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The Tech Support of the Crowds 99

Posted by Zonk
from the better-than-that-scuzzy-guy-you-knew-in-college dept.
professorhojo writes "News.com reports on an innovative new use for instant messaging, meant to connect up strangers who need tech support with experts in their field. From the article: 'In my experience, the best technical support on any product will come from somebody who actually uses and likes the product, not a paid support rep following a script ... If you can't wait for a response in a message board, you can try a new service, Qunu, which is trying to replicate the message board community spirit, but in real time. [It] connects you via instant message to an expert on the topic you need help with. We already know that crowds are wise. They're altruistic and they love to talk, too. Qunu harnesses that.'"
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The Tech Support of the Crowds

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  • by OlivierB (709839) on Monday July 17, 2006 @07:04AM (#15730386)
    Liability/support (for the one seeking help) and compensation for the one helping?

    If somebody gets some good advice, and later needs to build something on what was already done, won't he need to explain to however is now the selected expert at Qunu what his problem is/was, what the Qunu expert helped him achieve etc.. Basically this guy will have no client file/historical so that whoever comes in later can pick it up from there.
    What happens if the next expert dissagrees with what the previous expert said to be done? The one seeking assistance will be confused as hell!
    Also what happens when the advice received causes a problem downstream, who's gonna get the end-user out of his misery?

    On the other side, experts don't mind helping out on forum boards, and I think that the thing that makes this cooperation possible is that there is no one-to-one relationship, experts won't be necessarily reading the board all the time nor will they need to answer something they don't like/want to answer. Also they choose when they wnat ot respond.

    With IM you are dictacted what problem (within a given field I concede), who you answer to and you are compelled to answer (we all know it is impossible to resist talking to somebody on IM, whereas emaied responses can more easily be delayed).
    The other problem is that you won't be using this while at work (not if you are honest with your employer), nor will you want to sit at home waiting for somebody to ring you; imagine this is like doing helpdesk support on the WE in your spare time, for zit, nada! ouch.
    For all this added stress/difficulty, what does the expert get? Nothing besides gratitude as far as I can tell.

    All in all I think that this is a bad idea for anything else than a casual "how do you remove red-eyes in Picasa", "or what do I need to open *.rar files".

    Guys please tell me how this would appeal to anybody else than the ones seeking help.

    Btw; Qunu sound exactly like "cul nu" in French which means bare-ass. Funny translation I know but makes me think that's what ones seeking help are in for if things go sour.
    • by qunu2 (989326) on Monday July 17, 2006 @07:33AM (#15730561)
      Hi Olivier,

      1) remember that Qunu is still 'alpha', so there are lots of 'things' that haven't been addressed, the persistence of chats being one of them.

      2) Qunu isn't for everyone, that's for sure, but for those _require_ an instant answer. If you don't mind waiting for hours, forums and emails are fine, but if you need a reply right now, they aren't.

      3) It may not be obvious, but Qunu isn't just for tech support. For various reasons we've chosen to start there, but that's about it.

      4) Experts are on Qunu simply because they want to provide instant help to others. Other than forums, the requests come to you, and with your presence you decide exactly when you are available. This will be fine-tuned as we go along.

      5) We're aware of the French 'translation', which I personally find rather hilarious! I guess unless you have a really obscure name, there's always a chance that it sounds funny in some language. We're happy to live with the 'bare ass' for now - it's up for each one to decide if they're the one wanting to be spanked or doing the spanking. Most will probably just watch - in true French tradition ;-)

      6) "... how this would appeal to anybody else than the ones seeking help." Well, that you have to ask the over 1300 experts that are already signed up. Over 6000 help sessions donated in what clearly is an alpha test period speaks for itself. It may be worth remembering that we've put time and money into a concept that we're testing in IT at the moment. It may fail there - although I doubt it will - but IT isn't the world. And that's what we're after, so stay tuned and perhaps enjoy the ride with us. It's been great so far!

      7) Qunu is free for now, and it always will be, but this doesn't mean that soon Experts won't be able to bid for 'business' that cannot be done in a quick chat. Take that outside tech support and your eyes may open up REALLY wide. ;)
      • Thanks for addressing some of my concerns.
        I know what it's like to introduce a new concept/product and get a lot of questions/concerns from people outside. I admire both your courage and dedication to improve other people's life. Really.

