Doing user support can be a bit tiring sometimes. Then again, sometimes it can be funny.
We all have problems with software sometimes, and it is good if you can mail some support person to get some help. In our development team, we get quite a bit of mail from our users. But obviously, some users are better at asking questions than others.
Should you ever find yourself in the situation where you need to ask a question, maybe it will help to keep the following examples in mind.
Here are some of my favourite user questions and comments from the last few years.
First, a bit of context. We are a very small team, so we don’t have a separate support group. All of the developers on the team do a bit of user support (we all get the mails), while one of us if officially responsible at any time. We try to be as helpful as we can, and make every effort to answer every question or solve every problem.
The person being responsible changes over time. I did the primary user support some years ago, then Bruce took over, then Andrew, Kasper, Poul, and now it’s mostly Davin.
A bit of context: Our system is a development environment for beginners, so our users are often students at college or high school, and novices in programming; the system is called “BlueJ”.
I have removed names and email addresses, but otherwise all these mails are real and complete.
1 – Web translators gone mad
The first category is the Babel Fish category. The problem is fairly understandable and harmless – not everyone is a native English speaker. Was there an automated web translator at work here? Or has someone carefully hand-crafted this? I don’t know, but it makes it quite a challenge to answer!
Subject: objects-first mailing list
Date: 23 July 2004 11:26:35 BST
Very I am interested in learning the Java language. It would like to get tips of as to obtain to learn without having that to spend
very, it type:
– Where I can obtain softwares basic and gratuitous, you emend.
– I am looking softwares or you emend FREE that explain what the object is orientation!
What it must contain in the KIT OF TOOLS FOR DESENVOLER a SYSTEM IN JAVA?
I ask for that for gentility leie my email and answers me.
Anticipatedly I am thankful and I wait.
São Paulo – SP
2 – The mind reader
The next group is the Am-I-Psychic? category. The problem is that some users ask for help, but don’t really tell us what their problems are. Again, we try our best – but what can you say?
Subject: Re: [Bluej-discuss] Request: help
Date: 20 December 2003 09:28:45 GMT
I am new to java and bluej anyone help.
Yes, that’s really the complete email! How do you answer that? Or this one:
Subject: problems in blue j
Date: 12 January 2006 12:46:55 GMT
there some problems in blue j
Yes, I believe that. Why not tell me what they are? Is this a question? Or just some constructive criticism?
3 – Write My Code – And be quick about it!
Then there is a whole bunch of mails I get regularly in the Could-You-Do-My-Homework-For-Me-Please category. Since ours is an educational system, and my email address is on the web site, some students seem to conclude that we must be there to provide homework help. A sort of Rent-A-Coder. Just without the payment.
Date: 9 March 2004 10:47:56 GMT
Dear Sir Kólling,
We are 2 students of an Dutch Highschool.
For one subject we are using Java Logo Prog.
But we don’t understand the programm, and our teacher doesn’t want to explain it to us….
So now we would like to ask you for your help, could you maybe make something like this, some figure so we have something to give to our teacher:
(some Java code fragments removed)
xxxxxxxxx xxx xxxxxxxxxxx
Ps. We got your emailadress from your site.
Ontvang je Hotmail & Messenger berichten op je mobiele telefoon met Hotmail SMS klik hier
And then there are the ones that also tell you that you have to be quick about it. After all, there are deadlines!
Subject: [Bluej-discuss] (no subject)
Date: 26 June 2007 17:19:26 BST
I would require the solution to my problem of the program were I have to store first 10 prime numbers and user gives the range and the prime nos in that range is printed out. I need the solution in my BlueJ version of jdk1.5.0.
The date of submission is very limited so I want your urgent response
4 – Compile This!
Also popular is the Compile-This! category. These are users that send you only code. No text. No comment. No questions. What are they expecting?
Date: 22 March 2005 16:33:19 GMT
public static void main(String arg)
InputStreamReader iReader =new InputStreamReader(System.in);
BufferedReader br=new BufferedReader(iReader);
BufferedReader br1=new BufferedReader(iReader);
BufferedReader br2=new BufferedReader(iReader);
System.out.println(“1.Area of square”);
System.out.println(“2.Area of rectangle”);
System.out.println(“3.Area of circle”);
System.out.println(“Enter 1 to 4”);
case ‘1’:System.out.println(“Enter side of square”);
System.out.println(“Area of square: “+area);
case ‘2’:System.out.println(“Enter length and breadth”);
Systeam.out.println(“Area of rectangle: “+area);
case ‘3’:System.out.println(“Enter 3 sides of triangle”);
System.out.println(“Area of triangle: “+area);
Yes, this is really the complete email!
5 – “Doctor, every time I poke this stick in my ear, it hurts over here!”
Next we have the Why-Would-You-Do-That? category. Here’s an example:
Date: 12 January 2006 10:09:46 AM
Subject: [Bug 1012] New: error when renaming bluej.exe to Java.exe
Summary: error when renaming bluej.exe to Java.exe
OS/Version: Windows XP
If you rename bluej.exe (the file that runs BlueJ) to Java.exe, the computer
loads an infinite number of copies of BlueJ and crashes.
Well, then — don’t!!
6 – Bless them
Some users, however, are different. They are blessed with a surprising amount of patience. Although that’s nice to see, you cannot avoid cringing a bit. The When-I-Have-Problems-I-Reinstall category.
Subject: Re: creating an object
Date: 28 February 2006 10:31:38 GMT
i can not create an object in bluej (the little red box in the bottom left hand side of the screen)
i have left the class creating an object over night! in the morning there was still no object 🙁
i have uninstalled and installed it many times. And downloaded versions of the net!
Or this even more worrying one:
Subject: I need your help
Date: 12 May 2004 15:05:26 BST
I have problem in blue j. i get error ‘; expected’. I have reinstalled bluej sevrel times
and I have re-installed windows twice, but still I get the same error. Can you tell me
what is wrong plz.
7 – Almighty Bruce
Of course, sometimes support is not without its rewards. Occasionally, we receive praise – that’s nice to see:
Subject: Re: [Bluej-discuss] Seeing output
Date: 26 October 2004 07:26:20 BST
So everyone knows- Bruce is so cool. He solved my problem and made my night.
Fortunately, my problem was only based on the user’s (that’s me) lack of knowledge. But Almighty Bruce has given me the answer I needed:)
That’s very nice of her!
8 – Optimism
And lastly the Can’t-Hurt-To-Ask category. Users perhaps a little over-optimistic about the amount of work we can do for them:
Date: 19 October 2006 05:45:38 BST
Can you write a book (Java- BlueJ) for high school student? Thanks
And, no, unfortunately I didn’t answer that by writing a textbook.
So, next time you need help – by all means, ask! But also ask yourself: Are you in one of these categories?