Open source documentation

Open source documentation.

On Christmas day, after the potlatch subsided, I headed out for a run.
But when I flicked on my MP3 player, I heard…nothing. Glancing down
at the display of the Creative Nomad MuVo TX I saw an unwelcome
message: “File system error.” Grrr. Back inside, I dug into the
problem. The Creative support page was, naturally, of no use
whatsoever. So I turned to Google and found a handful of postings, on
various forums, in which users reported similar experiences.

Some folks were able to reformat the file system. That was no help to
me, though, since I couldn't even mount the device. Others said the
only recourse was to return it for a replacement. I'll bet a geekless
household somewhere absorbed this bitter message and did just that. But
I wasn't ready to give up. Still other forum postings suggested that a
firmware upgrade might save the day. Sure enough it did, and I was out
the door again.

As I jogged the empty streets I asked myself two questions.
How can high-tech product support be so abysmally bad? And how did we
arrive at the point where users, not vendors, provide so much of the
useful information?

The problem is that vendors, for the most part, do a lousy job
of encouraging and organizing those discussions. Here's an experiment
I'd like to see someone try. Start a Wikipedia page for your product.
Populate it with basic factual information, point users there, then
step back and let the garden grow. Intervene only to repair vandalism,
make corrections, and contribute useful new facts.

As users of high-tech products we're already responsible for
writing a lot of our own documentation. Might we use Wikipedia to
consolidate our efforts? Its such a crazy idea that it just might work.
[Full story at]

[Jon's Radio]

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