        I hope that you didn't take my critiques too heartly, I am merely trying to be constructive.

        I think with a few safeguards, a little more incentive for the experts, and whynot reputation systems like others have suggested in their posts, you will be able to achieve something
        • You're welcome! I did view your comments as constructive, which is why I replied in the first place. :)

          Thanks for the kind words, and yes, when you said "[...] as good as I may be with computers, I'm helpless when it comes to cooking and would sure "trade" a few words of advice in IT for some healthy recipees.", you embodied the spirit of Qunu!

          Welcome!
        • It seems to me that this is quite like what has happened (and still might for all I know) for ages on IRC (back when people still knew IRC existed). When you wanted help on "topic" you /joined #topic and asked there (and hoped it wasn't populated with a bunch of morons that would mumble "RTFM", ignore you or just /kick you).

          I know I helped quite a few people that way with HTML (back in the HTML 3.2 days) and Linux. The "bare ass" concept is interesting in that it should help avoid the worst of IRC.

          OTOH it's true that for those who are really new to all of this Intarweb stuff, all of this talk of experts might be a bit confusing. They might not fully grasp that anyone might be an expert and that they're all just people giving a hand. This notion that people will do stuff like that for fun is often weird to people from the "Real World".
          Maybe if they were listed as "good samaritans" or something... Well that's not great but you get the idea, at least it's less loaded...
      • All this is swell but it has nothing to do with the wisdom of crowds or community support. It is a one-to-one model. Your get an answer from one expert. Independent, aggregate answers are the power of the wisdom of crowds. This model relies on finding the right expert. How do you know if you've got the right expert? Is this a Warren Buffet or a Ken Lay (think stocks). A Steve Jobs or a geek want-to-be still living in his mothers garage? This model gets answers quickly (only sometimes a good thing). If you
        • Our ranking system shows those experts at the top who were fast in replying and got good ratings from users. This doesn't mean you get the right person first time, but that's life.

          Also, aggregate answers as you call them will come the moment we're making the answers permanent - whichever model we'll be eventually choose for this.

          There are - obviously - limitations to the way we've implemented this service, but in the vast majority of cases it's the initial contact that counts, and if a trust relationship bu
      • Occurs to me that a fix for the "lack of history for each support incident" problem the parent poster gripes about, would be an option to "Log this conversation", which would dump it to an automagically-generated web page that both the questioner and the help-giver could call up at need, and voila, there's your history, ready to be viewed, added to, etc. should the "support incident" require more than one contact. ...and ready to be learned from later, too. With some sort of search or indexing, over time th
    • If somebody gets some good advice, and later needs to build something on what was already done, won't he need to explain to however is now the selected expert at Qunu what his problem is/was, what the Qunu expert helped him achieve etc.. Basically this guy will have no client file/historical so that whoever comes in later can pick it up from there.
      What happens if the next expert dissagrees with what the previous expert said to be done? The one seeking assistance will be confused as hell!
      Also what happens wh
    • lol - can I say.....being setup to sellout, lol - how "skype"ish is their visuality. maybe if Skype bought them out they could turn support calls into free minutes for international calls (lol -0 well they are already giving away USA and Canada calls). Dean
  • Hmmm..... (Score:2, Funny)

    by hnile_jablko (862946)
    www.NerdFriendFinder.com?
  • by qunu (989308) on Monday July 17, 2006 @07:06AM (#15730400)
    ...if you'd like to be a Qunu expert and donate a support session or two, you can register using your Jabber-friendly IM client. There are a few easy ways into the system, depending on what client you have:

    - Add quser@qunu.com to your roster, or
    - Register with quser.alpha.qunu.com as a "service", or
    - Add quser.alpha.qunu.com to your roster via a subscribe request

    Request authorization from your new contact and it will start talking to you. You can talk to it, and tag yourself with your areas of expertise like this: "tags linux ubuntu gentoo cups kde". You'll then show up in Qunu results as an expert in those things. Any help requests will get routed straight thru to your IM client as an invitation you can accept or reject. Do unregister, simply unsubscribe from the Qunu contact.
  • Tech Chat (Score:4, Informative)

    by Aladrin (926209) on Monday July 17, 2006 @07:07AM (#15730403)
    My friend Tito tells me this is called 'IRC'. It's a quaint little service where people of all kinds of tech knowledge get together and 'chat' about things. If you're not a jerk, and you go to the right room, you can get on and ask about just about anything and get an answer.

