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Guest Post: Why you need to fill out the SRT by JimA

Posted by wGEric in Support with the tags , on June 25th, 2009

In the Support forums hundreds of support posts are made daily. People who have a problem, or just a question they’d like to ask. It’s hard to answer all of those questions. Sometimes we need more information in order to get a better view of the problem to solve it.

What questions do we ask?

Have a look at the Support Request Template Generator. All the questions on there are useful to provide support. To give you a good idea of why we are asking those questions, I’ll give you a short summary.

Step 1:

In this first step the generator will ask you some common information to find out if your question is something we can help you with or where you can get help. You should, for example, be running the latest version of phpBB because every release fixes bugs. The problem you are experience could have been fixed in more recent release of phpBB.

Step 2:

Here are more specific question regarding your board are asked.

  • The board URL – A link to be able to look at your board and see the problem in action.
  • Board hosting – The generator asks you where you host your board because there are some hosts where we continue to see the same problems when you use phpBB on their servers.
  • How did you install the board? – Some hosts provide one-click installations or Fantastico installations. Those installation packs edit some of the default code and have the same problems. We recommend you do not to use them, just download and install phpBB yourself.
  • Fresh install or conversion – Just handy to know for us whether is board is an fresh phpBB3 install or a conversion from some other board software.
  • Any mods installed – MODs can change functions of phpBB. Having many MODs can cause bugs.

Step 3:

Oh yeah, we’re coming closer to completion. This is the last step before the output of the generator is being presented. Finally, here you are asked for a description of your problem. You can also tell us of any additional languages, styles and/or modifications that are installed. Also asked for is the database scheme and your level of experience to better provide you with assistance.

I hope you understand that when we ask you to fill out the Support Request Template, we don’t do that to bully you. It only makes the support process go faster.

This blog post was written by JimA (website). Thanks Jim!

If you would like to have one of your own blog posts that relates to phpBB on this blog, please send me, wGEric, a private message containing the blog post.

6 Responses to “Guest Post: Why you need to fill out the SRT by JimA”

Posted by narqelion on June 25th, 2009 at 6:27 pm:

First of all you do not “need to fill out the SRT” as there are dozens of break/fix support posts and generic “how do I…” that are easily answered without that information. If you do not believe me search the topics I have answered and you will find that statement to be proven 100% correct. It’s “nice” to have all the information up front but certainly not necessary. A competent support person should know the pertinent question(s) to be asked without asking for an entire dossier. During the troubleshooting process if more information is needed it is easily requested. I find it very inefficient and a huge waste of time asking users to answer questions that are irrelevant to the issue.

The bare bones information necessary is:

1. Link to your board (and not always possible in certain cases)

2. Description of problem

3. Any changes prior to onset of problem, this includes but is not limited to the installation of any MOD’s or code edits that may have triggered the problem.

Everything else is superfluous and can easily be derived from the url of the board.

JimA wrote:
“I hope you understand that when we ask you to fill out the Support Request Template, we don’t do that to bully you.”

Actually I disagree with that comment, it certainly comes off as bullying. I’ve seen topics go ignored for days/weeks or even locked because the poster does not comply with the request when the issue could and has been resolved without having the information provided. If official support is to be witheld for non-compliance then I would suggest you cut to the chase and just make it mandatory by using the SRT as the new topic template in the support forum and be done with it or stop whining when people do not fill it out.

JimA wrote:
“You should, for example, be running the latest version of phpBB because every release fixes bugs. ”

Again I strongly disagree with this statement. Unless a security patch is involved I believe board administrators need to weigh the bugs fixed versus bugs introduced before deciding to update. Some new bugs may be showstoppers for some boards and irrelevant for others. What is more relevant is to educate users about the bugtracker so they are able to research the state of a particular release themselves and decide whether updating is justified.

Posted by JimA on June 26th, 2009 at 11:54 am:

I agree that there isn’t always the need to fill out the SRT for the simple questions, but when it comes down to the real (hard) problems, there is just some more information required to get a good view on the problem. Then it’s certainly handy to have the information all in one post instead of having to ask new questions all the time.

narqelion wrote:
Actually I disagree with that comment, it certainly comes off as bullying.

