Using comments for support is a bad idea!

This is an important update for regular readers of our WordPress-Nginx, Blogger to WordPress and other tutorials.

Till now, we tried our best to provide support via comment-form on articles and via our free support forum. As our article base grew to almost 400 tutorials and comments count crossed 25000, we at rtCamp, realized that we are spending daily 3-4 hours answering comments.

Why Comments for Support is bad idea?

Using comments to provide support turned out to be bad idea for reasons listed below:

  1. It’s hard to keep track of which comments get answered. Sometimes when browsing old articles, we found comments which we forgot to reply.
  2. As people paste long config files/logs in comment, overall page becomes very lengthy which becomes hard to navigate.
  3. As more people get involved, a long running conversation between a user and us, generates unnecessary email notifications to past commentators.
  4. As article changes, old comments loose relevance adding clutter to page.
  5. Some posts with 100+ “thank you” comments just makes pages lengthy. We appreciate gratefulness people show but for this we are planning to add some kind of “Vote up/down” buttons to article sections.
  6. People do not always comment on correct articles. Sometimes we had hard time figuring out what a user is trying to ask because we were trying to understand their comment in context of the article.

We always wanted people to use comments for casual discussions revolving around the article. For technical support, we always requested users to use our support forum. Unfortunately, very few users followed this.

We kept getting more and more support requests via comments, to the point that we had tough time meeting out own support standards.

Our Support Standards

When it comes to support, free or paid, we try to meet following rules:

  1. Always answer. If we don’t know the answer, we simply make it clear.
  2. Answer on time. Usually one-working day. If you don’t know the answer or need more time, let user know. Never keep people waiting.
  3. Followup. Check if our previous solution/answer was useful.

We try follow above rules for both – free and paid support.

That being said there are some differences also. As an example, free support has limited depth. Free support is more about guiding you in direction. Premium support is more about solving problem directly.

How support forums make it easy?

Following up is easy on support forum. It’s also easy to see which topics are not yet answered. It’s easy to see list of topics sorted by last update date.

Also, support forum (in our bbPress) has features like merge duplicates and split out-of-context input into different topic which helps keeping discussion relevant.

We already use support forum and helpdesk for premium support and that is how we know difference it can make it to the support quality.

How comments closing will affect?

We have been struggling with above issues from sometime. So we had been there many times. We expect few things:

Decline in number of comments

We expect to see sharp decline in number of comments.

Some people are too lazy to go to support forum and register themselves. Although, we have social login on rtCamp to ease registration part.

User who will use support forum will get our best quality support. This is more important than number of comments.

SEO Impact

Not sure but we don’t care about it either. If you are curious just let us know. We will share Google Analytics traffic comparing before and after situation.

When we were putting articles on this site, we never thought they will get so much traffic (and comments). We like pageviews, but we are more concerned about a user’s support experience here.

If people get best support here, they will remember rtCamp. I think that is more important from business perspective.

p.s. comments on blog posts will remain open for 30-days. Yep, comments on old blog posts will be closed. Specially, comments on old product-releases, which are no longer supported.

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