On our support

One of the most important things of managing a software product is the support provided. I take the issues users have with ecto very personal, maybe a little bit too much. For me and Alex, support is crucial and we allocate plenty of time for it daily. After all, don't we all want users to be happy?

We provide support via our user forum or via email (using the contact form). Alex deals with the Windows related issues and I handle all Mac topics. We usually respond in less than a day. I actually check up on the forum every hour, so I might be even quicker. The more serious the issue, the faster we respond. In addition to forum and email, I also keep track of any issues that users blog and have been picked up by Technorati.

If a bug in ecto is found, we fix it. Serious fixes are released as an official upgrade, but smaller fixes appear as latest builds. This way, we do not have to bother every user with a new version and yet keep those affected happy. I have found, however, that about 90% of the issues on our plate actually concerns the blog systems themselves. For example, incorrect settings, permissions, missing files, broken XML-RPC and so forth. Most of this we can deal with right away without referring the user to the appropriate support site of their blog system. If it is an issue that needs to be fixed by the blog system, we also contact them directly. Sometimes the response is swift, sometimes we need to push it. WordPress has been quick to fix the issues that arose with the 1.5.1.3 issue. Just now Expression Engine staff has been very helpful dealing with a user issue.

Trying to determine a cause can be hard at times. The 500 errors MovableType users bumped into (including Joi and me) was only tracked down after extensive communication with Brad Choate, who certainly is a tremendous MT expert, and Boris Anthony, who spent a lot of time narrowing the possibilities.

Having a good communication with blog system developers is important for those developing blog clients. After all, the only way a blog client can work is if the server can talk to it. A great number of bloggers use a client, so for blog system developers it is also important to make sure their product works with blog clients. I would like to take this opportunity to give special thanks to developers like Ryan Boren, Brad Choate, David Czarnecki, Wouter Demuynck, Allen Hutchison, Steve Jenson, Steve Simitzis, Michael Sippey, James Walker (who are all obviously prolific bloggers themselves). Good communication builds good products.

At the moment, one of the things I am working hard on, collaborating with Brent and Sarat, is to make a better rich text editor using editable WebKit. This is quite a big task and might take several more weeks. Once released, this hopefully deals with the issues users reported about the rich text editor. I might post some more technical stuff about this on my personal blog.

Technorati Tags: blogging, ecto, support

Posted by Adriaan on July 12, 2005 under topic "general "
Comments

You (and Alex) devote a tremendous amount of time troubleshooting ecto. Amazing really, how you find the time to, in effect, support every blog system and whatever issues come up in ecto to tweak, while still having real jobs, families, etc. I subscribe to a RSS feed for the support forums, just to see if I can ever jump in and help somebody. Not once have I been able to reply to something I can answer, there is always already a response there.

I wish all of my software vendors were as responsive as ecto's (or Brent's NetNewswire). For instance, Now Contact charges $25 per problem for support, they aren't alone in this gouging, not to mention they never can actually fix anything.

Posted by: Seth Anderson at July 16, 2005 1:13 PM
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