    I haven't used it personally. I can usually find more, and more precise information using Google, but it's helped Tito tremendously in the past when he was stuck on a systems issue.

    I'm not sure labelling a chat 'tech support' will work any better, and I've a feeling it'll be worse. It'll draw the know-it-alls like flies, for instance. (These are people that have an answer for every question, whether or not they truly know what they are doing. Some do it for attention, some do it because they 'feel the need to return the help they got.' They're just a nuisance.)
    • IRC sucks. Every room you go into has 20 people, 10 of whom are bots and 10 of whom aren't saying a word. Is there something I am missing here?
      • Is there something I am missing here?


        Yes. The right rooms to go. :)

        ##slackware, #vim are #postfix are examples of excelent rooms that came to mind now, with helpful people (almost) always ready to help.
      • Yes, #ubuntu on irc.freenode.net. Usually 800+ people and nobody that can help you, unless it's a FAQ.
        • "Usually 800+ people and nobody that can help you, unless it's a FAQ."

          Not exactly shocking, considering it's "n00buntu". I ran into a Ubuntu user on a linux-centric forum who had been using linux for a couple of years and just found out that you could shutdown linux from the command-line using the "shutdown" command.
    • by dr_dank (472072)
      but it's helped Tito tremendously in the past when he was stuck on a systems issue.

      I guess Jermaine or Michael weren't much help.
      • I guess Jermaine or Michael weren't much help.
        I'm guessing that Janet, on the other hand is probably an expert at flashing memory.
  • I wonder... (Score:5, Insightful)

    by vidarlo (134906) <[ten.xestib] [ta] [olradiv]> on Monday July 17, 2006 @07:08AM (#15730413) Homepage

    Will anyone do tech support for free? Sure, I might reply in irc channels and mailing lists, but not in Instant Messaging. The thing with irc and mailing lists is that there is a chance that other people will get the answer, and look at it, and learn. By using a closed, 1-to-1 protocol like IM, you offset this. I think it is better to let people write good documentation for a product, than to let others provide tech support.

    Tech support is mostly called by idiots anyway, and I'd not manage to answer politely to stupid questions.

    • Re:I wonder... (Score:3, Interesting)

      by CastrTroy (595695)
      It would work well if you pasted you message log into some database so that it could be searched and referenced later. They way, instead if doing the IM thing first, you could search the history. If you didn't find your answer there, then you could chat with someone over IM and find the answer.
    • "Will anyone do tech support for free?"

      "Anyone"? No! But someone.
      "Tech Support"? No! But perhaps another subject.
      "Free"? No! Not in all areas of expertise, but in some.

      Writing good documentation.... that's an excellent point, and not co-incidentally one that we're aiming to assist with on Qunu. Watch this space!

      Instant Messaging... is AFAIK currently the only way connect with people in real time, so if you need a real-time answer, Qunu may be your ..uhmm... answer. My suggestion: be nice, be fair and keep a
    • By using a closed, 1-to-1 protocol like IM

      <anal>Not all [xmpp.org] IM is closed</anal>

    • Re:I wonder... (Score:2, Insightful)

      by pedalman (958492)
      I think it is better to let people write good documentation for a product
      Users actually taking the time to READ documentation? How quaint. What a silly goose you are.
  • I think that this is an opportunity for people to quickly get help for a specific problem, but it REALLY depends upon the quality of the people on the other end of the line. It seems to me like an attempt at replacing the multitude of IRC channels that are out there to support all the open source projects. Another factor is that none of the solutions will be archived, which means that a google won't turn up solutions, which is the first place almost everybody goes when looking for a solution.
  • by CurtMonash (986884) on Monday July 17, 2006 @07:09AM (#15730422) Homepage
    "I'll accept IMs from anybody who needs help with issue XYZ."

    "Hello, my name is Honeypot. I have issue XYZ, and I'm a hot, horny 21-year old blonde with big boobs. I'm just sooo grateful for your help. Click here to make a date with me so I can thank you properly!"
  • I'm not so sure... (Score:4, Interesting)

    by ChowRiit (939581) on Monday July 17, 2006 @07:10AM (#15730425)
    I would have thought there's a certain reassurance in knowing there's a certain guaranteed level knowledge that the guys in tech support have, rather than risking a complete stranger who could completely break your [whatever]. Also, I've always used tech support as just a required precursor to them replacing it under warrenty, as generally if the problem is fixable, Google is the only tool you need...

    Still, I can see why it would be an advantage, although strictly for software based problems. Hardware problems? I'm not so sure it's a good idea getting someone else to tell you how to fix a peice of delicate machinary/hardware over IM, myself...
    • Especially if you're trying to IM on the same hardware you're trying to fix.
    • by Anonymous Coward
      I would have thought there's a certain reassurance in knowing there's a certain guaranteed level knowledge that the guys in tech support have

      Very true, i've met many a "guru" who didn't really now much about what they bragged about and were doing tech support for people who knew less. In one such instance a man who labelled himself, verbally and in resume, a guru of TCP/IP with the extent of that knowledge being that TCP/IP makes use of different ports, not even common default port knowledge, no ro
  • by RobotRunAmok (595286) on Monday July 17, 2006 @07:17AM (#15730479)
    Now, that's a stupid statement, even for someone in Marketing.

    INDIVIDUALS are wise.

    CROWDS are homicidal. Occasionally suicidal. But they are never 'wise.'
    • Agreed. The scariest thing I've ever seen was an angry Mob. Taken individually, pretty much everyone can be reasoned with, but once a critical point is reached, crowds loose all common sense.
      • The difference in this instance is that it's not a crowd, as such. It's a large grouping of individuals. I know that that's the definition of a crowd, but its more like a large grouping of individuals, each of whom has his own cubicle, so they never realize they're in a crowd in order to acchieve critical stupid mass and become a mob.
        • The difference in this instance is that it's not a crowd, as such. It's a large grouping of individuals

          Sorry, I don't agree. In just about any case where people are able to pass anonymously, their personal sense of responsability for their actions diminishes in direct proportion with the number of individuals composing that group. Witness mobs in RL, PvP guilds picking on newbies in online games and flamewars back on Usenet. You can say that it won't happen, but unless steps are taken to stop people fro

    • while I agree with you, I think what the OP meant was that crowds have a larger pool of knowledge and experience to draw from than one individual.

      but they aren't very good at making decisions.
    • James Surowiecki would disagree with you; you may be interested to read his book, "The Wisdom of Crowds."

      http://www.randomhouse.com/features/wisdomofcrowds / [randomhouse.com]
    • Agreed. Whenever I see the word "crowd" I read it as "herd".
  • by mgkimsal2 (200677) on Monday July 17, 2006 @07:28AM (#15730541) Homepage
    I've been thinking about putting together a similar service for quite a long time. I've got a mixed reaction seeing this service, as it's not quite what I was envisioning. A few thoughts:

    Using a 'standard' IM client may not be the best way - trying to do too much with 'tags' and what not instead of a dedicated/custom interface may not provide enough of a useful interface for helpers. I may be wrong tho - using just jabber opens up a lot of possibilities, and has reduced their dev time.

    NOT allowing helpseekers to use IM doesn't seem right. This was always a big part I'd got stuck on in mapping something like this out. If you want to make it dead easy, let anyone use MSN/AIM/YAHOO/etc to post their questions immediately. Roundrobin those questions to another IM 'helper' until someone 'takes' the question.

    Reputation - this would really be key to helping people determine whether the quality of the person they are getting help from is worthwhile or not.

    Value - what benefit do I as a helpseeker get? One benefit I foresaw was revenue sharing - the more questions you'd answer, the more credits you'd earn, which would directly translate in to profit sharing based on whatever ads were run on the 'answer' site. By collecting all these Q&A, and publishing them, the system would be able to grow organically, and tossing adsense or something in there would give everyone a way to share in some money (just rotate people's adsense code in the site - don't try to collect and parcel out money directly - too much work).

