Massive Suckage

In the last couple of weeks I’ve been working on some projects that had me installing new web apps and discover new versions of known ones. The thing that sticks to my mind the most? Massive, massive support suckage. Dreamhost, a web host I still entirely endorse for service and price packages is pretty lame when it comes to the knowledge base and forums. In the last year I’ve found answers to my questions probably 80% of the time… on Textdrive’s forum! (a competitor)

Movable Type is much, much worse. Virtually useless navigation through the site, ineffective search, incomplete documentation, broken links, you name it, they have it. Google and posts by MT bloggers provided the answers, not the company that makes it. How can you build web apps and on help pages mention solutions or further details and not link them?? Unbelievable.

Worst, they don’t offer language packs anymore. You can’t simply install MT and then switch language, you have to download (or buy for commercial use) it in one language and one language only. Used to be you could download as many packs as you needed. Too bad really, I was initially impressed with the 3.2 version and looking forward to trying things like Rightfields but it’s a lot of effort to get more complex things going.

4 Comments

aj December 20, 2005

Man. i hear ya.

When it comes to a commodity like hosting, service and support (and reputation) is probably the #1 differentiator between suppliers. When they fail at that, then it’s almost as bad as having a server go down.

MT’s documentation is really bad. I hate to say it. I love the software but everything you say is true. Whenever I’ve had a problem, their help and support has been excellent, though, so that makes up for it to some degree. Still, I really wish someone would rewrite the manual from top to bottom from the perspective of “a user who wants to get things done” – task centric – as opposed to the usual, tech-writerly, dry documentation of features. There’s a place for that – in a glossary or appendix – but there’s little help in terms of the “I want to do x, how do I do that?” type. Thank heavens for the LMT blog and others of its kind!

Jay Allen December 26, 2005

I’m sorry to hear that you’re displeased with Movable Type. We took great pains in developing Movable Type 3.2 to focus on great usability and improving accesibility to many of Movable Type’s features which in the past have been either confounding to users or poorly explained. We improved in-app search by about a 1000%. (Maybe you’re talking about the external search, which, I think we all can agree, needs a makeover.)

We also did a detailed and complete rewrite of our documentation which, after some post-release improvement has been hailed as a solid upgrade. What’s more, we enabled comments on every single page of our user manual so that you can leave us feedback in case there are errors or anything is unclear.

And contrary to what AJ said, we made great effort to make the new user manual task oriented. Each entry starts with a task or problem a typical user might face and describes how to go about achieving the desired results. Again, anywhere you feel that we failed in this mission, please let us know right in the comments on the page.

As AJ mentioned, we do have a world-class tech support team who is ready and willing to answer your every question, so if you have a paid license, please don’t hesitate to use them. They need to know about any problems you encounter in the software so that we can fix them immediately.

With regards to the language packs, I want to point out that in the past, all language packs were offered by third-parties and never supported, controlled, checked for quality or hosted by Six Apart. That is still true today and you can find a number of them freely available.

In contrast, over the past couple of years, we’ve begun offering language packs for select languages (French, Spanish, German, Dutch, Japanese, etc) which are professionally created, tested and supported by us. This is a great service to our international users and we continue to roll out more of them as time goes on.

Also, I believe that we can offer you more than one of these language packs for your use. Contact our tech support team for details.

Anyway, I really appreciate your feedback and would love to have more details about precisely what is bothering you. (Particularly the broken links. We’re not aware of any, so I’d love to understand particularly what you’re referring to.)

Please feel free to email me about all of this. We are definitely motivated to make your experience with Movable Type the best that it can be and we take great pride in our work. We want to do right by our customers and, over the long-term, we always have. If we don’t have it right right now, we will make sure to nail it next time around.

Thanks much,
Jay Allen
Professional Products Group
Six Apart

Patrick December 27, 2005

I’m sorry to hear that you’re displeased with Movable Type.
I’m actually very pleased with MT 3.2 itself, it’s the documentation I didn’t like.

What’s more, we enabled comments on every single page of our user manual so that you can leave us feedback in case there are errors or anything is unclear.
I remember only one page I referred to which had any feedback so didn’t get the feeling there was an active community who would be answering me there.

anywhere you feel that we failed in this mission, please let us know right in the comments on the page.
I’ve got another MT based project probably happening in January, I’ll be sure to do that.

tech support team who is ready and willing to answer your every question, so if you have a paid license, please don’t hesitate to use them.
It was the client’s paid license but, and we might just view support differently, to me support is a last resort, easily finding answers in the documentation is my first expectation. I then got all my answers through Googling so I didn’t get to the support questioning step. Even when I consider the search time way too long, it’s usually quicker than I expect any tech support service to answer.

Also, I believe that we can offer you more than one of these language packs for your use. Contact our tech support team for details.
Will do. Thanks.

Anyway, I really appreciate your feedback and would love to have more details about precisely what is bothering you.
I’ll keep a more detailed “log” of issues for the next project and will send along the details.

We are definitely motivated to make your experience with Movable Type the best that it can be and we take great pride in our work.
The fact you found this post in the middle of the holidays and took time to write a detailed answer certainly goes in that direction so as I said, I’ll keep better track next time and take it up with you guys.

Jay Allen December 28, 2005

Hey Patrick,

_“I remember only one page I referred to which had any feedback so didnā€™t get the feeling there was an active community who would be answering me there.”_

We typically only publish comments on the user manual and knowledge base if they add useful information to the page that we would not normally put in the main entry. For example, if someone gave an example of alternate usage for a particular template tag.

When someone leaves us a comment about something which is incorrect or unclear, we simply edit the documentation in question to be more accurate or clear. In this way, to get the right information, you don’t have to read through 100 comments in addition to the official documentation on the subject.

One thing we do NOT do is respond to queries or support requests left in the comments. We state that pretty clearly and the reason for that is that we have a technical support staff who’s job it is to help Movable Type users and a help ticket system that is built for such support. As great as Movable Type is, the comment functionality isn’t a very good help ticket system :-)

_”…to me support is a last resort, easily finding answers in the documentation is my first expectation.”_

100% agreed. In fact, if you ask a our tech support team a question that is already well detailed in the documentation, they will give you a link to go and read it to see if it helps with the problem.

Our tech support team is very good about informing us when customers are having problems with the documentation (or the application) for whatever reason and we work with them to fix the problems. Hence, the step of contacting support is an important one in the process of improving the overall experience with the product.

In the future, the best thing to do if you run across some part of the documentation that is either incomplete, unclear or incorrect is to leave a comment on the entry. Given that this was a total rewrite, we are continuously working on improving the documentation with the hope of attaining perfection.

Of course at that point, we’ll just release a new version of the software and screw everything up. :-)

I hope that your holidays are going well.

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