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Re: helpdesk@debian.org

Maarten Verwijs <maarten@projectie.com> wrote:

> Hi Frank, 
> First off: Thanks for thinking this through and answering.
> On Tue, Oct 03, 2006 at 09:33:52AM +0200, Frank K?ster wrote:
>> Maarten Verwijs <maarten@projectie.com> wrote:
>> > Since this is an ongoing problem, how about the following:
>> > helpdesk@debian.org
>> We already have the users lists.
> The users-lists do provide a lot of the functions of a helpdesk.
> They also miss a few things a good helpdesk has: 
> * Prioritization: Important issues will get addressed first. Unimportant
>   issues will still get addressed, only later.

This is a problem, but it's generally hard to solve with volunteers,
since everybody does what pleases them most.  If you care for a
particular package, that's a reason to prioritize even unattractive
tasks, but at a help desk?  And to the extent that such a thing could be
done at a helpdesk, I'd suspect that it's also possible on user lists,
if we try to put some structure on them (like setting a topic,
identifying people who are specifically entitled to request a subject
change or do other meta-things).

> * Commitment to report bugs after prying the end user for all the
>   information he has available.

At least in the german users' list which I often read, there's quite a
hard pressure to report bugs.  And if people claim to not be able to
write english well enough, someone else often steps in.

> * Status within the official Debian hierarchy (status is a reward.
>   Rewards generate motivation). 

That could also be done if people fulfill their role on the lists.

> * A single point of entry for questions. Ubuntu (and others) have
> 	official forums. We'll have an official mailbox.

So you want to force the people to contact the english helpdesk?  No
localization?  Or instead, where's the difference here between a
helpdesk per (active) language and a user list per (active) language?

>> > What could be possible if Debian had an official Helpdesk Department?
>> > * End-Users could ask *any* question and actually get a nice answer. 

You are dreaming.  Or do you have funds to spend^W^Wfor corrupting the
project? ;-)

>> > * End-Users can report bugs, but these are first checked by helpdeskers,
>> >   before they are commited.
>> > * Bugreports would end up more specific and detailed
>> > * Developers would only have to communicate with Knowledgeable Helpdesk
>> >   Users.
>> Also developers are only users of packages if they have no idea of the
>> internals.  
> I don't see the problem in this. Questions the helpdesk can't answer,
> they'll pass onto the developer. Questions the developer can't answer,
> they'll pass onto upstream. If they do not have the time, they could ask
> the Helpdesk to do this for them. 

So the developer is going to see most bug reports, anyway, and we're
just have one more place for friction and creation of heat.  On my
packages, the number of "bad" bug reports is really small.  And even
these give an opportunity to learn.  After all, most packages are
supposed to work for newbies, too, so their input is valuable for
improving error messages and procedures.

>> > Tis just an idea, and it may have it's do's and don't's, so please:
>> > what are the general thoughts on this?
>> I guess what we should do is rather improve the users' lists.
> Possible improvements: 
> * Moderation on the lists
> * Give moderators a status within debian as an insentive.
> * Management: if someone is offensive (destructive), take away
>   moderation status. 

There are things in between "not caring at all" and "moderation".

Regards, Frank

Frank Küster
Single Molecule Spectroscopy, Protein Folding @ Inst. f. Biochemie, Univ. Zürich
Debian Developer (teTeX/TeXLive)

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