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You’re Not The Priority With Free Support

You aren’t the most important person in the world to everyone.

Once in a while, someone flies off the rails when they don’t get a fast enough answer for their question in a freely supported product. They don’t get the right answer, or they get what they feel is a run-around by a total stranger trying to understand the real problem, and basically they feel the service should be better.

Here’s a cold hard truth.

When it comes to free support on free products, you aren’t the priority.

Usually when people get shirty about the ‘lack of quality support’ I point out that (on WordPress.org) support is handled predominantly by unpaid volunteers who are offering sage advice and help out of the kindness of their hearts. This is mostly true. Some of us are paid by our companies to volunteer, others are doing it to master skills (not much teaches you how a product works faster than helping someone else debug it), and others do it because they enjoy it. But as far as WordPress goes, it doesn’t directly pay anyone to do support.

Sidebar: Automattic isn’t WordPress and doesn’t own WordPress. Automattic is a company who pays for some of their employees to help out in the forums. And it’s making my point. Some of us get paid by our companies.

When I tell people that they need to scale down their expectations, what I don’t mean is they should expect worse help, but that they should expect slower help. Because they’re not the priority.

What’s my priority? Number one is my family (hello). But after that you get my paying job. Keeping abreast of everything WP related that impacts us, keeping on top of server changes, looking for patterns in tickets to see if we missed something, and generally knowing everything I possibly can about WordPress at DreamHost. After that my priority becomes the websites I run (like this one) and other hobbies I have.

That begs the question of when is WordPress public support my priority? When I have the time. I try to carve out at least a couple hours a day to check in. These need to be consecutive hours, a nice block of time to catch up and read and help. I don’t always get it. Sometimes I get thirty minutes. And when I am helping out, I prioritize my time.

If there’s an alpha/beta of WP out, I check there first. If we just released a new version, I’m over in the general troubleshooting. Then I hit Multisite, because we have a very small amount of people there. If I still have time, I’ll get the ‘Requests and Feedback’ and ‘Misc.’ forums. Next I hit up the dread Ideas forum, clean out the spam, and sort things that are dupes or solved or in the wrong place.

And then I’ve hit how much free time I have, so I go over to plugins for reviewing those. Anyone who was closed for a security issue comes first. After that, it’s anyone who replied to our emails. Then I close out anyone who didn’t reply in 7 days, check for people with bad plugin names, and finally I can start in on the queue.

It’s a lot to do on top of a day job. So sometimes you will get a reply from me at 8am and then nothing again for 24 hours, because all of those things are important to people and they all need to be taken care of and you, personally, aren’t my number one priority. It’s the same reason why you may not get immediate replies from anyone volunteering, and its why I tell you to lower your expectations.

Free support isn’t better or worse, but it does run at it’s pace and that may not be yours.

2 replies on “You’re Not The Priority With Free Support”

This is exactly true. I would ague semantics, and say that one doesn’t need to lower their expectations, just adjust them. Like you said: slower doesn’t mean worse, but if you’re asking for support in the forums, you definitely need to plan accordingly. 🙂

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