A good support channel involves the ability to recognise when failures occur as a responsibility of the technician or moderator involved. The real dilemma is to differentiate between the information involved in a rant and to be able to glean the valuable support information out of someone who may be have stresses and serious problems with the systems implement.
Over the last few months, I've been noticing a subtle trend growing across the Joomla! Official Community forums. Certain topics are not discussed. Certain feedback is not welcome. The messenger is being at fault for the message.
I have tracked two unique instances of this predatory behaviour by the moderators of the Joomla! community.
The first instance was with daestrom, who posted on the Design and Accessibility forum, regarding the failure of Joomla! as an open source CMS as given in review by Joe Clark.
The second happened yesterday, with a stressed user who was having problems with the continual version upgrades needed to keep Joomla! tableless and accessible. Having a tabless design falls under the jurisdiction of the Design & Accessibility moderators and Working Group and the associated lack of innovation towards a web standards compliant CMS.
In both cases, threads and users were shown the door in a way that would make commercial predatory software organisations, such as Microsoft and the BSA, proud.
Yet this is not how user support is meant to be. Those who refuse to learn from those around them stagnate their own worldview, and it is only with the free and open exchange of ideas that limitations can be overcome and solutions found.
The obvious response to both these issues would have been to maturely and rationally acknowledge the limitations present within the Joomla! 1.0.x and 1.5 buildbases and seek solutions based on the user feedback, no matter how bad. Merely because you recieve a bad review doesn't mean you should deny that review ever existed, because at the end of the day, people are going to look on and understand that banning and censorship doesn't solve the problems raised. Censorship and banning also sends the message across the blogosphere that the Joomla! team and the Mamboserver team who banned certain Moderators and members of the various Mambo teams pre and post-fork to Joomla! are no better than each other.
In this way, the developers and moderators need to learn not to panic when all they've invested in goes a little leftfield.
To further exacerbate this issue, the key moderators of the Design and Accessibility forum need to learn from those around them, especially accessibility experts such as Joe Clark, Nic Steenhout and others, in order to make their own design and accessibility solutions within Joomla! better. Considering the key people who run the D&A forum are not involved in design and accessibility in any respect, how does that benefit Joomla!, either in the short term or in the long term ?
After all, if the key people who run the forum are, by and large, ignorant as to what is required for accessibility, it is obvious that they will censor and ban any contrary opinion to their own, as they will have next to no clue as to what is needed for such solutions, especially when such solutions go against the politics and ideology dictated by the Joomla! Moderation and Core Teams.
So what should a good customer support channel or forum look like?
- Technology - It acknowledges the limitations of the technology they are supporting.
- Support - It provides solutions or workarounds to technical issues in order to gain greater marketshare amongst non-technical users.
- Transparency - It provides a sounding board for technical and moderation issues, to the point where the moderators and developers are not 'above the law'.
- Honesty - It acknowledges when it has failed to provide on the above three points