretend to be one when I know the answer, a sort of Guru-in-this-instance. Yes, sort of a fun test.

    As for newbies, it isn’t derogatory, but as someone said, might put off older users. How about: Are You a Guru? Help Here! or Help Another Member!

    While I originally thought that tipping was a neat idea, I have shifted my view in response to the objections. Not necessary.

    I agree with Kirk about the royal titles, but I don’t think military ones are much better. Stars or vibes are better. (And I finally listened to DAOMK. 🙂 )

    I think the service would be as good or better without assigning Gurus to newbies. That way, anyone who knows the answer can volunteer and the system doesn’t get hung up with Life Happens.

    And as for how many volunteers you’ll need or having Admins give a tap on the shoulder, I bet if you set up the system, most of the experienced people on the forum will automatically participate when they have time.

    Which has just led me to another way of dealing with the questions. If the forum were separated into topics, the whole question would probably go away. Separate forums for Special Offers, Postage Discussions, What’s Your (Favourite, Worst, Most Obscure, Whatever), and Help!

    That’s how the tech forums I’m on work and I get answers there faster than I ever get them from Tech Support

  12. Hope said

    Re the labelling for the “Follow Up” button, what about something like [REVIEW QUESTIONS ANSWERED] or [GURU’S PREVIOUS ANSWERS] or “[REVIEW] answers you have given already”. I take it , from your comments, that the guru can only see his or her own answers, not any other gurus replies? That is, that it is tied to the BookMooch member’s own profile and login.


    Re the existing contextual help button that sends you to the relevant bit of the wiki. I’m ashamed to say I often forget the button is there, and open a new tab and key in the URL…. Oops!

    I conclude that I am simply used to looking at 5 zones of the screen only, and looking at particular fixed points on the screen for those zones. So, the member home area is quartered into: a zone about finding and listing books (NW on the compass); a zone about charity, help/forums and bits about your accounts (SW); a zone about your stats and links to the corresponding pages e.g. feedback (NE); a zone about news (which I look when I’m not feeling busy) (SE). There is then a separate 5th zone – that is the row of buttons or tabs and the search panel. I think my eyeline/focus must stop at the thin coloured line under those tabs/buttons….

    I think maybe I just miss discreet, isolated buttons, or maybe that I scan the screen, and read only selected areas?

  13. Kathy said

    Two thoughts:
    1. I like “guru” or “super-user” (brings to mind ‘super-fun’ ‘super-neat’) as both sound friendly – and the friendly feel is the main reason I chose bookmooch over similar websites.

    2. I know little to nothing about computer programing, so maybe this suggestion is ridiculous because it would require too much programming, but here goes: One of the things I find most frustrating about forums is that the sort order of most recent answer to oldest answer. You are stuck reading through the entire clump of posts in order to find the answer that is the most useful. Amazon seems to have this new feature where the most useful reviews (the ones w/most stars) are always posted at the beginning, and the most recent posts are off to the side. Perhaps something similar could be implemented? Or, at the very least, can the owner of the question but a big star by the most helpful answer that would be there for all future readers of prior questions to see? That way we could always know to go to the answer with the star first and it would just be a matter of scrolling down until the star was spotted.

    3. This isn’t really a comment, but I stumbled across this site a few months ago and I was SO excited. And then the experience of using the site exceeded my expectations! Suddenly my weird books that the VA or library or thrift store didn’t really want were finding good homes with people who DID want to read them. That means a lot to me. And, when I stumbled across this blog last week, I realized what a big commitment and endeavor this was for you – there was an actual person behind this great site. So, you deserve a big thank you, and here it is:

  14. barbara j. rios said

    I joined a couple of weeks ago and the concept is so wonderful that I passed it along to many friends. But now I find that your “system” is getting way too complicated. I don’t understand much of the computer language anyway, (cache, browser, server, etc) are all terms too new for oldsters like me to understand. I’ve been a “book person” including as an English Major in college, a self-published poet, a law librarian, and now a retired avid reader. But I find that you are complicating your wonderful idea with too many “improvements” and probably making your own life very complicated as well. Couldn’t you just get really, really simple and not try to do too much with your amazing and fun idea? Maybe simplify your life, as well.

    Best wishes.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: