Technobile: So-called support

I’ve done another [tag]Technobile[/tag] for The Guardian about the unbelievably infuriating experience that is “[tag]support[/tag]” for IT products. Here it be:


And companies call this support? They’ve got a cheek. Hindrance would be a better description

Never in human history has the disparity between name and function been so large than with what we laughingly call “support”. If a close family member died and someone from a computer company came round to give you their form of “support” in your time of need, he’d end up on the pointy end of a kitchen knife.

It was bad enough when you had to call a telephone number only to be left on hold for an hour with some inane tinkly music. When you did get through, the odds were only even that the other person would know any more than you. These phone numbers, if they exist at all, are now premium rate. And the odds of success have fallen to 2-1 against. Why? Because “support” is now offered by email and searchable forums.

These forums used to have technical staff. Now companies in effect force us to fend for ourselves in the laughable belief that other users will supply answers to queries. And so we have become beholden to one of the lowest forms of life on this planet: the smug and ill-informed geek. A special circle of hell has already been reserved for you, matey.

Something goes wrong with your software, you find the appropriate support forum and do a search. Your heart swells as the exact same problem has been asked three months ago. And then you read the responses. Comment after comment of absolutely nothing.

Even if it has no relevance to the problem, everyone is asked what operating system they are using. Er, Windows. “There’s your problem. You should use a Mac.” What is that?! Are these people so socially incapable that they have nothing better to do than hang around support forums being unhelpful?

Even better is the geek showoff. You ask in plain English how to do something. Back comes an almost intelligible technical explanation that means “unclick this box in Options”. You try it, and it doesn’t work. In fact, you go through all 43 replies, try 15 different methods, and right at the bottom you find someone else just like you saying “thanks for nothing”. So you search again, only to have the same experience all over again, often with the same people posting the same useless responses.

Most annoying and pervasive of all is the oxygen-waster who consistently posts: “That’s an interesting question – I don’t know.” Who is this person? I would flame him, but it would only add one more useless comment.

What’s the solution? Simple: rename support. Call it “hindrance”. Then when you see an ad, or look at the box and come across: “Comes with free hindrance”; “We offer hindrance 24/7”; “Please visit our hindrance forums”, you’ll know exactly what you’re getting. And won’t bother.

Previous Technobiles:

The evil of betas (13 Apr 2006)
Internet Derived Lethargic Episode (IDLE) (9 Feb 2006)
Needing therapy from retail (26 Jan 2006)
Billy Bunter computer (5 Jan 2006)
The network from hell (16 Dec 2005)
The Society for Needed Technology (10 Nov 2005)
Software companies should write programs without holes (13 Oct 2005)
There is no such thing as a free iPod (29 Sep 2005)
Technology tussle turning us into monsters (15 Sep 2005)