Awasu » 2009 » June
Sunday 28th June 2009 2:47 AM [General]

My esteemed competitor colleague, Nick Bradbury, has put up an interesting post on the importance of doing your own tech support:

If you've never supported your own software, spending just one day doing tech support will be an eye-opening – not to mention humbling - experience. You'll have to keep your ego in check, because most people who contact tech support do so because they're having problems with your software, some of whom will use colorful language to describe the annoyances they're running into.
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You also need to hear an unfiltered view of what people want your software to do for them. If you rely solely on your tech support team to tell you the features that customers want, chances are you'll develop those features without really knowing why people want them.

And while I totally agree with this, he fails to mention one critically important thing: you have to use the software yourself as well.

But these are two sides of the same coin (and I know he knows this). The best, indeed probably the only way, to really find out where your software has problems, where it needs improving (and yes, also where it does well) is to actually use it. You need to see how it handles in the field, either by using it yourself [1] or via feedback from people who are using it themselves. Sounds obvious, doesn't it, yet it's amazing how many layers exist between developers and customers at most companies because they insist on playing Chinese Whispers through an army of tech support people, sales droids, managers, their managers, their managers' managers, to the point where the people actually building the software have no contact whatsoever with the people who use it. Not exactly a recipe for first-class software.

Years ago, I used to work at a company that wrote newspaper publishing software and one day, they arranged for all the devs to go on a tour of one of the major newspapers here in Melbourne that used our software. It was quite a buzz for us to see floors of journalists and editors all using stuff that we had written in their day-to-day work, and I'm sure it was kinda interesting for them to meet us (we only copped a minimal amount of abuse 🙄 ).

And for the same reason, I don't mind doing tech support for Awasu either, since I get to see how all you people are using Awasu, which not only gives me an idea of what features and improvements are needed, but also that it's being used at all 🙂 The only reason software exists, the only reason it gets written at all, is to provide a service, to do something useful, so to see people using Awasu to help them get their jobs done is gratifying indeed. I've always said that a sign of really powerful, well-designed software is that people use it in ways that it was never originally intended for, and so being able to help people like kevotheclone when he comes to me saying "I've thought of another weird-ass way of using Awasu, do you think it's possible?" is pretty cool as well 🙂

But getting completely OT now, reading Nick's linked-to post reminded me of how similar our backgrounds are. We both used to cartoon in our younger days (although it sounds like he was a lot more serious about it than I ever was), we both play music (he plays piano, I play sax), I do Aikido, his son and brother both do karate so he may well do it as well. Clearly it was our destiny to write feed readers :hysterical:

And of course, we are both programmers, although I do C++ while he does (sniff) Delphi 🙂 Nevertheless, I'd still buy him a beer [2] if he ever came to Oz. Still, while we probably don't look alike, if we were twins I would bet good money on me being the evil one... :whistle:


[1] And being the developer has the advantage that if there's a feature I need, I can just add it in myself. Very OSS 🙄
[2] The highest compliment you can pay someone in Australia. No, really! 🙄