Date: March 7, 2007

How about an open market for tech support requests?

After making fun of Adobe’s tiered tech support options this morning, I began thinking about the need for an open market for tech support requests. For example, let’s say I’d be willing to pay $15 to find out how to so something in Adobe GoLive CS2 (to pick one product buried within Adobe’s tech support maze). Let’s say my RFS (request for suppport) is “To find and replace double-return characters with paragraph elements in a text document being converted into html”.

Of course, I could put that RFS on a blog (I’m doing that here) and hope for the best — and probably get a response for free.

I could also get a free response by posting a question at, say, Open Tech Support. The problem there is, I’d have to be a member. I don’t see an obvious way to become a member, so I’m already giving up. The friction is too high.

It would be nice to have a low-friction way of asking a question in the open world — one that is free even of the silos we call “sites”. If time really is money, and people are willing to spend money for service, it makes sense to at least explore the possibilities for an open support marketplace.
I think for that we may need to create a new kind of space on the Net — a public space that isn’t a domain (consider the proprietary implications of that word, domain), and is a market in the original literal sense. Is this a VRM project?

I think it might be. I’m recalling a conversation I had last year with Claus Dahl about the absence of public spaces on the Net. (See Mashing up a Commons.) Claus suggested that we don’t have one yet. The personal pulpits we call blogs do not a commons make. Nor does any site. eBay is a private marketplace, not a public one.

What would we need to create a public marketplace? And don’t we need one in order to do many kinds of VRM?


Project VRM is a research and development project of the Berkman Center for Internet and Society at Harvard University. Its purpose is to study and support the development of tools that provide customers with both independence from, and engagement with, vendors. Think of VRM as the way customers relate to vendor CRM (customer relationship management) systems.

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