    If the resulting Q&A database was 'open' in the sense of publishing under a GPL or similar license, this would be a great service. If people are donating all their free time to add to a closed database without the chance of being able to use it themselves for whatever purpose, this isn't such a great service.
    • So, something like a Experts-exchange [experts-exchange.com] Q&A forum, except... over IM? :)

      The only real way it could work (well) in realtime would be with a VERY LARGE pool of people, and/or with better AI expert agents down the road. You're right about the database having to be freely available though.

      As for incentive: done right, micropayment BS money isn't it - reputation and "altruism" is. e.g. If you want some live help now on opensource subjects, you can join an IRC server like FreeNode, then pick the topic/#chan

  • but! (Score:1, Funny)

    by Anonymous Coward
    pfft!!

    RTFM n00b!!
  • by Betabug (58015)
    So, this is basically like your friendly open source IRC channel, for example as on freenode.net (or wherever your project of choice is located)? Talk about reinventing stuff...
    • ... that the majority of those requiring help don't even know what IRC is, never mind how to get onto it in order to ask a question.

      Qunu, OTOH, can be deployed on an infinite amount of servers for an infinite amount of services, and the person requiring help doesn't have to know zip about the technology driving the thing. That's probably the biggest advantage of Qunu.

      Plus, and watch this space, the method we've chosen opens up a whole new field of expert services that aren't 'free'. IRC can't do that.
      • I don't get it. How is downloading and installing a Jabber client any easier than downloading and installing an IRC client?

        It seems like the simplest, most obvious thing to do would be to provide the IRC information for people who have an IRC client already, and to provide a Java or AJAX IRC client right there in the web page. I know Java clients already exist, and you can set one up which defaults to or is limited to a specific server/room.
        • I don't get it. How is downloading and installing a Jabber client any easier than downloading and installing an IRC client?

          Because the person looking for help doesn't need a Jabber client, but would need an IRC client. I'm sure there are web-IRC clients available too, but that's besides still the point, because Qunu gives us way more flexibility and control over the entire process. In the end it's really not about the protocol we've used, unless, of course Jabber transports allow us to connect to other IM

          • I'm sure there are web-IRC clients available too, but that's besides still the point, because Qunu gives us way more flexibility and control over the entire process.

            I would think that Jabber would give you more flexibility, but IRC would give you more control.

            All academic now, at least from our perspective. We've chosen Jabber, and it's serving us well so far.

            I didn't think I would change your mind, honestly. I was just curious about why you'd chosen Jabber. I do think I have my answer, though. I've been

    • by Greyfox (87712)
      I've done tech support on IRC. We're a bunch of surly bastards. Comes from years of non-TFM-Reading cluebies who can't be bothered to run a google search logging into our channels and demanding that we drop everything to help them fix their problem RIGHT NOW. After a while you can't even be bothered to redirect them to fuckinggoogleit.com anymore and you just kick 'em. These days I log in every couple of months or so to say hi but I never really hang out that long. But yeah... best of luck with that free su
    • Yeah, this looks like redundant now, but if the /. database hadn't been hosed that very moment I was going to post this, it would have been about third post. Bleh.
  • Hello, I re-invented Usenet.

    Ok, Usenet does not have 1on1 real time conversation. It does have the advantage that you have many people looking at your problem and often hand you several solutions. There is a downside, you have to read this page [catb.org] first.
  • It seems to me that some sort of "group chat" would be better at harnessing this Wisdom-of-Crowds stuff. Instead of just instant messaging one person to another, you could also provide a chat room - wait, I know, let's call them "channels"! And you can join them and ask questions and maybe learn something from the answers to others questions in the "message board community spirit" but in real time! We could call it Internet Relay Chat.

