Tech support

Paul Gear paul at
Mon Sep 13 00:47:13 BST 2010

On 12/09/10 10:16, Ian Fleming wrote:
> I notice tech support seems to be encouraged in this mailing list. I 
> can appreciate that there will be Australian specific issues from time 
> to time, but seriously there are other channels for this [1] as well a 
> official Ubuntu IRC rooms, Launchpad Questions, Ubuntu forums and so 
> on......
> Now instead of bickering over Linux reboots why don't we reboot the 
> loco and get some proper communications/work in this list.
> ...

On 12/09/10 20:39, Ian Fleming wrote:
> ...
> I see tech support in the mailing list and can not help but think that
> it is a little odd. For example when one browses the mailing list, one
> has to wade through all the tech support threads to find anything of
> substance.
> What if activity on both fronts increase.
> More over I personally think its a bad look for the Australian Ubuntu
> Loco. Very very disorganised.
> Im reluctant to add *tech support in mailing list* to the agenda for
> Tuesday nights meeting, maybe just a quick focus on it to get the
> impression of those present.

Hi Ian,

(My intent with this message is to be polite and respectful in tone, 
whilst disagreeing firmly and persuasively.  My language often fails me 
in this respect, so my apologies in advance if this is one of those 
times... :-) )

I must confess a little perplexity on my part at what you're saying and 
the motivations behind it.  Here are a few questions that i hope will 
help me to understand you better:

    * In what way are tech support threads not something of substance?
    * What matters would qualify as something of substance in your mind?
    * How does talking about technical issues show disorganisation?
    * I assume by "bickering over Linux reboots" you're referring to my
      reply to Ana on Saturday:

>     3. Personally, i don't find that a reboot fixes much with wireless
>     stuff on Linux, so i would use that as a last resort.  In general,
>     you should only need to reboot Linux when there's a kernel update,
>     or certain other core software (update manager will tell you when
>     it's necessary).
    How does this qualify as "bickering"?  (Unless you are conflating
    this with my teasing of Ryan on IRC - in which case, read the
    smilies a bit more...)

I would argue that technical support on a local forum is /exactly/ the 
right place for it because:

    * *High-volume forums **are not newbie friendly*.  I cannot
      emphasise how important i feel this is.  Having to wade through a
      large quantity of unfamiliar jargon words in a high-volume forum
      is likely to cause non-technical people who are making the switch
      to Ubuntu to give up and go elsewhere quickly.
    * High-volume forums are also not friendly to experienced users. 
      Those of us who try to answer questions on limited time are more
      likely to do so in an environment which does not require large
      overheads in order to stay current.  I can only speak for myself,
      but at the moment i'm subscribed to about 30 different mailing
      lists via, about the same number of technical RSS feeds
      in my feed reader, as well as visiting about 6-7 low-volume IRC
      channels regularly.  Between my regular clients (who keep me busy
      for 4 work days per week) and those communication forums, my
      technical bandwidth is pretty full.  The problem is also
      compounded for me by the fact that i'm a generalist and my time is
      directed by my clients to their points of need, which can vary
      from minute to minute.  I realise that my experience is not
      normative, but i'm sure it's fairly normal for a consultant
      working with local SMBs (perhaps Dave Hall can comment further). 
      (I'm sure this logic would not apply to domain experts in
      particular technologies, but they seem to be fairly thin on the
      ground in Ubuntu-AU...)  If i had to use high-volume lists &
      channels to make a contribution, my contributions would be far
      less.  (Not to mention that web-based forums like
      make me want to grind my teeth in frustration.)
    * Shared language, vocabulary, and local idioms mean that
      communication breakdown is less likely in a local forum than an
      international one.  (It might be argued that the struggle of
      expressing oneself in an international forum is worth the pain,
      but i think the responsibility for that needs to fall with those
      of us who are more experienced on the technical side of things,
      not those who might be struggling already with technical problems
      on their computer.)
    * Sharing technical problems in a local forum means that we are far
      more likely to be able to refer people to someone who can actually
      help them in person, which is almost always more conducive to
      learning and problem solving than the to and fro of a mailing list
      or IRC channel.
    * Most tools for viewing the mailing list (Mozilla Thunderbird &
      other MUAs, Mailman archives, Google Groups) are threaded and
      those who are not interested technical threads can skip them
      easily and quickly.

I am unapologetic about approaching this issue from the perspective of 
making it practical for non-technical people who are switching to Ubuntu 
from proprietary operating systems to participate in the local community 
and get real help.  I understand that those who want to present an image 
of a professional, unified loco team to the Ubuntu powers-that-be might 
have a different take on it.


P.S.  A simple answer to your question "What if activity on both fronts 
increase[s?]" would be that if the need arises we could split the 
mailing list into two: one for technical questions and one for general 
coordination.  I can't see that happening any time soon, personally.

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