How NOT to get support and how to turn the other cheek.

So, I checked my email this morning and found this jewel:

I might use Phorum if you brain deads knew how to upload or download your files via FTP. Your documentation has no order to it, its all a mess. I even dropped a release level to see if it was just that release. Ill give you a clue, DONT TRANSFER YOUR FILES VIA AUTO, EXPECIALY YOUR TXT FILES. TRANSFER THEM IN ASCII MODE ONLY, THIS INCLUDES YOUR PHP FILES. Then you just f—ing* MIGHT get readable files. Now you might say hey wait a min, we have full documentation on our web site, but you forget, someone has to open the sample.config.php file and read the crap that resides there.

* edited for content

Should I respond?  If so, how?  I decided to respond in as nice a way as I could.

 I normally don’t answer direct support emails.  Neither do I normally answer very angry emails.  However, I view this as an educational experience.

Judging by your email, I would say you are using Notepad on Windows to edit and read files.  That is mistake number one.  Notepad only reads one file format: Windows text files.  Windows natively uses a CRLF for it’s line endings.  It is the only operating system that does so. Notepad is the only application on the Windows platform that only reads that format.  If you would use Wordpad instead, this would not have been a problem for you.  For some reading on the subject, you may want to read:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Newline
http://www.cs.toronto.edu/~krueger/csc209h/tut/line-endings.html

Because PHP scripts are most commonly deployed on a Linux platform, the Unix line feed (LF or \n) is best for PHP applications.  Here are some suggestions for some great text editors for Windows.

TextPad – http://www.textpad.com/
Metapad – http://www.liquidninja.com/metapad/
PSPad   – http://www.pspad.com/en/

I hope this has helped educate you on the world of new lines and how real programming works.  In the future, a kind word in the forums would be much more appreciated than an email like this.  Not all people would be as kind as I am being and want to help you grow.

What do you think?  Should have just let this guy go?  Should have been as ugly to him as he was to me?

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9 Responses to How NOT to get support and how to turn the other cheek.

  1. Actually, that looks like an excellent response.

    At worst, he’ll read it, say “yeah whatever”, and be no better off for himself… in which case, he loses and you have a small win in that you know you took the high road in your response.

    At best, he learns something, is ashamed of his behavior, develops a strong respect for you in particular for handling this the way you did, and is more likely to behave better himself the next time he has a similarly discouraging situation… a small win for you, a potential win for the someone else that gets his next “support” email, and a huge (humbling) win for him, one that he will grow from.

    I have now completely exhausted my supply of run-on sentences for the week, and it’s only Monday…

  2. I tend to simply ignore those mails. It is too expensive, time and emotion-wise to even bother replying in a polite manner to such a tone. I probably just got too many of such nice comments over the years.

  3. Marco says:

    I get a lot of “fan mail” and my personal philosophy in handling e-mails whose author appears to be in a drunken rage is to figure out what *I* get out of it. Clearly, the author doesn’t seem to have much regard for your time—either the time you’ve put into the product, or the time you would put into answering him. So, what do *you* get out of the equation? If you can learn something from the process—whether it’s how to deal with this type of user, or how to fix a potential bug, or how to help future possible users avoid the same issue, then I’d say go for it. If you think it’s a lost battle and you’re just writing because you feel a need to justify yourself or to “set the guy straight,” then you’re wasting time—at that point, you’re essentially answering a flamebait.

  4. till says:

    You gotta keep in mind (don’t have to, but it’s nice) the other side of the this too.

    For example, he might have spent a lot of time figuring “whatever” out – that is frustration. Whatever the reasons are. :-) For example the user himself (aka PICNIC) or the software he tried to use.)

    Also very often users ask for support and developers are very troubled already, just because you dare to say, “this is not working” or “I need help”. So developers (or programmers) are brilliant with software, but not always brilliant when it comes to support.

    I know it’s hard myself – especially from my last job where I sometimes needed to jump in and help to support Mac users. I swear they don’t know anything, ever.

    You just want to respond, “Hey f*cktard, please RTFM and STFW because it’s so obvious!!!”. Well, oops… At least you think and of course you should never ever write a response like that. And getting back at someone – even if he started it – never helps. Email is not too well suited for a discussion like that, see various mailinglists for examples.

    In this case – judging from his email, he is by no means a professional (not just software-wise, but also on a personal level). So I guess by responding in a nice way you make a difference. I’m not sure if it helps or changes anything in particular but there is a slight chance. And your karma record is straight!

    So bottom line, I think your response was excellent. :-)

  5. Josh Johnston says:

    It would be great if everyone who downloaded and used Free and Open Source Software were informed enough to see the issue. Unfortunately most desktop users use Windows and most people who deploy forum software on their website use Windows at home to download / unzip, then their favorite FTP client to upload to their shared host.

    While your reply was excellent, how many users may have been turned off by the “unreadable” files and skipped your package all together? You may want to rethink this situation and save all plain-text documents as CRLF as well as config files that users are supposed to edit.

  6. dlangille says:

    Ignore him.

  7. David Sanders says:

    lol he was probably just some teenage punk leet hacksaw that wanted to set up a forum for his stupid little clan :)

  8. What a turd. I don’t know how people get such a sense of self-entitlement. The software is free and there’s clearly an awesome following. How does he even think he could be right? Anyway, I’d have ignored it or thrown in a few digs to make myself feel better. Reaching this person mentally is futile. I admire your response.

  9. miles says:

    Great response, and it adds (a little bit of) value to the entire Web since you posted it here. I would have just ignored the guy, though: after all, he didn’t ask for anything. He was just writing to complain.

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