    Take Freenode [freenode.net] - an IRC network dedicated to various sorts of community

    • Every Qunu session is a MUC (multi-user-chat) session to which others can be invited. /me wonders why so many people on here on /. believe we'd spend thousands of dollars and hours on a dumb-ass service that has no discerneable benefit. Please grant us a wee little more intelligence. ;-) Not only that, but perhaps open your mind a little more, because then you'll discover many a magic thing that you can do with Qunu that is to everybody's benefit. Don't look at it with reading glasses. Take off and watch it
      • It may be multi-user chat, but can you just pop in and join whenever you want? That's the real nicety of IRC (and perhaps what I should have emphasized over mere multiuserness) - you don't have to be invited in, you can just plop yourself down in #perl, wait around, see a few questions, learn a thing or two about closures or typeglobs that you didn't know before.... This is the sort of thing which makes it a resource to both the n00b and the experienced alike.
        • Fair enough. We've not set out to duplicate IRC, which is why I don't understand where all the comparisions come from. Each one has its own pros and cons, and it's up to the 'experts' to decide which one to use. Time will tell. Personally? I rather have an IM sitting in the background, pinging me when someone needs help than me having to look for it on IRC, forums or whatever. But as the saying goes... YMMMV. :)

          Give Qunu a try - you'll like it!
          • How is this different from setting your IRC client from pinging when a questioner utters a keyword which you decide you want to help people?

            I understand that you have not intended to replicate IRC, and that this might be a good way to get more support for users who are intimidated by IRC. The analogue would be the way that web forums seem to have displaced USENET. But in practice, haven't you simply reimplemented, over jabber, things that have existed over IRC for quite some time?

            • Let me repeat:

              1) tech support is but *one* area we intend covering. In fact, many tags are already non-IT related
              2) the vast majority of who'll be using Qunu has never heard of IRC, and will subsequently not be using it.
              3) even though there are certain similarities with IRC, what we have done and will still be doing cannot be done using the IRC framework.

              All I can say on this for now: stay tuned! You ain't seen nothing yet!
              • 2) the vast majority of who'll be using Qunu has never heard of IRC, and will subsequently not be using it.

                The vast majority of who'll be using Qunu has never heard of Qunu, either.


                3) even though there are certain similarities with IRC, what we have done and will still be doing cannot be done using the IRC framework.

                I bet it can. Name one thing you're doing that IRC can't do.

                • The vast majority of who'll be using Qunu has never heard of Qunu, either.

                  Which is why we're having this discussion here. qunu2 1 SanityInAnarchy 0 :)

                  I bet it can. Name one thing you're doing that IRC can't do.

                  Repository of knowledge. Rating of experts. Ranking of experts. Removal of experts when they're in a chat. Bidding of Experts for paid-for freelance contracts. Work without a software download. Be available and understandable by Aunt Tillie. Make money for the community, thus for ourselves. Etc.

                  • Adding to that: IRC doesn't allow you to tag your specific expertise in various areas all in one place. In IRC, IIUIC, you enter rooms. You can create rooms, sure, and hang out in them, but with Qunu those rooms only get created if someone's actually "in them", IOW looking for help - no, not only that, but in the room because s/he's looking for you. Qunu, IMHO, has a lot going over IRC. Otherwise we wouldn't have done this project, believe you me. But again, YMMV and if you're happy with IRC and think Qunu
    • As you wrote, if experts want to give their time, they can already lurk on IRC channels.
      What Qunu adds is a way to disturb an expert.
      • Sure, and for many IRC will be all they want and need - that's as far as "giving their time" is concerned.

        The notion that Qunu adds a way to disturb an expert is just laughable, really, because if an expert doesn't want to be disturbed, he wouldn't be on Qunu. Easy, eh?

        That said, there will be a time where a certain number of experts are dying to be disturbed, because each 'disturbance' could mean new business. And you'll have to admit, waiting for business to knock on your door beats knocking on doors your
  • connect up strangers who need tech support

    I'd happily play tech support. However, a real boon would be a future to filter the requester of said support, based on certain characteristics.

    Female *clicks radiobutton*
    Blonde *checks box*
    Age *selects barely legal*

    • by Greyfox (87712) on Monday July 17, 2006 @08:58AM (#15731053) Homepage Journal
      After all, everyone on the Internet is female, blonde and barely legal. Hell I'm female, blonde and barely legal, too. Well... except I have a penis. And am 36. I do have big man boobs though, if that helps at all. Which, interestingly enough, is the exact description of every person on the Internet who claims to be female, blonde and barely legal. Well... anyone on the Internet who claims to be female. It's not so much that the Internet is populated entirely by men (Although it is) but rather that anyone who would actually fit that description is usually pretending to be a 36 year old dude with big man boobs.
      • You might have a different view of the Internet if you could bring yourself to use MySpace. I can't decide, though -- is it more disgusting to use MySpace or to be talking to female, blond, barely legal 36-year-old men?