You really think it’s bullying? You seem to forgot that the SRT is meant to be a helpful tool to improve the supporting process. If the user refuses to fill it out, he makes it harder for us to see the problem and think of a solution.

narqelion wrote:
Unless a security patch is involved I believe board administrators need to weigh the bugs fixed versus bugs introduced before deciding to update.

A new version doesn’t get released because of nothing, but because a certain amount of bugs are fixed or when a security exploit is found. And, yes, some new versions might introduce new bugs, but the developers are human too. (Yes, seriously) But if you don’t update, then don’t go and ask support for a issue which has already been fixed in a later version, that’s the risk you’re taking.

Posted by narqelion on June 26th, 2009 at 4:31 pm:

JimA wrote:
What I wanted to say was that I agree that there isn’t always the need to fill out the SRT for the simple questions, but when it comes down to the real (hard) problems, there is just some more
information required to get a good view on the problem. Then it’s certainly handy to have the
information all in one post instead of having to ask new questions all the time.

So you are in effect agreeing with me that it is not necessary but instead convenient, for the support giver not necessarily for the person requesting support. Perhaps the title of your blog post should have been something more like “Why the SRT is requested” instead of “Why you Need to fill out the SRT” 😉 The bottom line is this, it is not a necessary tool to solve support issues and in it’s current implementation even I would never use it, and I am a very patient person. I outlined the key pieces of information to get to the root of almost any issue in my previous comment, if the SRT was more streamlined and targeted instead of asking for any and every variable that may or may not be necessary I believe you would see more people voluntarily complete it. As it stands now I think it is the perfect support tool example of the law of diminishing returns. From my 20+ years experience I have found providing the end user with the path of least resistance yields the highest return.

JimA wrote:
You really think it’s bullying?

Sure do. I’ve been in the middle of actually resolving support requests only to have the topic locked before I could post the solution because they did not provide the SRT. I have been forced to finish solving those issues privately with the OP usually on their own board and because the topic was locked, the solution was not able to be posted for the benefit of the community. Does that not defeat the entire purpose of providing support in a forum format so others may benefit by having access to the solutions? <- rhetorical

JimA wrote:
You seem to forgot that the SRT is meant to be a helpful tool to improve the supporting process.

What it is meant to do and what it actually does do not necessarily equate. Refer back to my law of diminishing returns point above.

JimA wrote:
A new version doesn’t get released because of nothing, but because a certain amount of bugs are fixed or when a security exploit is found. And, yes, some new versions might introduce new bugs, but the developers are human too. (Yes, seriously) But if you don’t update, then don’t go and ask support for a issue which has already been fixed in a later version, that’s the risk you’re taking.

In over 4000+ support posts here I have referred one or perhaps two posters running an older version of 3.0.x to a bug patch in a newer version to solve the problem they posted about, however, I have referred dozens and dozens of users to the bug tracker for reported problems introduced AFTER they upgraded to the latest and greatest. 😀 As a point of fact, patched bugs do not necessarily have to be fixed by updating the entire board, that is what patches are for. I am still admin for 3 boards running 3.0.4 and I will not be updating them to 3.0.5 for this very reason. If someone were to post a support request related to a specific bug that has been fixed in a subsequent release I would advise them of their options not tell them they must update. I believe it is every users right to be informed of what will break if they update, not just what is fixed. I think it would be a fantastic idea to list the current reported & confirmed bugs in a much more prominent area of the website to make that information more accessible to the general user community. 🙂

Posted by Joppe on June 29th, 2009 at 1:17 pm:

TBH I fully agree with narqelion.
It comes over as I have to fill out a SRT when asking for some “simple” style support.. As I can imagine that the SRT is totally too much for it…

If support givers cannot understand the problem of the support asker then the SRT can be helpful otherwise it is in my opinion a bit over the top to fill it out for every support question..

Posted by Prakash on January 17th, 2010 at 6:34 am:

I also fully agree with narqelion.
It comes over as I have to fill out a SRT when asking for some “simple” style support.. As I can imagine that the SRT is totally too much for it…

Posted by Yuriy Rusko on January 20th, 2010 at 8:25 am:

But you don’t.

Support Team Members will only ask for the SRT when it is necessary. Many people do not fill out the SRT in their first post and a great deal of support questions are answered without it.

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