Standing in the street trying to hear yourself think

Onno Benschop onno at
Thu Jul 9 00:13:26 UTC 2009

On 09/07/09 01:28, C de-Avillez wrote:
> I can see something like this working -- as long as the requester gets
> paired with one single person, in a PVT IRC session (or something
> similar). If we just drop the requester into, say, the #ubuntu channel,
> then we will not have accomplished anything.

My experience in this scenario is that if you go down the path of
individual pairing that paired support person becomes the single contact
point for that user from then on. It happens today when a support
request gets resolved the user comes back with "while you're here", or
"can I ask you this in private", or "you helped me so much yesterday,
can I ask you another question" or any number of variations on that.

While in itself rewarding, I find myself avoiding the channel for the
next week because I'm someone's "new best friend" - which is not
constructive, nor is it productive.

The fundamental issue I think that exists is that everyone's an expert.
My 73 year old mother in law is running Hardy on her laptop. Yesterday
she told me that there was a friend in the village where she lives who
is a computer expert who will help fix her printer problem. I hope that
she knows enough to know that formatting the hard drive and installing
Windows is not helping, and I know that she doesn't know the
administrator password, so "fixing" is strictly limited in scope, but
I'm not looking forward to Sunday Lunch a month from now if you know
what I mean. I'd love to come up with a support structure where her plan
of attack is not: "Reboot the computer, phone Onno"

The only way that I see out of that is to help users find out how to
help themselves. Mostly this is a confidence thing. Generally I install
Ubuntu in consultation with the user and explain to them that they have
not been given administrator rights until such time as they understand
what the implications are. I have several users who have progressed to
that stage, but others who will never get there.

In the mid-90's there was something called the International Computer
Drivers Licence, which had the notion that you could certify user
skills. Perhaps we could find ways of certifying or grading skill levels
and distribute the support load closer to the end user, rather than
centralise in one location.

I've been toying with the idea of starting a road-show that teaches
computer meta skills in small groups, face to face. The challenge for me
is to figure out how to deliver that and how to pay for it.

Onno Benschop

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