        I'm gonna have to go with MySpace. As the more disgusting one. Yeah, MySpace really is that disgusting.
  • Not only we can't avoid the n00b relatives mooching some free tech support, now we're going to have strangers doing the same? No thanks!
  • by DikSeaCup (767041) on Monday July 17, 2006 @08:25AM (#15730846) Homepage
    "See that security setting there? Undo that and let me have remote admin access to your box. Thank you!"

    It's bad enough that a Windows can be vulnerable if not properly secure, but what if someone convinces a user of this service to open up their machine (any OS, mind you)?

    And before you ask, no, I didn't RTFA. I'll go do that now and see what they say about those concerns ...

  • I seem to remember a little thing called IRC. Real time. Somewhat-forum-like.
  • Qunu people should rethink the search semantics on the main page.
    Currently it does an OR of all terms,
    resulting in bad matches (people who sure are not able to help),
    for users trying to specialize the search.

  • read "exploits".
  • Um it's called EFNet...
  • by sweetnjguy29 (880256) on Monday July 17, 2006 @09:24AM (#15731183) Journal
    I signed up to volunteer on Qunu a month or so ago, when I saw the service going alpha on Digg.

    Qunu is an interesting concept, and I think slashdotters should go to the site and sign up to be experts.

    I use a special jabber account on gaim that I created on the qunu server, that I only logon to when I am in the mood to volunteer my time. I created a profile that explains what I am willing to help with.

    So far, I have helped an Ubuntu newbie trouble shoot an install problem and then fix his screen resolution and helped a Windows user encrypt some files. It was a good feeling to help out.

    Note that the help interface does not require the user to have a jabber client, but only access to the web.

    The problem with live tech support like this is that it is very draining on the volunteer expert. It is like a real job. Too much handholding is involved. I'd rather give tech support over email.
    • I'm signed up as well and I have to agree with the above comments. It can be a lot of work, so you need to be in the proper mood.

      Like this morning, I had to sign off jabber after getting too many requests for help with eliminating duplicate posts from appearing on Slashdot.

  • Community Loss? (Score:3, Insightful)

    by nachmore (922129) on Monday July 17, 2006 @10:03AM (#15731440)
    Although the idea seems nice - how about the loss to the greater community? If I have a specific problem with something and someone answers on a forum that answer is up on the internet for scores of other people to find.

    Combining this with your every day support forum in some way, say logs are posted or a summary is written by one of the sides, makes sure that the knoweledge isn't lost and can be used by others later on. Because what happens if this expert was the only one with the right answer and he isn't around?
  • That place looks like a prime target for those of the trolling variety. Desperate people seeking instant help are people who would more likely than not fall victim to downloading a 'patch' from people with either mischievous or malicious reasons.
    • personal comment: i guess it depends on your tags. there are, as we all know, operating systems (or software apps in general) that are used by people with a distinct lack in social interaction skills. my experience with Qunu is that I had decent people asking decent questions. in fact, it's been a real joy as a Qunu expert on 'qunu', which could, as I said, be related to the actual subject matter.
  • No help desk or support site would be complete without a showing of the classic Internet Help Desk [deadtroll.com] to all employees/volunteers.
  • by xant (99438)
    Someone has finally invented IRC.
  • Will this stop Google spitting up expert-exchange links on anything vaguely I.T. related that is searched for? That would be it's biggest drawcard if it was the case.

    Quite annoying, really.

    I'm sure I'm not alone in having called various 'support' numbers over the years and discovering that the caller knows far more about the subject than the call centre staff. Furthermore, basic troubleshooting skills are usually lacking, and simple thought processes seem to be a mountain to tall to climb for many of

  • Anyone willing to provide free tech support for any length of time is unlikely to have any real-world experience at doing so. Or they're a masochist.

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